The Greater Boston Sports Collectors Club holds it’s 21st annual convention this weekend. And yes, they still call it a convention. That tells you all you need to know about one of the nation’s longest running, most successful shows.
Before the "boom". Before $10 wax packs became normal. Before grading and authentication. If you remember those times, you might recall when card shows were called "conventions". Collectors got together so infrequently and so informally, that’s what they were called.
The Greater Boston Sports Collectors Club was formed in those times, a quaint early 1980s group that’s not only survived but changed very little throughout the last twenty-plus years.
"It started with just a handful of guys who used to meet informally at different houses. We collected cards, but we really just had fun and tossed out some trivia questions," President Bill Carvallho of Reading, MA told SportsCollectorsDaily.com in a phone interview. "The number of us grew to where some of the wives weren’t real thrilled to have ten or fifteen guys in their living rooms. We decided we should probably rent a hall someplace. We grabbed the local Knights of Columbus Hall for $50. We spread the word and wound up with 46 or 47 guys signed up. Everyone chipped in a couple of bucks and that’s how the club got off the ground."
The club’s first meeting in April of 1985 proved that the card hobby was hot. "It was unbelievable," Carvalho said. "We had people lined up around the building. We decided it was time to have a bigger show."
The first GBSCC show was held in November of ’85 with guests Jim Lonborg and Dick Radatz signing free autographs. They’ve continued–just one per year–ever since. Typical attendance is about 4500, down from the hobby’s heyday in the 1990s, but not much. The club’s show has outlasted many of the bigger events that were once hobby staples but have disappeared from the radar screen.
"We’re a non-profit group," said Carvalho, 69, who is the club’s first and only President. "4 of the 6 board members have been with us all 21 years. The other two have passed away. It’s a lot of work to put this show together and once per year works OK for us."
GBSCC is a rarity. It still holds those regular meetings, where club members get together to discuss the hobby, have an auction and listen to a guest speaker. Over the years, Rico Petrocelli, George Scott and Johnny Pesky have accepted a modest stipend from the group and entertained 80-90 club members who typically attend the meetings, held nine times each year.
"That’s what I really enjoy," said Carvalho. "I’m not really a big autograph collector but the best memories are just sitting and talking with these guys while sharing a beverage or two. About fifteen years ago, we had Bob Feller and Bob Lemon in and they sat in the hotel lounge until about 2 in the morning just telling stories you’d never hear them tell anywhere else. And I know now why Feller threw the ball 100 miles an hour. His fingers are as long as Kielbasa. He just surrounded a baseball with those huge hands!"
Another guest, a pitcher on the World Series Champion Baltimore Orioles in 1970, showed up without what Carvalho expected to see—a World Series ring. "He told us he was single back then and they had the option of choosing a ring or a color TV. He told us he took the TV."
The club’s total membership is nearly 300. It even publishes a newsletter every other month. Club members pitch in to help run the show while Dick Gordon Sports handles the autograph portion of the event. When the club began, annual dues were $10. They’ve increased since then. Now, the price is $12.
This year’s show, held at the Shriner’s Auditorium in Wilmington, MA, November 3, 4 and 5 features autograph guests Frank Robinson, Juan Marichal and New England favorites Carl Yastrzemski, Bobby Doerr and Mel Parnell.
270 tables will be set up with dealers from throughout the eastern half of the country set up. "We start preparing on Tuesday," Carvalho explained. " We try to have very wide aisles so no one’s bumping into each other and we try to give the dealers some room behind their tables so they’re not cramped."
Table prices for the three day show range from $295 to $350. Admission is $5. For more information click here.