Before top loaders and display cases and cards encapsulated in plastic with holograms…there was the ASCCA.
Among the first sports card collecting groups, the American Sports Card Collectors Association held shows in the New York City area where a small, but avid group of adults and kids gathered a couple of times each year to buy, sell and trade.
We recently acquired a set of photos from one of those gatherings, certainly among the earliest three-day weekend “conventions” ever held. The location was a large union hall– District 65 at 13 Astor Place.
They paint a quaint picture of the hobby as it was 45 years ago this May. Tables are stacked with 1960s and early 70s cards held together by rubber bands (!). Check out the photo above and you’ll also see what appears to be a gigantic stack of autographed 3×5 index cards. New England collector Jack Webster tells us via Facebook, “The seated gentleman was Conrad Anderson of Billerica, Massachusetts. I worked with Conrad at General Tire in Reading, Mass. At work the guys called him “Whitey”. He graduated high school with my father and he and his wife (seated next to him) remained friends the rest of their lives.”
There are plenty of publications on show tables.
Lots of pennants.
Back then, with only one main set to collect, most people collected “other stuff” too.
The photo above shows Staten Island dealer Stan Martucci with a Topps vending case being used for transporting inventory. We’re not sure of the year, but it’s likely from the early 1970s and even the empty case today would sell for at least several hundred dollars, if not more.
There’s a 1969 Topps Mantle sitting on the table in front of the Wholesale Cards booth, run by a well-known dealer of the time named Bruce Yeko. The cardboard sign proclaims they have “15 Million Cards in Stock.”
There’s also a photo that shows a kid holding an uncut sheet of 1949 Bowman baseball cards talking with three other youngsters behind a table. I figured it must have been a reprint and didn’t give it much thought.
I figured wrong.
I had reached out to Rob Lifson, the founder and former president of Robert Edward Auctions. As a long-time collector from the NYC area, I was hoping to see if he could help nail down the year and the location for the show. Rob did just that–and also thought he recognized a few of the people in the photos including the youngster with the Bowman sheet. He checked around and confirmed the kid with the Bowman sheet was indeed…himself. An avid and knowledgeable collector by age 13, Rob got a ride to the shows from his dad.
Speaking of dads, in the first photo in the gallery below, you’ll see a man in a sport coat and slacks standing next to a guy with a beard. The well-dressed visitor is Keith Obermann’s father Ted, who chauffeured the young KO to shows. Keith told me he’s somewhere in the crowd gathered around one of the tables, making a deal. He also pointed out collectors Stan Martyn, Ron Greenwood and Tom Wickman in the crowd of folks behind or in front of the tables. And…Keith, age 14, even wrote a story on the show for The Sports Scoop, an early hobby publication. Greenwood wrote an article as well and you can read both in the gallery below.
The ASCCA events were operated by the collector/promoter Mike Aronstein along with Yeko, Bob and Paul Gallagher (a couple of the Gallagher kids are the ones in the photo with Rob). They produced pin back buttons featuring baseball greats to commemorate each show. One of those buttons is pinned to young Rob Lifson’s shirt and we were able to place the definitive date of the show as the weekend of May 25-27, 1973. It was the first of many shows to come for the group and considering the coverage it received (New York’s CBS affiliate and the New York Times each did extensive features), it was probably one of the most important events in hobby history.
Check out all 12 photos in the gallery below.