By Ross Forman
To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Houston-based Tristar Productions Inc., held a hometown party, starring the beloved local Houston Texans.
Tristar held a one-day show on Oct. 28 at the Reliant Center, featuring 15 members of the Texans, including mega-star J.J. Watt, quarterback Matt Schaub, running back Arian Foster and the heroic “Ninja Assassin” Antonio Smith.
About 1,500 fans attended the show, which featured free admission and free exhibit space for dealers.
“We wanted to say thank you to the customers and the dealers, and the show was great,” said Tristar Vice President Bobby Mintz.
The show also celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the Texans. Countless collectors sported jerseys of their favorite Texans, particularly Watt, Schaub and Foster – and no one wore anything from the era of the Houston Oilers.
“I was very pleased with the turnout; I think there were a lot of new people to the sports memorabilia industry who came out, so that should be really good for the future of the hobby, particularly for our January 25-27, 2013, show in Houston,” Mintz said. “So many people who had never before been to a sports memorabilia show came and had a wonderful experience. That’s something we try to do all the time: Grow the industry, expand the hobby.
“There were a lot of people who I had to explain the card show process to. That’s exciting, and certainly an indication of newcomers to the hobby.”
The show also featured autograph appearances by Shayne Graham, Whitney Mercilus, Bryan Braman, Brian Cushing, Glover Quin, Danieal Manning, Ben Tate, Garrett Graham, Lestar Jean, Brooks Reed and Kevin Walter.
Keshawn Martin was scheduled to appear, but he had to cancel due to flight issues caused by Hurricane Sandy. Shaun Cody also was scheduled to appear, but was a no-show.
Watt was the top signer, inking his name more than 400 times for the public. “We easily could have sold 200 more autograph tickets for Watt," Mintz said.
Roger Staubach, in January 2012, was the last Tristar show guest to sell out, as did Vince Young a few years ago, also in Houston.
“In my career, and I’ve been doing this for 22 years, I can’t remember exactly how many players have sold out, but I probably could count that total on both hands, meaning 10 or fewer,” Mintz said. “I’m very bullish on J.J. Watt. I think he’s going to be a great player for the long term. Matt Schaub told me that Watt is one of the hardest-working guys on the team, and the only thing he’s going to have to contend with long term is being double and triple-teamed.”
Schaub was, arguably, the second-most popular signer, and about 400 show attendees
listened to Schaub for a hour during a special question-and-answer session, held after he finished signing autographs.
Schaub has an exclusive autograph contract with Tristar, joining such sporting icons as Bart Starr and Ryne Sandberg on Team Tristar.
“Our relationship with Matt is very special,” Mintz said.
And perhaps foreshadowing, too.
Tristar, it seems, has a knack to sign deals with Super Bowl quarterbacks. Case in point: Kurt Warner and Tom Brady.
Smith and Foster were each very popular with the fans. Smith performed his ninja-style dance with fans, and posed for pictures ninja-style. Foster, meanwhile, posed for pictures in his now-traditional bowing pose.
“It was a fun show, and that’s what it’s all about,” Mintz said.
Added Texas-based dealer Carl Gerjes, “The crowd was outstanding. It helps to have a hot commodity signing autographs at a card show – and that’s what the Texans are right now. I had season tickets to the Oilers, but the excitement and energy around these Texans is amazing.”
Gerjes said “anything Texans” was selling at the show – and many items in multiples. He sold many Cushing cards, Watt cards and autographed 16-by-20 photos.
Gerjes also noted strong sales of football wax products and anything related to Texas A&M University. Ironically, he had no requests for items related to the Aggies’ arch-rivals, the University of Texas Longhorns.
“This show was all football, and it really was a good show,” Gerjes said. “If the Texans go to the Super Bowl, wow, that January show will be crazy.”
Mintz said that one dealer reported selling a Babe Ruth-signed baseball at the show for $14,000.
“All of the dealers who I spoke with said they did really well,” Mintz said.
The next Tristar show, to be held Jan. 25-27 in Houston, is shaping up to be another blockbuster – and the potential is there to be off-the-charts.
The January show features autographing appearance by boxers Mike Tyson, James “Buster” Douglas and Roy Jones Jr., plus football Hall of Famers Bart Starr, Randy White and Bob Lilly. Other guests include baseball Hall of Famers Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson and Fergie Jenkins, plus John Smoltz, Dennis Rodman, Dominique Wilkins and others.
Craig Biggio also will also appear, and the Hall of Fame announcement for the Class of 2013, which many speculate will include Biggio, is Jan. 9.
“If he’s inducted into the Hall of Fame, his show appearance at the end of the month will be the biggest public signing session in Houston history,” Mintz said. “Craig is beloved in Houston, so that signing session will be big!”
Biggio is also a Tristar autograph exclusive.
Ross Forman is a freelance contributor to SCD. He can be reached at Rossco814@aol.com.