Auction Insider: National Sports Collectors Convention

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.

Baltimore Convention CenterWhat was the overall reaction of dealers and collectors to Baltimore?

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.

Topps boothHowever,  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 lDmitri Youngeague 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.