by Mike Fruitman
Last week, for the fourth consecutive year, the who’s who of the sports card industry got together in fabulous Las Vegas for the Industry Summit. I understand that I will be breaking some unwritten rules about sharing what happens in Vegas, but since not everyone in the industry can fit into The Orleans Hotel for Kevin Issacson’s incredibly well planned event, somebody had to do it.
Collectors know this as the event where some of the coolest promotional cards get distributed and given away by cool card stores (or instead sold on ebay by those who prefer not take care of their collectors). For shop owners who attend, they know it is more than the 'Panini Black Box, Upper Deck mystery box, surprise guests and other promotional item snagging four day event'. It is the hobby store’s best opportunity to share what is and is not working with those who make this industry rock and roll.
Pictured here is the Panini Black Box, Upper Deck box, 1/1 Leaf cut signature card of Joe Biden (yes, THAT Joe Biden) and the 1/1 ITG triple relic card of Jean Beliveau, Carey Price and Alex Ovechkin that we brought back from Las Vegas. We will be giving away all of these items and everything else I brought back from Las Vegas to our customers over the next year at our Trade Nights.
Some of the announcements from the Summit which have already made the hobby rounds included how Topps and MLB have extended their exclusive relationship, Panini flexed its exclusive muscle and Steven Strasburg for the immediate future, his autographs will only be found in their releases (if Prizm baseball did not have enough buzz already, this should send it over the top).
Upper Deck shared that 2012 Exquisite football will offer 2 autographs per case from either Jerry Rice, John Elway, Dan Marino, Barry Sanders, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Namath, RGIII, Trent Richardson, Russell Wilson or Ryan Tannehill and their 2013 Eminence football release looks awesome enough to possibly be called Son Of Exquisite.
One of the most interesting announcements from the Summit was when it was announced that Upper Deck received a MLBPA license. While 2012 Upper Deck SP Signature Edition left a bit to be desired, it offered some of the most interesting single and multiple autographed MLB cards we have seen in some time. Now that UD will be able to include player photos with their baseball cards, I am eagerly anticipating their Retro, Greats Of The Game and whatever else they decide to roll out for the 2013 season.
If I had to change one aspect of The Summit, it is the low priority assigned to the amount of time devoted to Q&A between stores and manufacturers. Sadly, for too long, the practice of a 55 minute presentation and 5 minutes of Q&A has been the norm for some companies. As a shop owner, we take considerable time away from our stores (some of us have to even shut down for up to 5 days) and incur considerable expense (especially if the tables are not being kind to us). It would sure be nice to have your hand called upon be easier than matching all the numbers in a round of Keno.
My personal highlight from the event was when Upper Deck completely surprised me with the Steve James Award. For those of you who had the pleasure of getting to know Steve, he was one of the truest friends a hobby shop could have. Steve owned The Bullpen in Hendersonville, NC and was an early contributor to CardTrade magazine. I could not wait for each new month’s issue to arrive so I could read how he was rewarding his friends at his store with some awesome new idea. He greatly influenced both me and countless other stores to offer exciting promotions to their collectors. Sadly Steve passed away in 2010 and few are missed in the hobby more than he is.
My first memory with Steve was landing in Hawaii at the Kit Young event in 2001, throwing my bags into my room and basically tracking him down to share my monthly calendar, labels I used for my boxes and many of the promotions he had given me the motivation to try. While it probably took him ten minutes to realize that I was not drunk or suffering from some temporary time zone insanity, we developed a great friendship that included monthly calls to share the newest happenings in our stores. Many thanks to those at Upper Deck who found me worthy to be included in the same sentence as Steve. In my 20+ plus years of owning a store, this was without a doubt a top five moment.
As for other Las Vegas moments...
Seinfeld aficionados should recognize Larry Thomas from his infamous role as the Soup Nazi while appearing at the Sweet Deal booth.
Holiday movie buffs should recognize Scott Schwartz from A Christmas Story (no frozen pole in sight).
Sure there were celebrities at the Industry Summit, but getting to go bowling with The Rip Master, Alan Narz at the Magazine Exchange/Topps event? NICE!
Of course not all the announcements were sports related.
Frank Thomas was no nice he appeared twice, first for Leaf and the next day for Upper Deck. I wanted to hug him for all the money he helped my store make over the years, but for his sake (and probably my own), we were separated by a large table.
For those of you who visit Las Vegas on a somewhat regular basis, you might recognize the Hoffbrauhaus restaurant. I brought a fun group of 50 out to dinner and the photos of who got paddled after their shots are available for $14.95 each.
As a proud University Of Colorado alumni, I took incredible joy of sharing with Rocket Ismail (courtesy of Upper Deck and shown on the right) how it was completely worth driving 3,000 miles in each direction in to watch his TD return get called back by a clipping penalty in the Orange Bowl.
Mike Fruitman owns Mike's Stadium Sportscards in Aurora, Colo. You can read his column here every week, focusing on what products are selling best in hobby shops. See his eBay listings here. Enjoy new arrivals and big hits from Mike’s on Twitter. Mike’s is always looking for more friends on Facebook and you can email him at [email protected]