While the theft issue may not have been as big as some other years, there were still some significant items stolen at this year’s National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago. Perhaps the most expensive card which walked away was a 1952 Topps Mantle in a PSA4 holder. Hearing about these always reminds me of one of my favorite old National stories. At the Parsippany, NJ National in 1984, Mike Gordon had an uniformed officer sitting at the front door at all times and about every hour there was an announcement that 20-30 undercover cops were walking around the show. He claims he never heard one complaint about an item being stolen. The kicker to this story, there were NO undercover agents walking around, just the armed policeman at the front door and the constant threat of punishment was sufficient to prevent any thefts. Sometimes deterrence comes real inexpensively.
Of course, I’m also reminded about theft stories and the old Nanuet, NY show that Mike ran. I never did as well as Nanuet as I did in Parsippany. In fact, most of the time, I was lucky to clear $150 when I was making between $500-600 regularly in Parsippany. And to top all of this off, the soda machine was not even in the same building as the hotel ballroom. You had to leave the show to get to a place which had sodas. One rainy day I took that walk and for some unknown reason looked down and saw some wax boxes that had obviously been hidden. The security and other person usually at the front door was a man named Lee Lazer whose dad had actually fought Joe Louis (like most of his opponents he ended up on the canvas) and Lee waited for the person to pick up the boxes. After a few minutes of questioning the young man, he did “confess” he had stolen those boxes and then his parents were called. I still remember the story about his sister coming to pick him up and when confronted she said “Oh, he does this all the time”.
I still swear that Sunday at the National should be a free day for everyone. By about 1 PM last Sunday, the show was ready to shut down and why keep up the ghost? Not many customers and a lot of dealers packing up or already gone. Just bite the bullet and make the day a freebie for those who balk at the normal admission price of $25. I do know that a few dealers will still be open and doing business at the end of the day.
We did get at least one new writer from the National trip and the funniest part was I had not seen him in three years nor did I see Chris Levy walking the floor. How did we re-connect? Well for the first time in three years I attended the Full Count Forum dinner and both of us were there in part to remember friends. Chris recalled having dinner with Chris Shufflestreet last year who as some of you may know, passed away suddenly at the way too young age of 39 shortly after that show in Baltimore. Chris left behind a love of vintage cards and a wonderful daughter.
We both shared a passion for 1970’s TV theme songs. The funniest part was he created a web site on those and when I looked at it, my question was “Where Was Long Lonesome Highway” by Michael Parks who was the star of a short-lived “mod” series entitled “Then Came Bronson.” Somehow that ballad crashed into the top 20 early in 1970 and while the song is forgotten today other than by a few music lunatics like myself, the song really was a very pretty one and should be remembered today.
For me, the 2010 dinner was the last time I ever saw Steve Gold alive. We both agreed afterwards that three years needs to be shortened before we see each other again. We both loved old and new cards and the people who collect them.
On a non-National related topic, I saw the photos of the 2014 Topps Heritage product here on Sports Collectors Daily yesterday. Next year’s set pays homage to 1965 and I’m still a fan of Heritage. I still say for the next few years moving this set to 600 cards with the final 100 being short-prints is a way to go.
I did love the idea of the 1965 Draft subset. I noticed that future HOFers Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk. Nolan Ryan and George Thomas Seaver were among those selected. Fill this 10-card insert set out with other players who were important later in baseball history and this set becomes even more fun. I saw players such as Darrell Evans, Rick Monday (the first amateur draft selection ever) and Graig Nettles drafted as well.
And I want to give a very special shout-out to my good friend Etta and Jerry Hersh. I can only imagine just how hard this National was for them being the first one after their son Michael’s passing. For many of us who knew and loved Mike for what he was and how he grew up over the years, just going to their booth was one of the hardest visits I made this year. Fortunately, Etta and Jerry are tough Jersey people and knew exactly what to say to make things better for those of us who were emotionally affected by Michael’s passing. For those of us who worked with Michael or those of us who would be his “date” for the annual meeting, we all posted how much we missed him. In a slightly different way, this one hurt me just as much as Steve Gold’s passing. When Steve passed, I lost my yearly dinner companion and friend. When Mike passed, I lost someone I had known for a long-time and fought the Beckett battles with. Both losses are still tough to deal with and every day I think about both of these fine men.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]