Hobby Musings: Tristar bringing Chicago autograph flavor to the National – The 2017 National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago is mere weeks away. The largest gathering of sports memorabilia vendors and collectors, it is also notable for its large gathering of athletes. Signing autographs and posing for photographs, it gives fans the chance to meet with some of their favorites and score an item for their collection. Hosting the pavilion, once again, will be Houston-based Tristar, who have already announced the majority of this year’s guests.
Speaking with Tristar founder Jeff Rosenberg, this year’s attendee list has a very strong Chicago presence to tie in with the venue. Rosenberg spoke about this when talking about the show saying, “We have such a big Chicago connection, between guys who played for the Chicago teams and players who played against.” Elaborating, he expressed his excitement at having a trio of legendary Bears linebackers – Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher among the autograph guests. Fans of the Monsters of the Midway will also recognize other Chicago gridiron legends like Jim McMahon and Mike Hartenstine, who is one of the 18 VIP signers this year.
The Bears aren’t the only well-represented Chicago team at the National. Bulls, Cubs, Blackhawks and Notre Dame legends both past and present will also be on hand. Last season’s World-Series Champion Cubs will have representation with players like David Ross and Pedro Strop in attendance. Some of the other Chicago luminaries include Bulls star and Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen and former Cubs All-Star first baseman Mark Grace.
A first-time autograph signer at the National, Rosenberg was very excited about Grace’s participation. Providing a little history lesson, he revealed Grace was actually a participant in Tristar’s second-ever show in Houston. Asked how he thinks the Chicago crowed will receive Grace, Rosenberg responded, “It’s hard to know fan anticipation for him since he hasn’t been to a National before. I think it will be really strong based on other Nationals and similar types of players who go back to the town they played in.” One example he cited was former Indians outfielder Kenny Lofton at Cleveland’s National and receiving a good response there.
Two other athletes making their National autograph pavilion debuts are former MLB All-Star Alex Rodriguez and cyclist Lance Armstrong. Rosenberg admitted the difficulty of getting a more modern high-profile athlete like Rodriguez to the National. Elaborating further, he said, “It’s tough to get current athletes due to logistics, so the next best thing is getting a guy who is recently retired, especially someone with as many accolades as Alex. They still have that name recognition and X-Factor.”
Armstrong is someone that Rosenberg has often tried to get to the National, and the chance to have him this year has him excited. He doesn’t expect past controversies to negatively affect Armstrong and Rodriguez’s presence at the show. When asked why, he said, “True collectors want to meet them and get their autographs. People who don’t have good opinions of them won’t get into the lines to meet them. When people are in the autograph lines, they come up and congratulate the athletes and are so excited to meet them and add their signature to their collection.”
While he is also excited about bringing in pro wrestler Bill Goldberg, Rosenberg said his son was looking forward to basketball Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson’s attendance. One of the game’s true greats, Robertson has had a bit of renaissance thanks to Russell Westbrook matching his feat of averaging a triple-double for the season. Talking about the new recognition for Robertson, Rosenberg said, “Westbrook’s own season helps put Robertson in a whole new world. All these people, especially younger people, have a perspective on just how great he was. I think there will be more people for him because of it. I’d love to have the two of them (Robertson and Westbrook) at a show together.”
Besides all the athletes, Tristar threw a little bit of a curve this year by bringing in actor Henry Winkler as an autograph guest. Known best for his role as Arthur Fonzarelli on “Happy Days,” Winkler is a rarity in a show dominated by former athletes. Asked why he wanted him as an autograph guest, Rosenberg replied, “We brought a big group of actors the last time the National was in Anaheim. It’s different for us, but we’re going to test the waters and see how it goes for bringing actors to future Nationals. Winkler should be great, an interesting add to the show. Not an athlete, but a pop culture icon.”
Whether you’re interested in an autograph and/or photograph, you may want to consider getting your tickets early to avoid a potential sellout. There’s also the added benefit of giving yourself more time to scope out the show if you already have your tickets in hand. If you need an item to get signed, Tristar typically has items such as photos and various sports balls for purchase at the National. However, you may want to consider getting a photo for someone specific beforehand, especially VIP signers, as they often sell out at their booth. For more information on Tristar’s autograph pavilion be sure to visit their website for scheduling and pricing information.
Hobby Musings: Tristar bringing Chicago autograph flavor to the National
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