The sports collecting hobby has a few institutions among its ranks. One of those is “The Philly Show,” otherwise known as the Philadelphia Sports Card & Memorabilia Show, which harkens back nearly 35 years. However, this year’s show is the first under its new owner, Hunt Auctions, the Exton, Pa., auction house.
David Hunt of Hunt Auctions understands The Philly Show’s place in the hobby and intends to make it the standard in the industry, something he made clear in the September 2008 announcement of the purchase of the show when he said he intended to keep the tradition of the show, while also modernizing it a bit.
“We feel it’s a vital part of the hobby, it really is,” Hunt said a few weeks before the March 13-15 event. “I think Bob Schmeirer did a wonderful job for 25 years running it, but I think it needed a change. I think the venue change, moving to a much better area (the Valley Forge Convention Center in King of Prussia, Pa.) right in the Philly metro area, will make a dramatic difference. Our goal is to preserve the tradition of the show, to maintain the dealer quality, the free autograph guests – certain elements of the show that really made it what it was, not just vintage, but modern, as well.”
While maintaining the tradition of the show, Hunt also wants to bring it up to speed, bringing in major autograph guests such as Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Frank Robinson, Jim Rice and Jennie Finch, to name a few. Hunt will also be doing a lot more promotion of the show, with a series of television and print advertising.
“Our feeling was the show was too important of a cog in the hobby to let it falter,” Hunt said. “I don’t mean that toward Bob at all. I think the timing made a lot of sense for us, for Bob, and here we are.”
Hunt plans on making the show the symbol of good, honest business in the hobby, having it following in line with his company’s auction business and alliance with Upper Deck. He said the current issues in the hobby, not even considering the economic concerns, make this an important time for the show.
“That’s really what our hallmark has always been is reputation. We want to bring that into the show,” Hunt said. “That’s not to say it didn’t have a good reputation, but we’ve made it abundantly clear to the participating dealers that you will be held to very high standards, and if you don’t adhere to the standards, you won’t be a part of the show going forward, and we mean it. I think that’s really important.”
Hunt said he isn’t concerned with the economic circumstances because he feels the market is very strong. However, collectors are being selective in who they deal with and he wants their participation in the show, as well. “We want this to be the show that if interested parties are going to go to one show a year that this is one they go to,” Hunt said. “And I’m very confident based on the response that we’ve had, that’s what will happen.”
Tables for the event will be the about the same in number as years past, with positions nearly sold out at press time.
Hunt stressed that while it sounds cliché, the show was not about Hunt Auctions – he wants to set the standard for the hobby.
“If we make money with the event down the road, because we will not short term, that’s wonderful – not because we’ll make money, but because that means it worked. It was successful, and just not for us, but it was successful for all of us,” Hunt said.
“This is not a Hunt Auctions promotional event, this is the Philadelphia show. We happen to be the ones that own it. We’re promoting it, but we’re promoting it for the good of everybody.”
The Mar. 13-15 show will run from 5-9 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $7 per day, $18 for the weekend, with children under 8 admitted for free. For more information on the show, call (302) 455-9438 or visit www.huntauctions.com.