I dread Saturday at the National because it is Dealer Booth Lottery Day -- a huge drag. First off, I had to be there by 8 a.m., losing an hour of sleep. Secondly, I spent all morning waiting for my number to be called when I could have been at my booth selling cards.
I am not sure when this booth lottery business began. I did not pay attention to it prior to several years ago because it used to be real easy to get a booth at the National. Now, obtaining a booth is like pulling teeth.
This is how the booth lottery works: each dealer is assigned a number based on the number of times they have reserved a booth at the National. My friend Tom Daniels is a Priority 43 because he has reserved a booth at all 43 Nationals. Me, on the other hand, am just a Priority 3, even though I have set up at eight or so Nationals. The problem for me is that I set up at most Nationals under other guys' names like PJ and Dave. So I only get credit for the 3 I have done under my own name.
For those with a higher priority, the booth lottery began on Friday. For those of us with low priority, the madness was Saturday morning, see picture above.
The lottery is held in a room off the main lobby. It was filled with dealers when I arrived. I tried to approach the actual room where the lottery was located in an effort to obtain a booth lottery form. Some knucklehead stopped me and asked me where I was going. I responded that I needed a lottery form. He handed me one but did not have a pen. WTF?
I took the form back out to the larger room where most of the dealers were waiting and found Gary George and Nelson Rodriguez. Nelson had a pen. Thanks Nelson! I think the lottery people were on Priority 6 while I was filling out the form. I knew I had a while to wait.
I chatted with Gary and Nelson for a while. Then I saw Jason Galleske and talked to him. Soon my legs began to tire and I sought out a place to sit. I sat up against a door to another room. Some guy barked at me telling me that the door opens. I was too tired to care. I figured if anyone tried to open the door they wouldn't get very far with my fat ass blocking it.
While I was sitting there, I chatted with a guy from Boston who had purchased cards from me several days earlier in the week. He said he was coming back today. Woot!
I could hear this really loud guy from Oklahoma telling a newbie about Cleveland and Chicago. I have to admit that I was impressed with his knowledge about Chicago and traveling around the city by "L" train.
The morning dragged on and I tried to calm my growing anger of being unable to open up my booth. I talked with others who were upset about sitting in this large room waiting to enter the dealer lottery instead of selling cards at our booths. None of us could understand why there is not an app for this thing. A complete waste of our time.
I saw my pal Tony Schaefer and his lovely wife Kate. I learned that Tony is a priority zero even though he has set up at more Nationals than I have. Problem is, he has always allowed others to obtain the booth and never purchased one in his own name so he gets no credit for setting up all those years.
He even set up with me a few years. I think he has mostly set up with Shoeless Joe from Downstate Illinois, who recently died. The folks that run the National will not allow Tony to take over Joe's priority. Thus, he is shut out of Cleveland. This system sucks!
New problem for Cleveland in 2024 is that the folks that run the National will not allow dealers to share booths anymore -- which is completely ridiculous. Sure, I share my booth to save on the booth fee but the main reason I share is that I cannot handle a National alone. I need someone to watch my table so I can take bathroom and food breaks. Plus with my health issues, I must have someone with me. Again, I can't do this alone. WTF?
Also, I have been thinking lately that if the National ever moves out West, I'll have to fly out to the show and could only take with me on the plane enough cards for a few display cases. I would definitely have to share the booth if the show is out west because I can't drive that far and bring my full inventory to fill up the booth. These knuckleheads need to rethink a lot of things about this show -- but I doubt they will.
Anyway, I made my first appearance into the dealer lounge where a pile of stale doughnuts awaited along with some coffee. I munched on a pasty chocolate doughnut and drank some much-needed coffee while waiting for my number to be called.
Tony Schafer introduced me to a couple other dealers. I have already forgotten their names. Nice guys. They were Priority 3 like me.
When the powers that be finally called the Priority 3 dealers, a huge line formed. I ended up mid-line, hoping there would still be booths available in Cleveland when I arrived to the front of the line.
My Chicago boothmates all wanted to set up in Cleveland. I was not sure how this ban on booth sharing would affect us but I planned on purchasing two booths, like I had this past week in Rosemont.
As I approached the front of the line, Jason G. motioned to me and said he saw on the paperwork sitting on the first table that I was a priority 4, not a 3. My paperwork, provided by the National, stated I was a three. Damn! I could have chosen my booth earlier!
This old bitty, who has given us problems in the past, took my form and said I could only choose one booth in Cleveland. I argued that I had two booths this week and wanted two booths in Cleveland. She would not hear of it and said I could only have one booth. Apparently, they put in another new rule that anyone under a Priority 5, could only have one booth in Cleveland.
When they realized I was a Priority 4 and not a 3, they allowed me to go to the front of the line and choose my one booth for Cleveland. The guy at the map pointed out the spot available closest to the front door and I took it. I paid the $1,295 for the booth then was directed to a table for my receipt which was manned by Gizmo and Minnesota's own Jerry Nelson. Gizmo handed me a ballot to vote for the location of the next three Nationals. He pointed out the Chicago, Chicago, Chicago option. I did not need any encouragement to choose Chicago, Chicago, Chicago. I enjoyed chatting with Rick and Jerry, great guys!
I then made a beeline for my booth. I knew I was missing out on sales when dealing with this booth lottery madness. Thankfully, I filled in most of the holes in my display cases on Friday night because I knew I would be short on time on Saturday. All the guys were already at the booth and conducting business when I arrived. I whipped off the tarps and began sales.
Oh my! The crowds poured in like never before! We were mobbed!! Sales were amazing!! I sold my 1954 Bowman Mickey Mantle to a nice father and son team from Houston. Thanks guys! I sold a ton of everything. It was as frenzy. My best day of the week.
For lunch, our pal Larry brought us Italian beef sandwiches from a deli in Villa Park, Illinois. Larry ordered cheese on mine, not knowing I was lactose intolerant. Doh! I started to fade, being in need of food. Stupid diabetes! Because of it, I don't have any stored energy and can only obtain energy by eating. I was too busy to go get any food. Once again, Dave came to my rescue and gave me half of his beef sandwich. I wolfed that thing down. Thanks Dave!
Speaking of Dave, he was busy most of the morning with Mack. We met Mack last year in Atlantic City. He spent a few hours at Dave's table today. Dave and Larry gave Mack the cheesey beef. Nice guy that Mack. He had a pile of cards to sell. Having never purchased cards from him, I was a little nervous. I looked through a pile of cards, pulled out a really nice 1960 Topps Bob Gibson and was offered a decent price, so I purchased it. In hindsight, I should have purchased more cards from Mack. Hope to have the opportunity to buy from him again next year in Cleveland. He is from Berwyn, Illinois, but currently lives in Texas. Thanks for the deal Mack!
I saw George, who I know from my hometown of Northbrook, Illinois. He was selling a box of wrappers from all sports from the 1970's. We were able to negotiate a price and I purchased the wrappers. Woot! Finally buying some stuff!
Then came along Bernard Woods, Jr., affectionately known as "Junior." I have known this guy a good 25 years, having met him while set up at the flea market at Allstate Arena in Rosemont. I remember the first time I met him and not liking him as he made lowball offers on my cards. Later, my tune changed as I got to know him really well at the Fred Copps shows and purchased tons of cards from him over the years. He always gave me nice deals.
I even went to his house a few times and met his mother. Unfortunately, his mother recently passed away and Junior is moving back home to Maine, where he grew up. I am so sorry to see him go! I hope this is not the last time I see Junior!
In addition to Junior, I saw a bunch more friendly faces on Saturday like Brian Christopherson, Eugene Miner, Matt Struve and big Ed. I know I saw others but my faulty memory is a bane of my existence!
I also saw a soccer mom hawking cards to the dealer set up next to me. Wow! Since I started collecting cards in 1975, I have seen this go from a kids' hobby to one filled with middle-aged men, now back to kids and now we've got soccer moms! Crazy!
After the show, Dave and Larry joined PJ and I for dinner in the square. I wanted to eat at a new place and saw an outdoor dining area labeled "American Bistro." We could not figure out how to enter this restaurant. We walked into the entrance to the neighboring Mexican restaurant. Then we walked into a candy store. Then we decided to cut through the outdoor dining area into the restaurant and sat down at an empty table.
The waiter chastised us for sitting at the empty table, just like yesterday at the Park Tavern. Apparently, the entrance to the restuarnat is through the candy store. There is a hostess station in the candy store where we were supposed to check in. They allowed us to stay at the table but the hostess gave us a talk about tip being included in the bill.
The menu was large with a crazy amount of milkshakes and mixed alcohol drinks available. I found it funny that an "American Bistro" had Mexican and Chinese options. I went with the chicken fajitas.
We were annoyed with the loud dance music blaring in the restaurant. We also did not appreciate being charged 9 bucks for a bottle of beer. My food was good but the portion was too small. I was still hungry when we left. The other guys felt the restaurant was way overpriced. We will not return.
Like earlier in the week, the parking lot was empty and I had an easy exit and drive home. Day 4 of the National in the books.
A huge thank you to everyone who stopped by the booth on Saturday at the National! I had an amazing day!! A big NO THANK YOU to the National folks for denying me two booths for the Cleveland show next year.
PJ ran over to the booth lottery to put his name on the waiting list. Hopefully, he and Scott can get a booth but if they do, we won't be next to each other, which is a bummer.
In the meantime, I just booked the Woodstock show for August 19. I will also be at Orland on August 20. No shows for me this coming weekend of August 12 and 13. Next Oak Creek show is September 2.
Final National blog coming soon.
Below are some photos showing the area around my booth on Saturday.