By almost any measurement, it was a wonderful hobby showcase: The Premier Collectible Conference & Exhibition held April 17-20 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Ill., did a bang-up job of presenting the vintage card and memorabilia industry in a positive, professional light, but unfortunately, not many collectors turned out for the consumer end of the four-day event.
Jointly promoted by Mastro Auctions President Doug Allen and Ryan Friedman, the inaugural effort hosted more than 40 dealers for the combination of keynote speakers and panel discussions that featured some of the biggest names in the vintage end of the hobby.
While the turnout had to be a major disappointment for both promoters and many of the companies represented at the show, both Allen and Friedman insisted the show would go on, so to speak, with plans already in place to return to the same site at around the same time next year.
“Overall, I would give it a B+,” Allen said early Sunday afternoon near the show’s closing. “A number of dealers said the traffic wasn’t great, but they loved the atmosphere and the fact that the people who did come in were serious and spent money.”
Veteran dealer Bill McAvoy of McAvoy Sportscards in Omaha, Neb., who was also one of the panelists, was perhaps the prime beneficiary of that situation. “It was a fantastic show. It wasn’t well attended, but the people who came in did spend. We did twice as much here as at the National,” McAvoy said.
Allen conceded he had some concerns about querying dealers about their sales after light attendance the first couple of days, but he said that by Friday, after hearing comments from dealers that it was phenomenal even though they hadn’t seen the traffic, they knew they were going to do it again.
“I think we will completely revamp the schedule and we won’t have it open on Sunday,” Allen explained. “I think we’ll have more one-on-one interaction instead of the panels – more roundtables, things like that.
(Shown at right is a cool photograph showing Babe Ruth and President Harding. It was at Andy Madec’s booth at the show.)
Allen also said that it was part of his plan with the conference to create another venue to do a live auction. “With other auction companies here, I don’t know that it would be fair to have this huge live-auction event, but maybe we’ll do something to try to get the other auction companies to participate. Maybe each one could do 15-20 items and we could do a multi-branded catalog. It might be kind of fun.”
That would, indeed, be a unique undertaking in a hobby/industry that can often raise eyebrows as giant egos clash and cooperation and accommodation can wind up on the back burner. That’s another point that the Mastro Auctions president would like to see addressed.
“People see this as a natural transition to having some type of trade association,” Allen continued. “I don’t know where that’s going to go, but I think personally – though I don’t want to carry the banner – I would be very supportive of it.
Allen took the occasion of our post-conference interview to reveal the plans for Mastro Auctions’ role at the upcoming National Convention this summer. It has been a long-running tradition in the auction end of the hobby that the company takes great pains for prominent promotional events in conjunction with the National each year, and the ante gets upped every time the show returns to Mastro’s neck of the woods in Chicago.
“We will have a live auction at the ESPN Zone in Chicago on the Friday night of the National,” Allen said, noting that they had rented the upstairs of the ESPN Zone for the occasion.
“It will be similar to what we did last year; I don’t know if we’ll do $4.3 million again, but it will be about 100 lots.”
He pointed out that some problems had developed with the National Convention Committee over Mastro’s auction last year when they “inadvertently put the branding of the National Auction on our website, and we got called on it and we changed it,” he added.
“So it’s not the official National event; it’s just our event that happens to coincide with the National.”