On Saturday, March 25, the Ephrata Lions Club hosted its 43rd annual sports card show and auction. With 70 tables and 40 vendors, the event is one of the largest single-day sports card shows on the East Coast, and it takes place every year in the Ephrata Recreation Center’s gymnasium. Admission is only $5 for adults and $1 for children under 12.
Vendors offer baseball, football, basketball and hockey player cards, with prices for individual cards as low as 10 cents at some tables. Some vendors offer card packs for $10, $20 and $30. Other memorabilia items are also available for purchase, such as autographed baseball bats, autographed baseballs, and mini helmets.
During the show, there is a live memorabilia auction that features many sports cards, card sets, photographs, figurines and other items, as well as a silent auction where attendees can view items on tables and write their bids. The silent auction is smaller, and attendees can participate in it from the beginning of the show until about an hour before the live auction starts. After the silent auction closes, the winners are announced and must be present to claim what they have won.
“Baseball and football cards and memorabilia items sell the most,” Brad Lauderman, co-chairman of the event, said.
After the first Ephrata Lions Club Sports Card Show and Auction in 1979, the club decided that for future shows a sports celebrity would be invited to sign autographs. Many of the sports stars that the club has brought in over the years have been locally relevant, like this year’s celebrity, former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, and some have even been inductees into their sport’s hall of fame.
Because local businesses sponsor the celebrity’s visit, the cost of autographs is kept lower than at other shows. According to Lauderman, autographs at other sports card shows, like ones hosted in Philadelphia, would cost $50 or more. At this show, an autograph on a flat item like a sports card or a photo was just $25, thanks to the contributions of the baseball and softball academy Keystone State Sports, Summers Trucking, and Ephrata National Bank.
The Ephrata Lions Club’s goal in keeping admission and other costs affordable is to encourage families — especially the children — to participate. “This event is all about the kids,” said Lauderman. “Every nickel and dime made here is used to support youth.” What the club makes from the show and auction goes toward the Ephrata Recreation Center and Ephrata youth sports programs, as well as the community food program the Mountaineers’ Table and the Samaritan Counseling Center’s TeenHope program, a nonprofit mental health screening program that helps identify Lancaster County students who are at risk for self-harm or suicide.
In addition to funding different child-focused outreaches, the Lions get youth involved in the event itself. This year the Ephrata Baseball Association helped with parking, and the Ephrata High School rifle booster team ran the food stand.
The hobby of collecting sports cards had seen a decline over the years, even before the pandemic disrupted normal life, but Lauderman said that more recently the hobby has rebounded and prices are high in many areas again. The crowd for the 2023 show was large as well, said Lauderman, who has been helping with the event for about 35 years. In fact, he believes it might be the club’s second largest show ever.
Although the majority of the people present were men and boys, women and girls still have a passion for the hobby, and Lauderman mentioned that some female attendees come every year. “The first two autographs sold today were purchased by a mother and daughter,” he said. “They were the first two people in line.” According to Lauderman, these ladies are big sports fans — they attend the show every year and are almost always the first two in line for autographs, or not far from the front.
With the renewed interest in collecting sports memorabilia, there is hope that the Ephrata Lions Club Sports Card Show and Auction will grow even more in the future. The show is held each year on the last Saturday of March unless Easter falls on that weekend. Future dates and more information about the show can be found under the “sports card show” tab at ephratalions.org.