Collectors and dealers have returned home or are on their way and the 31st National Sports Collectors Convention is history. How much different was it than the 20th? Or the 25th? Or the 30th?
Dealers judge a show based on their income for the four days and maybe how many names were added to their mailing list.
Auction companies hope for consignments.
Collectors hope to find a few bargains.
In short, the goals and reviews don't change much from those of any major card show anywhere in the country. Should the hobby aspire to greater heights when it comes to its signature event?
Many collectors anticipate the National each year and while going to a large card show is usually better than staying home and mowing the lawn, many people we've talked to lately say the National could use a fresh coat of paint.
Other industries have national conventions that feature a much more broad scope of activities. Many are just for fun. Others are educational. Some are based on networking.
The National does a lot of things right but here are a few ideas that might make it a truly must-attend event for anyone in the hobby.
1. Keep rotating the city. This works. The Midwest may have proven to be the most fertile ground for dealers looking to sell to serious collectors and an affordable region for all, but exploring new locations ensures that collectors stay interested in attending.
2. Make it a true convention, not just a card and autograph show. Conventions have seminars in which topics are discussed. Information is shared. Knowledge is gained. There are dozens of possible topics. Invite collectors and dealers to participate. Hold them in the late afternoon or early evening and publicize them well in advance. Have a "tell us your best find" segment just for fun. There's not much profit there, but sometimes doing what's right is best in the long run.
3. Hold auctions. Run an auction on EACH DAY of the National that's truly part of the National. If it's true that eBay is taking business away from shows, bring a little of eBay to the show. Collectors love auctions. "Premier" auctions are great for well-financed hobbyists but about the little guy? Let the auction companies bid on the chance to host an event. Limit the auctions to 150 lots and hold them in the evening to keep collectors in the show hall or one of the host hotels. Involving a charity element is always a good idea.
4. Make Sunday relevant. I've been to National conventions where multiple dealers have left the room by Saturday evening. Sunday afternoon can seem like a ghost town. There's a mad rush to get packed up and off to the airport or highway to home. While it may be the last day of the show, the deconstruction of so many booths leaves a bad impression to first-timers who may come on one of the only two weekend days during which the show is open. If a major auction were held Sunday afternoon, would as many leave town? Brighter minds might have a better solution for keeping more dealers and collectors transacting business on Sunday.
5. Create a trading area. A card show within a card show. Charge a small daily fee to allow collectors to bring items in for trade in one area of the show hall or in a nearby host hotel. Such an event could take the hobby back to its roots and would likely generate some positive media attention. We're guessing some wild, high dollar trades would be made along the way that would generate some interesting buzz.
6. Create other activities. There were two very good card-related books that came out this year. Book-signing sessions and/or interviews with the authors would have been a great idea. Have trivia contests for adults and another one for kids with cards and memorabilia as prizes. Hold card flipping contests. Some of this used to happen in the early days didn't it? What happened?
7. Make the program a collector's item. Yes, printing costs are sometimes prohibitive but a 60 or 80-page program packed with feature stories and information could be a terrific tool for selling the hobby--and the National--to a wider audience. Those who couldn't make the show might buy it too.
8. Make Sunday relevant. I've been to National conventions where multiple dealers have left the room by Saturday evening. Sunday afternoon can seem like a ghost town. There's a mad rush to get packed up and off to the airport or highway to home. While it may be the last day of the show, the deconstruction of so many booths leaves a bad impression to first-timers who may come on one of the only two weekend days during which the show is open. If a major auction were held Sunday afternoon, would as many leave town? Brighter minds might have a better solution for keeping more dealers and collectors transacting business on Sunday.
9. Advertise more. There are thousands of casual or potential collectors who honestly don't know the show exists, let alone where it is. Yet we see very little online or print advertising for the National outside of the host city. Show organizers should also be hustling interview segments on sports radio stations across the country and online portals months in advance.
10. Networking. It's the one event of the year when the vast majority of dealers, auction houses, card companies and collectors gather in one place. Create opportunities for them to find out more about each other, exchange contact information and forge bonds that can help everyone get more out of their hobby.