In a couple of days, Hunt Auctions is going to raise the curtain on the newest incarnation of the famed Philadelphia Sportscard & Memorabilia Show and like most collectors and dealers who have been part of this 34-year-old institution, we’re hoping for continued grand success.
I thought the occasion called for a proper nod to the show’s legendary host over that incredible span, Bob Schmeirer (at left). The 2009 version takes place at the Valley Forge Convention Center in King of Prussia, Pa., which is a new site for his show, but my old friend Levi Bleam reminded me the other day that Tony Carrafiell of Delco Sports Cards had promoted shows in King of Prussia in the 1980s.
I was already hooked on the hobby by the time I went to my first EPSCC Philly Show at Willow Grove in the early 1980s, but if I weren’t, that show would have taken care of that chore handsomely.
I suspect younger collectors offer a collective yawn when they hear such things, but for collectors who remember that show at that cheezy hotel in Willow Grove, the excitement of the hobby was never more visceral or profound, not even at National Conventions, save perhaps for the nutty one at Anaheim in 1991.
I understand now that it was a special time in terms of the exploding growth being experienced by the hobby, a convergence of factors that can never be replicated or artificially reproduced. Fair enough.
But for someone who hates cocktail parties and other instances where I have to nuzzle up to my fellow man way past acceptable boundaries for me, I gotta admit there was nothing better than showing up at that hotel, wrestling for a parking spot in the odd bowl-shaped lawn in front of the convention hall and then diving into one of the great scrums that were the hallmark of that show for so many years.
Every time I went I had a list of a half-dozen dealers whom I had dealt with for years that I wanted to see, but I never went to directly to their tables, since that wasn’t how it worked in those days. As you entered the show floor, you ran smack dab into this huge mass of collectors, and so the whole group moved like a herd of Wildebeest, and once you got to a dealer you wanted to see, you then had to elbow your way toward his table and get in line to wait your turn.
It was all so exhilarating that I promptly signed myself up for Schmeirer’s famous waiting list, and so waited impatiently until 1984 or 1985 for my first chance to be on the other side of the table. Hard as it may be to believe, there was actually a lot less space behind the tables than in front, as I think there were 150 or so tables crammed into a relatively tiny convention hall. Most graphically, I remember having to crawl under the table on my hands and knees to get out to use the rest room or snag a grotesque, flaccid hot dog and frigid french fries. And I loved it all.
As Schmeirer steps away from something that he helped orchestrate for virtually half of his lifetime, I am sure that he can take enormous pride in knowing he was part of something so special.
Heckuva job, Bob.