This year’s 26th annual, 2005 National Sports Collectors Convention was held in Rosemont Illinois at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. The event ran from Wednesday July 27th thru Sunday July 31st. Rosemont is about 20 minutes from Downtown Chicago, and is where Chicago’s O’Hare Airport is located. I asked Convention spokesman Marty Appell what the total attendance for the convention was, and what day was busiest. Marty told me Saturday was busiest, as it always is, and that they don’t give out the attendance, but that it was “strong”.
My coverage of the show began about 5:00PM Wednesday. I attended Thursday and Friday, and flew home Saturday on a 9:00AM flight However, I actually got to Chicago five days earlier than the convention began, on Friday July 22nd. Directly upon arrival I rented a car and drove six hours to see my friend John Gennantonio in Cincinnati. What a great visit. I got to see John’s collection, and he gave me an incredible 2-day rapid paced tour of
Cincinnati, including a Reds
game and the Reds Hall of Fame where his 1869 Red Stockings trophy
ball is displayed right as you enter the museum!
Gennantonio and Carlton at Reds game
He even took me to dinner at his
folk's, where I got to have his mom’s delicious home made Italian cooking, what a treat! John’s
collection was a story in itself. It was
incredible, and he didn’t even have it all unpacked from his recent move into his new home. We’ll go into it another time. Monday I drove back to Chicago by way of Springfield Ohio, where I stopped and went thru three huge antique malls. I found a pretty nice
8 inch tall statue
of a track runner in a starting stance for $140.00 plus tax.
So back to the National. On Wednesday, I attended a
press party at twelve
noon where I got to see Ruth
Buzzi of Laugh In and
Garver who played Cissy on Family Affair, among other
celebrities. Then as mentioned, I got into the convention about five. My idea of covering the National is to get in right when the dealers start setting up. There’s all kinds of action before the doors open to the public. Dealers, and whoever can get a pass, trade among themselves for two days before the show even opens. I stood on my head to try to get the National management to let me in earlier to no avail. They had a hard fast rule, no press in before 5:00PM Wednesday. What’s funny is that is the latest I’ve ever gotten into a National. Before becoming a journalist I always managed to get in during setup. The first National I attended was the
1989 one in Chicago. I got there a couple days early, and went to the convention site on setup day. I bought a full week pass at the ticket window like a good boy, and then walked around. I noticed dealers coming up and down an escalator that had a security guard stationed at it. I scoped it out for a while, then just walked over and acted like I knew what I was doing, got on and went down and started shopping!
Guard never said anything. Another time at the 1995 National in St. Louis, again, I got there a couple days early. That time I walked around the back area where dealers were lined up in cars to get in on setup day. I went car to car waving a $100.00 bill, asking if anyone had an extra pass to sell. It didn’t take long to get one…went in and started having a blast.
I did the same thing
the next year at the 1996 National in Anaheim. That one I’ll never forget. I felt like Deep Throat in All the Presidents Men. Again on setup day, I stood there in the dimly lit parking garage with the $100.00 bill asking all the dealers walking by. Pretty soon this guy says, “Are you a cop?” I said no. He looks me over suspiciously, and says follow me. We walk over to this beater car, and he opens the trunk, and opens a box……he had a whole box of passes! You’re sure you’re not a cop he asked me again. No no I told him, I’m just a collector. So I start to pay him and he goes, no, $100.00 is too much, I can’t take $100.00, just give me $40.00. I said, are you sure? He says yeah. So I start looking for smaller bills, but didn’t have any. The guy says to me, well just get change and pay me later, I’ll be in there working. And he described where he’d be at and gave me a pass. So I eventually got some change and found him. He was guarding an exhibit of Barry Halper’s collection!
So getting into the 2005 National at 5:00PM on the so called sneak peak day really let the air out my tires. It was hard to get excited about seeing the National when I knew that most of the great stuff had probably already been swallowed up by the in crowd. I covered the 2003 and 2004 Nationals as a correspondent for Sports Collectors Digest. At the 2003 in Atlantic City, I picked up my press credentials at Will Call on setup day, walked in when they let the dealers in, and started tearing it up, shooting photos and taking notes. At the 2004 in Cleveland, I got my first speed bump. They wouldn’t let me in till 10:00AM the second day of set up. The public came in at 5:00PM that day. To think I thought that was bad! Then this year 5:00 PM. What a shame the management knows me now. Otherwise I’d just do the $100.00 bill trick and really get you a story!
In an attempt to give you a real feel of the show I set my camera to display the date and time on the photos, however, I forgot to reset the time from Pacific Standard time to Central time, so the first days photos,
that is, the ones taken on the 27th, reflect the time as two hours earlier than it was in Chicago.
Anyway, let’s get rock’n with what I
saw. As always, the dealers mentioned had much more in their booth than I’ve featured, I’m only bringing you the highlights. We begin with the booth of Kevin Bronson from Springfield, Massachusetts. The first item was a
17 ¾” tall Spalding baseball trophy for $5,000.00. Next I spotted a very
intriguing figural ashtray made of galvano, with a 12” tall figure of a black boxer. It was already sold when I saw it, price was $1,000.00. This was the first booth I came to as I started my coverage, and apparently I was so struck I forgot to photograph it. Coincidently, a buddy saw it for sale at Brimfield a month prior and emailed me a
photo. I called the seller then, but it was already sold. Then there it was at the National! Sold again! Also at Brimfield was an oil
painting of Jack Johnson, and Kevin had that at the National too….and….it was sold too. It was 5:02PM when I shot the Jack Johnson painting, just as I got in. What did I tell you about the great stuff getting bought up before the show opens? Next, Kevin had a 4” wide by 3” tall
statue of a football game action scene, price $550.00. Kevin also had a composition advertising type
figure of a baseball player, about 14” tall that was sold. Kevin wouldn’t say what the selling price was.
The next piece I saw was pretty way out. It was a 39” tall c1890 wooden
stand, out of a bowling alley. It was offered by Grey Flannel Auctions of Westhampton Beach New York, for $2,500.00. The guys in the booth told me the ball would return to the stand after a frame. They said it would be in an upcoming auction if it didn’t sell there.
Next I saw a…at least part of a, 10 ft. wide canvass
banner for the Cincinnati Royals. It was offered by Bill Fugate of Franklin Ohio for $1,400.00. Looked like about 1950-60 vintage, and in great shape.
Next up, Herbert L. Thomas the III of Germantown Tennessee, had a very nice
baseball bat, 34 ½” $600.00.
As I was in Herbert’s booth, two guys were buying an outstanding framed panoramic team
photo of the 1916 St Louis Browns, for $1,600.00. They told me they were buying it for Rick Cole of Broadway Rick’s Strike Zone from Gainesville Florida. One of them told me he was Rick’s son.
boxing motif shaving mug, offered by John Liffman
Next up was the shard booth of John Liffmann of Spectrum from Hull Massachusetts and hobby patriarch Herman Kaufman of Greenwich Connecticut. Herman had two nice signs, the first was a circa
1930’s die cut tri-fold stand up type for Hood shoes with an endorsement photo of Jimmy Foxx, 22 ¾” tall by 35 ½” wide,
$2,400.00, see below. The next was a generic multi
sport, round die cut stand up, for Goldsmith Sporting Goods, 37” wide by 29 ¾” tall,
$1,400.00 see below. Next up John had a very nice 19th century
shaving mug with a boxing motif,
$900.00 see above. John also had a sweater worn by Sugar Ray Robinson’s corner man, $1,200.00. Next Liffmann offering was c1870’s
photo of Billy
Edwards, 11” wide by 14” tall, $1,500.00. As I was there at John and Herman’s booth, I saw a guy carrying another
Goldsmith sporting goods sign with football player caricatures, 13 ¼” tall by 14 ¼” wide. His name was Rod Winzinek, from Canton Ohio. He told me he got it there at the National for $350.00.
c1930 Hood Shoes advertising display, 22 ¾” tall by 35 ½” wide,
c1930 Goldsmith Sporting Goods die cut standup
advertising sign, 37” wide by 29 ¾” tall, $1,400.00,
Both offered by Herman Kaufman, Greenwich, CT.
Next up was the shared booth of hobby veterans Bryan Dec of Brian Dec Vintage Sports
from Lapeer Michigan and Tony Bussineau from Lansing
Michigan. The duo had one of the best booths at the convention. First mention was definitely one of the best pieces at the show. A
Ty Cobb pocket tobacco tin that Bryan had, and that sold Friday for
$22,000.00 see below. Sounds like a lot of money, but it’s the mother of all sports tins, and on a rareness scale of 1-10, it’s probably about a 9. You can see another example of a Ty Cobb tin on my
“Tins Page”, but I think Bryan’s was in better condition. Bryan also had a
Joe Tinker Cigar box for
$895.00 see below. Next, Bryan had a Greenbay Base Ball Club cigar
box, for $1500.00 see below.
- c1920 Joe Tinker cigar box, $895.00
- Ty Cobb Tobacco pocket tin, $22,000.00
- c1880 Greenbay cigar box, $1,500.00
offered by Bryan Dec, Lapeer MI.
Next up, Bryan had an 1870
card, $19,000.00. Must have be an exotic card; not my area. Next Bryan had a
real nice 1907 framed pillow cover with a Cornell Football player sitting on a huge football next to a victorian girl, 22” by 22” $1,450.00. It was not only great looking, but interesting for a couple of reasons. First it was dated 1907 in the corner. I’d never seen one of these Victorian sports pillow covers that was dated. Second, it was prominently signed by F. Earl Christy. F. Earl Christy was probably the most prominent illustrator of these kinds of collegiate sport depictions. You see
F. Earl Christy's work on a lot of ceramic mugs and post cards. This was the first pillow cover I’d seen signed by
him or her. There was another big name illustrator of the same
era named Howard Chandler Christy, not to be confused with F. Earl.
F. Earl did much more interesting work. Next Bryan had a very nice original
Stanford University jacket with a football shaped
patch that said “Stanford P.C.C. Champions 1940”, $795.00. Next Bryan had a great die cut Granger Pipe Tobacco
advertising sign featuring Red Rolfe, late 30’s-early 40’s, 34” tall by 26” wide, $2,700.00.
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