Even among guests like Johnny Bench, Reggie Jackson, Rickey Handerson and “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, there was one name on the mind of longtime collectors, dealers and hobbyists at this weekend’s Music City Sports Collectibles and Autograph Show in Franklin, TN: Rich Altman.
A fixture at larger shows across the country for more than 30 years, Altman grew the Nashville area event from a small ballroom to an arena-like Williamson County Expo Center until his sudden passing this summer. His family and others who worked to put the show were determined to keep it going.
“His love of collecting, his love for his friends in the business, players, dealers, customers, we know that there’s nothing more that he would want than for the show to go on,” they stated. “His passion for this business will live forever and we will honor him by continuing on with the show.”
With plenty of free parking and making use of the arena’s infrastructure for load in and load out, concessions and space for attendees to take a break, the AG Expo Center received rave reviews from dealers and collectors.
“It’s a no-brainer to hold it here, and exhibit at this show,” said veteran dealer Jon English out of Shelbyville, TN.
English reported constant traffic, especially on Saturday, lots of dealer-to-dealer transactions and a rush on Sunday afternoon that was a little unexpected.
Even holding the event just a week after another sizeable show in the Nashville area didn’t seem to matter.
It’s not unexpected in this part of the country to see some unique basketball and football items. Display cases, binders and boxes of basketball and football cards received a lot of attention but vintage baseball card collectors kept dealers busy on the show floor all weekend.
Braves and Reds baseball items covered the arena floor, greeting potential buyers.
And Johnny Bench.
At a show where Hall of Famers were spotted around every corner, the former Reds Hall of Fame catcher was a big draw.
Hundreds of attendees wearing Reds jerseys and carrying Big Red Machine memorabilia waited 90 minutes or more to meet their hero. Bench seemed to enjoy the interaction as much as the fans and he even stayed following his allotted signing time to swap stories with fans and chat with the other autograph guests from different sports.
Whomever said don’t ever meet your heroes….was wrong about @JohnnyBench_5 ! pic.twitter.com/IwZbD1VwC0
— Whit Turnbow (@CoachWTurnbow) October 3, 2021
His former teammate Tony Perez was also among those who signed autographs and took pictures with collectors.
Guests could pay $699 to have a five-minute catch, an autograph and photo with Jackson. Wade Boggs, Andre Dawson and Pete Rose were there, too.
The only time I’ve been 😭 to be on vacation. Hated to miss this show in Nashville and the opportunity to meet Rickey Henderson, my childhood ⚾️ hero. Nevertheless, excited my buddy got to attend in my absence and get us both a memorable autograph. 🏃🏿💨💚💛🤍 pic.twitter.com/vNvNlNlhYH
— Brian Benda (@bpbenda) October 2, 2021
Wrestlers were another big draw in the mid south. Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Bushwacker Luke, Flair and iconic manager, Jimmy Hart offered very affordable options for autographs and pictures along with participating in a panel discussion about the history of wresting and discussing their favorite “wrestling in Nashville” stories.
Altman’s partners at Hollywood Collectibles say they were pleased with the overwhelming support in Franklin and they added that planning is underway for 2022, and there will be more autograph guests and other elements are in the works.