The 32nd National Sports Collectors Convention officially ended yesterday at 5 PM. However, for many dealers and manufacturers, the show ended a couple of hours earlier. Many of them could be seen starting to pack up as early as 3 PM. Panini America was the only trading card manufacturer still giving things away and allowing collectors to take part in the company's wrapper redemption program right to the closing announcement.
It's an understatement to say that Panini had a successful National. The traffic at their corporate exhibit space dwarfed that of their competition. They had deep lines throughout the show. The complete redemption set consists of 19 superstars across basketball, football, hockey and entertainment. Seeded with random parallels and autographs, as is typical for most redemption programs, Panini took things a step further and inserted redemption cards for autographed sports memorabilia such as photos, helmets, pucks and balls.
Topps capitalized on the popularity of the Heritage brand by offering a different card each day for their redemption program. Included in the five-card set were Dustin Ackley, Dee Gordon, Mike Moustakas, Michael Pineda and Zach Britton.
Upper Deck produced a 25-card set, with five different players each day. Randomly inserted into packs were autographs of Gordie Howe, Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Tiger Woods, to name a few.
Leaf, TriStar and In the Game also had their own promotions that, according to company representatives, proved to be successful. One of the bigger events at the show occurred on Saturday afternoon, when a collector from Chattanooga, Tennessee pulled the lucky four-leaf clover at the Leaf both and was awarded an ultra-rare cut signature card of the late "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. This was the culmination of an ongoing promotion for the company's 2011 Cut Signature Edition product. A large crowd was on-hand to see who won the coveted prize.
An even bigger crowd turned out for Blowout Cards' annual mega raffle, which was hosted by the company's owner, Tom Fish. Several thousand dollars worth of unopened product were distributed to a crowd of collectors. Also vying for collectors' dollars were other notable online retailers Dave and Adam's, Atlanta Sports Cards, and Pittsburgh Wholesale, all of whom had their own individual deals that were strong sellers, including TNA Wrestling blasters guaranteeing one autograph per box for $5-$9.
The addition of the Olympic Pavilion to this year's show brought an under-utilized element to the event. Over 100 dealers were selling Olympic memorabilia in the special section. Gold medalist Dick Fosbury signed autographs for both the VIP event that kicked off the National and at his own booth. Also signing, as part of an In the Game promotion, was Mark Wells, member of the Miracle on Ice men's hockey team from the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. Another autograph available exclusively to event VIPs was track star Bob Beamon.
VIPs were also treated to an exclusive auction containing items from the fabled Topps Vault. Two items in particular garnered spirited bidding. The first, was the color transparency used to create the 1968 rookie card of Nolan Ryan, and saw the bidding end at $3,500. Even more impressive was the uncut error sheet of 1977 Topps Baseball containing the Reggie Jackson card depicting him in an Orioles uniform. The bidding escalated quickly until the gavel fell at an even $10,000.
Freedom Cardboard hosted an informal after-hours meet-and-greet that had food and lots of door prizes. Industry executives in attendance included Scott Prusha and Tracy Hackler of Panini, Brian Gray of Leaf, Gregg Kohn of Upper Deck and Tom Fish of Blowout Cards. The event proved to be a great way for people to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones.
No National would be complete lately without some sort of legal activity taking place on the show floor. Authorities arrested the owner of Vintage Authentics, charging him with mail and wire fraud for allegedly selling jerseys labelled as being game-used that really weren't. Federal authorities arrived early Thursday morning and escorted him out in handcuffs.
While official numbers weren't made public, event organizers said the attendance was higher than the previous National held in Chicago a couple of years ago. Quite noticeable was the amount of children at the event. Dealers and store owners have long voiced concerns over the need for more proactive measures to attract a younger generation of collector to a declining hobby. If attendance at the industry's largest event are any indication, the recent efforts by the trading card manufacturers seem to be working. The National itself did their part in making the last day of the show free to all children.
Collectors, dealers, manufacturers and the National management team are already gearing up for the 33rd National Sports Collectors Convention to be held next summer in Baltimore.