By Hank Davis
Everything about the biannual Toronto Sport Card and Memorabilia Expo, held Nov. 10-12, met expectations, with more than 400 dealers in attendance and cards selling briskly at prices ranging from a nickel to deep into four figures.
A full range of collecting supplies were available, as were card grading services and on-site autograph authentication. Upper Deck offered its wrapper redemption program and Frameworth offered signings by members of the Montreal Canadiens including Andre Pronovost, Bobby Rousseau, Jean Guy Talbot, Phil Goyette, Rejean Houle, and Pierre Bouchard. Toronto Maple Leaf stars available for signings included Doug Gilmour, Wendell Clark, Darryl Sittler, Rick Vaive and Gary Leeman.
In addition, for the first time the Expo presented guests from the world of soccer. On hand were MVP Sebastian Giovinco, and his Toronto teammates Jozy Altidore and Tosaint Ricketts.
NHL Hall of Famer Dave Andreychuk was also among the guests signing autographs.
Another highlight for up to 150 fans with $1,500 to spend on dinner was a very special evening of cocktails, dining, a personal meet and greet, and a special photo souvenir with Gilmour, Clark, Sittler, Vaive and Leeman.
Arguably, the star of the show for most fans was five-time Stanley Cup Champion and Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux. In addition to offering regular signings with “Super Mario,” the Expo also offered a VIP package with the hockey great that included a personal meet-and-greet and a professionally taken photograph to commemorate the experience. The cost, for lucky fans, was $999.99 Cdn.
Baseball was under-represented at this installment of the Expo, owing largely to the absence of Fergie Jenkins, a regular presence at the show for over a decade. Fergie’s absence was unavoidable and last minute, which left an unfortunate void in the proceedings. There is no reason to believe it won’t be business as usual next spring.
The Fergie Jenkins Foundation has regularly provided an impressive array of Major League Baseball players in support of the Foundation’s charitable work. To the delight of the autograph-seeking crowd, those players have included former Toronto Blue Jays and Montreal Expos like Lloyd Moseby and Andre Dawson.
A final thought: Future Hall of Fame pitcher Roy Halladay died in a plane crash on Nov. 7, just three days before the start of the Expo. Halladay pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays for 12 seasons before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies after the 2009 season.
You might argue that all that has nothing to do with the Toronto Expo and, sadly, you’d be right. His shocking and untimely death was barely mentioned at the show, and certainly there was no time to put together a proper memorial. With the exception of one dealer selling a Halladay autographed Phillies game jersey, Halladay seemed to be a non-topic at the show. I found that a bit unsettling.
Hockey is far and away the central focus of the Toronto Expo and maybe in Philly there would have been more of a fuss made. In any case if you didn’t know about Halladay’s tragic death at age 40, you wouldn’t have learned about it at the Expo.
It’s understandable that people come to the Expo for a good time, and most of that is focused on hockey. But that too is changing. As Expo organizer Steve Menzie observed about the future, “I expect to see no less hockey but more of the other sports that we love and collect as well.”
Hank Davis is a contributor to Sports Collectors Digest, as well as the author of “Small-Town Heroes: Images of Minor League Baseball.”