It was the year of the bi-centennial. Jimmy Carter had just been elected president. Apple and Microsoft both incorporated.
1976 also marked the debut of a sports card show that’s still running 47 years later.
The Cranston (RI) Sports Collectors Show is older than the National and is the oldest charity-oriented sports card show in North America. The 2023 event is set for Feb. 4 and 5 at Coventry High School.
Last year, 1,500 people turned out and Mangasarian believes that record attendance number may fall this year. There will be 150 tables full of cards and memorabilia in the school gym.
“I recruited the best dealers outside our local market from 11 different states and the other 50% are our spectacular Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut locals who were the foundation of the show’s beginnings,” Mangasarian explained. He says the idea is to have dealers who offer plenty of variety but not have too many tables.
“We try to balance admission patrons to far exceed our table holder base. The wait list is long but the contained growth pattern is key to our vendor success and the growth of our show which is consistently steady.”
For the first time, three grading companies will have booths. PSA, SGC and Beckett will be represented through Nash Cards of Philadelphia. There’s no on-site grading but collectors and dealers can submit cards at the show, with an estimated turnaround time of about three weeks.
“The biggest request by our customers through all of our social media outlets was to have card grading companies at the show and has finally come true after four years of trying,” Mangasarian stated.
There’s a free trade night schedule for Saturday from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM with various contests and prizes in addition to tables where collectors can swap cards. There’s a $10 registration fee to compete in a card pitching competition with free packs of cards to compete. Prizes will be awarded to the top five competitors in the form of gift certificates that can be used at dealer tables on Sunday.
Mangasarian says he’s also upped the show’s food and drink game with three food trucks offering wood fired pizza and other items. The church will still provide coffee, soda, pastry, candy, and sweets at affordable prices.
So far the autograph guests are all on the hockey stage. USA Hockey Hall of Famer Paul Stewart is returning and will be featured with Boston Bruin and Providence Reds goalie Ross Brooks who played 21 seasons of professional hockey and was one of the oldest rookies in NHL history, going 37-9 with the Bruins. 15-year hockey veteran Chris Winners will also sign along with Howie Rosenblatt.
The Cranston show will once again offer an event program offered to each paid admission that will list each dealer and what they sell, making it easier for patrons to find what they’re looking for.
Show hours are 9-5 Saturday and 8:30-3 PM Sunday. Admission is $6 with two-day passes available for $38. Discounted admission is available for seniors 65 and older, veterans and children 12 and under. There’s a $20 early bid admission that allows collectors to enter the show floor at 8 AM Saturday.
Show tickets can be purchased online as well as at the door. More information is available on the show’s various social media channels.