"Whatcha lookin' for?"
Get ready for a wide variety of answers when customers roam the aisles at the National Sports Collectors Convention.
by Tony Gordon
Visitors to the 29th National Sports Collectors Convention were all business during the show's five-day run at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL. Armed with written or computer-generated want lists, thousands again took advantage of the biggest variety of sports cards and memorabilia under one roof they would find all year.
Some were buying for their own collections while others were looking to turn a profit on their purchases.
"I am looking for oddball cards," said Chicago collector Chuck Thomas. "I hope to find some Salada coins, I really like those. I also hope to finish off my sets from the 1950's. I'm looking to spend between $300 and $500."
Another Chicago collector, Robert Siefert purchasing cards with the hopes of selling them on a later date for more money.
"I always try and buy '86 Fleer basketball rookies and I also look for members of the baseball 500 home run club in high grade," Seifert said.
However, the economy is tightening its grip on those without a large budget and Seifert said that he may not spend any money at all.
"Sometimes I don't buy anything because the price of admission is high and you have to pay for parking and some sellers are asking for high prices."
Los Angeles collector John Stamper, a member of the Old Baseball Cards online collecting club, is looking for poor to fair grade vintage cards. Stamper, who is visiting his first National, was in awe of the size of the show, which featured over 700 booths in the giant convention hall.
"I knew it was going to be big but not quite this big," he said. "I'm not going to see it all."
Stamper said he has not set a spending limit.
"If it really appeals to me, I'll buy it," he said. "I don't think I'll come close to spending all my money."
While he enjoyed viewing some of the baseball memorabilia like old seats from Comiskey Park, Stamper did not have any prior expectations before entering the show.
"I left my expectations open," he said. "I also left my lists at home but I need everything from the 1950's so if I can come across some deals I'll be buying."
Most collectors seem to be looking to complete their sets.
"I'm trying to build some sets from the 1960's and 1970's," said Stanton, Michigan, collector Bob Hellis. "This is my first National and I am enjoying it. I came here with some co-workers and we are having a great time."
Oakland, California, collector Alan Miller equates the National with a sports museum.
"This is like going to the best sports museum you can find," Miller said. "You can trace the history of any sport and see rare one-of-a-kind stuff."
Miller, a veteran of many National shows, said he has found the dealers to be kinder and gentler than in years past.
"I've found everyone here to be nice and helpful," Miller said. "In the past, I've been to Nationals where the dealers are only interested in making the sale. I don't know if it is the current state of the economy but the sellers seem to be in a much friendlier mood and that is a surprise."
Arizona collector Bill LaValley, said he loves the National.
"The card shows in Arizona are weak," said LaValley, who hails from Buckeye. "So I try and get to the National when I can."
LaValley is working on completing Topps sets from 1970 to 1975. One of the booths that caught his attention features a 10-foot by 10-foot replica of old Comiskey Park.
His best purchase has been three White Sox jerseys for a total of $75.
Chicago area collector T.J. Valacak has enjoyed viewing the items on the display by the large auction houses.
"It is nice to see some of the memorabilia," said Valacak, who is on a quest to find a 1960 Topps Mickey Mantle All-Star to complete his 1960 Topps set. "One company has on display a Ruth baseball hat from his barnstorming tour with Gehrig."
Milwaukee collector Jim Ziegert is on the hunt for home-town heroes.
"Yount, Molitor, Brewers, Packers and Braves," Ziegert said. "I haven't found a lot. I'm buying here to resell at shows in Milwaukee."
The 2009 National is scheduled for Cleveland, 2010 is slated for Baltimore and 2011 brings the National back to Chicago.
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