This year’s National Sports Collectors Convention begins on Wednesday with more than 100 autograph guests signing for those who opt to get a ticket and stand in line for their “inkredible” moment.
Some of those signers are actually free if you’re at the VIP reception on Wednesday or buy a VIP ticket package — a bonus for taking the time to hit the entire show or buy the full package for all of the other bonuses — but other signers will take some planning to land the ones you want.
It’s tough to see everything at the show — it’s that big — and the time it takes to work through autograph lines is valuable in that it impedes your shot at seeing it all. With that said, here are my picks — one per day — to grab off the autograph list. (Keep reading for the full signers list in a gallery at the end.)
Wednesday (4:30 p.m.) — Jose Canseco
The former Bash Brother is one of the free signers for the VIP reception and he might be the guy among all of the nine who are signing that day who has the biggest public profile. The first member of baseball’s 40-40 Club has plenty of MLB baggage — see Juiced and Vindicated — but he’s still relatively popular and sells pretty well for a guy who signs regularly.
Wednesday runner-up pick: Mark Grace ($49 and up).
Thursday (11 a.m.) — Johnny Bench
The “Little General” is among the first signers for the first full day of the show, which is heavy on baseball signers (and that’s how my picks look). The former Rookie of the Year, two-time league MVP and winner of two World Series rings as part of The Big Red Machine still ranks among the best in MLB history at his position, catcher. The Hall of Famer’s autos start at $89 (more for premium items and equipment) but he’s not as heavy of a signer compared to others — there are some on this day who sign just as much as he does but charge a lot more.
Thursday runner-up pick: Bob Gibson ($79 and up).
Friday (11 a.m.) — Frank Robinson
If you ask me, Robinson is the biggest name of all of the baseball signers in term of unquestioned on-the-field accomplishments. He’s also still among the greats statistically despite all those inflated numbers in the years since. This Hall of Famer won MVPs in both leagues, a Triple Crown, Rookie of the Year and was a 14-time All-Star. His autos start at $99 and he signs a relatively large signature that should look pretty good on a photo. (Go for an 11-by-14 — that’s as big as you can go for that price.)
Friday runner-up pick: Deion Sanders ($100 and up)
Saturday (12: 30 p.m.) — Alex Rodriguez
This day wasn’t an easy pick. Love ’em or hate ’em, Rodriguez is a newcomer to the NSCC and he gets my nod here but not without some cost — a standard item is a $149 auto. (For reference, Cal Ripken Jr. is $159.) I’d opt for an 11-by-14 photo for a maximum-sized sig — and that’s mostly because he’s not been a regular signer here. Deluxe items will cost you more — expect to pay $349 for him to sign anything game-used. Others of note on this day include Goldberg ($89 any item) and Lance Armstrong ($99 and up) — also both newcomers — but for the money A-Rod seems like the best of those three.
Saturday runner-ups: Barry Sanders ($125 and up) & Mike Singletary ($79 and up).
Sunday (11:30 a.m.) — Thurman Thomas
The Hall of Famer is one of a few Buffalo Bills signing on the show’s final day — joining him are Andre Reed, Bruce Smith and Marv Levy — and a combo item might be a compelling option. Thomas will cost you $60 for a standard item and $80 for premium pieces. Not bad.
Sunday runner-up: Kerry Wood ($49; get that 1997 Bowman card signed).
For more details on signing fees and what they will and won’t sign, click here.
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