By Ross Forman
An estimated 35,000 autographs from about 130 celebrities will be signed for the public during the five-day National Sports Collectors Convention, set to open July 31 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois.
Houston-based TRISTAR Productions will be running the Autograph Pavilion at The National, as it has annually since 2006, which will encompass close to 40,000 square-feet.
About 2,500 Sharpies, mostly blue, will be used, along with 500 ballpoint pens (for baseballs). TRISTAR officials said about 10,000 photos will be signed, along with 15,000 baseballs and 5,000 footballs.
This year’s Autograph Pavilion at The National is “as strong as any previous year, and stronger in terms of Baseball and Football Hall of Famers,” scheduled to appear said TRISTAR Vice-President Bobby Mintz.
“This year’s National has a very diverse (autograph) lineup with seven genres of celebrities (scheduled to appear) – from baseball to entertainment, and timely Hall of Famers such as Mariano Rivera, Harold Baines and Lee Smith,” Mintz said. “It really should be a great show.”
With nonstop action and excitement buzzing through the Autograph Pavilion, as it truly is a Who’s Who From The Sports World. Just consider the confirmed signers:
Thirty-three Baseball Hall of Famers, plus such stars as Pete Rose, Roger Clemens, Jim Edmonds, Dwight Gooden Josh Hamilton, Rafael Palmeiro and Lou Piniella, among others.
Thirty-two Pro Football Hall of Famers, plus such stars as O.J. Anderson, Jim McMahon, Drew Pearson and Joe Theismann, among others.
The hockey lineup is small, but strong, including Hockey Hall of Famers Chris Chelios, Marcel Dionne, Phil Esposito, Bobby Hull and Bret Hull
Arguably one of the biggest pro wrestling icons of all-time, Hulk Hogan, will be at the show.
Basketball fans will be thrilled to see Julius Erving, Elvin Hayes, Dennis Rodman and Christian Laettner, among others.
Two other names of note are: Hope Solo, a two-time Olympic gold medal-winning soccer goalie for Team USA; and William Shatner, the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actor, best known for his iconic role as Captain Kirk in Star Trek.
“The Autograph Pavilion is always top-notch at The National, especially in Chicago,” said longtime Chicago-area dealer John Arcand.
Mintz said autograph signers are booked based on a variety of criteria, including collector and dealer requests to names that TRISTAR officials think the public will want to see.
“The National is so large in scope that we are always looking at who do the show,” he said.
Even Mintz has a few signers who he really wants to see and talk to. For instance, Mariano Rivera. Several years ago at The National, Rivera was an NSCC signer.
“He came walking towards me (at that show) just wanting to thank me for having him at the show,” Mintz said. “You won’t meet a nicer superstar.”
Ryan Klesko was a signer at a TRISTAR show in the early-1990s.
“He was so hot back then, one of the darlings of the hobby and rookie card craze. It will be good to see him again after all these years,” Mintz said.
Who else will be signing?
Moises Alou – this will be his first signing in Chicago in years, and yes, he will be signing the famed Steve Bartman photo.
Harold Baines – signing weeks after being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Vladimir Guerrero – His first NSCC appearance, and as a Hall of Famer.
Lou Piniella – The former Chicago Cubs manager “always draws a nice crowd,” Mintz said.
Mariano Rivera –Likely will be the most sought-after signer all weekend. Was a unanimous HOF electeee who doesn’t make many public appearances.
“The autograph pavilion will be packed again this year,” said Texas-based collector Scott Nash, who will make the trek north for The National. “I am always pleased with the variety of the (signers.)”
Just consider who will be at The National:
Rookie of the Year winners: Pete Rose, Bob Hamelin and Jim Lefebvre.
Cy Young Award-winners: Dwight Gooden, Roger Clemens and Bob Gibson.
Recent and long-standing Hall of Famers:Al Kaline, Brooks Robinson, Reggie Jackson to Harold Baines, Edgar Martinez and Trevor Hoffman.
Baseball managers: Tony LaRussa and Lou Pinella).
Batting champions: Wade Boggs and Ralph Garr.
500 Home Run Club members: Rafael Palmeiro, Jim Thome and Reggie Jackson.
3,000-hit players: Wade Boggs, Rod Carew and Pete Rose.
Sporting fathers: Vlad Guerrero, Craig Biggio, Roger Clemens, Dwight Smith and Bobby Hull.
Sporting sons: Roberto Alomar, Moises Alou and Brett Hull.
Olympians: Cory Snyder, Hope Solo and Jim Craig.
Has served this country in the military: Brooks Robinson.
Nash said he is most excited to see Craig Biggio, Mike Ditka and Marv Levy.
“I think this year’s (autograph pavilion) lineup is outstanding, as usual,” Nash said. “I can meet players who retired a few years ago, others who retired a few decades ago and some who retired before I was born.”
Nash has attended eight previous Nationals, as far back as 1986 when it was held in Arlington, Texas.
“I think the autograph pavilion is the area of the show that is the most exciting,” Nash said. “There is always great memorabilia to see (at The National), things like Babe Ruth-signed baseballs and 500 Home Run prints signed by many deceased legends. But meeting one or more of my sports heroes is always the hottest spot for me.”
Autograph pavilion advice:
The Autograph Pavilion certainly can be overwhelming to navigate, so focus on the harder-to-get-players. Focus on older players. Since last year’s National, Frank Robinson, Bart Starr, Forrest Gregg, Jim Taylor and others have passed away, all who have appeared at past Nationals.”
If you plan to get a number of autographs at The National, definitely consider purchasing the Platinum Express Pass or Line Priority Pass. With TRISTAR offering only 50 of each, these special passes significantly cut down on your wait in autograph lines and send you to the front of the lines. Definitely worthwhile, and the Platinum has great contents and value.
Advance autograph tickets can be purchased online at tristarproductions.com/National. VIP Packages are available at www.nsccshow.com.