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National Sports Collectors Convention Opens July 27

26th Annual Gathering of the "Granddaddy" of Sports Collectibles Shows

5-Day Event Brings Forth 700+ Dealers, 125 Celebrity Signers to Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont July 27-31

The granddaddy of all sports collectors conventions - The 26th annual National Sports Collectors Convention, returns to Chicago for the sixth time July 27-31, rolling out more than 700 dealer booths and bringing forth some 125 celebrities from sports and entertainment to captivate the collecting public.

The National includes a spectacular offering of cards, yearbooks, sports equipment, toys, photographs, autographs, figurines, vintage advertising, books and magazines, in short - a celebration of America's biggest hobby, presented to a nation of hobbyists and collectors. And it all covers 400,000 square feet at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL.

"Chicago will always be a city we return to," said Convention Director Bob Byer. "This is a region that loves the hobby, and appreciates the joy and pleasure these treasures bring to generation after generation."

Collecting is so imbued in American society that even the attending athletes and celebrities use the time to walk the aisles in search of special items.

1978 Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims, one of 16 former Heisman winners attending, says "I cherish my high school awards right along with my Heisman, but I was a big baseball fan growing up. I have a number of signed baseballs. My favorites were Willie Mays, Bob Gibson and Orlando Cepeda."

Charles White, who won the Heisman in 1979, says "Autograph collecting is still amazing to me, but I've come to understand it better. I was asked for an autograph in high school! A guy approached me with a couple of photos and asked if I'd sign them in a white pen. He gave me one to keep. It's an amazing hobby."

Press Party Wednesday Features "Refrigerator" Perry and More

The amazing hobby has its "mecca" at "The National." It all begins with an invitation only press party Wednesday at noon featuring jockey Laffit Pincay Jr, Larry "Soup Nazi" Thomas, Kathy Garver ("Family Affair"), Ruth Buzzi ("Laugh In"), Jon Provost ("Lassie"), Johnny Kerr, and William "Refrigerator" Perry. A VIP party on Wednesday from 2-4 p.m. at the Convention Center features Billy Sims, Pincay, Buzzi, Thomas and Garver.

The convention will feature several "theme days," with Thursday, July 28 being "White Sox Day," where the Sox, at booth 769, will have free raffle drawings for memorabilia, guest signers, and a replica 1933 All-Star Game ticket. The White Sox mascot will appear and there will be a silent auction to benefit Chicago White Sox Charities.

Saturday will be "Chicago Bulls Day", and they have announced daily raffles of autographed Bulls' merchandise from past championship seasons and current players. Fans will be able to pose with the Bulls six championship trophies. In addition, there will be appearances by Benny the Bull and former Bulls favorite Bob Love throughout the weekend and the Spin-A-Bull wheel, where for a modest donation, guests can spin for a guaranteed prize. There will also be ESPN NBA 2K5 interactive video gaming sessions, a free kids' fan pack for all children 12 and younger (one per child), and offers for merchandise and discounted tickets, with all proceeds to benefit CharitaBulls, the Bulls charity foundation.

Sunday will be "Chicago Bears Day", with activities including an appearance by Staley, the team's mascot, as well as free daily drawings for Bears memorabilia.

In addition to previously announced guests, The National is pleased to report that Desmond Howard becomes the 16th Heisman Trophy winner to accept an invitation, and that a great Negro League contingent will be on hand, including former Chicago American Giants Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe (103 years of age), Lester Lockett, Charles Johnson and Johnny Washington. The Legendary Ladies of Baseball, from the mid-1940s professional league, will feature Pepper Davis and Dolly Konwinski.

Penny Marshall In Rare Autograph Appearance

A special appearance by Hollywood royalty Penny Marshall, director of "League of Their Own," producer of "Cinderella Man" and of course, beloved Laverne DeFazio of "Laverne and Shirley" will be on hand to greet fans and sign autographs.

There will be plenty for media to photograph and fans to view throughout the convention floor, and attention is especially directed to a letter written by Jack Johnson to The Ring Magazine, claiming to have thrown his famous fight against Jess Willard, Joe DiMaggio's 1941 Yankee contract (the MVP year of his 56-game hitting streak), an agreement letter between Babe Ruth and Harry Frazee from 1918 spelling out bonus clauses for winning games (Geppi's Memorabilia Road Show, booth #713), the Leo Durocher Collection, including his 1954 World Series ring and a 1950s Willie Mays glove (Hunt Auctions, #737), the original Honus Wagner bat used to create the first Louisville Slugger signature bat, and a complete run of game used bats by all members of the 500-home run club (Vintage Authentics #557), game-used jerseys from Grover Cleveland Alexander (1926 champion Cardinals) and Bob Feller (1951 Indians) and a signed 1931 Ruth bat (Mastronet, #1004).

The lineup of celebrity guests:

>Baseball: Ferguson Jenkins, Mike Remlinger, Glendon Rusch, Don Kessinger, Glenn Beckert, Dick Allen, Juan Marichal, Tommy John, Bill (Spaceman) Lee, Jim Bibby, Jim Coates, Johnny Blanchard, J.R. Richard, Billy Williams, Buck O'Neil, Dave Winfield, Minnie Minoso, Ralph Kiner, Paul Popovich, Randy Hundley, Amos Otis, Ernie Broglio, Paul Casanova, Tony Gonzalez, Tony Taylor, Billy Pierce, Jim Wynn*, Lou Johnson*, Mike Laga*, former Rookies of the Year Al Bumbry*, Tom Tresh*, John Montefusco*, Gary Peters*, Jerome Walton* and Bake McBride*; and Negro League veterans including Chicago American Giants Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe, Lester Lockett*, Charles Johnson*, and Johnny Washington.*

>Basketball: Johnny "Red" Kerr, Oscar Robertson, Dolph Schayes, Phil Chenier, Bruce Weber, Channing Frye, Sean May, and the "Legends of Illinois" featuring Dwyane Wade, Deron Williams, Darius Miles, Andre Iguodala, Corey Maggette, Tony Allen, Frank Williams, and Quentin Richardson.

>Football: In addition to the Packers, Gale Sayers, Mike Ditka, Ara Parseghian, William "Refrigerator" Perry, Rashaan Salaam, Christian Okoye, Lou Creekmur, Dennis McKinnon, Otis Wilson, Steve Largent, Jim Covert, Chris Zorich, Emory Moorehead, Conrad Dobler, Tony Rice*, Greg Bell*, and the New York Jets' "Sack Exchange" of Marty Lyons, Mark Gastineau, Abdul Salaam, and Joe Kleko.

>1965 Green Bay Packers: Paul Hornung, Bob Long, Bob Skoronski, Boyd Dowler, Carroll Dale*, Jerry Kramer, Zeke Bratkowski, Bob Jeter, Don Chandler, Doug Hart, Herb Adderley, Max Magee, Ken Bowman, Tom Brown, Marv Fleming, Dave Robinson, Willie Davis and Willie Wood.

>Former Heisman Trophy winners: Dick Kazmaier* (1952), Tony Dorsett (1976), Charles White (1979), John Cappelletti (1973), Johnny Rodgers (1972), George Rogers (1980), Mike Rozier (1983), Gary Beban (1967), Billy Sims (1978), Howard "Hopalong" Cassady (1955), Johnny Lattner (1953), Gino Toretta (1992), John David Crow (1957), Rashaan Salaam (1994), Desmond Howard (1991) and Andre Ware (1989). Winner Paul Hornung (1956) is also part of the Packers reunion.

>Hockey: Pierre Pilote, Bernie Parent, Dennis Hull, Phil Esposito, Tony Esposito, Dennis Savard, Emile Francis, Murray Bannerman, Bill Gadsby, and Denis DeJordy.

>Horse Racing: Laffit Pincay, Jr.

>Entertainment: "League of Their Own" director Penny Marshall, "Laugh In's" Ruth Buzzi, Kathy Garver ("Family Affair"), Larry Thomas (The Soup Nazi from "Seinfeld"), "Lassie's" Jon Provost, Brande Roderick ("Baywatch Hawaii"), Ron Van Dam (WWE champion), Sandra Taylor (actress, model), Barbara Moore (actress, model), Jerri Manthey ("Survivor") and Lorenzo Lamas ("Falcon Crest").

(*newly announced since last press release. Visit the website for specific dates of celebrity appearances).

The 26th "National" is open to the general public from Wednesday, July 27 through Sunday, July 31st. This includes a special "Sneak Peek," Wednesday, July 27th, that will include free autographs and promo cards as well as first crack at seeing the event. VIP Club holders may attend any or all days free of charge; general admission is $15 per day.

The "Sneak Peek" will be much more than an early look at dealer booths. Four Chicago immortals - Ferguson Jenkins of the Cubs, Johnny "Red" Kerr of the Bulls, William "Refrigerator" Perry of the Bears and Pierre Pilote of the Black Hawks, will be on hand to sign free autographs as time permits, courtesy of Donruss/Playoff trading cards.

The National will begin with an invitation-only press reception on Wednesday, July 27 from noon to 2 p.m. That evening, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., there will be a "Sneak Peek" for a special $15 admission, or for VIP Premier Club members who purchase weeklong, $99 VIP tickets, ($89 if purchased in advance). Those ticket holders receive valuable gift packages and a special VIP Free Autograph package. The Sneak Peek will include free autographs from Jenkins, Kerr, Perry and Pilote on a first come, first served basis.

Tickets for the 26th National Sports Collectors Convention, as well as autograph tickets, can now be purchased through the National Web Site, www.natlconv.com. Single Day General Admission tickets are priced at $12 each, while the popular VIP Admission Package is $89.00. Tickets purchased on site at the Convention Center will be priced at $15 for Single Day and $99 for the VIP package.

Show hours will be Wednesday's "Sneak Peek" from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, July 28 and 30, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, July 31, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday will be "Nintendo Kids Free Day," with all youngsters 15 and under admitted free to the Convention Center. All youngsters that day will receive a Pokemon TCG booster pack.

Customers of Wal*Mart can visit the store's Pepsi display, pick up a redemption form, and receive a free set of specially produced Cubs or White Sox cards produced by Donruss for The National.

The Topps Company will be providing "four missing 1955 Topps baseball cards," for VIPs featuring Whitey Ford, Bob Feller, Stan Musial and Herb Score. Upper Deck will distribute four different 6-card redemption player sets featuring its spokesmen (10 unopened packs with a suggested retail price of $2.99 or more, limit two per person while supplies last), delivers the set. Upper Deck will also have an in-house sculptor creating likenesses of famous athletes and an interactive green screen where fans can take a free picture of themselves with images of Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle. Donruss/Playoff will be holding "Box Wars." Prizes run from autographed cards of Gale Sayers and Peyton Manning to game-used cards from Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and more.

Ertl Collectibles has produced two exclusive Cubs and Bears die-cast vehicles for sale, a Bears 1936 Ford and a Cubs 1950 Oldsmobile Rocket 88, at special show prices.

Dart Flipcards World will introduce a new game called Flipzz with a convention long card flipping tournament and $10,000 to be given away to winners - there will be a winner every hour.

The Pokemon TCG has also joined with the National and the Chicago Daily Herald's summer reading program by distributing over 100,000 coupons through libraries in the Chicago area, inviting youngsters to attend the National any day, free of charge. Attendees will be able to redeem the coupon for a free booster pack and a chance to win a Nintendo DS. Friday (7/29) is Pokemon Trading Card Game Kids Free Day, courtesy of Nintendo of America. Card manufacturers are providing packs of free cards that day.

Geppi's Memorabilia Road Show, the auction house, will have a drawing where attendees can win a Cal Ripken signed bat and ball bearing the 2,131 commemoration.

Collectors should also note that a "National only" item, a Nomar Garciaparra action figure from McFarlane Toys, will be available at the convention only for a special price of just $15.

PSA, the grading service, will be running a "World Series of Autograph Authentication", testing attendees on picking out "real from fake" with a $2,500 first prize.

NAXCOM.com is offering a discount ticket when purchased in advance through their site, along with a free LeBron James UD uncirculated rookie card while supplies last.

Information about the National Sports Collectors Convention is available by calling toll-free 1-877-562-8466 or 1-877-5-NATIONAL. The sponsorship number is 425 775-8025.

The National Sports Collectors Convention was in Cleveland last summer and has rotated annually around the country since its debut. It will be held in Anaheim in 2006.

Mike Berkus, John Broggi and Bob Wilke are the convention's managers. Autograph guests are contracted through ABN Sports. Bob Byer is the Convention Director.

Source: The National
Date: July 22, 2005

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