The country’s oldest sports card show operated as a charitable endeavor will conduct a milestone event month. Once held just as an annual event each winter, the upcoming Columbus Day weekend Cranston (RI) Sports Card Show will be the 50th in its long history.
“If you were there in 1976 and coming back today like some dealers and fans you are now eligible for a senior admission discount and I was one of them that was there,” chuckled promoter Mike Mangasarian.
The 150-table show, which draws vendors from New England and beyond, will take place in a gymnasium at Cranston High School Oct. 7 and 8. It’s a one-time return to a location that hasn’t hosted it since the 1990s.
“For the last two years I have been trying to find a location in Cranston where the show’s roots are to celebrate because the Cranston Sports Card Show has gotten so big that it’s hard to find a location that can accommodate its needs,” Mangasarian remarked.
After doing just the winter show for over 45 years, Mangasarian added a second show in 2022 to accommodate demand from collectors and dealers and also held a summer event this year. The February 2024 show will be back at its typical location at nearby Coventry High School, which offers a larger space.
Mangasarian’s promotional efforts have increased show traffic in recent years.
“At the February show we had a few super collectors that flew in from the west coast. It was exciting to know the boundaries of the show’s reach in the collector base have no limitation.”
Times have changed since the show’s first event in 1976, when local collector Tom McDonough headed up the promotional efforts. However, the core experience of keeping the focus on fun remains the same. Back then you could buy an autograph of Babe Ruth for $100 and a Ty Cobb for $15 from legendary dealer Conrad Anderson from Billerica, MA who was a yearly participant in the show. You can still find those autographs at the show but your pockets just need to be a little deeper and you more than likely will be buying them from a younger generation of dealers.
“They add the modern era of collecting with stars such as Aaron Judge, Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Ronald Acuna, Jr. to make the show a near even mix of vintage and modern offerings,” Mangasarian said.
In addition to the usual array of cards and memorabilia will be a silent auction. Dealers can consign items with a minimum bid and buy it now option. There will also be what Mangasarian calls as “refined charity raffle” where tickets are sold to win prizes displayed on a table at the show.
At last October’s show, a sort of “blue light special” was instituted at which vendors can promote a special deal, which is announced over the loudspeaker and available for ten minutes. There’s also an event program that lists every dealer by what they sell to make it easier for patrons to find what they’re looking for.
The show supports multiple charities including two local churches and the Cranston School Athletic Department. At the show, Cards for a Cure will sell high-end repacks called “Charity Packs” at a below market cost with proceeds going to support cancer and diabetic patients.
Show hours are Saturday, Oct. 7 from 9-5 with early bird admission at 8 and 8:30-2:30 on Sunday. Admission is $6 with a two-day pass available for $8. Seniors and kids 12 and under get in for $3. The early bid admission price is $20.
Mangasarian expects attendance to surpass the 1,100 who came to last year’s show.