by Jim Rogers
The National Sports Collectors Convention opened Wednesday in Baltimore with a Sneak Peek for the collecting public. I had heard for years that you just can’t believe it until you see it. So, I walked into the show with a preconceived idea of the quality and quantity of items that I would get to see.
I wasn’t disappointed.
After entering the show, I ended up in the longest line in the Baltimore Convention Center, the line for the Topps Wrapper Redemption promotion for the Stephen Strasburg Heritage rookie cards that are numbered to 999. Number 1 of 999 sold for over $800 via a charity auction on eBay about a week ago. I think I was about the 95th person in line, and only 100 cards were being distributed on the first day. This was the single most talked about item in the first day of the National.
Soon after getting into the Topps line, my son and I were conversing with a really nice gentleman in line in front of us. He commented that he liked the photo on my son’s VIP package badge. The badges highlight some of the most noted collectors on the PSA Set Registry. The man that we were talking to was the man who owns one of the finest card collections in the world, Mr. Donald Spence. The National badges we were wearing pictured Don and his wife with some of the prizes of his collection. Soon, he shared a small yet unbelievable array of cards that included PSA graded copies of the t206 Honus Wagner, the t206 Eddie Plank, the t206 Joe Doyle NY Natl, and the t206 Magie error. Within an hour of arriving at the National I had held the most important four cards in the hobby’s most storied set. I guess it really doesn’t get any better that in the area of vintage baseball cards.
One reason that the National draws such large crowds each year is the opportunity to obtain so many autographs in one spot. While VIPs were dining on quesadillas, spring rolls, and pizza reception hosted by Beckett Media, the lines for autographs for Mike Boddicker and Lydell Mitchell circled the room. There were many people that I spoke to in the VIP reception who were there strictly for the autographs. The lines were long for many of the guests, but it seemed that everyone expecting an autograph was getting one.
After waiting in lines for a couple of hours for the Strasburg card and to obtain a few autographs, I decided to hit the show floor to see what was available. Where does a sports collector start on a show floor of this magnitude? Some things that caught my eye included an SGC 70/5.5 Turkey Red of Ty Cobb, an autographed, game-used Mickey Mantle jersey, a lot of vintage cards up for auction that included an e90-1 Joe Jackson and a tremendous grouping of 1932 U.S. Caramel cards, multiple pennants, a variety of autographed items, a table full of football top notch jersey and autographed inserts, Pete Maravich’s game-used jersey and gigantic Shaquille O’Neal’s shoe. The quality and quantity of items available at this event is literally mind-boggling.
Overall, the crowd was not bad for the Sneak Peek. It seemed that show-goers had plenty of time to get to talk to the dealers about the items that they had available. Dealers remarked that they were glad that they had the opportunity, before the doors opened, to thoroughly set up their displays, get items graded and authenticated by the professional graders at the show, mail items to their customers, and have the opportunity to talk with and work out deals with other dealers.
My general feelings about the National, based on the Sneak Peek were as follows: 1) the event was well organized and handled professionally, 2) the corporate booths included every notable company in the industry today, 3) there was a great cross-section of dealers with a wide variety of items available, and 4) most of the people at the show were pleasant and friendly.
I left the Convention Center to join some friends for dinner across the street at the Pratt Street Ale House. As I was walking out of the building, I was excited to know that I had four more days to spend at this spectacle.
Jim Rogers is a collector who lives in North Carolina