Due to the economy, Bobby Mintz of Tristar Productions said that now more than ever, card shows must be innovative to be successful.
So, for its annual Houston Collectors Show, held June 27-29 at the George R. Brown Convention Center, Tristar went to its well of past successes: professional wrestlers.
The three-day show featured three stars from Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling: Christy Hemme, Angelina Love and Kevin Nash. The three were part of a successful wrapper-redemption program of Tristar’s new TNA Wrestling cards. And it was the first time Tristar had pro wrestlers signed at one of its shows in five years.
“The wrestlers added a nice crowd that we hadn’t seen in a while,” Mintz said. “We hadn’t had wrestlers at our shows in over five years, but you definitely could see the different demographic response that we got from, and for, those wrestlers.
“You really have to give people the reason to come to shows these days. The wrestlers, I think, really added to that. Nowadays, with the gas prices as high as they are, we have to give people a reason to come.”
The show attracted about 3,000 collectors, with the autograph pavilion also featuring appearances by Vince Young, Mario Williams, Lance Berkman, Earl Campbell, Carlton Fisk, Paul Hornung and Lou Brock, among others.
Also appearing at the show were Shane Reynolds, Steve Slaton, Frank Okam, Xavier Adibi, Duane Brown, Jamaal Charles, Rod Carew, Bob Gibson, Michael Bourn, Limas Sweed, Roy Oswalt, Carlos Lee, Hunter Pence, Fred Dean, Willie Brown, Drew Pearson, Robert Newhouse, Jim Otto, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Darrell Royal, Tommy Nobis, Charlie Ward, Ben Davidson and Ahman Green.
“I didn’t know what to expect, based on our pre-show autograph ticket sales. Our pre-show sales were pretty good, but this was our first show with $4-a-gallon gasoline prices,” Mintz said. “So, I was wondering if we were going to have a problem because of the economy. Ultimately, the show went well; the dealers overall reported decent shows and, sure, maybe their expectations weren’t as high as they were for past shows, because of the economy, but this was a good show.
“The players were terrific. Vince Young couldn’t have been better. Mario Williams couldn’t have been nicer. In fact, we didn’t have one bad apple in the bunch,” Mintz continued. “Even some guys who previously have been ‘tougher’ to work with, they were great. Everyone was in a good mood, and it was just a really, really festive atmosphere. With fewer shows out there nowadays, I think the players really enjoyed doing this show.”
The show featured eight free autograph guests, though some of them entailed a wrapper redemption.
“I thought we had a really strong lineup,” Mintz said. “I was a little sad that we had to move Limas Sweed and Jamaal Charles to appear on Saturday. Initially, they were scheduled to appear on Sunday with Vince Young, Earl Campbell and Darrell Royal, but, about a month before the show, we had to move them to Saturday because of an NFL commitment on Sunday that was out of state that they had to attend. So I think that impacted their sales a little.
“That said, I think the Texans draft picks on Friday night were much stronger than what we expected. Steve Slaton was a huge draw; we really got a strong response to him. In fact, the biggest surprise of the show was how well the Texans draft picks did.”
Mintz added that you really don’t want a lot of surprises at a show.
“You want consistency; you want things to run smoothly. And that’s what we had. I think having the Boston Red Sox in town really helped our show. With sold-out Houston Astros games, there was a lot of interest in Astros baseball, and I think that helped the show.”
Roger Neufeldt of Norman, Okla.-based Sports Memories said the Houston Collectors Show, was a very good show, especially for turn-of-the-century cards in any condition, along with 1950s and 1960s baseball cards in X-mint or better.
Neufeldt also noted strong sales of Hall of Famers and 1949 Bowman baseball cards. He added that 1954 and 1955 Bowman cards were brisk sellers.
Neufeldt said Sandy Koufax was the hottest vintage card, slightly ahead of Mickey Mantle.
He was most surprised by the lack of sales of vintage football cards, other than Dallas Cowboy cards.
“Items from the old Houston Colt .45s were really strong sellers, including programs and pennants,” Neufeldt added. “The crowd was slightly off as compared to past Houston shows, but the collectors who came out were true collectors.”
Neufeldt’s best buy at the show was a 1955 Topps baseball card set.
“Collectors were more condition-conscious than in the past,” Neufeldt said. “But that’s a positive thing. I was busy all three days; that’s a good thing.”
Added Terry Brown of St. Louis-based All American Collectibles, “It was a good show, considering the economy.”
Tristar’s next show in Houston is Jan. 23-25, 2009, with John Elway, Bruce Sutter, Tony Gwynn and Danny White confirmed to appear.
“We’ve already had a very strong response to the next Houston show,” Mintz said.