In the earliest days of the National Convention it was the range of vintage stuff that was made available that turned everybody’s head, and that’s still the case to a great degree, but with the dawn of the Internet Age and the near simultaneous growth of major catalog auctions, the import of that had to ease off a bit.
Nowadays at the National it ends up being a coming-out party for any number of new products and card issues, and the Baltimore National was no exception in that regard.
In addition to splashy redemption or VIP cards from Topps, Upper Deck, Panini and Press Pass and the release of the newest edition of the spectacular SportKings Series, I saw a number of cool items, some of which I had never seen before.
From that first column comes something called Homefields (www.homefields.com), which are fascinating stadium replicas made of wood that provide the illusion of 3D, along with nifty back lighting (on the larger version) that nicely showcases nearly two dozen different current or defunct MLB parks and an even larger inventory for the NFL and college football.
And from the department of stuff I’ve seen before but never this up close, the amazing Fred Kail statues were elegantly arrayed in a museum-quality display not far from the corporate section at the show.
Kail, the creator of the famed statues that bear his name, was even at the show on Wednesday and Thursday, though I was disappointed that I missed him, since I didn’t get there until Friday morning because I had to finish that week’s issue of SCD before I headed out. He had obligations connected with the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which hardly seems surprising, and thus was off to Canton for the rest of the weekend.
While hobby old-timers will think first of the charming pot-bellied NFL figures that trace their heritage all the way back to 1956, much of the sculpture on display at the National were the stunning, realistic bronze statues that would look completely at home in the finest museums – or halls of fame.
Cheerfully presented by Kail’s daughter, Rennie, and granddaughter, Emily, the Kail booth was popular with area fans and collectors, which was understandable given the 50-year-plus link to the Colts name. Toss in the fact that the bronze figures included the likes of Johnny Unitas and Kail’s pal, Art Donovan – the inspiration for the the original Joe Jolter statue – planted right alongside the vintage Colts linemen classic and you can understand why the Lutherville, Md., artist would have decided to attend a first-ever National.
And he might even have turned up on Sunday, except that he was committed to a brunch with Donovan. Few things are cooler than our own little National Convention, but I’ve got a feeling that lunching with the Hall of Famer Donovan just might qualify.
Lucky for me, Kail e-mailed me following the National to update me on one of his latest creations. “One of my whimsical figures was done as a 1922-23 NFL Champion Canton Bulldog … a tough old leatherhead with a 5 o’clock shadow (shown here). It is being introduced by Champion Treasures, an Ohio merchandising group in which Eric Dickerson and another former Los Angeles Ram LeRoy Irvin are involved,” Kail continued. “So I spent Friday through Sunday signing a Limited Edition of Canton Bulldogs. Only 500 are in the edition. You may have seen the artist proof in Baltimore. We only had a few there, which sold out quickly, as most went to Canton, where the sales were brisk. It’s also now being featured and sold in the Hall of Fame store.”
The artist James Fiorentino had his own booth at the National, and Paul Madden, who produced so much of the original art for the Sport Kings series, was also spotted around the show, though not set up.
And similarly under the heading of stuff that belongs in a museum, John Rogers of North Little Rock, Ark., had a huge booth in the corporate area, display a sampling of the millions of important photographs and artwork that he has acquired from The Sporting News, Sport Magazine, and any number of major newspapers, including the Detroit News, Chicago Sun-Times, and the Denver Post, among others.
I’ll have more on Rogers later on this week, including some significant hobby-related plans that he has for some of his incredible inventory.