Jeff Rosenberg is an autograph collector. He understands the fun of the chase. He used to try to collect a set of baseball cards -- and then get them autographed.
That's why everyone attending the 16th National Sports Collectors Convention this week in St. Louis will get a free autograph (it could be Stan Musial, Dick Butkus, Bob Feller, Bobby Hull, Bob Gibson, Bill Walton or any of several dozen retired stars).
"Our goal is to bring the fun back to collecting," says Rosenberg, president of Tri-Star Productions of Houston, a promoter of the convention. "We've always taken the approach that this is fun and it's a hobby."
Tri-Star was awarded the convention two years ago. Last year, in the midst of preparations, major-league baseball players went on strike, the NHL locked out its players and the trading card business went into a funk.
"It was that much more of a challenge," says Rosenberg. "Things have gotten better since [the labor disputes were settled]."
The challenge appears to have been met. All 750 dealer tables were sold long ago, and there is a waiting list. The 70 sponsor booths include sports leagues, collectibles manufacturers, phone card companies and auto racing. A week ago, 12,000 advance tickets had been sold.
"This is the first time that all four major sports leagues are going to participate in an interactive fashion," Rosenberg says. "We really want to make it a fun experience for sports fans who maybe aren't collectors . . . and turn them into collectors."
A forum for that will be the Sports Collectors Theater, where retired sports stars and representatives from collectibles manufacturers will talk and answer questions.
Rosenberg, who formed Tri-Star in 1987 and has staged large regional shows, says, "People love sports heroes, and as long as we have sports heroes, we'll have sports collectors."
Leon Day memorabilia
Leon Day will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame July 30. Memorabilia and autographs of the Negro Leagues star are available from Hieronimus & Co. Proceeds go to the Leon Day Memorial Trust to offset the family's expenses. Among the items are autographed baseball cards, balls and photographs. Call (410) 356-6216.
Classic Hagerstown jerseys
The Hagerstown Suns are taking orders for game-worn replica jerseys of the 1945 Hagerstown Owls. The jerseys, worn in two "turn back the clock" games by the Single-A team, cost $95 each and can be ordered at Hagerstown Municipal Stadium or by calling (301) 791-6266.
3-D baseball cards
Pinnacle's newest Sportflix set is UC3. There are 147 cards, with three card designs for rookies and the National and American leagues. There are four insert sets. Look for them next week.
A new Prism
Pacific's newest generation of Prism technology makes it debut with Crown Collection Prism1 football. There are 108 regular cards featuring silver, gold and red foil plus three insert sets.
Today, card show and auction to benefit Oriole Advocates Charitable Foundations (expected signers include Boog Powell, Brooks Robinson, Milt Pappas, Gus Triandos, Stu Miller and Jim Gentile), Tall Cedars Hall (2501 Putty Hill Ave.), Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., next Sunday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., (410) 265-7200.
Tomorrow, card show and auction to benefit Baltimore Community Foundation (expected signers include Brady Anderson, Jeffrey Hammonds and Curtis Goodwin), Sheraton Inner Harbor, 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., (410) 461-8664.
Friday-next Sunday, National Sports Collectors Convention, Cervantes Convention Center at America's Center, St. Louis, (713) 780-2252.
CARD OF THE WEEK
Classic's premier edition of NFL Rookies features 125 of the players selected in the 1995 NFL draft, including all first-round picks. An insert card featuring the player selected as Offensive Rookie of the Year can be redeemed for a $50 phone card of the player. (Shown is Kevin Hickman of Navy.)