The National: Awash in Sports Memorabilia

By Ross Forman

The framed, multi-photo collectible of the late “Macho Man” Randy Savage at the 35th annual National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland certainly caught my eye.
The souvenir included an 8-by-10 color wrestling photo of Savage in his standard neon colored outfit – Oh Yeaaaah! There also was a black-and-white photo of a young Savage, then known by his real name, Randy Poffo, as he was a minor league baseball player at the time.

I’d seen both photos in the past and neither truly was unique, but then it got interesting.
In the middle, there was a nice, large cut-signature autograph from “Macho Man,” as he usually signed items. There also was a 1974 score sheet from a Tampa Tarpons game, which included Poffo, an outfielder on the team that was managed by Russ Nixon. Plus, the sheet was autographed by Poffo.

The dealer told me, “You’ll never see another one.”

How many know that Randy “Macho Man” Savage played minor league baseball and was known as Randy Poffo? Better yet, who has seen a scorecard featuring Poffo and signed by the future wrestler?

How many know that Randy “Macho Man” Savage played minor league baseball and was known as Randy Poffo? Better yet, who has seen a scorecard featuring Poffo and signed by the future wrestler?

I believe it . . . this $599 souvenir was one of the coolest collectibles at The National.
But that was certainly not the only pro wrestling items that I spotted during countless walks through the I-X Center during the five-day show, July 30-Aug. 3.

There was, for instance, the Hulk Hogan card from Topps from 1999 or so, during his stint with World Championship Wrestling (WCW) . . . with a $2,000 price tag. The card was, according to the seller, an error card, signed on the back.

Personally, I’m not sure it should have been priced as high, and I bet it still was for sale late Sunday afternoon. Just a hunch.

There also was a signed 8-by-10 photo autographed by longtime rivals Larry Zbyszko and Bruno Sammartino. It was being sold for $29. Quite a deal.

And for $10, you could have claimed a signed 8-by-10 photo of Koko B. Ware, The Iron Sheik ($10), Hillbilly Jim or Diamond Dallas Page (DDP). The Ric Flair-signed photos were $30.

Barry Krizan specializes in baseball signed by, well, non-baseball players such as Lou Rawls and bowler Dick Weber. Photos by Ross Forman.

Barry Krizan specializes in baseball signed by, well, non-baseball players such as Lou Rawls and bowler Dick Weber. Photos by Ross Forman.

Hitting the show floor
With more than 20 rows of dealers, this year’s National was quite the spectacle. There were countless cards, an unimaginable amount of autographs, a ridiculous amount of game-worn jerseys – and probably only one multi-purpose jar of Complexions face cream, with Marilyn Monroe’s image ($40). “It’s a one of a kind,” the seller boasted.
So what else did I see at the 2014 National? Here are some of the highlights:

  • Muhammad Ali-signed 8-by-10 photo for $495.
  • Don Mattingly-signed New York Yankees jersey, with JSA/PSA COA ($150).
  • Longtime dealer Barry Krizan, of Krizan’s K-2 Sports in Columbia, Ill., had five dozen boxes of baseballs signed by non-baseball players, such as Lou Rawls, Mary Lou Retton, Dick Weber, Floyd Patterson and others. And many were selling. Such balls usually just sell at The National, Krizan said. “There are specialty collectors looking for non-baseball people signed on baseballs.”
  • Two happy guys: Chris Ivy, left, of Heritage Auctions sold a pair of Muhammad Ali gloves for $388,375 during the firm’s Platinum Night auction, while Tristar President Jeff Rosenberg, right, bought the pieces of history.

    Two happy guys: Chris Ivy, left, of Heritage Auctions sold a pair of Muhammad Ali gloves for $388,375 during the firm’s Platinum Night auction, while Tristar President Jeff Rosenberg, right, bought the pieces of history.

    For $9, you could have claimed a ball signed by Jerome Walton.

  • Hideki Okajima-signed 16-by-20 photos were $45.
  • There was a dealer selling pocket knives for $8 each, two for $15, and three for $20. But why at the National Sports Collectors Convention?
  • “Mean” Joe Greene-signed, framed 16-by-20 photo, inscribed “HOF 87” for $135.
  • It’s always cool seeing vintage stadium seats, such as Comiskey Park ($400), Montreal Forum ($800), Ebbets Field ($3,500) and Shibe Park ($1,200).
  • A Mike Trout autographed baseball was $199.
  • There were signed checks from Pete Maravich, from 1984 and 1987, for $800 and $950, respectively.
  • 7-Eleven Slurpee cups from 1972 ranged from $5-$20 each.
  • Did you see the used tired from Dale Earnhardt Sr.? (Or so the seller claimed since there was no true identifying factor.) Anyway, he said he was asking $200, but would settle for $150. “Or you can make me an offer,” he said.IMG_1115WEB
  • Was cool seeing a dual-signed Pittsburgh Steelers mini helmet with the autographs of Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher ($250).
  • Did you see the player-painted, signed jerseys? There was Bobby Orr for $750 and Cole Hamels for $800.
  • I spotted the USFL game ball from 1983 awarded to Scott Norwood . . . but no price tag nearby.
  • I really liked, and wanted, that Dick Butkus-worn and signed helmet on display at the SCP Auctions booth . . . at least I got a photo holding the vintage collectible.
  • Christian Laettner game-used, signed shoes were $225.
  • Sunglasses were only $10.
  • Kate Upton posters were $15.
  • The gloves that Muhammad Ali wore in 1971, in his first of three heavyweight title fights against Smokin’ Joe Frazier, sold for $388,375 to take the top spot at Heritage Auctions’ Platinum Night Sports Auction, held at the Cleveland House of Blues. The gloves were purchased by Jeff Rosenberg, president of Tristar Productions, which coordinates the autograph pavilion at The National. Rosenberg plans to put the gloves on display at his company’s Field of Dreams store inside Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. The gloves originated in the collection of Ali’s long-time trainer, Angelo Dundee.
  • There was a flat, uncut sheet of 1982 Topps Traded cards, with Cal Ripken Jr., for $600.
  • Chris’s Collectibles was proud to boast, with a poster-sized, hand-made sign: “First Time National Dealer.”
  • Was tempted to splurge $200 for the Charleston Chiefs jersey signed by The Hanson Brothers.
  • Pins from Michael Jordan’s now-closed restaurant in Chicago were $5 each or three-for-$10.
  • Johnny Manziel-signed Cleveland helmet was $499.
  • I spotted numerous complete sets for sale at an Arizona-based dealer’s table. For Topps baseball collectors, there was 1959 ($3,250), 1960 ($2,250), 1968 ($1,750) and 1970 ($1,400). There also was 1971 Topps Football ($325), plus 1970-71 Topps Basketball ($800) and 1971-72 Topps Basketball ($375).
  • Still have World Cup fever? You could have grabbed a signed Cristiano Ronaldo photo with custom framing and authenticated by PSA/DNA for $425. Or signed jerseys from U.S. goalie Tim Howard were $175-$249. Plus, Howard-signed 16-by-20 photos were $139.
  • A dual-signed 16-by-20 photo of college coaching legends Joe Paterno and Tom Osborne, authenticated by PSA/DNA, was $495.
  • A Danbury Mint statue of Roberto Clemente was $50.
  • Hey Sammy, did you see the Marty Marion-signed photo, personalized “To Sammy,” for $65?
  • The eye-catching item at the Hawkeye Baseball Cards booth was a large framed photo of Jim Thorpe, with a cut-signature autograph (PSA/DNA) and its $5,895 price tag. “I’d like to have $1 for everyone who takes a picture of that item,” the seller said. He also was selling a framed Roger Maris photo and signed index card for $895.
  • The Walter Payton stat-jersey, with PSA/DNA authenticity, was $1,800.
  • More Manziel: Signed Texas A&M 11-by-14 photo, blessed by PSA/DNA, was $129, while 8-by-10 photos were $99.
  • Even More Manziel: Heritage Auctions displayed his personally-owned Rolex watch, worn to the 2013 ESPY Awards.
  • Can’t Get Enough Manziel: SCP Auctions displayed his 2012 Texas A&M Aggies game-worn, signed and inscribed Heisman season jersey, which showed plenty of game-action wear and scrapes and even includes multiple stitches in areas where the jersey was torn or frayed from all the punishment it sustained. According to Dan Imler, vice president of SCP Auctions, “This is the only game-worn jersey from ‘Johnny Football’s’ unforgettable Heisman season to be offered publicly. We expect it could bring a record price for a game-worn college jersey with potential to sell for upward of $100,000.” The auction runs through Aug. 23.
  • A Herb Brooks-signed 8-by-10 photo was $295.
  • President Obama-signed 8-by-10 photo with PSA/DNA was $875.
  • Muhammad Ali-signed 16-by-20 photo from the 1996 Olympic torch-lighting ceremony in Atlanta was $1,299. The memory was priceless.
  • Baseballs signed “Peter Edward Rose” with PSA/DNA were $80.
  • Mia Hamm-signed jersey was $125.
  • From the Unique Peace, I mean, Piece Department: A framed Time Magazine of Moshe Dayan, along with a cut-signature of Dayan, for $350.
  • Remember those blue, vintage Hardy Boys mystery books? I smiled and reflected when I saw the dealer with them. They were selling for $5 each, five for $20 and 11 for $40.IMG_1101WEB
  • Luke Appling-signed 8-by-10 photo was $40.
  • Now it’s time to rest after this year’s collectibles extravaganza and prepare for the 2015 National in Chicago, the former hometown of “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Soon, I will again delight in the thought of five consecutive days of crazy collectibles and The Capital Grille for dinner steps away from the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in suburban Rosemont.

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

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