By Ross Forman
The 27th annual Tristar Collectors Show in Houston – held Jan. 25-27 at Reliant Arena – was the best show in Houston in at least five years, said exhibitor Roger Neufeldt of Oklahoma-based Sports Memories.
Neufeldt said he had even better volume at this show than the 2012 National Sports Collectors Convention in Baltimore.
“The January Houston show is, traditionally, a good show. This year, it was great,” said Neufeldt, who specializes in vintage cards. “I was surprised how busy I was, as busy as the whole show was.
“On Saturday, it was so crowded, with so many people around my booth, there were some collectors who were complaining that they couldn’t even see my showcases. That’s a good problem, though.”
Neufeldt, who is based in Norman, Okla., also offers vintage publications and more. He said vintage “commons” were the top seller as a whole, though stars were stronger than usual.”
So why the weekend success?
“I wish I knew; I’d make it happen again,” he laughed. “This was one of the best (regional) shows ever and though I was expecting it to be good, like usual, I wasn’t expecting it to be this good.”
Neufeldt said he had success selling 1950s baseball, plus some from the 1960s, particularly 1962. Plus, he sold about 20 complete sets from 1977-82. “This was the first time I sold that many at a show in quite some time,” he said.
Neufeldt said Mickey Mantle and Stan Musial were the most sought-after former players. In fact, he had – and needed – a showcase just for Mantle collectors and a showcase just for Musial collectors.
Neufeldt said the weekend surprise was football cards, or the lack of interest in vintage football cards, which was unlike the scenario at the January Houston show the past two years.
“I had some really nice football cards at the show, but nothing football was selling, at least for me,” Neufeldt said.
Neufeldt also noted that he didn’t buy collectibles as much as he has at previous Houston shows.
Dick DeCourcy, a North Carolina-based dealer for more than 25 years, also sang the praise of the three-day Houston show, tagging it “super.”
“I sold more high-dollar cards at this show than at any show since The National,” he said.
DeCourcy’s sales in Houston included a Pete Rose rookie card ($1,000), a Nolan Ryan rookie ($450) and many others. He also said sales of vintage commons were strong in Houston.
“I have been coming to Houston since 1984, and this show ranks right up there with the
successful Chicago Sun-Times shows and the Philadelphia shows,” DeCourcy said. “My commons and minor stars sold well in Houston.”
In addition to sales, DeCourcy made one large buy: 19 baseball sets (Bowman from 1950-55, and Topps from 1953-62, plus three vintage Fleer sets).
DeCourcy said he might eventually re-sell the sets intact as opposed to breaking them up.
About 4,500 attended the three-day show, which featured autographing appearances by about 40 stars, including Mike Tyson, Bart Starr, Barry Switzer, Dennis Rodman and others.
“The crowd on Saturday was outstanding,” said Texas-based dealer Carl Gerjes of T&C Investments.
Added Bobby Mintz of Tristar Productions, “Saturday was very well attended. It felt like the old days, when it was really difficult to walk on the show floor. It was really busy on Saturday, which was exciting to see.”
The weekend show also featured autograph appearances by Rod Woodson, Steve Largent, Rayfield Wright, Randy White, Fergie Jenkins, Craig Biggio, Jose Canseco and others.
“It was a good show, with a really good turnout of exhibitors,” Mintz said. “I think we had the best collection of dealers at a show in quite some time. There were dealers for so many areas within our industry, from vintage cards to new cards to supplies and more.”
Tyson was the weekend’s top draw. Starr also had long lines, as did Rodman and the host of former Dallas Cowboys.
“Mike Tyson was terrific; what a great guy,” Mintz said. “He’s awesome with the public; he really, really understands what our business is all about. He has a lot of fun at the show.
“Of all the signers, and there were 40-plus, there was not one bad apple in the bunch. Everyone was nice, accommodating.”
Mintz said Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who played at Texas A&M University, was the biggest surprise of the show – because of how poorly his autograph tickets sold. “As hot as the Aggies have been, he did not have a very good turnout, and I don’t know why,” Mintz said.
One of the most unique aspects of the autograph pavilion was the appearance by former college football coaches Bobby Bowden, Tom Osborne and Barry Switzer.
Switzer was the most sought-after signature of the three, mainly because of his years with the Cowboys, Mintz said.
“We didn’t have anyone at this show who was ‘hot.’ I think that was an element that we were missing from the autograph lineup, but I can’t create that; the marketplace does,” Mintz said.
Also at the Houston show, Tristar presented the 2012 Starry Award (Dealer of the Year) to Art Smith of Sportscards Plus (Cooper City, Fla.)
Tristar has been presenting the honor for 16 years, recognizing a dealer with at least 10 years of experience in the business and one who must have taken part in at least five shows in 2012, among other criteria.
“The voting among the dealers was extremely close this year, the closest it has been in 10 years, with many deserving finalists to vote for,” said Tristar Vice President Mandy Fuerst. “Art winning this award was very well deserved. He is very well respected in the industry and among his peers.”
Tristar’s next three-day weekend show is scheduled for April 19-21 in San Francisco, including appearances by members of the 2012 World Series champion Giants, such as Buster Posey, Matt Cain, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval.
“The expectations for this show are very high, especially since many of the Giants have not made a public autograph appearance since the team won the World Series,” Mintz said. “It’s going to be a really, really big show.”
Autograph tickets for the San Francisco show go on sale in March.
Ross Forman is a freelance contributor to SCD. He can be reached at Rossco814@aol.com.