If you’re a collector who loves the hobby so much you occasionally have dreams about it, chances are the sheer volume and variety of vintage baseball cards for sale at the annual National Sports Collectors Convention surpasses anything your subconscious mind can work up. From prominent dealers who have been to hundreds of shows over the course of time to first timers, the booths reveal that there were plenty of moms who did not throw their kids’ cards away in that time when cards were considered nothing more than a toy.
It is one of the few times during the course of a year when you can find more Post Cereal Ernie Banks cards at a show than you can on eBay. Still, despite massive competition, if you sell old baseball cards, the National is fertile selling ground.
For most, it seems, the 2013 show was a winner. Dealers sold. Buyers bought. All came away happy.
Rich Budnick of America’s Pastime in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, came away feeling the five days away from home was time well spent.
“It’s really reinforced my positive outlook on the hobby,” he said. “I’m happy whenever we come to Chicago. It’s always a blast. The collectors are so polite and so nice and so passionate. They come out and buy in droves.”
Budnick had stacks and binders full of cards, primarily from the 1940’s through the 70’s, prime collecting years for the male-dominated room full of adult male collectors aiming to complete sets. He operates a website and has an eBay presence with over 3,000 listings. Having come to Chicago many times before, it’s a group that fits his inventory to a tee.
“For the most part they are looking for commons anywhere from the 56’s and 60’s, some 40’s. Ernie Banks rookies did well. Al Kaline rookies did well. We sold some Mantle cards, some Brooks Robinson cards. Pretty much the rookie cards and the good cards of any of iconic Hall of Famers from the 50’s and 60’s.”
Collectors kept Floyd Soeder and the crew from Let’s Play Ball in Topsail Beach, North Carolina moving from one end of their square setup to another on Friday. His inventory was large and diverse but the golden era stars were still the major drawing card.
“The major stars tend to bring the most interest in all grades,” he said. “Hank Aaron is at the top of the list. Roberto Clemente right there. Mantle is always the king. I think if you want to go to the true hottest cards, though, it’s Satchel Paige and it’s Jackie Robinson.”
Soeder theorized the movie ‘42’ may have had something to do with the uptick in his rookie cards along with the fact that the overall number of cards issued during Robinson’s playing career is relatively small.
Even though he had a hard time leaving the booth because of a steady stream of customers, Soeder managed to buy a lot of inventory for future sale thanks to collectors who came to him.
“I’m very pleased with the show from a buying standpoint and also very pleased from a selling standpoint,” he said. “Sometimes it’s that blend of buying and selling that makes for a good show. “
In addition to major stars, Soeder also had plenty of collectors looking to fill out sets. Like many dealers, he could have used more 1966 and 1967 Topps short print high numbers. “Everyone wants them. There are about a dozen in each year that everybody wants. You can find a book price on them but the real value is actually about three or four times that. If someone is collecting one of those sets, they feel real good about it until they get to about a dozen cards left. It’s not Mantle. It’s Grant Jackson from 1966.”
A successful NSCC event can mean a successful year. The show’s length and dealer-to-dealer transactions in the 24 hours leading up to the Wednesday night sneak peek mean plenty of opportunities to make the sizable investment in booth fees, hotels, meals and other expenses worthwhile. Soeder said shows offer a personal connection.
“The most important and the most fun part, though, is just meeting the people,” said Soeder. “Putting a face to a name you sold to on eBay. It’s a lot of fun.”