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Four Page Written Account of the 

29th Annual 2008 

National Sports 

Collectors Convention

Including Pre and Post Con 

Wandering In and Around Chicago


Carlton Hendricks


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Kanuit Booth

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Downtown Chicago

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 Mike Brown booth


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The twenty ninth annual 2008 National Sports Collectors Convention was held in Rosemont Illinois Wednesday July 31 to Sunday August 3. Rosemont is a suburb of Chicago and is where Chicago's O'Hare airport is located. I arrived a few days early on Saturday the twenty sixth to do some scouting around for antiques and to take in the area. Boy the antiquing was tough! I drove all over heck and hardly found a thing.


The Sandwich Antiques Market

I landed at O'Hare Airport at 12:45PM, rented a car and drove about an hour west to the Sandwich Antiques Market. The Sandwich Market is a once a month affair. The dealers set up on Saturday and open to the public on Sunday. Iíd seen their ads in the antiques journals over the last 20 plus years, and as far as I knew it was a major venue. I saw on their website you could buy an early entry for $30.00, and get in on Saturday while they were setting up. Plus the early entry pass was good for Sunday. I canceled my reservation at the Hyatt Regency OíHare that night and reserved a room at the Sandwich Best Western, the only hotel in town.


As I approached the Sandwich area I was taken back by the beauty of the country side. In one respect it all pretty much looked the same; mile after mile of tall cornfields. But it was so green and picturesque, I never got tired of it. Each farmhouse was unique, and the whole area was so clean looking. I stopped at sort of dreary looking convenience mart/gas station near Hinckley, the town before Sandwich, to take a break and get directions. The store was a little odd inside, in that there was more room for merchandise than there was merchandise. The junk food was interesting; seeing the brands of chips and things Iíd never seen before in California. Traveling's wild;  In the morning you're on your own familiar turf, in the afternoon you're 2000 miles away in cornfields! I got some chocolate covered cashews and milk and went to pay. The east Indian clerk was so nice and genuine, It was my welcome to the area, and I felt like I wanted to move there. He asked where I was from but didnít know where Napa Valley was. We chatted a little before I went out to a picnic bench in front of the store. Seemed like your all American family man, chipping out a living with his little business.


From there I went a little further before turning onto East Sandwich Road which took me straight into town. I spotted an antiques mall on the main drag and went in. I wasnít expecting it to be real bigÖbut it was one of those big ones that just keeps going and going. The quality wasnít bad but I didnít see anything great. About the best thing I saw was a Beatles pennant with all four illustrated for like $60.00 as I recall. I thought about taking a chance and putting it on eBay, but passed. I finally found the Sandwich Antiques Market, which is held at the Sandwich Fairgrounds.  Wow, what a place for an antiques market; clean, all grass, with lots of trees for shade. Trees are important on hot days. Fortunately the weather wasnít bad, about a perfect 85 degrees with little humidity.


Sandwich Antiques Market, Sandwich IL
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click to see 54 photos of the Sandwich Antiques Market


I got to the fairgrounds around 3:30PM. I was immediately taken at how it was all laid out. There were huge gaps between dealer spaces throughout the whole market. Twenty minutes in and I started getting the feeling that show had seen it's day, and had, like so many, been torpedoed by eBay. I made a point to ask a few dealers who looked like they'd been in the business a while. Sure enough, they all said the same identical thing....In the old days the place used to be packed with dealers! Some gave a glimmer of hope saying it was hard to tell how many would still arrive that night. But the next day it was about the same. I saw lots of oak furniture, probably more than any other antiques show I'd been to. But boy it was weak for collectibles. Every once in a while I'd see something a little interesting, but generally it was pretty dismal. My one little find was kind of a  cool c1950-60's College Club talcum tin  for $30.00 I think it was (views 1 / 2 / 3). At least it was in nice condition. front.jpg (791665 bytes) And that was the whole take, for renting a car and driving an hour ten minutes one way, plus one night's hotel room. It probably only took me an hour to go thru it. I came back the next day, and found nothing again. But that's how collecting is; you turn over every rock!


DavePerryRE.jpg (548598 bytes)The saving grace was seeing Dave Perry's collection. Dave lives in Aurora, about 25 minutes from Sandwich. He was nice enough to pick me up at my hotel, and take me to see his collection, then to dinner at his favorite restaurant Wildfire in Oakbrook. Dave said it's where he and his wife go for special occasions so I was honered. What a great restaurant! I had the ribeye and shrimp platter.  And his collection was even better! Almost all football, which I'll be featuring as a special bonus latter in the story.


Chicago Antique Market 

and Randolph St. Market Festival

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click here for more shots of Chicago Antiques Market


Chicago Antique Market/ Randolph Street Market

The next day, after I went thru the Sandwich antiques market again, I drove back into downtown Chicago. There was another antiques show going on that day called the Chicago Antiques Market; combined with the Randolph Street Market Festival. Being unfamiliar with the geography I dutifully mapped it out and made my way all the way back into the inner city to see what this show was all about. It billed it's self as "an urban treasure hunt"....oh gosh!! back to back duds, and this one was much worse than Sandwich. I guess if you're an Elaine and Jerry Seinfeld urban dweller type and don't really know antiques and just looking for wicker baskets/decorator things or what ever, you might enjoy it. But for serious antiquing, I wouldn't go back. 


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There was one dealer though, Phil Allers from Cedar Rapids Indiana. Phil had some antique sports things, which can be seen in the link under the photos below. Phil told me he only sets up there once in a great while, and it didn't sound like he was coming back. I didn't find anything in his booth I had to have but at least it was a glimmer of hope. Below are a few shots I took there.


Chicago Antiques Market, Booth 

of Phil Allers, Cedar Rapids IN

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I wanted to go to the Billy Goat Tavern on lower Michigan Avenue anyway, so my trip downtown wasn't exactly wasted.  The first time I ate at the Billy Goat was 1989 when I went to my first National at McCormack Place, which is right in the center of downtown Chicago. Now that's where you want  to have a National. The party's downtown not Rosemont! McCormack Place is located in the lower level of the Hyatt Hotel, which I stayed at in 89'. Staying right there in the same building was super convenient. When you want to go to your room you just get on an elevator and you're home. Then at night, the weather is perfect in the summer, and there are lots of people out walking around downtown. Right near the hotel are tour boats to take you out on Lake Michigan, and lots of stores and restaurants. And the Billy Goat Tavern is only about a five minute walk. I like the dives so it was my kind of place. 


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Chicago's Famous Billy Goat Tavern 

downtown on lower Michigan Ave. & Wacker

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The Billy Goat Tavern

The Billy Goat is a bar and grill that, from what I gather, has the iconic image of a gritty place jaded newspaper reporters hang out; the Chicago Tribune is just around the corner. It seems to have deftly kept up the image by never remodeling and not changing the menu or removing the bowling trophies. If I were to exaggerate, any more calculated and the Ralph Lauren people would be there taking notes. It's location which is part of Chicago's uniqueness, is on the lower level of North  Michigan Ave. at Wacker Drive. It's kind of dark and dingy down there which is part of the no one knows it's here but you image. Except that's exactly why everyone knows it's there. Good  example; to get down to lower Michigan from the upper level, there are metal stairways, one each block I think. I took the wrong stairs, a block up, so was a little lost, and finally asked someone where's the Billy Goat? Just as I'm asking, here comes a group of generation Y'ers coming down the stairs, one of them, a young lady says to to me, "yeah we're looking for it too". It may be Chicago's not best kept secret. 



I would say that other than the super simple ribeye sandwich, and excellent pickles, there is nothing special about the food, It's mostly image. Saturday Night Live did a skit with John Belushi called Olympia Restaurant, also referred to as the Cheezborger Cheezborger skit. It  was suppose to have been based on the Billy Goat. Apparently, that skit, which really doesn't resemble the Goat (you don't sit at the counter), vaulted the place to such fame that it took on a life of it's own. 


Anyway, back to my excursion to the Billy Goat this trip. I don't know what happened but when I first ate there in 1989 the ribeye steak sandwich was great, and cheap, but I was disappointed in the one I had that day. The bun wasn't heated and browned enough (as seen in this photo of it being prepared), thus didn't seem fresh. Plus the self serve pickles, which they are noted for (and that sit out without a sneeze guard) tasted a little weird, like maybe they weren't being rotated properly. Those kind of nuances ruin things.  Anyway, maybe I'll try it again another time and see if it improves. 


As I was snapping photos outside I noticed an interesting thing. I saw not one, but two separate families both with youngsters in tow enter. Then when I was in there eating, I saw another young mom and dad with little kids come in. I started getting the picture that the place is a novelty stop. Moms and dads probably saw the SNL skit with Belushi and now it's the perfect fun little place for the family on a budget.  I thought that was neat. I just wish they'd focus on the food better.


Coincidently when I got back home from the National and back to my job as a hotel bellman, the first person I checked in was from Chicago, lived right downtown. I asked him where to go in Chicago for a good burger. He gave me three places to try; the Rockit Bar and Grill on West Hubbard, Moody's Pub on N. Broadway, and the Capital Grill on North St Clair. Maybe the Goat is just for the tourist now.



Vicinity of Michigan Ave. and Whacker Drive

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After that  I spent a little while shooting the area....I even took some video of the street musicians. 173.jpg (651091 bytes) I heard a couple of guys just warming up with Rock Around the Clock. It sounded so good I tossed a couple bucks in their tip box and asked them to play it again. That two bucks went a long way, they jumped right on it. Towards the end of the set a guy comes by with his family and starts watching. Next thing you know the duo let him sit in on the drums, while his wife and kids watched. That was nice of them. Chicago's a cool town!


The next day I was going to drive up to Milwaukee and stop along the way at antique malls, then have dinner at the 5'oclock supper club in Milwaukee. However the 5' o'clock club is closed Sunday and Monday. So I looked up on the internet and saw an antiques mall in Volo Il, and decided to drive there....whew, ANOTHER stinker, don't even! So after all that bad luck, I was ready for the National! And then....even after I left the National the dearth wouldn't leave. My last day in Chicago, Saturday August 2nd, my plane didn't leave till 7:00 that night, so I drove to the Kane County Flea Market....again practically nothing..but I did have my first funnel cake there.


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Very Rare c1910 Mission Oak Style 

Rocking Chair with Bowling Scene Engraving

found at Kane County Flea Mark

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Although I did see one pretty good piece, but it was bowling! It was a c1910 mission oak style rocking chair,  that had a very nice bowling scene carved in the back rest. It priced at $1,500.00. At least I finally saw something great outside of the National!


Annual Net54 Baseball Memorabilia Forum Dinner, Thurs. July 31, Embassy Suites

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Leon Luckey

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click here to see 19 photos of dinner


One highlight of the National was the Net54 Baseball Memorabilia Forum dinner. It was staged  on Thursday night July 31st right across the street from the convention center at the Embassy Suites Hotel. You can't beat free, and that included your choice of pasta bar or stir fry bar, or just thee bar. Most of the attendees were from the card forum, as opposed to the memorabilia side.  See link above for photos and details.


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