Dealers and collectors have made their way out of Cleveland--or will be leaving shortly--as the 2014 National Sports Collectors Convention comes to an end.
The show's five-day run ended late Sunday afternoon at the I-X Center.
Some final notes and observations from the weekend:
- Traffic on the show floor seemed strongest on Thursday and Friday. No matter where it’s held, the National draws serious collectors who come ready to buy and buy quickly. If you came on Saturday, you could walk up to most any table and not be bumping elbows with anyone. Sunday is usually the lightest day of all but if you’re willing to stay until the end, there were discounts to be had on new wax, old singles, sets and everything in between.
- As usual, much of the National’s business is done on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, even before the doors open as dealers browse the room or make deals they’ve been working on in the days leading up to the show. It would not be a stretch to say hundreds of thousands of dollars in cards and memorabilia change hands before the public has made its way to the back of the room on Wednesday evening.
So how’d they do? Despite a hall that wasn’t exactly jam-packed, most we talked to said sales were strong, especially those selling vintage cards. More than one 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle was sold during the week (mid-grade examples north of $20,000), but filling want lists of old sets remains the predominant activity on the main floor. The buyers continue to age, though, and you wonder what the market for pre-1980s set building will really be like ten or 20 years from now as that segment of the population becomes less mobile or passes on.
- Authentic autographs, in many cases, can be found very cheap at the National. I rode back to my hotel with a collector who had purchased a Gary Sheffield 500 home run signed bat with notation, for $40. The bat alone costs $25. He’d also bought a very nice 16x20 signed photo from Dave Righetti’s no-hitter for ten bucks. A huge Bill Russell signed photo was available for $189. Not that long ago, a Russell autograph would cost twice that. The market sometimes just can’t swallow several hundred signed items from any player.
- The Case Breaking Pavilion had several empty booths. While it’s a hot concept at the moment, it seems like an expensive proposition for an experience that’s really more about the internet. Organizers were hoping media exposure would help breakers, but I don’t think it’s crazy to say that spending a couple thousand dollars for space at the National might be better spent in online promotion since that’s where the action takes place and potential buyers can more easily be found.
- Some dealers still have no people skills. I walked by numerous booths—with no one else around—and was completely ignored. While I don’t like being hounded, I like a dealer to at least acknowledge my presence with a smile, a hello or a “let me know if I can help you”. I realize it’s long five days, especially if traffic is light, but you never know when that greeting might make a customer feel comfortable enough to ask a question that might result in a purchase…sometimes a big purchase. On the other hand, there are a lot of great people behind some of those booths who go the extra mile to make a deal For many long time dealers, the NSCC is the only time they see hobby friends all year. The internet can't replace face-to-face interaction and never will.
- We know of at least one person who was taken into a holding room, presumably by security, after allegedly being caught stealing on video. That’s not unusual for a show this size.
- Joe Namath was the surprise guest at Panini’s VIP party Saturday night, one which also included Julius Erving, Tom Glavine and Dominique Wilkins, along with some scantily clad ladies mingling with attendees. Shaquille O’Neal was Upper Deck’s big star. Spend several thousand dollars and you received freebies, autographs, photos to mark the occasion and the chance to talk with the paid guests at a location away from the NSCC.
I hope you enjoyed the videos and stories we brought you during the show. If you’re just catching up, you can see everything here including some general video of the show floor and a photo gallery of interesting items. Watch for more stories in the days to come. We'll meet a guy who came a REALLY long way to attend the show, a 14-year-old girl who collects T206 cards and more.
Next year, the show returns to the Stephens Convention Center in Chicago (July 29-August 2), then makes its way to Atlantic City in 2016.