National organizers happy with Cleveland event

In a National Convention headlined by Hall of Famers with a Cleveland connection like Bob Feller and Frank Robinson, plus the soon-to-be NBA sensation Greg Oden, the five-day hobby extravaganza offered its usual mix of world-class collectibles, big-name autograph guests and even a bit of internal controversy, that last being something of a tradition almost as much as the former.

Attendance figures were not provided for the show that wrapped up yesterday afternoon at the I-X Center, but NSCC officials and a number of dealers were upbeat. “It’s been a good show. The attendance has been terrific and there were no complaints from the dealers,” said National Sports Collectors Convention president Etta Hersh, adding that the show will be returning to Cleveland in 2009.”

NSCC co-manager Mike Berkus sounded a similar note, but conceded he was “disappointed” with the attendance on Sunday when traffic seemed to tail off markedly.

“It’s been good,” said veteran Maumee, Ohio dealer Kevin Savage, who is also an NSCC board member. “There has been a lot of dealer-to-dealer action, and overall we are really pleased.”

“We had a lot of traffic in terms of people excited for the redemption program, a lot of great autographs were pulled, and we had a lot of younger kids at the ‘Make Your Own Trading Card’ booth,” said Chris Carlin, hobby marketing manager for Upper Deck. He added that attendance “has been less than great,” and said the Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremonies in nearby Canton may have been a factor.

Traffic at the Donruss booth was “nonstop all the way to Sunday afternoon,” said Scott Prusha, marketing/PR director for the card company. “We had Stacy Keibler (former wrestling personality and “Dancing With the Stars” contestant) signing autographs on Friday and we just had a great week.”

“It was a pretty successful show, and the reception for Pack Wars was great,” said John Lubrano, Topps assistant brand manager. “There was a lot of positive feedback for the redemption program, and the kids were crazy for the stuff.”

For Mastro Auctions president Doug Allen and CEO Bill Mastro, it was a pretty good week as well. The week featured the double highlights of the company’s spectacular $4.2 million inaugural live auction on Friday evening in downtown Cleveland, which followed on the heels of Mastro’s induction into the National Sports Collectors Convention Hall of Fame earlier in the week. Mastro was inducted along with Jeff Rosenberg, the president of Tristar Productions, which handled the Autograph Pavilion at the show.

A controversy developed early in the week when a letter circulated protesting the placement of a Heritage Auction Galleries “appraisal” booth outside the main entrance of the show, seemingly affording a decided advantage to Heritage, which was a corporate sponsor, in securing “walk-in” material. The letter, which included no dealer names in the text but was purportedly signed by more than 100 dealers, called the arrangement “egregiously unfair” and urged the NSCC to abandon similar proposals for future Nationas.

The other flap surrounded Mastro’s auction, which was not an officially sanctioned National Convention event. According to Berkus, the formal request to hold the auction as part of the show had been declined by the NSCC board, citing a concern that it would take a considerable amount of money “out of the room.”

– T.S. O’Connell and Chris Nerat, reporting from Cleveland

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