They’ll come by plane, by car and some maybe by bus or train. They will come in all shapes, sizes and ages. Some will wear jerseys. Some will carry briefcases. They’ve booked the majority of the hotel rooms near the big gray edifice known as the Stephens Convention Center.
Some will stay for a day, others will hang around for a couple of days then see some sights while others will be there for all five and wish it could have been longer. A few will arrive a day or two early and talk business or meet with customers who have big collections to sell.
The National Sports Collectors Convention, which opens Wednesday afternoon and runs through Sunday, is a drawing card. The show provides undeniable proof that collecting sports cards and other stuff is not “dead” as some articles from misguided reporters sometimes lead outsiders to believe. Millions of dollars will change hands before, during and after the show.
It’s not exactly the same as it was 25 years ago but what is? Habits change. Business changes. Interests change. Diversity in how we participate in the hobby was bound to happen. The major demographic on the main floor is still a lot of middle aged guys but the reality is it always has been.
Sports and the search for connections to the games remain just as strong and many prefer to make those connections in person. The show gives them a chance to do that. Maybe not as many connect to their favorite sports through cards and memorabilia because of the electronic revolution that we’re in but many still do and the hobby is also gaining back some of those kids who grew up during the ‘boom’ of the early 1990s, which is a huge development.
In fact, the enthusiasm for the National makes you think there’s a demand for more shows, decent sized affairs that allow you to thumb through cards rather than look at pages of listings on a computer screen. There used to be a lot of them.
We’ve seen some new and revitalized shows become successes in different parts of the country on a smaller scale, even in markets not necessarily considered collecting hotbeds.
I’m not saying it’s easy. Just saying good shows are still an important part of being a collector. You won’t spend money on gas or hotels or parking on the internet, but you miss out on the ‘experience’ of the show and it’s not dumb to say there’s value in that. It’s hard to do a lot of negotiating online and part of the fun at a show is that you can actually do that, sometimes in a matter of seconds.
There’s no show quite like the National for sheer size. You simply can’t see it all in a day as we’ve pointed out in a couple of ‘tips’ stories we’ve run in the past. It’d be hard for another promoter to duplicate that but even a show that’s one-third as big is worth going to. Some are trying but they’d best understand that a good show isn’t just about autograph guests. The dealers are the real stars; the ones who bring the cards and programs and tickets and autographs. Advertise well, bring in honest dealers with good material and make attending affordable and you’ve got a chance. As much fun as the National is for collectors, it’s only once a year. I’d be nice to see the card companies be accessible and hold court across the country during the course of a year, too.
For now, though, it’s all about those five days at the 36th National. Once again, I’ll be in Chicago (and so will Rich Klein). We’ll show you sights and sounds, serving up some stories starting Wednesday night and running through the weekend and beyond. Follow Sports Collectors Daily on Twitter and Facebook during the day and if you see something we should know about before, during or after the show, don’t hesitate to let us know ([email protected]). If you’re in business and interested in connecting with us, drop me a note.
You can’t be all business at a show like this, though. I’ll be participating in a special event on the main stage Wednesday with some other media types and we’ll have a ‘break’ for some great signed jerseys (we’ll give away whatever I win). I’m bringing a want list and I’ll be hopefully knocking off a few vintage cards while I’m there because if you’re a collector looking for something and you can’t find it at the National, it might not exist.