Revamped and rejuvenated.
The 42nd annual Cranston Sports Card show returns during Super Bowl weekend, and organizer Mike Mangasarian is bubbling with enthusiasm for the Feb. 1-2 event at Coventry High School in Rhode Island.
“We were known as the Little Rhody show,” Mangasarian said. “It ain’t little no more.”
Mangasarian, 64, said he sold out all 130 tables for the show, which will be held in the high school’s gymnasium. The last show, in February 2019, had 76 tables.
“We had a big turnout (in 2019),” Mangasarian said. “And people didn’t come with only nickels and dimes.”
Dealers from 10 states — some coming from far away as Delaware — will attend the 2020 show, Mangasarian said. Six states were represented in 2019, but there will be bigger participation because collectors were gobbling up cards and memorabilia.
“I remember one hour into the (2019) show some dealer came up to me and said, ‘’I’ve gotta pack up and go home,’’ Mangasarian said. “And I said, ‘What do you mean, it’s only 10 o’clock?’ He said, ‘I sold everything.’”
“And Monday after the last show, I got a call from a dealer who ordered three tables (for 2020).”
The Cranston show — now the oldest card and memorabilia show in New England — was the brainchild of Tom McDonough, who started the show in 1976. McDonough stepped aside for the 2019 and gave Mangasarian control. However, McDonough, 81, returns this year to handle the announcing chores, enabling Mangasarian to troubleshoot during the show.
“Yeah, he said he was coming back because I sucked as an announcer,” Mangasarian laughed.
This year’s show will once again span Super Bowl weekend. Admission is $4 each day, or $6 for a two-day pass. Seniors, veterans and children under 12 will be admitted for half price each day, while children under 6 are will be admitted at no charge. Mangasarian also will experiment with an early bird ticket — for $20, a collector can get into the show one hour before the show’s official opening on Feb. 1.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Immaculate Conception Church in Cranston, the Sts. Vartanatz Armenian Youth Federation’s sports program and the Coventry High School Hall of Fame.
This year’s show will offer two new wrinkles — Heritage Auctions will have a presence on the floor during the show, and James Spence Authentication (JSA) will be on-site both days for collectors who want their items graded.
“The biggest request last year was for card graders and authenticators,” Mangasarian said.
The other big request was for Patriots memorabilia, which makes sense since Cranston is less than 30 miles from Foxborough.
“Patriots stuff sells like mad,” Mangasarian said.
Mangasarian said he is still working on commitments for autograph sessions. Last year’s lineup included pitcher Craig Breslow, former NBA forward Leon Powe and guard Kevin Stacom, Hockey Hall of Famer John Bucyk, Providence College basketball great Ernie DiGregorio, and boxers Vinny Pazienza (a Cranston native) and Mickey Ward.
Mangasarian, who admits he is always “thinking out of the box,” concedes he is “always a nervous wreck” when organizing the show. But if last year’s turnout is any indication, he can rest easy this year.
“I am so far ahead of last year,” Mangasarian said. “The (2019) show saved the show and allowed it to go on. Before last year’s show I said, ‘We either move forward or it’s another nail in the coffin.
“We’re moving forward. The ship is sailing and the wind is gonna keep blowing.”