There will be more than 90 athletes past and present who get paid for showing up and scribbling autographs but the real stars of the National Sports Collectors Convention are out on the main floor of the convention center; the hundreds of vendors traveling from across the U.S. and Canada bringing sports history for sale with them. Somehow, most will make money.
Some attend a dozen or more shows every year. Some you won’t see again until next year. Some are “local guys”, from Chicago and Milwaukee and small towns in Iowa. Others are major national dealers who have incomes well into six figures.
Some will treat customers well. Others won’t. Some will sell products that were printed last week. Others will sell cards made more than a century ago.
It’s the eye-popping, jaw-dropping variety that makes the “National” special. We can give you advice for attending but in the end, you’ll make your own experience what it is.
Sometimes bad things happen. Someone gets arrested in a well-orchestrated cap to an FBI investigation. Someone steals cards off a dealer’s table. Someone else steals a Mel Ott bat.
Mostly, though, the NSCC is a few thousand people wallowing in sports and collecting for a few days. It helps if you have money to spend, but it’s not critical if you spend more time just looking and learning.
After 34 years, the National still very much alive. Chicago has been a big part of the history of the show. The first one held there was 30 years ago. I think I went but I’m embarrassed to say I don’t remember if it was the National or just a big local show the Chicago Sports Collectors Club used to put on. I was in college then so there were other things just as interesting.
It’s now worthy of being held in a giant convention center but in 1989, the show was at the Hyatt Regency Chicago and the autograph guests included Sandy Koufax, Carl Yastrzemski and Dave Winfield. Koufax was the most expensive: $16. Some were outraged. Sixteen bucks in 1989 dollars translates to $28 today so even with the passage of time, it was still quite a bargain looking back.
One thing you can say for sure is that the cost of getting an autograph at the National or any big show has skyrocketed. You’d spend a few thousand just to get half of the guys to sign this year and none of them are Koufax. There will be plenty of paying customers, though, happy to share a brief moment with a superstar.
Another thing you can count on is that as I’ve done since 2006 in Anaheim, I’ll again be in reporting mode for much the National, bringing back the stories, the pictures and whatever tasty little nuggets we can dig up starting tomorrow and running through the show and beyond. Follow Sports Collectors Daily on Twitter and Facebook during the day and if you see something we should know about, don’t hesitate to let me know ([email protected]).
As usual, though, I’ve also got a list of cards I’m looking for and I plan on spending some time looking for them. I’m a collector, too, and the National is a can’t miss opportunity to knock some things off the want list. The only difference between now and my first NSCC show (whenever it was) is that the list is on a Smartphone.
I’ll also be at the Net54 dinner on Friday night, a great fundraiser for a Texas animal shelter that forum owner Leon Luckey supports. As a dogfather of nine, I love it.
Ticket sales are up and it sounds like there will be a lot of people who will make Rosemont, IL their home away from home for the next few days.
If you’re going to the National, have a blast. If not, I’ll try to take you along with me.