The National is unlike any other show in the country. The best card dealers are there. All the auction houses are there. Dozens of card-related companies are there. Those that attend are there to spend money. My sales are ALWAYS good, no matter what is going on in the hobby or the economy or the world. I freakin’ love the National!!
For me, preparation for the National begins the day after the previous National ends. I buy, price and hoard cards all year long, specifically for the National. For my set up back in the day, I would bring out both binders and display cases but after one of my binders was stolen at the 2010 National, I now just bring out display cases.
The last two Nationals were my best ever. I did not know what to expect for the 2023 National. The monthly shows I have attended in 2023 have not been nearly as strong as those from 2022. I had some concerns going into this year’s National. I was also worried about our booth's location in a room new to the 2023 National. With the new room, this appeared to be the largest National ever.
I had built up some nice inventory prior to this year's National. I had more graded T206’s than I ever had before. I also recently picked up a near set of 1950 Bowman baseball and 1955 Topps baseball. I had been working on beefing up my basketball and hockey stars as well. I felt like I had an impressive inventory for this year’s National.
With my health ailing, I took the weekend prior to the National off from setting up at shows. I felt I needed to rest up for the grueling week ahead. I worked my day job Monday and Tuesday then woke up Wednesday morning, took my meds, then had to sit on the pot for a while. Sometimes my meds don’t allow me to leave the house.
So I got a late start. It was hotter than Hermes that morning as I loaded up my car. I made it to Rosemont around 10:15 a.m. I was supposed to meet Dave at 9:45 a.m. I would have called Dave to let him know I was running late but he is the last human on the planet without a cell phone.
First order of business was obtaining my dealer badge — which is always a problem. Last year in Atlantic City, I had received a packet from the promoters stating that badges would be available in the lobby. I advised Dave to park at the loading dock and I would go to the lobby and get the badges. Dave declined my advice and parked below the venue in the parking garage and we seemingly walked all day to find the lobby and the booth where the badges were supposed to be located. At the booth we were informed that the badges were at the loading dock. So we walked another few miles back to Dave’s car and drove to the loading dock where we found a line of cars waiting to get into a tiny space to unload. I advised Dave to double park and I would jump out and get the badges. Once Dave double parked, a security guard began screaming at us to move the car back to the end of the line of cars.
We did what we were told then had to wait our turn to get into the tiny loading dock to obtain our badges and load in. Who designs a freakin’ convention center with just one tiny loading dock? Dave and I wasted most of that first day of the show in Atlantic City trying to obtain our dealer badges and loading in.
Thankfully, the Stephens Center has a good dozen loading docks. Say what you will about that place but it is the easiest of all the large venues for load in and load out. So, I parked by a loading dock on the north side of the building like I have done for years at the National in Rosemont. Same problem each year, though. The security guard sitting at the loading dock will not let me enter without my dealer badge. So I had to walk all the way around to the front in searing heat to obtain my dealer badge. That was tough because I wasn’t feeling well due to my meds, diabetes and the heavy heat. It has been a mild summer in the Chicago area up until the National. Figures.
After obtaining the badges, I walked the huge lobby looking for Dave. No Dave. So I went back to the north loading dock for the first of two loads.
With that first load, I walked a good 15 or 20 minutes before I found the booth in the new section over by the TriStar Autograph Pavilion. The booth was quite a hike from the north loading dock. I would have to figure out a better way to load out when the show ended.
Anyway, Dave and Jim Colias were waiting for me at the booth. Dave was pissed that I was so late. I was pissed because I felt like shit, didn’t like the hassle of obtaining the badges, was sweating buckets from pushing my cart all over the building in search of the booth, had wanted to call Dave but he does not have a cell phone, then spent valuable energy looking for him all over the lobby.
Dave and I almost came to blows. I was ready to knock him out. We had issues the whole time in Atlantic City last year and I was not going to put up with his shit this year at all. Jim looked at me while I was shouting at Dave and took off. I was angry. Though, we both eventually calmed down and got along fine for the rest of the week.
I had two booths this year and split them with Dave, Scott Z. and PJ. Over the years, Dave, PJ and I have rotated being the one in charge of obtaining the booth. I was in charge this year. Being in charge is a real hassle because I had just gotten into it with Dave over his badge then needed to meet Scott and PJ separately to give them their dealer badges. I just finished my second and final load in when PJ texted.
I observed that our booth was located near the front of the building by the circle drive. I advised PJ to double park and load in from the circle drive. We met in the circle drive where he was smoking a cigarette and I gave him his badge. As I was about to head out to move my car, Scott called. I advised that he, too, double park in the circle drive and load in from there. I met Scott and his dad Jim out there and gave them their badges then went to move my car.
The walk from the parking lot to the convention center seems like miles. I had a really tough time with it, largely due to the heat. When I made it back to the booth, I was hurting and had to sit for a spell before I was able to start setting up. The first day of the National is always a ball buster and this year seemed especially difficult. Making things worse was the lack of air conditioning in the building. WTF?
I was sweating bad and struggled to set up. In the middle of set up, I had to stop and go out to meet Mike S., who, prior to the show, had asked that I obtain a dealer badge for him. I went out to the lobby and met Mike, who was very appreciative. I was hurting. I was ready to pass out by the time I finished setting up. No rest for the weary because there were already folks looking at my stuff, even though VIP early entrance was scheduled for much later that afternoon. I started to sell cards and did not stop selling cards until 5 p.m. on Sunday. The National is a grueling marathon. Mike brought me a bottle of water which about saved me from passing out.
I waited for a lull at the booth then went out in search of caffein. I found a taco stand nearby and purchased three tacos and a Diet Pepsi. Oh, that was what the doctor ordered. I felt much better with some food in my belly and Pepsi flowing in. Customers continued to visit the booth. To a man, they all sat there on their phones looking up comps. I made a few sales.
The air conditioning kicked in when the VIPers were let into the building. Apparently, the VIP crowd was herded upstairs above our booth then let in down some escalators along the wall, near the booth. Within minutes, it was a mob scene. Earlier, I had worried that the location of the booth would hurt sales but was pleasantly surprised to see mass crowds come down those escalators all week long. We were buried in a sea of people just about every day.
When the hoards arrived, out came the phones then out came the whiney complaints claiming my pricing was above comps. Let’s talk about comps. For the uninitiated, “comps” means the latest online sale. This whole “comp” thing is a recent addition to the hobby. I am not sure when this started but it was created by the modern guys at least four or five years ago and has now sunk into the vintage market.
The problem, as I see it, is that there are so many variables involved in pricing and selling a vintage card that no matter what the “comp” appears to be, it is never quite accurate. For one, there is always a huge range in recent sold prices. Then when looking for a “comp” of a raw vintage card, those whiners never consider the difference in condition to their “comp.” If a “comp” is lower than my pricing, it is usually because the card is in much lower grade. The whiners never show you the higher “comp,” it is always the lowest. Do they honestly think I do not look at the “comps” as well. I am fully aware of the range in pricing for every card, so their whiney “comp” arguments never hold water with me because I have seen the comps that are higher than my pricing. I always price my cards in the middle, not too low and not too high. I know my pricing is reasonable.
Seems like I spent the whole day on Wednesday declining low-ball offers on my cards based on supposed comps. I would rather keep the cards than give them away to these knuckleheads. They don’t get any points for shoving their phones in my face and showing me the lowest sale they could find in an attempt to sway me to give my stuff away for peanuts. Not going to happen.
Then there were a lot of folks offering cards to sell. To a man, they were priced way over comps or what I could possibly resell the cards for. I declined every card offered. One guy pulled out a stack of 1950’s and 1960’s star cards. There were some big names in there like Mantle, Mays, Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams and the like. However, all of the cards were either miscut or terribly off-center. I analyzed the guy’s 1967 Topps Mickey Mantle that was terribly miscut. Seemed to me that the card was trimmed. When I mentioned it, the guy became really defensive and started throwing a whole bunch of BS at me. I have seen it all before. I thanked the guy for showing me his cards and suggested he shop them around. He seemed offended that I would not purchase his trimmed cards. Sorry buddy.
After the VIPers were let in, around 3 p.m., the rest of the day flew by. That 8 p.m. closing time hit me over the head like a hammer. I was not ready for it. I was busy with the comp folks. Busy chatting with all the friendly faces that appeared at my booth. I saw tons of folks I knew from all over the country — which is the best part of the National. I love it when someone randomly approaches my booth and mentions that they are a fan of this blog. Thanks guys!
The coolest experience of the day was meeting Dylan Kosh, who told me his father is Adam Kosh, one of my best friend’s from childhood. Adam grew up in the house almost just behind mine in beautiful Northbrook, Illinois. I met him when I was four years old at the Wildwood Nursery School. By age six, Adam and a kid named John Rice, and I played whiffle ball every day on John’s front lawn. We also spent a lot of time playing basketball on Adam’s driveway. As we aged, we would shag fly balls in the street in front of my house. When we reached the age of 8, all three of us collected baseball cards and would walk down to the neighborhood pharmacy together to purchase cards, then walk back to either one of our houses, open the packs and trade. By age 10, we played on the same little league team. At age 12, we attended card shows together. Those were glorious days. Some of the best I ever had. I really miss the 1970's.
I still live near Adam and see him occasionally. John lives out in Vegas and I have not seen him in years. I had never met Dylan before today and was so pleased to meet him. Adam also has two daughters, one of whom is married. Dylan was accompanied by his brother in-law. Nice kid too.
I was in a much better mood at the end of the day Wednesday than I was to start the day. But, man, was I tired! Did I say that the first day of the National is a killer!
Let’s see if I can remember all the great folks I saw on Wednesday. I saw Jeff T., who said he was set up with Dell. There was Andy from Orlando. I saw Mike Johnson while I was loading in. He looked like he was struggling with the heat as well. I saw quite a few folks I know from the Orland show like Derek and some others. I met Record Store Steve’s son. I had seen him at the Orland show but never actually met him.
I saw this one guy I met years ago at the Fred Copp shows. He was regular with his wife. Of course, I can’t remember his name. I saw Mike from Cleveland. Quite a few guys recognized me from the Strongsville show. I saw my pals John and Mike, who promote the Rockford and Janesville shows.
I observed that all the OBC guys seemed to have updated their gear. Some of those older hats and shirts were starting to get ratty. The new hats look nice. I saw a large number of Wisconsin people like Al, Jack, Jim, big Nelson and many, many others. Lowball Lonnie from Indiana was there and actually purchased a card. Of course, he tried to lowball me on it but I would not budge and he eventually paid my price.
There was a huge contingency of folks from the St. Louis area. Seemed like everyone was looking for Red Schoendienst and Enos Slaughter cards. Quite a few folks asked if I had any Kellogg’s cards. Seemed like the number one request was for National Chicle football cards from the 1930’s. Of course there was the obligatory requests for Cobb and Ruth. There was also a large contingency of Cleveland collectors looking for Jim Brown.
I met folks from all over the country from places like L.A., Houston, Colorado Springs, Arkansas, Oklahoma, many people from Minnesota (I sold all my Harmon Killebrews), Iowa, Louisiana, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Nashville, Michigan, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh (I sold all of my Roberto Clementes), Florida, and Georgia. The National is truly a “National” event.
After the show on Wednesday, Jim Z. offered to buy me dinner. I chose my go-to late-night place, the Omega Diner in nearby Niles. We had a nice meal at the Omega. I went with a patty melt. Scott had chicken parmesan. Jim had fish and chips. The Omega is always solid.
After dinner, we went back to my place. The wife had put some bedding and pillows on some couches for Scott and Jim, who were spending the night. They wanted to go down into the card bunker but I was too embarrassed to take them down there. It is just a mess. I need to stop buying cards. You can’t even walk around the bunker these days.
I popped my bedtime meds and hit the sack around 11 p.m. I had a hard time falling asleep. I was too wired from the first day of the show. It was a rough night.
Anyway, the first day of the National was a wrap. Sales were slow, despite a really large crowd. Dave seemed to do okay. It looked like Scott was busy. PJ said he had his best day at the National ever. I am not sure why my sales were so lousy. I'm not sure what I could do differently to spur sales. Dave said the first day of the National is always his best. Scott said the first and last days are always his worst. I do not have a pattern. It is different each year. I was really surprised that my sales were poor but not discouraged.
I owe you a bunch more blogs on the National. Before I provide more blogs, I just want to remind you that the Oak Creek show is coming up this Saturday, August 5, 2023, at the Salvation Army Community Center, 8853 S. Howell, Oak Creek, WI. I have sold out all 180 tables and am adding new dealers to my waiting list. This should be a great show! Shawn is back with his unopened wax from the 1970’s. Big Tommy Larson is setting up with all his Ruths, Gehrigs, Cobbs and Mantles. Come on out!!
Pictured below are some scenes around the booth before the mass hoards were allowed into the building. It was the quiet before the storm.