By Ross Forman
The 29th annual Tristar Collectors Show – held Feb. 13-15 at NRG Center in Houston – was a good show, a really good show.
In fact, longtime Georgia-based dealer Kip Ingle said, “It was a damn, damn good show.” And when a fellow dealer sent Ingle a text message on the Sunday of the three-day show, inquiring about a grade for the event, Ingle replied: “A+++++.”
The public turned out, “reminiscent of 1990s card show traffic-wise,” Ingle said.
“The crowds were really good,” added Atlanta-based dealer Mike Stoner.
The show was celebrity-filled, with star-studded Hall of Famers from multiple sports, not to mention pro wrestling legends Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair.
The Saturday lineup featured Nolan Ryan, Gale Sayers, Claude Humphrey, Andre Reed, Len Dawson, Jan Stenerud, Bobby Bell, Mike Tyson, Dave Cowens and Kevin McHale, among others.
For Sunday, the autograph pavilion was filled with baseball greats, such as Craig Biggio, Roger Clemens, Jim Palmer, Don Sutton, Steve Carlton, Andre Dawson, Rickey Henderson, Wade Boggs, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Bob Gibson and Andy Pettitte, among others.
“Overall, it was a very good show and the attendance was very strong,” Stoner said. “The autograph guest list was very good – for local collectors and national names, too.”
Stoner and Ingle each noted strong sales for Mickey Mantle memorabilia.
“Collectors are always looking for Mantle memorabilia; sales were strong for Mantle relics,” Stoner said. Ingle, meanwhile, sold three Mantle-signed baseballs before noon on Saturday, to three different collectors. The balls were in average condition and sold for $450 each.
“Saturday sales might have been my best Saturday since the early-1990s,” Ingle said. “I’d be happy to take any day at the National (Sports Collectors Convention) like the Saturday in Houston.”
Ingle said collectors were driven to the show on Saturday to see Hall of Fame legend Nolan Ryan, among others. Ingle even spoke with a collector from Baltimore who flew to Houston just to get six items signed by Ryan.
“This is always a good show, definitely one of my favorite shows of the year,” Ingle said. “And it was a great show this year.”
Ingle said that he sold a Brandon Belt game-used first baseman’s glove from his college days at the University of Texas – with a patch of the state of Texas flag stitched into the glove. He also sold a signed letter from former St. Louis Cardinals owner August Busch.
“It was a pretty good show that had a lot of traffic,” said dealer Marty Davis of Marty’s Sportscard Exchange. “Valentine’s Day (on the Saturday of the show) might have hurt some, a little, but there still was a very good crowd overall, including on Saturday.”
Davis said Hogan and Flair – who were accompanied by longtime wrestling manager Jimmy Hart and Hogan’s daughter, Brooke (herself a TV, music and wrestling star) – drew “more than anyone thought they would.” Davis said their appearances led to the sale of numerous boxes of wrestling cards.
Naturally, not every dealer had off-the-chart sales. Rich Gove, for instance, tagged the show as “mediocre.” He said attendance was very good, especially on Sunday. Gove, though, sold four Ozzie Smith 1979 Topps rookie cards, “which was kind of surprising, but not overly surprising since he appeared at the show.”
Tristar Vice President Bobby Mintz said the show’s most popular autograph signers were Biggio, Ryan, Hogan, McHale and Tyson.
“This was one of the best shows we’ve done in Houston in quite some time,” Mintz said. “Sunday, it was really packed, which was helped by a really diverse lineup. In fact, the Sunday was one of the biggest Sundays we’ve had in our 29-year history.”
Biggio was making his first public appearance – on the Sunday of the show – since it was announced that he was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and he is the first-ever Houston Astros player to be inducted.
Here’s a look at some of the souvenirs spotted at the Houston show:
– An 11-by-14 black-and-white signed photo of Heisman Trophy winner Charles White ($29).
– A 16-by-20 color photo, framed and signed by Nolan Ryan and George Brett ($395).
– An LSU helmet, signed by Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon ($175).
– A Kevin Durrant-signed, framed ESPN Magazine ($175).
– Gale Sayers signed University of Kansas football helmet, with “Kansas Comet” inscription ($209).
– A Coors Light bottle, designed like a baseball bat, featuring Ernie Banks’ likeness and no liquid inside ($25).
– J.J. Watt signed, framed football jersey, with a few photos of the Houston Texans’ star ($450).
– J.J. Watt signed, framed 16-by-20 photo ($279).
– A 2006 Master’s golf tournament yellow pin flag, signed by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player ($900).
– A Muhammad Ali-signed Sports Illustrated, dated June 10, 1963 ($1,999).
– A Pete Maravich-signed 8-by-10 photo, removed from a magazine ($800).
– A McFarlane statue of Ken Stabler ($10).
– A statue of Carlos Lee, released in 2007 by Citgo ($3, or 2-for-$5).
– Cynthia Cooper signed WNBA ball ($50).
– An issue of Nolan News (August-October 1995), $10.
– An Upper Deck Authentic basketball signed by Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson ($1,200).
Mintz said no decision has been made yet whether Tristar will host its first show of 2016 in February again, or return to January, as has been customary.
Tristar’s next show is April 17-19 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, with a star-studded lineup of autograph guests, including World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner, plus Giants teammates Buster Posey, Tim Hudson, Joe Panik, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo and Ryan Vogelsong, among others.
Tristar also announced its 29th annual Summer Sports Spectacular will be May 29-31 at NRG Center in Houston. That weekend the Astros will be playing at home against the Chicago White Sox.
Ross Forman is a freelance contributor to SCD. He can be reached at Rossco814@aol.com.