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2012 National Sports Collectors Convention
Sunday, August 5, 2012
Posted by jaygross
Comments: 2

This week I made the trip to the National Sports Caollectors Convention in Baltimore. I would up attending on Thurday and Friday. It was my 3rd National, as I went in Cleveland in 2007 and Baltimore in 2010. My usual partner in crime Darrin couldn't make this one, so it was a little bit of a different experience.

I drove down Wednesday night and checked into the Renassaince Harborplace hotel, which turned out to be really nice and conveniently located to most of the Inner Harbor's key attractions.


I wound up meeting up with Carl (pooh528) a little early and we went in as soon as the doors opened. Since we both primarily were there to get signed cards for our projects, we walked around looking for a specific few dealers we knew would be there.

Thursday wound up being the lighter buying day, where I'd try to get a good look around and see what was there. The room is pretty huge and had 23 aisles, so we decided to start in the back worked our way forward. I heard another person mention that the show was like a museum but everything is for sale. There were some amazing items - the famous Black Swamp find, loads of amazing turn of the century cards , jerseys, and of course some serious autographs. Right away I saw an off-condition, but not terrible T202 Walter Johnson selling for $50, but I resisted. One of the most amazing item for me was the watch they gave Walter Johnson for being a member of the first Hall of Fame class along with a picture and the a nice write up. The signed 1952 Topps Mantle and Mays weren't too bad either.

So before I get into anything I bought, the absolute highlight was meeting a bunch of our members. You guys are what makes the site and bring me a ton of enjoyment.

It was really cool when I get to see members meet in person and realize that they have made multiple transactions or helped each other. This happened when I introduced Carl to Phil (philendris). I saw quite a few times that people would buy more items for members who could not attend the show than for themselves.

On our message board I suggested that members meet up by the food area. I thought it would work out well as there was only one food area in that room in 2010, but there were about 6 in 2012. There were 6 of us at the Center Market at 2pm. If you were looking for us at one of the other areas, I am really sorry. We'll be much better prepared next time. I promise.

My first purchasing spot was at Mainline Autographs. I've blogged about them before, they have A LOT of signed cards in binders to look through. Jim, the owner, is always a really ice guy. I started with the basketball book and pulled out the Ray Allen and Steve Nash rookies, along with the Bill Gullickson I need for my 1986 Topps set.

As I am looking through Mainline's stuff, I get to talking to another guy working also on the 1990 Pro Set Hockey. As often the case at their table at the National, I find out he is a member of the site - Jason (mjbujaky). He tells me that I need to check out the City-Liquidators booth, as they have a ton of 1989 Hoops signed cards and they may have one I need.

So he takes me over and sure enough they have 2 full monster boxes of signed 1987-1991 basketball cards in Card Savers - priced at 4 for $10. About half way through the first box, I find the 1989 Hoops John Williams (for the Bullets) that I have been wanting for about 20 years. I also pulled a few upgrades for set (David Rivers, Pat Cummings, Kevin Willis, Gary Grant). I ran out of energy and patience, but City-Liquidators had a ton more of signed cards from the other sports in the same price point. So I am now down to 5 I need for my set - and I will find you Allen Leavell and Sylvester Gray.

At the 2010 National, Darrin and I found Ron Gordon and bought quite a bit of signed 1950's and 1960's cards of FB Hall of Famers. This year I wasn't quite as into his selection and some of his prices had gone up. I did manage to pick up a signed 1972 Topps Ted Hendricks rookie for $10.


Before the show, I went to have breakfast at the hotel. And I only mention this, because sitting a few tables away was James Worthy drinking his coffee and looking extremely tired. I wasn't going to bother him, as I already have his autograph and I am a Celtic fan after all. But I thought it was pretty cool.

I got to the show and Friday was going to be a bigger purchasing day. I started the day thumbing through a monster box full autographs I had noticed the day before, and picked up 9 upgrades for my 1992 Pro Line Football set. That was the extent of my autograph buying for the show.

It's amazing how dealers had the same kinds of cards 1950's-1970's baseball/football cards, carefully sorted and displayed in cases or binders. The vast majority looking for retail prices, and it still amazes me that people (mostly putting together unsinged sets) routinely pay those prices.

Since I have been looking deeply at a lot of data from the sports card market with, I figured this show would be a great place to put it to good use. I am specifically looking for items that are below a specific price point, have strong elasticity, and meet my targeted rate of sales.

So I spent some time digging through various bargain and dollar boxes. I found some nice items, like thes HOF Rookies:
  • 1964 Topps Tony LaRussa for $1
  • 1964 Philadelphia Willie Brown For $1
  • 1973 Topps Bob McAdoo for $0.50
  • 1974 Topps Lanny McDonald for $0.50

    At about 2:30, I noticed a table with some boxes full cards marked $1 each. I plowed through probably 25,000 cards mixed of all sports/years and picked out about 50 (I should have bought more). I wound up paying about $0.60 each, and the scans below are the highlights. The 1963 Topps Bob Lilly is the key item - as I have been bidding (and losing) on it for about 2 years, as even off condition examples always sell for over $50.

    Observations / Conclusions
    1. The National is a collecting experience like no other. There is something for everyone there and tons of stuff I'll only ever get to see there.

    2. The show is HUGE and there is no chance I could have enjoyed it as much in one day. There are deals to be had if you know what to look for and you are able to find them.

    3. SCN has grown into something SO special. More than I could have ever imagined initially. It's such a great group of passionate folks who really enjoy the hobby and helping other collectors. I appreciate all the positive feedback and constructive suggestions/complaints I heard over these 2 days.

    4. This was the first card show where I noticed just how many were connected with iPads and smart phones. I saw so many people looking up prices and looking at wantlists during the show. This was the first time I can remember where the Beckett Price Guide was not on most every card dealer's table. I even saw SportsCardDatabase on quite a few of those devices.

    5. Although I have little interest, there's plenty of people looking for newer cards. Seemed like the guys selling affordable Jersey and Insert Autographs were popular.

    6. Grading is just so big. You'd see slabbed cards everywhere (mostly PSA) and the lines at the authenticators' tables were somewhat unbelievable.

    7. There weren't many pre -1970 hockey cards, I seem to find this stuff better online that at any shows in the US. There were tons of 1970's and 1980's stuff there.

    8. Next year is in Chicago, and I hope to find a way to go next year.

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