Ramblings: Parsippany Card Shows and Trivia With Barry Halper

by Rich Klein

The best part about these ramblings is I think of great leads all week, but when I sit down at the computer to write, the story always ends up going in a different direction than I planned.  Last week, I had planned to write a tribute to my father in honor of what would have been his 91st birthday on October 29, but the little matter of World Series tickets and the long days involved with going to the games knocked me out of any ramblings last week.

For those who might not be aware, Arlington, Texas is the largest city in the nation without any public transportation.  I grew up in the New York Metropolitan area and I always look to take public transportation whenever possible. If such an option was available for the World Series, I believe the odds were  pretty good that I would have used a bus or a train to go to and from the game. That rant notwithstanding, it is a special treat to be fortunate enough to be in the stands for a World Series and I’ve been blessed by attending all six of the games in Arlington over the past two seasons.

After having my life dominated by that for about ten days, normal life is starting to return to the Klein household. A way that I know order has been restored is an occasional trip to Barnes and Noble to see if any new books are out. A few weeks ago we used a book titled Got ’em Got ’em Need ’em as our jumping off point.  This week we’ll use the 2012 Krause Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards.

Sports Collectors Digest was founded almost four decades ago by the late John Stommen and is now owned by F&W Media. While I am personally a great fan of print media, there is little doubt that both Sports Collectors Digest (SCD) and the Standard Catalog are not anywhere what they used to be. The reason for the new Standard Catalog as a vintage-only publication was that F&W let go of their sports collecting price guide staff earlier this year and thus only vintage cataloguing and pricing could be updated. This book was edited by long-time hobby stalwart Bob Lemke who according to posts on Net 54 baseball (the most-popular vintage hobby chat board) is no longer going to be involved with this tome. Bob, the hobby will miss your input into the very important and underrated world of cataloguing cards both old and new.

SCD is also responsible for one of my favorite hobby stories. In 1982, Tom Reid and Mike Gordon started a pair of shows in Northern New Jersey. They chose to run the shows in Livingston and Parsippany. Eventually, the Parsippany location developed into the better of the two locations and Livingston faded away very quickly. However, the Livingston show did have one exceptional day, not for the crowd volume or dealer profits but rather for who was setting up at the show.

Since the promoters knew Barry Halper, they convinced him to set up a display of some items from his collection and if he wanted to, sell some items.

Another major dealer of the time who was going to set up was George M Lyons. George did have some advantages when he entered the hobby. If you are old enough, you may have heard of his father, Leonard Lyons who wrote a long-term column for the New York Post. In addition, you might have heard of his brother Jeffrey who is a nationally-known movie reviewer. George, who in his real-life job was a stock broker, was in many ways ahead of his time in terms of chasing down high-end old merchandise.

Even with such noted dealers at the time, the Livingston show that day was very slow and no dealer was doing much in terms of business. That enabled us dealers to chat and banter trivia questions with Barry Halper who was excellent at baseball trivia. Exchanging questions with Barry that day was a highlight of my collecting/dealing career. The other highlight that came out of the show was George Lyons SCD ad about two weeks after the show. I had a great laugh reading it.

What George had done was keep track of every request he had received, and then as the prelude to trying to sell some of his better items, ran a headline saying something like “I have no “1982 Ripken Rookies, Rose, Carlton or Schmidt Cards or 1967 high numbers”.  Since I was set up near him and the show was slow, I had heard almost all of those questions as well and in that ad he had provided a show review worthy of his brother’s movie reviews.

The Parsippany shows would get better and by the end of the 1980’s be nationally known and many important collectors/dealers would either attend or set up. Those shows were great and we’ll talk more about them and other topics you suggest as we continue with these ramblings. There are several ideas currently brewing based on your suggestions so we’ll continue to listen to your feedback.

Thanks again to all of you for your emails, to Sports Collectors Daily editor Rich Mueller for encouraging this column and for everyone who has enabled me to take these great trips down memory lane.

Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected] To read more of his ‘Ramblings’ columns, click here.