When the National last visited Rosemont in 2015, I had a really good show and sold a bunch of oddball sets. So I tried to put some sets together for this year's show but did not get it done. I just ran out of time. So now I have all sorts of partial sets that I started to build over the past year. I may have some ready for the November Fanatics show.
As far as my regular updating of the vaunted Fat Daddy binders, my baseball binders from the 1960s are fairly solid. I did not bother to bring my 1970s binders or football and hockey binders. Those books are in desperate need of updating which I hope to get to soon.
I loaded up my car in the a.m. on Wednesday, July 26, 2017, with my 1950s and 1960s baseball binders. I also brought two baseball oddball binders that I made special for this show. There was lots of good stuff in those binders Wednesday morning like 1929 Kashins, 1952 Berk Ross, Red Man's from the 1950s, 1960 Leaf, 1959-1963 Fleer, early 1960s Post and Jello, some 1970 Kelloggs, some 1975 Hostess Twinkies and more. I also had time to put out a near set of 1971-72 Topps basketball along with all of my basketball binders. I also priced some 1949 Bowman baseball which I probably haven't had out since the 2010 National when my cards were stolen. I had a TON of new stuff for my display cases including some oddball stuff like a 1955 Bowman baseball wrapper and a complete ticket to the 1950 All Star game at Comiskey Park. To round it off, I had a couple of autograph binders.
It is a short drive to the Stephen's Center from my house, I arrived around 9 a.m. Tablemate Dave McDonald texted me to go around back for load in. At Gate F I was met by a gentleman I will kindly name Fester, who would not let me bring my car in. I don't know if he works for the Stephens Center or the National but he was a douchebag in the kindest sense of the word. He made me go get my badge and a load-in pass from Dave before I would be allowed to drive into the garage. Once Fester let me in, I was only able to drive about 15 feet into the garage and then had a crazy long walk through the backwoods of the Tri-Star autograph area and the freakin' pack war area before I got to my booth. As usual, there were no carts. The Stephens Center provides large carts for vendors to use for load in and out but the always-courteous national dealers horde them at their booths so only a select few ever get to use them. The Tri-Star people had a bunch of them chained up so us little people had no access. It took me six trips on my handcart which was really tough because I had six card tables, eight display cases along with four bins of cards to bring in. I was ready to pass out once I got all my stuff to the booth.
Speaking of the booth, this was a new location for us because we had a terrible time getting ahold of Megan, the person in charge of the booths. We couldn't get our old spot and were stuck with a booth all the way up against the back wall. I had my concerns prior to the show and again once I actually saw the booth. Props to boothmates Scott and PJ for figuring out how to best utilize all the space in the two booths we reserved. We each ended up with a tremendous amount of space. I was pleased. The only drawback was that I had a very thin aisle into my space. I think for the 2019 show in Rosemont we need to get this same booth and reconfigure slightly so I have a larger aisle.
While Scott and PJ were figuring out the layout, I went and had breakfast in the cafeteria. There was a new cook and he wasn't so good. But I ate my overcooked eggs and bacon and downed an overpriced cup of coffee before I was hailed back to the booth.
It took me an hour or so to set everything up. I wasn't sure how to lay everything out at first and it took some time to figure it out. At first I was going to place my 1949 Bowman and early 1950s Topps binders in the main aisle but the threat of theft popped into my mind and I decided to bury those binders further into the booth. I placed my basketball binders in the main aisle which worked out well because they were consistently hit all week long.
I placed all the binders out then tied them down to the tables which I've done at every big show since being ripped off in 2010. Tying down the binders takes a while. Once completed, I laid out my display cases then filled them up. I ended up with two empty card tables. I filled them up with publications. It was close to noon when I was fully set up.
Not much action at my corner of the booth until the show opened to the public around 3:30 p.m. Dave made some ham sandwiches which were quite good. I had a $4 cold hot dog from the concession stand and purchased quite a few $3 diet Cokes. Sales were disappointing on the first day of the National. I had a much better first day back in 2015, when I last set up. Though I really liked our new spot which had great lighting thanks to an extra layer of lights belonging to a closed up concession stand right behind our booth.
I also did not buy a thing on the first day. Nobody brought me anything. I walked a few rows and did not find anything I could purchase for resale. Though, I was blown away by the booths filled with 1914-15 Cracker Jacks, T206s, and I don't know how many dozens of '52 Mantles I saw. Gizmo had his usual cool table of Mantles.
At 8 p.m. they shut the lights off, signaling the end of the first day. Me, Scott and his dad Jim walked to the CTA lot to get our cars. You can park in the CTA lot for $7, as opposed to $15 at the convention center. Scott and Jim followed me back toward my house. We stopped off at Super Dawg for a bite to eat. Scott and Jim, who live in the Milwaukee area, spent the night at my place. We talked cards for a few hours before hitting the sack.
I was up bright and early and in a suit and tie because I had a child support case up in court in Downtown Chicago. Jim agreed to cover my booth while I was in court. The judge did not show up and it took me an hour to get opposing counsel and the guardian ad litem to agree on a date to continue the case. I made it back to Rosemont around 11:30 a.m. It sucked that I had to spend the rest of the day in a suit. I have had to wear a tie most every day since I graduated college in 1990 but I have never been comfortable in one.
Jim was concerned that he did not sell much for me. I was not concerned at all, instead, I was happy that he was able to watch my stuff for me while I was dealing with my court case. I ate another one of Dave's ham sandwiches and sales started to heat up. I had a nice steady flow of OBC guys all week long. Oddly, quite a few of the OBC guys that ignored my table at the April Strongsville show made quite a few purchases from me on Thursday, July 27, 2017, at the National.
One guy bought just about all of my 1975 Hostess Twinkies and also purchased my 1955 Bowman baseball card wrapper. Another hit my 1960 Leafs pretty hard. Several others came by and purchased some basketball cards. I had a few guys check out my 1948 Leaf Stan Musial. A father and son team ended up purchasing it near the end of the day. Others came back as well to look at it for a second time after the team purchased the card. I walked around the room enough to know that I was one of the more reasonably priced vendors in the room, so those guys that came back looking for a card a second time were regularly disappointed because my cards were selling at a steady pace.
I brought my cheapy boxes on Thursday because I flat out forget to bring them on Wednesday. I had plenty of space for them and ended up selling some cards.
Late in the afternoon, I ventured away from my booth and hit a few more aisles and purchased some wax from Dave and Adam's to give out at my August 5th show at the Clarion in Milwaukee. There were only five or six wax dealers. I felt Dave and Adam had the best prices. I was concerned that I would not buy any vintage at the show. So when Corky came by with a box of cards, I was quick to buy it and probably overpaid. Though I was having a good day selling cards and the money was burning a hole in my pocket, so I was happy the buy some cards. There were quite a few Bulldog Turners in the box and a 1950 Bowman Luke Appling, as highlights.
At 6 p.m. the lights went out. I then went over to the Rivers Casino with PJ, Gary and Dennis. It was my first time at Rivers Casino and I was impressed. It is much larger inside than it looks from the 294 Expressway when I drive by. We went to the $30 buffet which was worth every penny. Very impressive. I dined on broasted chicken, prime rib, lamb, and assorted veggies. I then topped it off with a "Chocolate Bomb" from the expansive dessert area. The bomb consisted of a tiny base of chocolate cake, with a tube of chocolate mousse on top and covered in hard chocolate frosting. Oh, man, was that thing good!
Afterwards, it was off to the casino. I played a few slots then video poker for a few hours. Around 10:15 p.m. my eyes were closing and I sucked up my losses, about 30 bucks and headed for home. Dennis won like 300 bucks.
On Friday, July 28, 2017, I stopped for gas and picked up some diet Mountain Dews before heading to Rosemont. My good friend Tony Schaefer got my day off to a nice start with a substantial purchase of cards. Thanks Tony! Good sales continued with the sale of my 1950 All Star game ticket and quite a few more 1960 Leafs, and just about all of my 1952 Berk Ross. Basketball cards were steady sellers as well both from the binders and stars from my cases. Friday was my best day sales wise.
Once again, when the lights went off at 6 p.m., I was off to the casino. I arrived before the other guys and sat down at one of the slot machines and lost 20 bucks in what seemed like seconds. I then set out to find one of the older type, less complicated, video poker machines. I put in 20 bucks and played for a while. I received a text from Gary letting me know everyone was at the buffet. I decided to play one more game. I made the max bet and hit four of a kind. The machine gave me $457. I was shocked. I showed the guys my winnings and was greeted by handshakes all around.
I went into the buffet feeling pretty good but was then disappointed when I observed the exact same food spread as I did the day before. I expected a little bit of a change. Though, I dined on items I didn't get to the day before like hot links, BBQ ribs, jumbalaya, and a grouping of Chinese food. Tasty stuff. This time I got the Tiramasu from the dessert area. It was delicious.
I debated on taking my $457 and getting out of Dodge but ended up back at video poker. PJ came by around 10:15 p.m. to let me know he was heading back to his hotel. I decided this was a good time to go as well. I was up another $80 and cashed out and was happy to have won over $500 at the casino.
I was back behind the booth Saturday morning where an oddball of a guy was lingering around. He was a middle aged guy who looked like most every other guy at the show. He got my attention when he was at my quarter box and I saw his left hand go from the box to his pocket in rapid fire succession. I then watched him take the cards out of the Card Savers in my 50-cent box. He stuck the empty card savers in the back of the box. I walked over and told him to leave the cards in the card savers. He got real nervous. He was definitely up to something. He was either stealing cards or was going to try and tell me that the 50-centers he took out of their sleaves were quarter cards. While this was happening, I tried to let Dave know so I could have a second set of eyes on the guy. Dave just couldn't believe a guy would steal quarter and 50-cent cards. Yet, it is those cards that generally get stolen from me. I never try to figure out a thief's logic, I just watch them and try to keep the theft to a minimum. I'm guessing this guy stole about $5 worth of cards -- not enough for me to demand he empty his pockets. I am concerned that he stole from PJ and Scott as well because he was lingering around their stuff for a while.
Oddly, I did not hear of any stories of theft at the show which is unusual at the National where theft is usually rampant. This is one of those "no news is good news" situations.
Saturday had the largest crowd, though, the crowd was steady all week long. Sales were down from Thursday and Friday but not as bad as Wednesday. I sold my 1954 Bowman Mantle. One more sale like that would have made it a good day but that other big sale never showed up. There were quite a few little sales.
I walked the room some more. There were definitely a lesser amount of dealer booths than in 2015. The "pack war" area was larger. I honestly could do without the Topps booth and the noise that accompanies. I also observed that there were a lot less guys selling vintage singles than usual. The show has become really fractured with a large autograph area, the pack war area, the corporate area, the multitudes of auction houses and the fractured booths selling vintage, modern, memorabilia, autos, man-cave items and the assorted artists. I really think the time has come for the National to move into a different venue, one that has maybe several different ballrooms where you could divide all this stuff up. One room for autos, one room for pack wars, one corporate room, one room for modern and one room for vintage. I think my sales would improve if customers did not have to wade through all the other distractions in the room to reach me. Also, did I say I could do without the Topps booth?
I have been to other events in Rosemont where they utilized rooms in the neighboring Hyatt along with the Stephens Center. I would think that most of my customers are not the ones waiting in a long line for a few free packs of cards from Topps. Those lines block customers from the smaller booths like mine. Why not put all the vintage vendors in the ballroom at the Hyatt and leave all the other stuff in the Stephens Center? All I am saying is that there is room to improve this show.
I prefer to have my booth located with other vintage dealers. There were no other vintage dealers around us. We had a group of modern guys across from us, a golf guy next to us, a bunch of man-cave guys nearby, and other inconsequential booths. Some might say that works in my favor as less competition. Au contraire, the uninitiated or inexperienced dealer may prefer to be located on an island away from the masses. I, on the other hand, have learned over the years that so-called competition is no competition at all and is actually quite beneficial. I know some long-time dealers won't be pleased with what I am about to reveal, they would rather keep those close-minded blind dealers in the dark. The truth of the matter is that the key to being a successful dealer is to network. It is that simple. Your sales increase when you network with other dealers. So I always want to be by other vintage dealers because they may offer me something to purchase or they may purchase my cards. They may also send customers my way and I will send customers their way. I have had shows where my entire success came from other dealers sending customers my way. I have also had some of my best purchases come from the stock of other dealers as well as some of my best sales have come by other dealers in need of what I have in stock. It is a win-win to be by other vintage dealers. There is no such thing as competition. Those that think that way aren't very good dealers. Some times the secrets to success are so simple.
Unfortunately, at this National, I was no where near another vintage dealer and was unable to add a new person to my network. Thankfully, my network came to me and I was able to purchase quite a few cards this week, including the Corky box, previously mentioned, a 1958 Topps complete set (Thanks John!) and a shoe box of vintage Cubs that included quite a few Ernie Banks cards (Thanks Dell!). If I was located by other vintage dealers, I probably would have purchased more cards and have made much needed contacts.
Anyway, when the lights went off at 6 p.m. on Saturday, I took PJ, Craig and Vinnie over to Russell's Barbecue in Elmood Park. This place has been around for 80 years or so and still gets it done. I've been eating at Russell's my whole life and rarely can get past the BBQ beef sandwich. This time was no exception. The beef sandwich is still darn good. The other guys enjoyed their food as well. I was home by 8 p.m.
I was a late arrival for the last day of the National on Sunday. I went out and got breakfast for my family, also hit Walgreens for more Mountain Dews and some munchies. I could not bring myself to purchase any more overpriced food and drink at the Stephens Center.
I wish I would have vacated the building on Saturday because Sunday was a complete waste of time. Attendance was way down and we did not have much action at our booth the whole day. I spent the day thinking of an exit strategy, as did my boothmates. I think my strategy was the worst. I parked on Bryn Mawr and brought my stuff out through the side door. Even though this path was shorter than load in, and I piled my stuff on the hand cart to reduce my trips from six to four, it still was taxing. I think I tweaked something in my shoulder. I have been in pain ever since. PJ pulled his truck right up to the booth. Scott pulled is truck in as well. Dave made it out in one trip. I made it home by 7 p.m., tired, exhausted and in pain. I had a horribly rough night with shoulder pain. I have been back at work the past three days and am admittedly distracted and slowed.
Looking back on the past week, I really enjoyed the National, even though I like to complain about this or that. It was really fun. Sales and buys were good. I enjoyed talking with friends old and new. Quite a few people stopped by to see me, too many to mention. I really appreciate you! There were times I was trying to talk with five or six people at once. I am sorry I did not get to give everyone the attention I wanted to. I probably will not set up at the National in Cleveland next year. It takes quite a lot of time and effort to set up at the National. I would need at least two extra days off work and away from my family to do Cleveland, so I am leaning against it. Dave and PJ, on the other hand, already booked the show. You never know, I may show up.
In the meantime, I already started working on pricing some 1976 Topps football for my show coming up Saturday, August 5, 2017, at the Clarion Hotel, 5311 S. Howell, in Milwaukee. A lot of my Clarion regulars did not make it to the National and will be seeing my National inventory for the first time. Also of note, I purchased three boxes of wax at the National and one box at the last Orland show. I plan on giving out three packs of cards to attendees to my Clarion show while supplies last. There will also be complimentary doughnuts and coffee. I hope to see everyone Saturday at the Clarion!
Below are some random photos I took at the National.