There is an excitement for the National like no other show. For months it seems like the National was the main topic of conversation at the Midwest card shows I regularly attend. I have to admit that I was pumped up for the show. Unfortunately, I had to put in some work at my real job during the weeks leading up to the show and was unable to prepare for the show as I had hoped. Yet, on Wednesday morning, July 29, 2015, I was ready to go. I was up early, loaded up my car and set out for the Donald Stephens Center in Rosemont, Illinois.
Load in went fairly easy since my booths were located near a large garage door on the side of the convention center. I was all loaded in by 8:30 a.m. I was amazed to see that most of the room was already set up and open for business. There were very few of us loading in on Wednesday morning. I had wanted to load in Tuesday night but was deterred by the $75 early load-in fee. I may have missed some sales by not loading in early.
Set up went quickly because I did not have a whole lot of space. I reserved two booth spaces and split them with three other dealers -- Dave McDonald, Seth Murray and Scott Ziegert. We each had about 12-feet of space. I was able to put out five display cases and 15 binders. I placed a ton of stuff under my tables in case customers were looking for other items. I had one display case, pictured below, filled with completely new items like a 1938 Our National Game Pins complete set, a 1963 Salada Baseball Coins complete set, a 1964 Topps Giants complete set, a 1961 Topps Stamps complete set, World Series ticket stubs from 1971, 1973 and 1963; and several press pins including one from the 1972 baseball All-Star Game in Atlanta, the 1955 baseball All-Star Game in Milwaukee, and the 1979 World Series in Pittsburgh. I also had room to place a 1947 Yankees scorecard and a 1961 World Series program in the case. This case looked cool! Next up, I had a case filled up with pre-war baseball cards. There was another case with 1950s baseball cards. A fourth case with 1960s baseball cards and a 1952 Hawthorn Melody Club of Champs 12-pin set attached to a Hawthorn Melody beanie -- a really cool item, pictured below. In my last case, I placed vintage football and basketball cards. I had priced quite a few cards for the cases before the show, so there was a lot of new stuff in those cases.
I also took some time to bring some cards over to PSA for grading. I had a really hard time finding the PSA booth. This was the largest National I have attended in years. I walked the whole giant room before I found the PSA booth in a large side room that had all the autograph guests, a large stage sponsored by Amazon.com, and dozens of booths for "case-breaking." As a vintage dealer, case-breaking is not something I am interested in. It seems like this activity is for modern collectors and is a relatively new concept. There are all sorts of companies and websites that broadcast live case-breaking. I am not really sure what case-breaking entails other than folks open up packs of cards and get really loud while doing it.
So sitting at the back of all this case-breaking, was the PSA booth. I sat down and joined the collector's club for the first time in years. I rarely bother to get cards graded. I hate grading. I hate the whole concept. It just seems like a big scam to me. I am always amazed the prices that certain graded cards receive at auction. Third-party grading has sent the price of some cards into the stratosphere. It is ridiculous in my book.
As much as I hate grading, I have to join the fray here and there because I know I can sell certain cards for much more money once they get slabbed. I recently picked up three really nice Mickey Mantles (1955 Bowman, 1962 Topps and 1963 Topps) and a really nice 1962 Topps Roger Maris. Nice Mantle cards pretty much need to be graded.
When a customer joins the PSA Collector's Club at the National, the subscription comes with four free grades that are completed during the show. So I dropped off the cards hoping I would receive them sometime on Thursday. I also got a free PSA T-shirt. I love swag! I swiped a few PSA pens to boot.
Back at my booth, there were folks already purchasing cards from Dave, as usual. My first customers of the day were a father and son team that picked up some 1957 Topps baseball cards. My next customer was a Detroit Tigers fan who told me he is stockpiling 1968 Topps Tigers. I did not have any '68s for him. He ended up purchasing a 1956 Topps Frank House, a pitcher for the Tigers.
My next customer casually looked at the Salada and the Giants sets. I thought I was just showing them off but he made a pretty good offer and I took it. They gone! Just like that there was a large infusion of cash into my pocket. Unfortunately, the removal of the sets left a very large gaping hole in one of my display cases just an hour into the show. I replaced the sets with two really cool Sport Magazines from the 1950s. One had a great picture of Jackie Robinson on the cover. The other had an awesome portrait of Mickey Mantle. Those two magazines were real eye-catchers.
Next up was Jason, one of my good customers from Milwaukee. Jason picked up all sorts of stuff including a large pile of cards out of my newly reloaded 1963 Topps baseball binder and some 1934 Diamond Stars including Lefty Grove. My next customer purchased some 1961 Topps baseball cards.
On the buying front, not a whole lot of folks brought stuff over to sell. I was able to purchase a large box of cards filled with 1970, 1971 and 1972 Topps baseball. The cards are mostly commons and low numbers but the condition is really nice.
When that 8 o'clock bell tolled, I was tired. 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. made for a very long day. My wife picked me up and brought the tarps I forgot in the morning. I like to cover my table with tarps at the end of the day. Lisa also brought some tarps to lend to Seth. Lisa parked across the street in the $13 lot. It was slow-moving as usual getting out of that parking lot. Thankfully, I live only a half-hour away from Rosemont. It is really nice when the largest show in the country sets up in my own backyard. I was kind of wired after that long day and did not sleep very well. Though, sales were good so I was in a very good mood. More of my National show report to come soon! In the meantime, enjoy the picture below of one of Dave's display cases.