One of the sports memorabilia industry’s most popular shows is back with a big list of autograph guests, dealers and companies.
The countdown has begun for one of the annual rites of spring for sports fans and collectors. The 2008 Spring Expo in Toronto– easily ranking as one of the industry’s most important occasions – will be taking place May 2-4.
This will be the 34th edition of the world’s biggest and longest running hockey card and memorabilia show taking place at the Toronto International Centre. Over 400 booths, 800 tables, 250 dealers, and 100,000 square feet of rare and not-so-rare collectibles, not only from the world of hockey, but football, baseball, basketball and entertainment will be on sale.
The Toronto Sportscard and Memorabilia Expo has taken place twice annually since 1991.
“There are so many people who have made the show what it is today,” says Al Sinclair, President of the Expo. “Yes, my staff and I work hard to put on a memorable show, but the truth is it comes down to all of the loyal dealers and collectors who are behind its success. Without their support, my job would be a lot tougher.”
As usual, the Expo will host many of the most prominent sports card and memorabilia collectors from across Canada, the United States and even Europe and Asia. Everyone who attends will have a chance to mingle with the movers and shakers in the business.
“We have a lot of specialty dealers now,” says Sinclair, “and they really know all about the stuff they are selling. They know it is to their benefit to handle merchandise that no one else has. The regulars realize they have steady customers at the show. There are a wide variety of buyers in here as well, all with a different focus. If a collector wants 10-cent cards, we’ve got it. If they want high-end vintage stuff, it’s there along with everything in between.”
For the fifth consecutive show, the responsibility for handling the autograph lineup has been assigned to A.J. Sports World, the well-known sports collectibles firm based in Woodbridge, Ontario.
The roster for the upcoming show is punctuated by one of the most famous lines in NHL history, and is further supported by the appearance of one of the greatest performers in the history of professional sports, two additional NHL Hall-of-Famers, one of the most revered tough guys in league history, an American hockey icon, a Montreal Canadiens franchise record holder, plus a cornerstone to the Toronto Blue Jay championship teams of the early 1990s.
On Friday, attendees can obtain autographs from a trio of hockey legends. Goaltending icon Gerry Cheevers is scheduled to sign at 5 pm ($25 per item) together with Peter Mahovlich (5 pm, $20 per item). Mahovlich still holds the Habs’ single-season marks for assists (82) as well as points by a centre (117), both set during the 1974-75 campaign. Scrappy Bob Probert (7 pm, $25 per item) continues to be a fan favourite some six years after his retirement from the game.
The “Triple Crown Line” remains one of the last great trios in NHL history. Marcel Dionne, Dave Taylor, and Charlie Simmer may not have been in the limelight as much as some of their Eastern-based counterparts, but for six seasons from 1978-79 to 1984-85 they remained the most consistently dangerous offensive unit in the game. Each of these former Los Angeles Kings will be appearing on Saturday at 11:30 am. The cost of Dionne autographs will be $25 ($35 for premium items), while Taylor and Simmer signatures will run for $25 each. Also appearing Saturday is future NHL Hall-of-Famer Luc Robitaille (2 pm, $39 per item or $50 for premium items) as well as 1980 Olympic hero Jim Craig (1 pm, $49 per item, $65 for premium items). Craig, of course, was the star goaltender for the underdog American club when they upset the Soviet Union in 1980s “Miracle On Ice.”
On Sunday, “Mr. Hockey,” Gordie Howe (11:30 am, $99 per item, $149 per bulky item, $299 per premium item) will be appearing. Fans can also obtain a VIP photo pack of Howe for only $149. This must be booked in advance and takes place from 11 to 11:30 am. Also on the docket is is Mike Bossy (2:30 pm, $39 per item, $50 per premium item), one of the NHL’s greatest snipers.
Blue Jay fans will also get an opportunity to relive the glory years of the early 1990s. The legendary Roberto Alomar (1 pm, $39 per item, $65 per premium item) will make an appearance on Sunday. Alomar was a cornerstone on both championship Blue Jay clubs in 1992 and 1993 and was outstanding with both the bat and the glove. Premier setup man Duane Ward will be in the house on Saturday at 1:30 pm ($20 per item, $30 per bulky item). Former third baseman Kelly Gruber will accompany Ward at 1:30 ($20 per item).
Saturday at 1:30 will also be the time to rub shoulders with a pair of other baseball legends. Canadian-born baseball Hall-of-Famer Ferguson Jenkins will be signing items for one hour ($20 per item, $30 per bulky item) as will former Red Sox and Indians’ great Luis Tiant ($20 per item).
Jenkins, Tiant, and Gruber’s appearance fees have all generously been donated to the Ferguson Jenkins Foundation.
Autograph Tickets for the entire weekend are on sale at the A.J. Sports World store in Woodbridge. For those who cannot make it to the store before the Expo, tickets will be available for the entire weekend of the Expo once the doors open on Friday. As well, you can order autographs via mail order through the A.J. Sports World web site at www.ajsportsworld.com.
“A.J.’s has done a great job and it’s a win-win situation for everybody,” says Sinclair. “I like the fact they have been bringing in athletes from sports other than hockey. I got a lot of nice comments when they brought (football legend) Jim Brown in last fall and I know Roberto Alomar will generate a lot of interest from baseball fans.”
In addition to the autograph lineup, those in attendance are encouraged to visit the corporate section of the show where attendees will have a chance to interact directly with the executives from a wide range of hobby companies. Redemption Programs will be offered by the likes of Upper Deck and In The Game, Inc. On site professional card grading will be available through KSA.
In The Game’s Redemption Program will feature memorabilia cards available exclusively at the Expo. Look for cards from the company’s brand new Superlative brand. Special cards will also be available from their Between the Pipes, Heroes and Prospects, and O Canada brands. Collectors can receive these cards after opening specific In The Game products.
Upper Deck’s tradition at the Expo has involved offering their Priority Signings autographed cards. Participants are eligible to receive one card per day after opening specific 2007-08 Upper Deck hockey products (Fleer Hot Prospects, Upper Deck Ice). Some of the autographed cards available include Alexander Ovechkin, Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, Sidney Crosby, Patrick Roy and Wayne Gretzky.
Admission prices are $12 per day for adults and $3 per day for children aged six to 12. Children under six are admitted free. A weekend pass for adults is $25. The show hours are 1 pm to 10 pm on Friday, and 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday and Sunday.
A very limited number of booths remain available.
The Toronto International Centre is located at 6900 Airport Road, next to Pearson International Airport. There are literally dozens of hotels within a few minutes drive of the show. Parking at the International Centre is free.