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Guide to the 2009 National Sports Collectors Convention

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The nuts and bolts from the big show. You goin’?

Hawaii in January might be nicer, but for sports collectors, there’s nothing wrong with Cleveland in the summertime.

Just two years after it was held at the I-X Center, the 2009 National Sports Collectors Convention returns to Ohio for a five-day stay.

The show opens Wednesday, July 29 at 5 PM with a four-hour sneak peek that usually brings in the hard core collectors looking to beat others to the best deals. Make no mistake, though. Thousands of dollars will have already changed hands by the time the show opens. Dealer-to-dealer sales still dominate big shows, with big money cards and sports memorabilia changing hands as sellers and auction houses seek items they can buy and turn into profit. NFL legend Charley Trippi and former Cleveland Indians’ first baseman Andre Thornton will sign for free.

Thursday through Saturday, the show hours are 10 AM to 6 PM. Sunday is family day with the show open from 10 AM to 5 PM. Showing up only on Sunday afternoon isn’t the best idea though. Many dealers will be packing up by early afternoon to catch flights. Still, this is arguably the best time to get a deal from those dealers who stick it out to the end.

Over 700 dealer booths will keep collectors from around North America busy and there are over 50 corporate booths as well. All of the card companies will have a presence with most offering a wrapper redemption program and a National Exclusive card giveaway inside VIP bags.

Thursday’s autograph guests include Steelers’ defensive back Troy Polamalu ($140 minimum autograph fee), Tom Seaver and Bruce Sutter.

Friday is Heisman Trophy winners day in the autograph pavilion with several former college football greats signing–most at $30 and under. Y.A. Tittle, the former Giants’ quarterback is a bargain at $45.

The heavy hitters enter the autograph area on Saturday with an impressive, but expensive list of Hall of Famers signing. Lynn Swann–a notoriously tough signer ($200 minimum) will join Joe Montana ($170), Troy Aikman ($150), Barry Sanders ($130), Jim Brown ($100), Jim Kelly ($100), Jack Lambert ($100 and Phil Simms ($90) among others. Ernie Banks will be there too ($100).

Sunday’s guest list includes Baseball Hall of Famers Whitey Ford ($100), Bob Gibson ($80), Rod Carew ($75), Tom Seaver ($65), Bob Feller ($30) and a rare appearance by Bo Jackson ($80).

You don’t have to spend money at the National to have fun. It’ll cost you $15 to get in, but looking around is free. You’ll also have a chance to view the best vintage Mickey Mantle card collection on the planet–on display just for the show courtesy of Memory Lane, which will have a T206 Honus Wagner on display as well. PSA will have a collection of super high grade T206 cards and offer a free T206 poster.

The show floor is massive and it’s best to arrive as early as possible–even if you’re attending for more than one day. It’s also good idea to pay attention to some of the announcements. Sometimes surprise autograph guests and special events pop up at the last minute.

You’ll pay a fee to park at the I-X Center, but there is plenty of on-site parking available.

If you’re unfamiliar with big card shows and think you might be a little overwhelmed here are some tips for attending any major card show, especially the National Sports Collectors Convention, which sets up shop in Baltimore in the summer of 2010 in case you were wondering.