Kip Ingle had quite the journey to the annual Tristar Collectors Show, held June 24-26 at the Reliant Center in Houston. The trip is one he’s definitely glad he made, even as tired as he was after the three-day, star-studded event.
Ingle, on the Monday night before the show, drove from Bethesda, Md., to his home in suburban Atlanta. He was there for 18 hours, then back on the road, en route to Houston.
“We’ve been home for, oh, about 28 hours since June 3 and, yeah, we’re tired, but there’s no way we were going to miss this show,” said Ingle, a veteran hobby dealer. “This was a great show for me. The biggest surprise was that there were no surprises. Houston remains a very good collector’s market. It was business as usual here this weekend.
“Sure, the crowd was slightly less than Tristar’s annual January show in Houston, but some dealers were able to capitalize on advanced collectors who still want to spend money on quality sports memorabilia. The Houston marketplace is an area that has avoided the economic downward trend that has hit so many other markets across the U.S.”
About 3,000 people attended the show, which featured autograph appearances by Rickey Henderson, Adrian Peterson, Evan Longoria, Carlton Fisk, Whitey Herzog, John Stallworth and Arian Foster, among others.
The show also featured autograph appearances by secondary stars, such as Ben Tate, J.A. Happ, Brett Wallace, Shiloh Keo, Dante Hall, Yale Lary, Floyd Little, John David Crow, Donnie Shell, Jack Ham, Ray Childress, Joe Greene and Quentin Coryatt, among others.
Ingle had his best success selling single-signed baseballs of “mid-tiered Hall of Famers, especially deceased players.” Examples included Rick Ferrell, Warren Spahn, Harmon Killebrew, Eddie Mathews, Leon Day and others.
Ingle said he had about 15 collectors buying the single-signed baseballs, including three new customers.
In total, he sold about 70 baseballs which, he said, “was unbelievably great,” for a regional show. The balls sold for $60-$125 each.
Ingle said Houston and St. Louis are his two best markets.
Mike Stoner of Stoner Sports & Collectibles in Atlanta noted that weekend attendance was down compared to the January show, but those who came were looking for quality and spent good money on items that they wanted.
“Overall, it was a very good show. The biggest surprise was how good the show was. It was better than I expected,” he said.
Stoner sold a wide variety of items, primarily custom-framed items signed and unsigned from old Hall of Famers to new, current athletes. His sales included signed pieces of Cy Young, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle. Mantle was Stoner’s best weekend seller.
Stoner also sold a framed photo of the 1927 New York Yankees from spring training.
“Houston has been a very good market, consistently, over the past few years,” Stoner said. “Houston is the best regional show market that I do.
“This show was as good as any Houston show I’ve done in at least five years. In fact, it’s embarrassingly good how well I did, considering the attendance was down.”
Stoner’s weekend sales also included a limited-edition, signed Mantle bat in a case, which included a notary’s signature verifying the autograph. It sold for $5,000.
“I don’t focus on the local athletes when I come to regional shows like this; I let the local dealers sell the local athletes, such as the Houston Astros,” Stoner said. “I focus on memorabilia from athletes who have a national appeal.”
Rich Gove of Houston-based Rich Gove Collectibles specializes in vintage cards. He said weekend sales lagged behind the January show in Houston. He did, though, have success selling commons. Plus, he bought a lot of approximately 1,200 1961 Topps Baseball cards, along with a 1973 Topps Baseball set. The 1961 cards included prime cards of Juan Marichal, Hank Aaron and others.
Kansas City-based dealer Randy Cook said one of his most memorable weekend sales was a 1928 New York Yankees scorecard from a game in which Babe Ruth hit two home runs. The relic sold for $275 and was purchased by a son as a gift for his dad.
“That was a real cool sale,” Cook said. “The dad was a little taken aback. Sales like that, with stories like that, are what keep this hobby going.”
Tristar’s Bobby Mintz said the show went incredibly smooth, with more than 30 guests all appearing on time.
“Every guest was terrific and could not have been nicer,” Mintz said.
Mintz admitted that the show wasn’t without its drawbacks. “It did not meet expectations, as the baseball players on Saturday did not elicit the response we were hoping for, especially the Astros, yet with the Astros having the worst record in baseball, it was not too much of a surprise,” he said
One of the show highlights was the superstar trio of Evan Longoria, Adrian Petersen and Von Miller – “and how easy to work with, and down to earth,” each was, Mintz said. “They could not have been more accommodating for the stars they are. All took their time with everyone and really went out of their way to be accommodating.”
The large contingent of Aggies on Sunday was well received, and Mintz confirmed that Tristar likely will have more Aggies at future shows.
Mintz also confirmed that it’s a possibility Tristar will add more shows in 2012.
“We look at the show market all the time to see if there is a possibility of putting something together that could be well received by dealers and show attendees alike,” he said.
Tristar is now prepping the final stages of the autograph pavilion at this summer’s National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago on Aug. 3-7, with an autograph lineup that hovers around 100.
“We’re very excited about The National,” Mintz said. “We have some unique and hard-to-get autograph guests that have elicited a nice response so far. Many players will sell out at the show.”
Tristar’s next Houston show is Jan 20-22, 2012.
For more information about Tristar, go to www.tristarshows.com.
Ross Forman is a freelance contributor to SCD. He can be reached at Rossco814@aol.com.