While I was flipping through channels last week, I saw a story about how yet another casino was going to close in Atlantic City by the end of the year. To the credit of the CNBC anchor at the desk, his first comment was that because of the 11,000 people who had recently lost their positions between all the casino closings, this was a human tragedy more than a business tragedy. But I started wondering if what’s happening there is going to have other effects on events in Atlantic City which include the 2016 National Sports Collectors Convention.
As many long-time collectors realize, the National Convention has always had difficulty having conventions in the Boston to Washington megalopolis despite that being the area where so many collectors and dealers are based. I can speak on that quite honestly, as we just had a weekend with two shows in the DFW area and we might have had 75 total tables sold whereas the shows run by J.P. Sports at the Westchester County Center (which used to be the Gloria Rothstein shows), are held several times a year with at least 100 tables. Heck, even the Garfield, N.J. shows run by good friend Gary Sipos have more than 50 tables and he reports selling out at a rate approaching 90 percent in 2014. And his shows are held far more often than our DFW shows.
So with all that, there is little doubt the people who run the National truly want to have a place on the East Coast to run shows. If the show becomes easier for the dealers and collectors in the country’s population centers to drive to, and with a great critical mass of both potentially on hand, it would seem like a win-win for collectors.
However, the National history does say Atlantic City has never been the best place to have a National. Look, Atlantic City was always my parents’ favorite quick trip vacation. In fact, in 1988, I was able to get both my mom and dad to help at the National by paying for their drive down to Atlantic City. I stayed an extra day on vacation as well. However, if the trend continues with the hotel/casino industry, who knows what the area will look like in 18 months?
Having grown up in a place where I could drive to Atlantic City, I understand first hand the difference of driving rather than flying to the show. Atlantic City is harder than many NSCC locations to get to by air and unless you’re in the east coast, it’s not a picnic to drive there, either. Many dealers and collectors will be flying in and thus need a way to get their goods there with them. And, unless travel has improved, Atlantic City is a difficult place to make a direct connection. Also, there may not be enough hotels within easy walking distance of the show. To me that is also a drawback in Cleveland in that you need a car to get just about anywhere from the convention center. But now, with Atlantic City’s struggles, is this a place we really want our National to be?
I wish there was a way we could return to Baltimore for 2016 or even to one of the myriad Philadelphia suburban area convention centers. I wonder if the Valley Forge or the Fort Washington Expo Center can handle the National as both of those are better locations. And I’m even in favor of hopefully finding a way back to Anaheim as at least there are tons of hotels and places to go to within walking distance of the convention center and obviously, plenty to do nearby. Of course, the Baltimore location is pretty decent as well as train service lets you commute from New York in about an hour.
The previous two Atlantic City Nationals (1988 and 2003) were not as good as other hobby nationals around that time. While I’m not involved in any of the business decisions and this issue is not mine to judge, I think the National would be far better off leaving Atlantic City for 2016 and looking for other options. If the show is not moved, we might get to answer this question: what if they held a National and no one came? And did I mention about the traffic nightmare that sometimes ensues while entering and leaving Atlantic City? It’s just my opinion, but if I were running the National, I’d take a quick vote and see where else we could go in 2016.