Tigers ascend the throne at Gibraltar show

Rod CarewMt. Clemens, Mich., is the suburbs of HockeyTown, USA, but the Detroit Tigers appear to be hotter than the beloved Red Wings.

Andreas Lilja, a defensemen in his third season playing for the Wings, sixth NHL season overall, made an autograph appearance at the Gibraltar Trade Center on Jan. 13. He did well, but not like a Wings player would have done in years past.

The three-day show, held Jan. 11-13, also featured Baseball Hall of Famer Rod Carew and former Tiger pitchers Doug Bair and John Hiller.

“The show went very well,” said Gibraltar’s Mark Dehem. “I thought Lilja would draw better. But it seems like there’s more interest in the Tigers right now than the Red Wings.”

Especially if you look at the moments-to-remember at Gibraltar’s two locations – here and in Taylor, Mich. – from 2007.

Just consider:

• Current Tigers Magglio Ordonez and Jeremy Bonderman rocked Taylor in January. "Those Tigers were huge,” Dehem said.

• Current Tigers star outfielder Curtis Granderson signed more than 500 autographs in Taylor on April 21.

• Former Tigers manager and Baseball Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson appeared in Taylor on July 15, and all autograph tickets were sold.

• Former Tiger superstar Kirk Gibson appeared in Taylor on Oct. 28, selling more than 500 autograph tickets, which Dehem dubbed the biggest surprise of the year.

“I was nervous about the autograph ticket prices of $59 and $69, but people paid the price,” Dehem said. “I was shocked how many people were there to see him.”

• Former Tiger superstar Willie Hernandez flies into Detroit from Puerto Rico for his autograph session on Dec. 29 in Taylor, and he sells more than 500 autograph tickets.

“I think it was a very good show year, based on how the economy is in this area,” Dehem said. “The shows were down a little in 2007, but I think shows were down everywhere in country. We probably were a little down in dealers and attendance. But overall it was a very good year at Gibraltar.”

Looking back and forging ahead:

2008 promises to be an even better year at Gibraltar. After all, it marks the 40th anniversary of the 1968 Detroit Tigers, one of this cities’ most beloved teams – from any sport.

“The ’68 Tigers will be huge in ’08. They will draw really well, no doubt,” Dehem said.
Dealer Robert Kenyon, of Kencor in Belleville, Mich., said Gibraltar’s 2007 shows, “were very consistent in 2007,” adding that the trading card market locally was vastly improved over recent years.

“The local card market is not that bad; it’s decent. Actually, it’s a strong card market,” he said. “If I had to give the local card market a grade in 2007, I’d give it a B-plus. It was decent, and that was very surprising. In fact, this was the best grade I’ve given the local market in at least five years, and the first B in at least three years.

“The hockey card market finished the year off strongly. Football was a solid seller, strong from the beginning of the season. Baseball was very good, and should be even better in 2008. The baseball card market should be real strong in Detroit in 2008.”

“Big” John Gross of JMG Sports in Clarkston, Mich., has been hawking cards and relics for 20 years, and he said his 2007 sales were down about 20 percent, However, he said sales of autographed and game-used relic cards remains solid, and the vintage card market was solid and probably will be forever.

“People are willing to go to the bigger, established shows, such as The National, SportsFest, the Chicago Sun-Times shows, the East Coast National and Gibraltar Trade Center,” Gross said. “But the smaller, 20-table shows held at a Holiday Inn . . . well, they are not doing very well.”

Gross’ hockey sales are anchored by Sidney Crosby and John Tavarres, a 17-year-old phenom who, according to Gross, “is going to be the greatest player ever.” He also praised Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Gross’ football sales were led by Adrian Peterson, Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Brett Favre and LaDanian Tomlinson. Gross said several Cleveland Browns also were popular with collectors.

There are no surprises among basketball card sales, Gross said. The top sellers are LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Chris Bosh and Kevin Durant.

On the baseball front, Gross said sales are anchored by the Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

Among relic cards, Gross said anything tied to retired greats, especially autographs, has been strong. He also praised patch cards, autographs from high-end products and all Topps autographs.

Gross had nothing but praise for Gibraltar and even said both Detroit-area venues get a bad rap.

“Gibraltar draws great autograph guests, the price of tables is great, there’s free admission, parking is only $2 . . . there’s nothing like Gibraltar anywhere in the country,” he said.

Dealer Danny Phillips came to Gibraltar from Galion, Ohio, loaded with vintage cards.
“This is a tremendous market for me,” he said. “I was in the hobby from 1975-95, but then took about 11 years off to focus on my boys. But I came back in 2006 because there’s still a strong interest in the vintage market.”

Phillips said there were a lot of set-builders and collectors of high-grade vintage relics, with the top vintage cards at Gibraltar were inserts of 1960s Topps baseball, Post Cereal baseball and football cards of the 1960s, 1950s, along with 1960s baseball and almost all football. Phillips particularly praised sales of 1963 and 1968 Topps baseball, and 1963 Topps baseball peel-offs.

The next major show at Gibraltar’s Taylor location is Feb. 29-March 2, and Willie McCovey is among the confirmed autograph guests.The next major show at Gibraltar’s Mt. Clemens location is March 21-23, with Ozzie Smith confirmed to appear.

For more information on Gibraltar shows, visit www.gibraltartrade.com.

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