Organizers of the National Sports Collectors Convention hope the annual showcase event proves worthy of it's 30th anniversary year.
The booths are ready. Dealers and corporations have arrived and the 30th National Sports Collectors Convention gets underway tonight at 5 PM eastern time with its four-hour sneak peek.
An event that began in Los Angeles during the Jimmy Carter administration is still going strong. While much of the hobby’s business is now conducted online and other shows have struggled or disappeared entirely, the National has remained a constant—a showcase for a hobby that’s still about appreciating sports and sports history
“Ticket sales for this year are ahead of Chicago last year and only slightly behind Cleveland 2007,” said John Broggi, a New Jersey collector and part of the National’s management team. “From what we've been hearing from other shows and the state of the economy in general, this is great.”
The National’s return to Cleveland for the second time in three years was disappointing to some collectors outside the Midwest, but the region has proven to be a hotbed for collectors. It also garners attention from the community, something that doesn’t always happen in a coastal city or one without a passion for sports.
“Cleveland has always been very supportive of the event. “We've got a great list of athletes (signing autographs) in a town that loves sports,” Broggi said. “The local groups and media have jumped on board as usual and we expect a great show again here.”
This year’s event won’t differ much from National conventions of years past, but show organizers did make a move to try and grow the hobby by luring families. Card companies will hold kid-friendly events and the I-X Center even includes a ferris wheel in the middle of the show floor.
“We have expanded the Family Day concept we started last year in Chicago,” Broggi explained. “A Family of four gets in on Sunday for a flat admission fee of $25. We will give all Family Day attendees a raffle drawing ticket for free prizes donated by corporate sponsors. NFL Players is providing two players Greg Pruitt and Lee Suggs to sign free for Kids. Several sponsors will be set up in the Family Fun Zone in front of the Ferris Wheel running activities with giveaways from 11 am to 2 pm and ferris wheel rides will be free."
For dealers, the bottom line is making money and the National is one show where collectors usually come ready to spend. It's also as close as the industry will come this year to an annual conference, with most of the big movers and shakers in the industry in attendance.
Next year’s show site has already been set as it moves out of the Midwest for the first time since 2005.
“A lot of exhibitors are excited about the fact that we will be in Baltimore in 2010," Broggi said. "It’s our first time in that city which is a great sports town. It will be the first true East Coast National since Atlantic City in 2003.”