An estimated 40,000 signatures from about 140 autograph signers will be inked for collectors inside the TRISTAR Autograph Pavilion at the 42nd annual National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City, N.J.
This year marks the first time The National has been held in Atlantic City since 2016 as the 2020 event, scheduled for Atlantic City, was cancelled due to COVID. The 2021 National, held in Chicago, brought out the largest number of National attendees in years, plus strong sales, hype and more.
Optimism is sky high that this summer’s National also will be a home run.
“With half the country’s population within an eight-hour drive of Atlantic City, this year’s event looks to be very well attended and, based on [autograph ticket] pre-show sales, it looks to be bigger than 2016, and that was a strong event,” said TRISTAR Vice-President Bobby Mintz, who noted the Autograph Pavilion at the 2016 National “exceeded expectations.”
This year’s sports collectibles showcase features more celebrities, including an entertainment area and a more diverse autograph lineup. Mintz predicted the 2022 National will surpass the successful 2021 event.
“The industry is strong right now and last year’s event, coming out of COVID, has set expectations high for this year since 2021 was such a strong National,” Mintz said.
This year’s autograph lineup is more diverse and deeper. The lineup includes Hollywood actors, boxer Floyd Mayweather, NFL stars Dan Marino, Odell Beckham, Jr. and other celebs who rarely do public autograph appearances.
This year’s National lineup includes (as of July 6):
• 54 football players, including 30 Pro Football Hall of Famers.
• 51 baseball players, including 24 Baseball Hall of Famers.
• 15 of the 17 basketball players are members of the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame.
• All four hockey players are members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
• 25 signers making their first-ever appearance at The National.
“We urge [show attendees] to buy their tickets in advance. You will save so much time having your order in in advance and sent to you,” Mintz said. “You also can buy [autograph] tickets online 24/7 on the show weekend. So, if you are sitting in your hotel room in Atlantic City on Thursday or Friday night, [purchase] on the website or on your phone and the tickets will be waiting for you the next morning. Avoiding the lines as much as possible is key.”
After all, the TRISTAR Autograph Pavilion is a spectacle unto itself. More than 5,000 standard-sized 8x10 photos likely will be signed, as well as 2,500 or more official MLB baseballs.
Baseball also will be represented with seven signers who starred in the hit movie “The Sandlot,” including Patrick Renna, who played Ham Porter and gave us the infamous quote, “You’re killin’ me, Smalls.”
Also on hand will be Frank Whaley, who played Archie “Moonlight” Graham in “Field of Dreams.”
New Baseball Hall of Fame members David Ortiz and Tony Oliva will, no doubt, have long lines in AC.
“(Ortiz) is terrific with the fans,” Mintz said. “[We are] very excited to have [Oliva] at The National; he is someone who should have been [inducted] into the Hall years ago.”
Marino and Mayweather will, without question, draw strong interest from show attendees, and each is excellent with the fans. “I look forward to watching them interact with their fans,” Mintz said.
Who is the best former quarterback appearing at the 2022 National? The list of candidates is deep. Consider: Marino, Joe Montana, Jim Kelly, Randall Cunningham, Dan Fouts and Bob Griese. And to further the argument, you also have Phil Simms, Joe Theismann and Michael Vick.
The exploits on the football field for many National signers were awe-inspiring. Consider some of the other top 2022 signers: Tim Brown, Eric Dickerson, Tony Dorsett, Michael Irvin, Steve Largent, Lenny Moore, Drew Pearson, Adrian Peterson, Andre Reed and Emmitt Smith, among others.
Baseball, of course, also is well represented, from local legends Art Shamsky, Bucky Dent and Mickey Morandini to Hall of Fame immortals Juan Marichal, Reggie Jackson, Johnny Bench, Rickey Henderson, Mariano Rivera, Dave Winfield, Ortiz and others.
Basketball signers are truly a Who’s Who, from Dr. J Julius Erving to Artis Gilmore, Walt Frazier, Spencer Haywood, Allen Iverson, Paul Pierce and Mitch Richmond.
The hockey signers are greats Bobby Hull, Bernie Parent, Brian Leetch and Denis Potvin.
The TRISTAR Autograph Pavilion expands beyond the big four team sports for the 2022 National. Boxing Hall of Famer Thomas Hearns will be signing, as well as UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell, not to mention former U.S. Navy Seal Robert O’Neill and more.
“I’m a big UFC fan, so I’m excited to meet Chuck Liddell,” said Ryan Hutchinson, 37, a collector from Montgomery, Texas who will make the trek to the Northeast for his 10th National. “MMA fighters are beginning to become more popular and are making more appearances at shows, so anytime I can get an autograph from one I will.”
That said, Hutchinson tagged O’Neill as the National signer he is most excited to meet.
“Growing up in a military family brings a different level of appreciation and interest for me than a more traditional autograph guest does,” he said.
Hutchinson also is excited to meet members of “The Sandlot.”
“I remember growing up and seeing “The Sandlot” in theaters and now as a parent watching the film with my son and sharing that experience with him makes the opportunity to meet the cast that much more special,” he said.
On the sporting side of the show, Hutchinson said he is excited to meet Marino and Ortiz.
“Two years ago, Marino was scheduled to [appear at] The National, but the show was canceled [due to the pandemic] and last year Ortiz [had] to cancel his appearance. I’m excited TRISTAR was able to reschedule both.”
Hutchinson added: “The TRISTAR Autograph Pavilion is incredible. For a sports fan and autograph collector, it’s a must-do experience. With social media, it’s so easy to see the excitement in the hobby with every addition TRISTAR adds to the show. If the list has you excited, just think what the experience will be when all those guests are right in front of you.”
Predicted Top 15 Autograph Signers (in no particular order):
1. Dan Marino
2. Floyd “Money” Mayweather
3. Odell Beckham, Jr.
4. Mike Piazza
5. Paul Pierce
6. Allen Iverson
7. Julius “Dr. J” Erving
8. Mariano Rivera
9. Tony Oliva
10. Chipper Jones
11. Barry Sanders
12. Joe Montana
13. Randall Cunningham
14. Frank Gore
15. Dick Vermeil
10 Signers Who Likely Will Sign More Autographs Than Expected:
1. Odell Beckham, Jr.
2. Mike Garrett
3. Ray Knight
4. Lance Parrish
5. Alex English
6. Robert O’Neill
7. Mike Nelms
8. Bill Bergey
9. Brian Bosworth
10. Michael Vick
10 Signers Who Likely Will Be Getting Autographs From Others:
1. Johnny Bench
2. Reggie Jackson
3. Emmitt Smith
4. “Mean” Joe Greene
5. Joe Theismann
6. Andre Dawson
7. Mariano Rivera
8. Jim Kelly
9. Joe Montana
10. David Ortiz
15 Nicknames To Include With An Autograph:
1. Reggie Jackson: Mr. October
2. Juan Marichal: The Dominican Dandy
3. Tony Oliva: Tony-O
4. Dave Parker: The Cobra
5. Mariano Rivera: Sandman
6. Tim Raines: Rock
7. Julius Erving: Dr. J
8. Artis Gilmore: The A-Train
9. Gary Payton: The Glove
10. Dominique Wilkins: Human Highlight Film
11. Bobby Hull: The Golden Jet
12. Chuck Liddell: The Iceman
13. Tony Perez: The Mayor of Riverfront
14. Ron Guidry: Louisiana Lightning
15. Michael Irvin: The Playmaker