Hordes of collectors will invade Cleveland this summer and they’re not going home until every sports card has been plundered from the city.
Spinal Tap may have had a difficult time navigating parts of Cleveland, but it should be a much easier entrance for the thousands of sports collecting fanatics attending "the big show" this summer.
There may not have been a lot of love lost between Frank Robinson and Gaylord Perry when one managed the other in the mid 1970s, but the two Hall of Famers – and Cleveland legends – will reunite at the 28th annual National Sports Collector’s Convention, coming to the I-X Center August 1-5.
The convention is a celebration of America’s #1 hobby – sports collecting – and this annual gathering of the only show qualified to be called “The National” is returning to Cleveland for the first time in three years, with more than 700 dealer booths and more than 100 celebrity sports figures on hand.
“Cleveland remains one of the best cities in America for this gathering,” noted Mike Berkus, a co-director of the event, and one of the founders of the first “National” in 1980. “Cleveland is an easy destination from so many east coast collectibles centers, and the dealers always look forward to returning there. And as we grow and learn each year, this year’s convention will be our biggest and best yet.”
Indeed, Americans love to collect, and nothing is more collected than sports memorabilia, particularly over the time span that The National Sports Collectors Convention has become an annual event on the nation’s “collectible calendar.”
The 28th National Sports Collectors Convention will take place this year at the Cleveland I-X Center near Hopkins Airport, housed in over 400,000 square feet. The National will be open to the general public from Wednesday, August 1 through Sunday, August 5. This includes a special “Sneak Peek,” Wednesday, August 1, that will provide a first crack at seeing the event unfold. General admission (including the Wednesday Sneak Peek) is $17.50 per day, or $15 if pre-ordered at the convention’s website. Purchasers may print the tickets on their own printer.
Special VIP and VIP All Access packages are also available at $119 and $219 respectively, the latter limited to just 250 admissions. These passes allow early admission for all days, a special entrance, gift packages of unique collectibles prepared especially for the show, and a private lounge, with the All Access package also providing six free autograph tickets and “first in line” privileges for autographs and authentication.
Radio Disney will be the sponsor of “Kids Free Day” on Friday, August 3, where all kids 15 and under receive free admission and a Radio Disney souvenir. The event will also be supported by Players, Inc., the marketing arm of the NFL Players Association, who provide special free autograph guests for attendees.
This year’s autograph lineup, still very much in formation, promises to be one of the strongest in years, particularly with no scheduling conflict with the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, making more baseball Hall of Famers available than in many years. Robinson, who made baseball history in Cleveland by becoming the Major League’s first black manager (and who made history at bat by homering in his first at bat as a player-manager that day), returns as does his ace hurler Perry, who found working for Robinson “challenging,” but who nevertheless was successful as he marched towards his lifetime total of 314 victories with a 21-win season, including 28 complete games.
In addition, the Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Canton will be held in the evening for the first time ever this year, making players in town for the ceremonies available throughout the show hours at the I-X Center.
Robinson and Perry are joined at by Bob Feller, Tom Seaver, Gordie Howe, Lem Barney, Yale Lary, Raymond Berry, Gino Marchetti, Fred Biletnikoff, Lenny Moore, Eric Dickerson, Dan Fouts, Jan Stenerud, Paul Krause, Chris Paul, Bart Starr, Bo Jackson, Ryne Sandberg, Gary Carter, Graig Netlles, Jon Matlack, and Mel Renfro. Signing exclusively for VIP ticket holders at no charge will be Indians’ legend Joe Charboneau, perfect game hurler Len Barker, Tito Francona, Dick Bosman, Ron LeFlore, Stan Bahnsen, Roy Sievers, Icky Woods and Don Schwall. Many more names are still to be announced in the coming weeks.
The National includes a spectacular offering of cards, yearbooks, sports equipment, toys, photographs, autographs, figurines, vintage advertising, books or magazines, in short – a celebration of America’s biggest hobby – sports memorabilia, spread over hundreds of booths. For collectors and their friends and families, just touring the booths is a chance to relive sports memories, viewing items that invoke a particularly special feeling about the personal joy sports invokes in a fan.
Show hours will be: Wednesday’s “Sneak Peek” from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, August 2-4, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, August 5, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday will be “Kids Free Day,” with all kids 15 and under admitted free to the Convention Center.
The National Sports Collectors Convention was in Anaheim last summer and has rotated annually around the country since its debut. It will be held in Chicago in 2008.
Long-time hobbyists Mike Berkus, John Broggi and Bob Wilke are the convention’s co-directors.