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Mastro stuff wows at Sun-Times ...


I couldn’t help but note the juxtaposition of Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen directly alongside the Legendary Auctions booth at the front entrance of the show. That has, of course, been the arrangement for many years, but it’s worthy of note at this moment because of the aforementioned changes in the way business is being done at shows now that I included in yesterday's blog.

The Legendary booth was resplendent with items from the famed Bill Mastro Collection. Nearly 900 lots of items so spectacular it could make you weep; stuff so good and the product of perhaps the hobby’s most discerning and discriminating eye that its uniqueness is unrivaled.

Ironically, The Bill Mastro Collection is arguably short in only one area: cards. There’s irony only because that’s where most of us started, but the big hitters and the guys in it from the earliest days like Mastro (and Halper) had pretty early on moved past cards. Way past cards.

The 400-page Mastro Collection catalog is – like so many catalogs from the bigger auction houses – a collector’s item in its own right, starting with the Babe Ruth hand print on the decorative outside cover.

The real hand print was prominently displayed at the Sun-Times Show, with a replica offered to the public as well so that fans could compare the size of their own hands to the Babe’s. Hundreds did in an unrelenting and picturesque genuflection at the Legendary booth all weekend long. For the record, his hands weren’t all that big, or at least not as big as you might expect from someone of such mythical stature.

But back to the proximity of Mr. Mint and the Mastro Collection. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to suggest that the two were inextricably linked in the hobby for more than two decades, two iconic figures who did as much to promote and propel the industry as anyone. Try looking back at hobby history over that span without including the two men in your deliberations: it can’t be done.

At our SCD booth we were mostly displaying items from our own upcoming Auction, along with distributing copies of our auction catalog and SCD. During the weekend a collector stopped by to show us a 1988 Frank Thomas Auburn jersey from the Sugar Bowl that he had brought to the show to be signed by the eventual Hall of Famer.

The affable Thomas was thrilled to see the jersey, so thrilled, in fact, that he did the collector a solid by autographing and dating the jersey along the number, and then upped the ante a bit by adding “Game Used” in his own hand. Now The Big Hurt wasn’t the only one who was thrilled.

In stark contrast to that, there was a bit of a kerfuffle Saturday (I’ve always wanted to try that word) when an autograph collector/dealer was flagged by PSA/DNA officials after presenting a signed Jim Brown jersey for the company’s on-site authentication service.

The on-site authentication service is designed for collectors to get their just-signed items immediately authenticated, but the PSA/DNA officials had concerns about the Brown jersey and promptly took it to the football Hall of Famer, who was signing for the public at that moment. According to witnesses, Brown disavowed the signature in question, and the individual was ejected from the show.

Elsewhere on the show floor, things were busy but largely uneventful. In recent years the dealer lineup of the show has changed a bit, with several veteran vintage dealers missing, sometimes after decades in the same location. At Sun-Times, just as at a handful of the other major regional shows, it was common to find favored dealers at the same location year-in and year-out, but the evolving nature of shows has probably strained even that concept a bit. That’s not a criticism, just an observation about the changing times.

Pete Ward and Ed Hermann, White Sox stars from earlier generations, were signing autographs on the main show floor for, directly next to some colleagues from earlier eras that included Hall of Famers Ferguson Jenkins and Gaylord Perry and former Cub Bill Buckner. That august trio was signing on behalf of the Ferguson Jenkins Foundation,

Ward stopped by the SCD booth and talked about what a great time he had signing for the fans. “I even got a Bill Buckner autograph,” he said with a laugh, adding solemnly, “even though he was a Cub.” He added that he had got the signature for a golfing buddy from Washington state.

You know how that goes. When you ask for an autograph, it’s always for somebody else.