By Ross Forman
Frank Cardenas had game-used relic swatch cards around his booth at the 28th annual Tristar Collectors Show in Houston, held Jan. 24-26 at Reliant Arena.
They were free.
The jerseys had been used in a Little League game.
They actually were Cardenas’ business card – with his personal information on one side and a cut-up trading card on the back. They were homemade and really well-done. Some even looked to be in Mint condition.
“I think they’re pretty unique, though it’s funny, many (customers) think that we’re selling them,” Cardenas said.
The business cards are the brainchild and handiwork of Cardenas’ nephew, Ricky Cardenas, who was selling their wares while Frank discussed the business cards and more.
“I think the business cards definitely help with sales,” Cardenas said.
The three-day weekend Tristar show featured about 40 autograph guests, including Dwight Howard, Andy Pettitte, Tony Dorsett, Earl Campbell, “Sugar” Ray Leonard, Mike Singletary and Clyde Drexler, among others.
“The winter ice storm really affected the show on Friday, but it was a really strong Saturday. In fact, Saturday was one of the better days we’ve had in several years. Overall, it was a very good, excellent show,” said Marty Davis of Marty’s Sports Cards Exchange Superstore in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Mike Stoner of Atlanta-based Stoner Sports said show sales were good overall, but the number of sales was down from past January shows.
“It’s been an OK show, and sales were a little bit of everything, not just one main thing, which was kind of surprising,” said Texas-based dealer Sam Cervantes, the sales manager at thejerseysource.com.
Cervantes said autographed jerseys and balls were the strongest sellers. Peyton Manning-signed jerseys were $400, while Manning-signed helmets were up to $600 each.
Cervantes said sales of items related to the hometown Houston Texans were, well, let’s just say, slow. She sold only one Texans’ item all weekend. “And I usually sell all that I have in stock,” she added.
“The Saturday crowd was very good, probably the best Saturday in two years,” Cervantes said.
Kansas City-based dealer Randy Cook offered his traditional supply of memorabilia related to Babe Ruth, including a variety of Ruth autographs. He was happy on Sunday, particularly praising the efforts of show promoter Tristar Productions, and tagged the show as “great.”
“Tristar really puts on great shows and brings out the collectors … they just need to do more shows,” Cook said. “It’d be nice to have five or six regional Tristar shows per year, not just regional shows in Houston twice annually and San Francisco. No one does shows like Tristar … I just wish they did more.”
Paul Yanez of Florida-based Celebritychaser Autographs was making his second appearance at a Tristar show to sell his autographed relics, mostly from the music industry – and this was his first Tristar show in about three years.
Yanez said his music-related memorabilia definitely has found a home in the sports-heavy Tristar show “because it’s different from what other dealers are selling; thus, collectors are drawn to it.”
Yanez said signed 8-by-10 photos were $50 and up, while 11-by-14 photos were $90-plus.
Yanez said his prized item was a framed reproduction of the 1969 Woodstock concert poster, signed by 26 of the attendees, including Pete Townshend.
Yanez tagged Tim McGraw as the nicest musician for autograph hounds. Yanez said McGraw is “very accommodating.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Yanez said the worst, most-difficult-to-get signers are The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger and The Eagles.
“It was a good show; I can’t complain. There was good traffic and selling was strong. All three days were solid,” said Chuck Raborn, the namesake of Chuck’s Sports Cards of Louisiana, which has three stores in the region.
Raborn praised the sales of single cards, as well as signed 8-by-10 and 16-by-20 photos of select New Orleans Saints players.
Raborn said his biggest weekend surprise was, ugh, the sale of a Reggie Bush photo. “He’s not even a big seller back home,” in the New Orleans area, Raborn said, smiling.
Raborn also was surprised he did not sell boxing gloves signed by Muhammad Ali (with JSA COA).
Barry and Marge Krizan, the longtime husband-and-wife show dealers from the St. Louis area who specialize in autographed baseballs, made their first show appearance in Houston in about 15 years.
They arrived with about 1,000 signed balls.
“It was pretty good, though the storm kept customers away on Friday,” Barry Krizan said. He praised the sales of signed baseballs from Hall of Famers, as well as team collectors.
Krizan met a collector who sought signed baseballs from players who were born in Texas. “I thought that was wild, truly a niche collection,” he said. “The show was about what we expected, and we’ll be back.”
Krizan reported the sale of a baseball signed by Hall of Famer James “Cool Papa” Bell among 30-plus balls that were sold over the three days.
Bobby Mintz of Tristar Productions said the show “went really well,” despite the weather woes. Top signers included Pettitte, Howard and Dorsett.
“This show had, perhaps, the most diversified autograph lineup we’d had in some time – some of the greatest boxers ever, members of the NBA’s Greatest 50 Players Ever, football Hall of Famers, and also baseball Hall of Famers,” Mintz said.
Pettitte signatures ranged from $108-$216, plus another $64 per inscription. Pettitte last signed at a Tristar show in 1996 – for free.
“The last three or four January shows have been really strong, and this one was right there. This was a good, solid, strong show,” Mintz said. “I can only wonder how much better this show would have been if the (Houston) Texans had had a better season and some of the team’s top players were here, too.”
Tristar’s next show is April 25-27 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, and then May 30-June 1 at Reliant Center in Houston.
The summer Houston show features autographing appearances by Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Cal Ripken Jr., Craig Biggio, Reggie Jackson, Rod Carew, Jim Palmer and JJ Watt, among others.
On the show floor
The following are some highlights from the booths at the Houston Tristar show this past January.
- An autographed and framed 11-by-14 photo of international soccer sensation Cristiano Ronaldo, with PSA/DNA certification in a custom frame, was $425.
- There was a box filled with Beanie Babies – and a $5 price tag for any.
- A framed and signed color, action photo of Reggie Jackson – of basketball fame – for $40.
- Fiterman Sports Group was selling seats from the now-closed Astrodome for $400-$625, and brackets for $125. There also were turf swatches from the Astrodome for $25-$125.
- An authentic, maroon Johnny Manziel jersey from Texas A&M, autographed, was $395.
- A signed and framed Manziel 16-by-20 photo was $275.
- There was a Willie Nelson autographed baseball, with a JSA cert, for $75, and a Danny Bonaduce-signed Topps card for $20. Steve Orand of Omaha Sports Cards in Nebraska, which is opening a store in March, was selling both.
- Ozzy Osbourne signed photo was $200.
- Alice Cooper signed electric guitar was $300.
- Al Pacino-signed photo was $150.
- LeAnn Rimes signed guitar was $325.
- Melissa Ethridge signed guitar was $350.
- John Mellencamp signed guitar was $375.
- Stoner sold a leather jacket that Coca-Cola gave to Evander Holyfield. It had been Stoner’s closet for some time. “I was surprised someone bought it,” he said.
Ross Forman is a regular contributor to SCD. He can be reached at Rossco814@aol.com.