50 years ago today…

During the 1960’s and 1970’s, through-the-mail communication was an invaluable resource for collectors. So much so that publications like Marshall Oreck’s The Collector’s Directory and Irv Lerner’s Who’s Who in Card Collecting were compiled to help everyone connect. And connect they did. But it was in 1969 that something happened to change the course of hobby history — a gathering of multiple sports collectors in one place, at one time finally became a viable concept. That year, small gatherings or “conventions” of around a dozen collectors started popping up around the country and were documented in hobby periodicals of the day.

Mike Aronstein sorting 1963 Topps.

My father, Michael P. Aronstein, hosted his own “convention” at the Aronstein family home on March 15, 1970 — 50 years ago today. For some perspective, I asked hobby historian David Kathman (trdcrdkid on Net54) to provide his thoughts regarding the occasion:

“Your dad’s March 15, 1970 ‘convention’ wasn’t the first such hobby convention, but it was the largest one up to that point (with 19 attendees), the first one in New York state, and the second one on the east coast (after a 9-person gathering at Mike Anderson’s house in South Weymouth in early December 1969)… but your dad’s 1970 convention is rightly considered a landmark because of the people who were there, several of whom became very influential in the hobby, and the fact that it was the first in the New York area.”

There’s quite a bit of info out there regarding the hobby pioneers who attended so I won’t delve too much into their individual stories here. I do encourage you to research them on your own, however. They’ve all got unique stories and -as is the case with most things in our hobby- you’ll be taken down a rabbit hole that goes off in a million different interesting directions.

Here’s a postcard from hobby pioneer Crawford Foxwell to my father confirming he’d be attending the convention along with Tom Collier. Keep in mind Tom Collier was the “TC” in TCMA but they didn’t partner up until 1972. Third image is a wire photo depicting Foxwell with his collection in 1975.

Photos taken by my father on March 15, 1970 during the convention at his home. Note my sister, Melina with the “Welcome Collectors” sign (we’re still eight years pre-Andrew here). Now see if you can spot the uncut sheet of 1970 Topps hidden in there somewhere.

All collectors in attendance signed several 8 1/2 x 11 uncut 1968 SCFC (Sports Cards for Collectors) sheets. Good luck tracking down one of these in the wild! A full list of the names are below along with where they traveled to the convention from.

SIX of these men (that I know of) either owned a T206 Honus Wagner at the time or would shortly after the event. I’ve placed an asterisk next to their names. Bill Haber actually brought his Wagner to the convention. Also worth noting -among many other deals struck that day- a T206 “Magie” error changed hands from Dennis Graye to Bill Mastro.

  • Bill Haber* – Brooklyn, NY
  • Crawford Foxwell – Cambridge, MD
  • Bill Zekus – Elmsford, NY
  • Dave Zemsky – Bronx, NY
  • Nate Cohen – New York, NY
  • Tom Dischley – New York, NY
  • Dennis Graye – Detroit, MI
  • Mike Jaspersen – Rosemont, PA
  • Fred McKie* – Fairleigh Dickinson University
  • Bruce Yeko – New York, NY
  • Irv Lerner* – Philadelphia, PA
  • Dan Dischley – Lake Ronkonkoma, NY
  • Mike Aronstein* – Yorktown Heights, NY
  • Bob Jaspersen – Rosemont, PA
  • Bill Mastro* – Bernardsville, NJ
  • Tom Collier* – Easton, MD
  • Bill Himmelman – Norwood, NJ
  • Jim MacAllister – Philadelphia, PA
  • Myron S. Aronstein – Mount Vernon, NY

With Dan Dischley and Bob Jaspersen attending, of course this convention received coverage in their hobby publications The Trader Speaks and Sport Fan respectively.

-Bob Jaspersen, publisher Sport Fan

See the young man sporting blue in the photos above? That’s Mike Jaspersen. Heres his “Stealth Extremely Short Print” card from 2017 Topps Allen & Ginter. “Mike attended his sports card show in 1970.” Yes, he did and we’ve got proof!

Following the 1970 convention at his home, Dad attended a similar gathering at Crawford Foxwell’s place in 1971, known as the Mid-Atlantic Sports Collectors Convention. I call this his “super-villain” shot because, well, you be the judge.

Dad then attended the 1972 Midwest Sports Collectors Convention in Detroit and also founded TCMA with Tom Collier that year. In 1973 he went on to help plan and host the ASCCA (American Sports Card Collectors Association) shows in NYC with Bruce Yeko and brothers Bob and Paul Gallagher.

The first of many ASCCA shows was held May, 25-27 1973 at the District 65 Center at 13 Astor Place in Manhattan. Great images from this event were posted by Sports Collectors Daily in 2018 and can be found here. It was also chronicled by Keith Olbermann in the very first issue of Sports Collectors Digest, dated October 12, 1973. 6 of the 19 people at the March 15, 1970 convention are also depicted in the SCD photos below.

Fred McKie, Mike Aronstein & Frank Nagy at the 1972 Midwest Sports Collectors Convention.
Who doesn’t love free buttons? An ASCCA show staple.

Where the hobby will be 50 years from now is anyone’s guess. A LOT has happened since those 19 guys got together in 1970. What we do know right now is that the hobby is booming — let’s keep that up! Dad and I hope to see you all in Baltimore for #SABR50 this summer and Atlantic City for the National. Feel free to say hi and let’s talk hobby history. Cheers!

Special thanks to hobby historian David Kathman (trdcrdkid on Net54) for his valuable insight and for providing the scans above.

12 thoughts on “50 years ago today…”

  1. Great stuff but of course what stands out to me is that Crawford Foxwell sent his RSVP to your dad on the back of a Pete Burnside Hanshin Tigers postcard! I’m guessing it was Mel Bailey produced postcard.

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  2. Appreciate the comments, guys! I wonder if anyone who was there that day ever imagined we’d be talking about it 50 years later. Certainly interesting that everyone got “dressed” for this and other conventions of the day.

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  3. I had my dad drive Fred McKie and I up to Aronstein that day. I was 17 years old and all the guys wanted to do was trade. I remember it like it was yesterday. A few of those guys became dear friends of mine after that afternoon, Mike Aronstein included!! Bill Haber always called me Master William as a term of endearment. Dennis Graye rode his motor cycle all the way in from Detroit that day. He had a briefcase full of pre-war cards and sold me a T 206 Magie error card for $45. I asked McKie why I didn’t appear in any of the photos and he said I was probably in some closet fleecing some poor guy out of his cards. I never thought I’d still be collecting 50 years later. I still love the hobby today. It’s different but my blood still boils over those little masterpieces. My best to Mike Aronstein and his family for hosting us and making the hobby technicolor for all of us!!! XOX

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  4. Andrew Aronstein who wrote this great piece had contacted me awhile back asking for help ID’ing some of the guys shown in the photos. I could help with some, but my mind 50 years later did not recall them

    As Bill said above his father picked me up at my college dorm and drove Bill and me up to Mike’s house. After college I ended up working for Bill’s dad for nine years!

    But, yes my 19 year old college Sophomore self was there wearing his college baseball team jacket, not the coat and tie others of the guys were wearing. Now at the National the preferred dress is cargo shorts!! But looking at the list of those in attendance I was only about the third youngest there. Bill Mastro and Mike Jasperson where younger. I am not sure about Dennis Graye. Anyone know whatever happened to him?? He just disappeared from the hobby.

    I remember thinking I was a small fish in a big bowl with all these older guys with better collections than mine. But I got to know most of them well over the years.

    Everyone there does not show up in the photos unfortunately. I make one appearance down low in the bottom left of one photo under the fellow in the blue jacket with his arms folded. I am sitting next to Bill Haber.

    Bill worked for Topps writing the backs of the cards. Bill brought to the get together a trunk load full of Topps uncut sheets!! I recall standing there in awe of what I was seeing. The host Mike Aronstein got the majority of them. As I recall us youngins, Mastro and McKie got to pick over the “dregs”. I remember getting a sheet of the SP 59 Bazooka baseball, candy lids, deckle edge set and about 12 or so more.

    A little while later Bill who was asthmatic married and decided to move to Wisconsin for the fresh air. Bill offered me his job at Topps. At first I thought it was a dream come true. I went into Brooklyn from my home in New Jersey and met with Bill and “interviewed ” with Sy Berger. I had already been into Topps offices before and met Woody Gelman who designed the cards and owned Card Collectors Company one of the first companies selling cards, and was allowed to go through their “archives” as it were, because some of us collectors at the time were going to update Burdick’s Standard Catalog and I was the “Topps” guy at the time, having collected all the inserts, errors, etc, and was writing articles about them in The Trader Speaks.

    Topps was not located in the best of Brooklyn neighborhoods at the time. Bill would tell me of times he would drive into work park on the street under the EL and come out after work and find the battery in his car missing! I did not want to live in Brooklyn and had nightmares of the traffic driving into the city everyday from New Jersey, so I turned down the job. As it worked out Topps allowed Bill to work from his home in Wisconsin. But that did not last long. Bill’s new wife was a city girl and hated Wisconsin so he soon moved back to Staten Island and resumed his job at Topps offices. Sadly Bill died at a relatively young age.

    Sorry to get off topic. Yes, this was one of the first collector get together’s and this led to big “conventions” as we called them. It was basically just tables set up in a hall, few if any outsiders would come in off the street. If they did and had cards they wanted to sell, everyone would stop and an auction was held then and there for us table holders to bid on the collection. No autograph guests. Just us collectors in one room with our tables as our “base”. Sure was a fun time. The best conventions were in Detroit, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Cleveland

    Andrew noted that i was one of the guys there to have a T206 Wagner, but I did not have mine at the time of the get together. However there is a connection. I was at a convention in Detroit a few years later when the host of the meeting written about , Mike Aronstein in NY turned up the Wagner from a guy on Long Island . He wanted to buy the card outright, but the fellow refused to sell. Mike did have a Wagner at the time so he did not need it for himself. He told the guy about the convention in Detroit and the guy agreed to auction it off at the convention. I caught wind of the fact that a Wagner would be auctioned off that night. I had just received my income tax refund before I left home, so I was “floating” in money, yeah right, but I then sold the entire contents of my table to another guy for $500 hoping to gather enough funds to get the Wagner

    When the night was over I was the proud owner of a Wagner for the sum of $1,100. The second highest ever paid at the time next to $1500 Bill Mastro had paid. As soon as the convention was over we drove straight to Mike’s house, the location of the meeting we are talking about, to pick up my Wagner.

    A few years later a new guy hit the hobby scene named Barry Halper. As it happened he lived about 20 minutes from me. I had sold him a few things previously and he asked if he could visit to see my Wagner. I said sure. When he arrived he asked how much I would sell my Wagner for and I said it was not for sale and that I would have to sell my whole collection before getting rid of it. Barry then asked, how much do you want for your whole collection. You have to remember this was 1975. This did not happen in those days. But, I was getting ready to get married and figured this may be the time, so I sat down and wrote out in long hand everything I had in my collection. I still have the list! Added it up and in those days if you were selling a big group of things you would give a discount to the buyer. For the time it was a rather large number, or so I thought. I told Barry the number expecting him to say no thanks or at least negotiate. Without batting an eye he said “fine”. A few days later he paid me with quite a few money orders, with the issuer’s names of Joe Tinker, Frank Chance, John Evers etc. I used the money a few years later to start a business which allowed me to retire at the age of 55. But if I had just held onto my collection about two or three years longer I could have sold it and retired before age 30 as the values really took off in the late 70’s.

    I always wondered what happened to my Wagner as Halper ended up with three. A few years back there it was in an auction from Bill Goodwin. I would know it anywhere due to it’s unique crease. It “only” sold for $1.2 MILLION!! OUCH. But I always tell myself if I would have held onto the cards I would be card rich but money poor and as much as I wish I still had my original collection, it did allow me to have a good life and retire early, so I guess it was worth it.
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    1. This is an interesting article, bringing back some great memories. Although I wasn’t at the 1970 gathering which forms the basis of the article, I did spend time in the Aronstein home in June, 1969 and attended a game at Shea with several family members. Also was at the gathering at Crawford Foxwell’s in 1971 and am in the picture shown.
      Although many in that picture are no longer alive, it is good to know that some are still going (and even posting in the above comments).
      Hope to be in Baltimore in July.

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