National Convention Preview: The Autograph Pavilion

By Ross Forman

NATIONAL HEADER4cBobby Mintz, vice president for Houston-based Tristar Productions, is certainly looking forward to seeing and working with “Dr. J” Julius Erving once again, when the Basketball Hall of Famer signs autographs at the 37th annual National Sports Collectors Convention.

The National runs Aug. 3-7 at the Atlantic City (N.J.) Convention Center, and “Dr. J” is signing on Saturday, Aug. 6, starting at noon. Erving is one of more than 135 athletes signing at this year’s National, and he will be, without question, one of the most sought-after signatures.

After all, Dr. J was a star with the N.Y. Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, an ABA and an NBA champion, and a 1993 inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

1986-NY-Giants“Julius Erving was one of my all-time favorites,” Mintz said. “I even had to get 10 stitches in my head as a kid after jumping off my bed and trying to dunk a Nerf basketball like Dr. J, only to hit the ceiling fan and breaking a light.”

Mintz had to call his mom at work to take him to the hospital for the stitches.

There are others signers appearing at The National who Mintz is excited to see, too – and not with painful flashbacks.

Take, for instance, Martin Brodeur, who won three Stanley Cup titles and is one of the best goalies of all time.

“I have heard he is a wonderful guy, so I’m really looking forward to meeting him,” Mintz said.

And then there’s Joe Namath, who is one of the nicest autograph signers, period.
“We have worked with Namath for over 20 years, and he is such a class act. I always look forward to seeing him,” Mintz said.

The Tristar Autograph Pavilion at this summer’s National is star-studded, arguably the best ever assembled for the best annual sports memorabilia convention. There are Hall of Famers from all four major sports, as well as WWE Hall of Famers and a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Just consider some of the signers scheduled to appear: Johnny Bench, Wade Boggs, Lou Brock, Roger Clemens, Bob Gibson, Tom Glavine, Eddie Murray, Pedro Martinez, Reggie Jackson, Ryne Sandberg, Brooks Robinson, Ozzie Smith and Dave Winfield. And that’s just some of the baseball greats.

The National also will feature signing sessions with Earl Campbell, Joe Greene, Jim Kelly, Grant Fuhr, Bernie Parent, Mike Richter, Rick Barry, Walt Frazier, John Starks, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Sugar Ray Leonard and Anderson Silva, among others.

“We are looking forward to the greatest National ever,” Mintz said. “Within an eight-hour drive of Atlantic City, you have half the country’s population. It is easy to get to Atlantic City from around the East Coast, and The National has not been this close to the Northeast in many, many years.”

As of press time, there were 135 signers confirmed to appear – the most ever at a National, and arguably the most ever signing at a sports memorabilia convention.

Barry“There is so much to do in Atlantic City, with the casinos and Boardwalk … I think this will be one of the greatest show-going experiences since Anaheim in 2006,” Mintz said. “We started planning this in 2014. We are so excited for the show and Atlantic City in general.”

Thursday at The National will be a special day for football historians, especially locals. The 1986 N.Y. Giants championship team is holding a reunion, featuring Ottis Anderson, Mark Bavaro, Harry Carson, Phil Simms and Lawrence Taylor, among others.

“That reunion could be huge in Atlantic City, as it is the first time they have been at a show together in years, and certainly with 26 guys, the most ever,” Mintz said.

The East Coast flavor also hits the baseball world as a handful of former N.Y. Yankees are scheduled to sign, such as Tino Martinez, Lou Piniella, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams and others. Hideki Matsui is making his first public large show appearance, so he should be “a very big guest,” Mintz said. Same for Rivera, Williams and Martinez.

Another popular National signer should be Boomer Esiason, the former Cincinnati Bengals/N.Y. Jets quarterback who was the 1988 NFL MVP. Mintz predicted that Esiason will be “very, very popular,” particularly since he has done very few public autograph signing sessions.

Derek Coyne, 50, is driving the near-five hours to Atlantic City from his home in the Boston area to attend his seventh National. Coyne said the top five signers on his personal hit-list are Randy Johnson, Dominique Wilkins, Joe Namath, Earl Campbell and Roger Clemens.

TheismannCoyne said he is most impressed with the amount of Hall of Famers set to sign.
The National’s autograph pavilion can be a frenzy, Coyne said, “but it’s a managed frenzy; Tristar does a great job running and managing the area.”

David Blakley, 52, is heading to his 15th National from his home in the Dallas area. Blakley’s top five signers that he’s excited to see are Jim Kaat, Rivera, Gary Sheffield, Donovan McNabb and Namath.

“It’s unbelievable how many people will be signing at this year’s National; it really is amazing that there will be more than 130 signers,” Blakley said. “I’m sure the local fans – fans from New York and Philadelphia – will be thrilled with the list of signers, as there are so many athletes who played in those two cities.”

What about my top five signers for this National?

Hmm, that’s a tough call, so I’m going with 10 instead – hey, that’s the advantage of writing this column. Here’s my personal Top 10 autograph hit-list for the 2016 National (in no particular order): Greg Luzinski, Grant Fuhr, Kaat, Bucky Dent, McNabb, Vinny Testaverde, Harry Carson, John Starks, Martin Brodeur and Brian Leetch.

The Tristar Autograph Pavilion at The 2016 National Sports Collectors Convention at a glance:
• Estimated number of autographs that will be signed in the public area: 100,000
• Number of Sharpie pens used: 1,000
• Number of ballpoint pens that will be used: 500
• Number of 8-by-10 photos signed: 40,000
• Number of baseballs signed: 25,000.

Surfing The Signers
Top 11 expected signers at The National are:
• Mariano Rivera
• Andy Pettitte
• Martin Brodeur
• Hulk Hogan
• Joe Namath
• Craig Biggio
• Rod Carew
• Mike Piazza
• Hideki Matsui
• Roger Clemens
• Walt Frazier

Tristar Autograph Pavilion advice
• Purchase a platinum pass, as you then are first in line for all autographs.
• Buy autograph tickets in advance, as tickets for some signers will sell out.
• Follow Tristar Productions on social media – Instagram, Twitter and
Facebook – for all the latest news and updates.
• For more information about the Tristar Autograph Pavilion at The National, go
to: www.tristarproductions.com/schedule.html#National.

Ross Forman is a frequent contributor to SCD. He can be reached at Rossco814@aol.com.

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