Posted by: Ryan
Some random thoughts about the National Sports Collectors Convention. Check out some of the videos and photo galleries from past Nationals at the very bottom of the page. The videos can give you a feel for the show and what to expect.
The Right Mix
Going to the National really opened my eyes to how many different types of collectors there are. Set builders, vintage guys, modern guys, wax rippers, bargain hunters, and that's just the start. It's all in one room. It's intoxicating. It's pure heaven. You'll buy stuff that you would have never bought before. $3 Blaster Boxes even though you'll get nothing good? I'll take two!
Despite the overwhelming amount of dealer tables, you can easily feel like you've seen enough after a day or or so. Not every table will have something you are interested in, you can check out what fits your collecting style. I'd stay for 10 days if it went that long and totally go broke, but I guess people have to go home at some point.
Should You Go?
Stop what you're doing. Go check your bank account. Check the flights to Cleveland. Tune up the old car and check gas prices. Do people still hitch hike? Ok, maybe not. Try Amtrak or Greyhound if you want to rough it. Call in sick. Lie to the wife. Send the kids to the in-laws. Don't worry about a hotel room right now. I travel a lot, hotels just do last minute. The "Hotels Tonight App" and Priceline's "Express Deals" make it unnecessary to ever have to book hotels in advance. Especially in Cleveland, I mean c'mon.
Whatever you do, TRUST ME YOU WANT TO COME TO THIS AT LEAST ONCE IN YOUR LIFE. I'm not kidding.
Is it Really That Cool?
I've been to a few TriStar Shows, and some other decent local shows near San Francisco, CA. For cards, nothing compares to the National. Not even close. Every time I go to a smaller show, I always enjoy myself, but it leaves me longing for the NSCC. I usually go home and think, is it July yet?
I don't make any money, at all, by going to the National. In fact, I blow and lose a ton. I'm losing money writing this as I could be working on building a profitable website about Pogs. I don't get a comped trip to the NSCC and I certainly don't wear a polo shirt that says Sports Card Radio on it while there. I write this stuff because it's fun and I want people to think about coming to the NSCC someday. Everything I spend related to the National, last year it was well over $5,000, comes out of my own pocket. The National is a charmed event, and I'd be the first guy to tell you if it wasn't worth it.
Male Senior Citizen Show
The demographic is male, overweight, and older. Would you expect anything different? To me, this is actually one of the golden ages of sports card collecting. In 25-50 years all the 1990's collectors who stayed involved in cards will be dead or close to it. Just milk these old men for all they are worth now. Besides, it's not the role of NSCC organizers to get young people involved in the hobby, they aren't the ones producing new cards!
More Set Builders Than Group Breakers
No I'm serious. It's true. Group Breaker Pavilion? Wait till you see all the tables with vintage cards. Graded Vintage Cards are no joke. The PSA Set Registry is no joke. Andrew Luck, Yasiel Puig, Johnny Manziel? At least half the people at the National could care less about those guys. They are looking for Mantle, Mays, Williams, and maybe even a Shoeless Joe.
Wheel & Deal
You'll find some dealers that seem like they don't want to sell anything. Don't worry, that goes down at coin shows too. Just keep looking and you'll find deals. If I'm buying single cards, I always make an offer lower than what they are asking. Every time they've taken it. Don't insult them, but try to get a good price. I've gotten really good deals on autographs of Hank Aaron, Joe Montana, Pete Rose and many more. Less than what they would cost elsewhere (like on eBay). Sometimes a lot less.
Blowout Cards, DA Card World and Steel City Collectibles have dirt cheap prices on current wax products. Some of the box prices are regulated by Panini and Upper Deck, but most of it isn't. Many of the prices on boxes are around or cheaper than wholesale pricing. If I was a dealer I would find a way to ship a bunch of stuff back with me.
Who Really Makes Money
The top players in the economic food chain at the show as I see it. Unofficial of course.
- PSA and BGS Grading
- The Soft Serve Ice Cream Cart <----- $MONEY$
- Large Auction Houses
- Topps (even though they don't have anything for sale)
- Blowout Cards/DA Card World
- Any ATM Machine On Site
- The guy who bought 10,000 jersey cards for $0.50 each
- TriStar Productions
- The athletes signing autographs for money
- eBay Seller Probstein123 (who even takes Sunday off)
- The guy who had the $1 table in Baltimore
The Topps Line
Topps typically offers up a few different wrapper redemption programs that are always very popular. So popular that drama usually ensues about the "line" to get the limited cards. One person even began taking signups for a "class action lawsuit" against Topps because he didn't get a set. The lawsuit of course never materialized and he was in line the very next day.
What's even more amazing is Topps spends far less marketing themselves at the show compared to Panini, and believe it or not, even some Group Breakers. Every corporate company at the National would kill for the line Topps gets. Every single one of them. Topps can handle the situation however they see fit. What a fortunate position they find themselves in. The worst thing that could happen is for the line to disappear.
The characters at the show are priceless. I randomly met some guy who was toting around a 1970's looking rolling suitcase. Inside he had two things. A full body wet suit that was infamous because it somehow got him kicked off a popular sports card forum. I won't get into the story. The other thing he had inside the suitcase was this old card from like 1918 that was worth $18,000. I looked it up, it was worth at least 18 grand.
It's striking how young some of the Topps employees are.
People will talk your ear off. Not the card dealers for the most part. It's usually guys promoting a website or some kind of service. Nobody cares about your website when there are 500 dealer tables with treasures to be found. C'mon.
It's amazing how many fake autographs and/or cards get "authenticated" by PSA, BGS, JSA, etc. at shows like this. Scary. You guys need to tighten it up, even though I know you're on a short turnaround at shows. I let some things go last year that were egregious errors and I for sure won't bite my lip this year.
Panini spends so much money on marketing, and it's on full display at the National. If they just spent that money on making better cards the word would spread without any effort.
The Midwest is a hotbed for sports collectibles. It should come as no surprise why the National is held in Chicago or Cleveland as of late. If you live in California like I do, or on the West Coast, don't complain. They make these things called airplanes and they are fantastic.
Post Show Fun
Sometimes after the show can be just as fun as browsing dealer tables all day. One time I went to a dinner held by sports card forum Freedom Cardboard. I tell you what, the free pasta was much needed after blowing a bunch of money during the day. What's even better is you get to meet and talk to people about what they like and dislike about the hobby. For me, that is fun.
The Mojo Break/Layton Sports Cards party at the 2013 NSCC in Chicago was a blast. It was at a bar in what seemed like a really busy casino and a couple girls, way out of my league..... or price range..... made me feel like I had a chance for a second. I can't remember those girls names, but I met several collectors who didn't want to go home either. Everyone was all smiles. I was certainly high on life.
Stuff I'm Looking For at the 2014 NSCC
Tony Wroten, Dennis Schroder, Eric Bledsoe, Michael Olowokandi, any of the good Cubs prospects (Soler, Almora, Bryant, Baez), Barry Bonds autographs, any cheap PSA/DNA certified autograph cards, .10 cent boxes all day long, 1st Generation Beanie Babies, and certainly anything related to the online poker boom of the mid 2000's.