Randy Cook had one sale at the Tristar Collectors Show, held May 14-16 in San Francisco, that truly stood out. It was a Babe Ruth relic card and the buyer was a 13-year-old boy.
“He wanted something from Babe Ruth more than from anyone else,” said Cook, a veteran Kansas City-based dealer and hobby broadcaster (on the Internet). “It was neat to see how much he was in love with Babe Ruth, because he knew and respected the fact that Babe Ruth is history.”
Cook had a similar sale, er, sales at the Tristar show last June in Houston when the parents of two 8-year-old boys each purchased Ruth jersey cards for the boys.
“They chose Ruth over Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols and every other current player,” Cook said of the 2009 sale. “It seems like a lot of kids nowadays want old-time cards.”
Greg Lambert of California Card Shark also had one very memorable sale at Tristar’s San Francisco show: 2010 Bowman Baseball ($84 for a regular box, $175 for the jumbo box). Yet Lambert sold a ton of 2010 Bowman – about 140 boxes, to be exact – thanks to Washington Nationals pitching prospect Stephen Strasburg.
“He’s a can’t-miss prospect, so everyone wants his rookie card,” Lambert said. “And the set as a whole also has a lot of other good rookies, such as Starlin Castro (of the Chicago Cubs). “Anything with rookies in it has been selling.”
The three-day show attracted more than 4,500 collectors and featured autograph appearances by 20 sports stars, including Cal Ripken, Jr., Robin Yount, Reggie Jackson and local celebrity Pablo Sandoval of the Giants.
“It was a very good show,” Lambert said. “The crowd and number of dealers might have been down from past shows, but we really had a good show.”
Cook added: “This was a good show. The Friday night crowd was great, very impressive,” especially since there were no autograph guests on Friday.
The Saturday autograph lineup featured Ripken, Yount, Sandoval, Rod Carew, Rollie Fingers, Paul Molitor, Gary Beban, Ozzie Smith, John Bowker and Dan Runzler. Plus, Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling superstars Abyss and Lacey Von Erich signed free autographs.
The Sunday slate featured Jackson, Ben Grieve, Andre Dawson, Bruce Sutter, Walt Weiss, Jim Harbaugh, Toby Gerhart and Orlando Cepeda.
“We were very pleased with the turnout of the overall event,” said Tristar’s Bobby Mintz. “The collection of legendary baseball Hall of Famers, especially 3,000 Hit Club members who do not make many appearances, headlined by Cal Ripken Jr., and Robin Yount, was very nice.
“This show is very consistent, having been produced since 1997. It has a very loyal and traditional following.”
Ripken was the weekend’s top draw, and he definitely does not disappoint.
He interacts with every autograph collector and stands for photos with everyone.
“Just a wonderful guest who really lets you know why he is so respected and revered,” Mintz said of Ripken. “People heard about his legend and confirmed it when meeting him. So many customers came up to me on Sunday saying that was one of the greatest experiences of their life.
“Ripken is the Joe DiMaggio of this generation.”
So just imagine what the reaction will be to Ripken this summer at the annual National Sports Collectors Convention, held for the first time in Baltimore.
Mintz said TNA’s Lacey Von Erich also was a huge draw in San Francisco.
“She is a very attractive woman who many fans enjoyed meeting, especially with the Von Erich last name that is so historic in wrestling lore,” Mintz said.
Lacey’s dad is the late Kerry Von Erich, he of World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) fame.
“I thought it was a good show,” said Robin Lee of California-based Girl-Jocks.com. “I think there were fewer dealer tables than at past Tristar shows, but that really helped. Saturday, for instance, was phenomenal.
“I had a lot of women’s sports memorabilia selling – (autographed) photos, softballs, soccer balls, tennis balls, plaques, and more. And that’s not the norm. Usually, it’s just one player or one sport that sells well. Not this time. This time, it was across the board.”
Lee did, though, note strong sales for Jenny Finch, Danica Patrick and Mia Hamm.
Lambert said three football products sold well in San Francisco: Prestige ($80 per box), Press Pass ($100) and Portraits ($125).
Lambert also praised the sales of 2009 Upper Deck Exquisite ($475) and Playoff National Treasure football ($335).
“Cal Ripken brought a nice crowd,” Lambert said.
Bob Marcy of Scottsdale (Ariz.) Baseball Cards said San Francisco sales for non-sport cards were very good, especially 19th-century and early-20th-century singles.
“I had a number in mind for total weekend sales, and I hit it,” Marcy said. “It was a good show; I was not disappointed.”
Roger Neufeldt of Oklahoma-based Sports Memories had plenty of praise for the San Francisco weekend.
“I have been so busy,” he said about an hour before the show ended on Sunday afternoon. “From a selling standpoint, the show was a rousing success. I sold more 1952 Topps Baseball singles than at any regional show in recent memory, probably the most since the (2009) National (Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland).”
Neufeldt started the weekend with a near-complete set of ’52 Topps, without the Mickey Mantle card, though. By the end of the weekend, he had fewer than 60 cards from that set remaining.
Neufeldt said there were strong weekend sales for many 1950s and 1960s stars and commons. Plus, he sold all 12 complete sets that he brought to San Francisco, a personal record.
“My sales exceeded what I expected,” Neufeldt said. “From a buying standpoint, it was about what I thought it would be.”
Neufeldt said Juan Marichal sold better than at past San Francisco show. Willie Mays was, as always, highly requested.
“I also sold a lot of college football programs from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, especially from West Coast schools,” Neufeldt said. “Basketball card sales were better than in the past. Football card sales were not as good as in the past. Baseball card sales were outstanding. Hockey was non-existent, like always here in San Francisco.
“I think San Francisco has more diverse collectors than anywhere in the country, even the East Coast,” Neufeldt said. “I sold a ton of oddball stuff.”
Such as: 1960 Topps Tattoos, 1961 Topps Stamps and 1963 Topps Peel-off Inserts.
“It was a good, solid event that our exhibitors were able to have a positive experience at, as well as our customers,” Mintz said.
Several dealers and collectors suggested that Tristar return to San Francisco twice annually, as the company did for years.
Mintz said there will not be a Labor Day weekend show in San Francisco in 2010, “however, 2011 and beyond could be a possibility,” he said.
What about adding new shows or venues in 2011?
“Possibly,” Mintz said. “With the economy starting to move in a more positive direction, if there are markets that we feel are under-served that would enjoy the type of events we produce, we certainly will look at it.”
Tristar’s next show in June 18-20 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston – and company officials say it promises to be one of the best shows of 2010.
The autograph lineup includes Nolan Ryan, Drew Brees, Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy and a host of other stars, superstars and Hall of Famers.
“The show has the makings of one of our best Houston shows ever, and that is saying a lot as we have had some blockbusters in Houston,” Mintz said. “Many players will sell out, so I suggest customers lock their autograph tickets in early by ordering in advance as I am afraid some players will sell out on or possibly before the show.”
The autograph pavilion at this summer’s National in Baltimore, run by Tristar, also will be rockin’ as autograph guests include Willie Mays, Bart Starr, Joe Montana, Gordie Howe, Whitey Herzog, Randy Johnson, Wade Boggs and many, many more.
“We have a great lineup for The National, which is in a great location that allows the entire Eastern Seaboard a real chance to participate in a big way,” Mintz said. “We have some hard-to-find guests, such as Steve Stone and Roger Carr, along with legends such as Cal Ripken Jr., and Willie Mays, to name a few.”