Last week's 12th annual National Sports Collectors Convention in Anaheim, Calif., had everything that's happening in the sports memorabilia world -- including theft.
There were 700 booths and 2,000 exhibitors from around the world, dealers and card company representatives. There was even a mini-riot on "corporate trade night," a night set aside for dealers to meet with hobby card manufacturers, when nearly 10,000 collectors, many with phony business cards and counterfeit passes, crashed the party.
Two Baltimore County card dealers attending their fifth convention lost an estimated $225,000 worth of pre-World War II vTC baseball cards, stolen sometime last Wednesday night.
Joe Bosley of the The Old Ball Game in Reisterstown and Dan McKee of D&D; Sports Cards shared a booth at the convention. They set up their booth, which contained 12 showcases, Wednesday afternoon. Each showcase is 22 by 34 inches and weighs 20 pounds empty. The dealers left the convention center at 6 p.m.
When they returned at 8 a.m. the next day, four showcases were gone. The cases contained Goudy, Diamond Stars and other popular pre-war cards. The prize cards in these cases were four Ty Cobb cards estimated at $8,500 each and a 1933 Babe Ruth card valued at $4,500.
They reported the theft to the show organizers, the convention center staff and the police. Larry Levine of Memory Lane Card Co. of Redondo Beach, Calif., reported the theft of seven showcases containing 1950s and 1960s cards. He estimated his loss at $200,000.
Bosley's guess is that "they took the '50s and '60s stuff from someone else because he had more of it."
According to Anaheim city spokesman John Nicoletti , the convention center provided 24-hour security for the event.
"The consensus of opinion around the show was that it could not have been done without people who had access to the convention center," Bosley said yesterday.
Bosley and McKee were meeting with their lawyers and insurance representatives. According to Bosley, they have been advised by their lawyers not to say anything about possible litigation. They have not heard from the Anaheim police since they returned to Baltimore.
Theft at the national convention is not unprecedented. Material has been taken from dealers' hotel rooms. But this was a first.
"Everybody was shocked," Bosley said. "As far as I know, no show has ever been broken into and had a major theft. . . . This is like nothing that's ever happened before while it's under the security of the show. . . . I was on television. Dan was on television. It was a big deal."
In addition to the thefts at the convention center, a dealer reported $100,000 worth of cards taken from the Anaheim Marriott Hotel adjacent to the convention center. Bosley added that, during the weekend, a man was caught trying to steal promotional materials.
"It's a big loss," said Bosley, "but at least we weren't killed."
He said collector interest at the convention was high, and that he and McKee will be in Atlanta for next year's edition.