The National Sports Collectors Convention was a long way from home for Mark and Jackie Mitchell.
The husband and wife duo made their way to the 37th National in Atlantic City all the way from Michigan. Mark is an avid sports collector. He has collected cards for years but his true passion is autographs.
Mark is an engineer and is the proud owner of a collection including thousands of autographs. The collection was originally housed in the family’s office but Jackie said it has slowly expanded into the dining room and even their bedroom.
“I have a loving wife who understands,” Mark said with a smile.
This is the couple’s 10th trip to The National. They have attended previous shows in Anaheim, Chicago and Cleveland and were in Atlantic City in 2003 the last time the show came to town.
They arrived at the Convention Center hours ahead of the start of the Topps VIP Party. The early arrival earned the pair the first spot in line to get former Philadelphia Phillies great Mitch Williams’ autograph.
“It’s the access to the guys,” Mitchell said of what makes The National so great. “You can find a lot here. It’s like the mecca of collecting.”
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There are more than 130 athletes scheduled to sign during the five-day National ranging from Mike Tyson and Hulk Hogan to legends like Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Barry Sanders, Mariano Rivera, Cal Ripken Jr. and even recent Hall of Fame inductee Mike Piazza. It’s the largest group ever assembled at the National, a show that began in 1980.
Jeff Rosenberg says the autographs are part and parcel of what sets The National apart from other major shows. Rosenberg is the president of TRISTAR, the group running the Autograph Pavilion at the National. The Houston native is attending his 33rd consecutive NSCC.
“You don’t just buy an autograph,” Rosenberg said. “You really get to meet the person. It’s the experience.”
Rosenberg went to school to become a lawyer but his passion for collecting blossomed into a career. “This is my favorite week of the year,” Rosenberg said. “I’m a sports fanatic so this is my Super Bowl.”
Lawrence Taylor, Darryl Strawberry, Joe Theismann, Walt Frazier and Boomer Esiason are among those scheduled to sign on Thursday.