The National Sports Collectors Convention wrapped up its five-day run in Baltimore earlier this month. It was the hobby's first visit to the city for its showcase event.
Ryan Friedman of Auction Report was there for the duration and in this edition of Auction Insider, we chatted with him about this year--and what future years may bring.
RF: Having the National Sports Collectors Convention in Baltimore for the first time was definitely well received by a majority of the dealers in the room. The east coast has such a strong dealer and collector demographic which worked well for all.
Going into the convention many dealers were concerned as to how the convention would turn out due more to the current economic conditions than anything.
Anytime you bring a convention to a new location, you just don't know how things will turn out. This applies not just to attendance, sales, consignments, etc, but also to the logistics for dealers setting up, moving out, and collectors getting to the show site (given there was no on-site parking).
Each day at the National, I would characterize with a different reaction. Let's work backwards... the last day (Sunday) of the convention was a waste of a day. I felt bad for any collector attending (Although it seemed empty most of the day) as many of the exhibitors were packing up and moving out very early this year.
The weekend crowds to me were a little disappointing as I was expecting Friday and Saturday to be extremely busy.
However, the first two days (Wednesday and Thursday) seemed to be really good in the attendance, more than I was expecting. I would say that overall the attendance was OK. Given this, the overall opinion from many of the exhibitors that I spoke with was that there overall sales were very good. Auction houses said consignments walking in were fair, not great, and that walk-ins of collectibles coming in was also fair.
Overall I'd grade it a 'B-minus', but I'm a harsh critic. I think that there is room for great improvement for future Nationals in many areas for both the exhibitors and attendees.
What types of things to auction companies try to accomplish at the show and what was the buzz with them?
RF: The auction companies definitely look at the National in a different light than your typical dealer. I would say there are two simple strategies for the auction companies during the National: promote their current/next auction and get consignments.
Unlike a dealer who judges a convention on how much they profit from selling and buying inventory, the auction companies profits usually come later down the line when there auctions are completed. For example, an auction company at the National may not sell one item the whole week but they take in $500,000 in consignments which in turn turns into $50k-$75k in commissions when the auction closes.
The buzz concerning the auctions is that they seem to be getting even more popular. More companies are converting or starting to do auctions. I think more and more dealers see that the public likes buying and selling via an auction. Don't be surprised if you see 5-7 more auction companies get launched this year.
What was the #1 topic of discussion?
RF: The bobby in general. Exhibitors talked a lot about the current economic situation and reflected on how we can improve the quality and image of our hobby in many areas. We have a great industry and it's fun, but everyone knows that there is room for improvement, that there is a need to get a younger generation more involved and interested in collecting.
Coolest/funniest/strangest thing to happen at the National if any?
RF: From my own experience, the coolest thing was meeting (former major league first baseman) Dmitri Young and seeing how genuinely excited he is about our hobby and collecting. He loves to collect, he loves to meet fellow collectors, and wants to see our hobby expand and grow. This also can also be said for Brooks Robinson who I had a chance to talk with at the Legendary Live Auction during the National. What a great guy and funny too.
What's the biggest difference between current Nationals and those of 10-15 years ago?
RF: The overall atmosphere/buzz/excitement. It's not what it used to be. It's night and day between now and 10 years ago. But of course our industry has changed, times have changed, and I believe that we can bring back the excitement of the 90's to future national conventions. We are going to have to work harder on it though.
What about future National Sports Collectors Conventions?
RF: I'm looking forward to having the National back in Chicago in 2011. It's home base for me and the shows are usually good.
The future of the National is interesting. From my sources, the National is looking to possibly move the 2012 national from Cleveland to another location due to how hard the city has been hit by the economy, etc. I wouldn't be shocked to see them switch it back to Baltimore if possible. The other noticeable part of the future Nationals is that they are getting smaller in size. I actually think is a good thing.
I also think the National has determined it will establish a East coast and Midwest presence every other year. The way things are looking is 2011 in Chicago, then 2012 possibly being moved (probably to the east coast), 2013 back in Chicago, 2014 is up for bid (Either Baltimore or Atlantic City), and 2015 back in Chicago.