It has a new name and a few changes, but the faces are the same and so is the fun.
The 41st Super Bowl Weekend Show — formerly known as the Cranston Sports Collectors Show — returns after a two-year hiatus and will be held the weekend of Feb. 2-3 at Coventry High School in Coventry, Rhode Island.
Traditionally one of the longest-running shows in the nation, it had been held the day before Super Bowl Sunday, but this year’s event was expanded to two days, according to Rhode Island dealer Mike Mangasarian.
The doors open Saturday, Feb. 2, at 9 a.m. and the show closes at 5 p.m. On Sunday, Feb. 3, the show will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission on Saturday is $4, while there is no charge on Sunday.
Mangasarian, who annually held down table No. 1 since the show began in 1976 (other than a five-year gap in the mid-1980s), has taken over the day-to-day organization of the event from show founder Tom McDonough, who is now 80.
“I tell people that Tom is the queen bee, and I am the worker bee,” said Mangasarian, 63. “But boy, the work is more than I anticipated.”
The biggest obstacle to hosting the show the past two years has not been a lack of interest. Rather, it was the lack of a venue. For 25 years, the show had been held in the large banquet room of the West Valley Inn in West Warwick, but the venerable soup and sauce restaurant was closed and put into receivership in September 2016. The property was sold for $1.2 million in July 2017 to Roy LaCroix, a commercial and residential property owner and developer, but was put back on the market three months later.
Collectors and dealers kept asking whether the show would return in some form, and in September Mangasarian approached McDonough.
“So now I’m like a crazy person every day. It wasn’t as easy as (Tom) handing it off. The follow-up is enormous. I spent nine hours on the phone today getting hold of people.”
The Coventry High School venue was a natural for Mangasarian, who coached track and field at the school from 1980 to 1982 and was a first-team all-state selection in the mile as a senior for East Cranston High School in 1973.
“I called all the biggest schools in Rhode Island and they all had something booked both days,” Mangasarian said. “Then I called (Coventry athletic director) Chuck Jones and both days were available.
“I am familiar with their gym, it’s 90 feet wide by 100 feet long.”
That’s a long way from 1976, when McDonough debuted the Cranston show inside the parish hall of the Immaculate Conception Church.
“We had a small hall, and 400 people showed up,” McDonough told Sports Collectors Daily in 2016.
In 1977 McDonough moved the show to Auction City, a bingo hall in Cranston, but the venue closed down after a law was passed outlawing proprietary bingo. The show then shifted to a local armory before its longtime stint at the West Valley Inn.
The show has had its share of celebrity guests. One year, Miss Rhode Island came to visit. Another time, former Red Sox pitcher Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd stopped by. Catcher Chris Iannetta, a Providence resident and 13-year major-leaguer, also was a frequent visitor. Another Providence native, former Red Sox general manager Lou Gorman, would visit tables and talk baseball with collectors until his death in 2011.
Mangasarian said he anticipates between 35 and 40 dealers at this year’s show, “but everybody is buying two and three tables,” so he estimates about 90 tables full of product for collectors during Super Bowl weekend.
Mangasarian also hopes to conduct an auction on the final day of the show that will be open to collectors and dealers, and he is planning to have autograph sessions. Sure Shot Promotions will be handling the autograph sessions, and while guests have yet to be announced, Mangasarian said boxers and hockey players were the likely candidates.
Mangasarian said the biggest change from previous years will be the word-of-mouth information he hopes to spread through social media.
“The internet is going to be an important tool,” he said.
Proceeds from ticket sales and dealers who paid for tables will be used to benefit Immaculate Conception Church in Cranston and the Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church in Providence. A contribution also will be made to the Coventry Hall of Fame Committee.