It’s being held at a different time of year, but the 45th Cranston Sports Card Show promises to remain the classic that Tom McDonough started in 1976.
The annual show in Rhode Island, typically held during Super Bowl weekend, had to be delayed this year because of COVID-19. But now that restrictions have been eased, show director Mike Mangasarian, who took over operations of the event from McDonough in 2019, is ready to try some new things.
“I’ve never done a summer show and don’t know what to expect,” Mangasarian said.
The traditional February show was a two-day affair, but the July version of the Cranston show will span three days (July 9-11). The show will be staged again at the Coventry High School gym in Coventry, with proceeds benefiting the Immaculate Conception Church in Cranston, the Sts. Vartanatz Armenian Youth Federation’s sports program and the Coventry High School Hall of Fame.
Not having the show in February was “depressing,” Mangasarian said.
“That’s because there are charities that depend on the show, so I was bummed out about it,” he said. “I was more upset about the lost revenue stream for the church and the kids.”
This year’s event will begin July 9 from noon until 6 p.m., July 10 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on July 11. A new feature this year is online registration, where collectors will pay for a ticket, which can be accessed by their cellphones. Once at the show, workers can scan the ticket and print one up, “and they can walk right in.”
Early bird entrances will be offered again this year. For $20, collectors can enter the show an hour before the public. Other prices are $7 per day or $15 for a three-day pass. Admission for seniors, veterans and children under 12 is $4 per day, and children 5 and under can attend free of charge.
Having the show at all was a relief for Mangasarian due to the pandemic.
“I wasn’t sure it was gonna happen,” he said.
Encouraged by dealers and collectors, Mangasarian decided to try a summer show “to test the waters.”
The reputation of the Cranston show helped. In 2019 600 people attended the event, and it ballooned to more than 2,200 in 2020, with dealers from 12 different states setting up tables.
“Reputation is a great thing,” Mangasarian said.
Two other new features at this year’s show will be a silent auction, which will begin Friday at noon and run for 48 hours.
“It’s for dealers who didn’t want to put (some) merchandise on their table,” Mangasarian said.
Every dealer is allowed to enter one box of merchandise, and if the item sells there will be a 10% commission levied.
Like last year, the show will include a program with an index of dealers. Mangasarian said he is tweaking the program to list every dealer by what they sell, allowing collectors to zero in on the cards and memorabilia they want to see. The dealers will also be listed alphabetically.
Also like last year, the program will include a ballot that the public can fill out, voting for the dealer who provided the best customer service. The winning dealers received free tables for future shows. Last year’s winners were Bill and Steven Rush from Cranston, Bob Perry from Massachusetts and Barry Wilson from New York City.
So far, Mangasarian has commitments from 30 dealers for 50 tables, but he is expecting more before the show kicks off.
“There will be a ton of new faces,” he said.
The floor plan includes aisles that are five feet wide. “Nobody bumps into anyone at this show,” said Mangasarian, “Another feature we provide is dealer assistance unloading and loading. The staff from Sts. Vartanatz church are there in sufficient numbers to help everyone.”
Mangasarian is still trying to line up guests for autographs signings. He said he has reached out to former Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee, and there is a possibility that former Sox hurler Luis Tiant may appear.
But those commitments have yet to be confirmed.
The Cranston show has grown by about 60 tables from 2019 and could get even bigger in the next few years, according to Magnasarian, who recruited top dealers in New England and New York. “I could easily have sold 50 more tables but the growth of the show is dependent on the paid admissions and this has to grow in proportion with our incredible dealers attending.”
Mangasarian, who admits he is technically behind the times as far as an online presence is concerned, turned over those responsibilities to younger members of his crew. Now, the Cranston show has an identity on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
“If I’m gonna get old, I can’t live in the past,” the 65-year-old Mangasarian said. “There are still a lot of 65- and 70-year-olds coming to the show, but the 20-year-olds, the kids are driving the market.
“Back in the 1980s, the card companies sucked the life out of the hobby with overproduction. Now they are limiting to 1-of-1,” he added. “Why make the collector suffer? You can make it limited.
“There has got to be a happy medium.”
Mangasarian said this year’s show will include the usual fare of modern and vintage cards, autographs, yearbooks, vintage photos, programs, magazines, Pokémon cards, tobacco cards.
If the July show fares well, he said he might consider going three days when the show returns next February. Particularly if he secures new faces in July to go with the traditional dealers who have been a part of the show through the years.
“I’m only gonna get bigger by being different and better,” Mangasarian said. “I’ve got collectors who say, ‘I can’t wait to go to this year’s show.’
“They are so excited.”