The 2013 National Sports Collectors Convention showcased a mix of veteran dealers, major manufacturers, new support companies, auction houses and autograph guests. The five-day event celebrated its 34th gathering of collectors in the city of Rosemont, IL, just outside Chicago. The trading card manufacturers used the opportunity to reward collectors of their products with various raffles and giveaways. Various redemption programs allowed collectors an opportunity to pursue limited edition trading cards with some companies offering a more organized format than others.
The event was well attended, particularly on Wednesday's Sneak Peek and Saturday. Traffic was light on Thursday and particularly sparse on Sunday.
Plenty of after-hour activities kept the party going long after the lights had dimmed on the show floor. Here is a look at some of the happenings that transpired and some notes and observations along the way.
VIP Party/Sneak Peek
Collectors who purchased, one of several, available VIP packages were treated to an early Sneak Peek event and party on Wednesday. The event featured food and drinks along with free autographs from a handful of athletes, headlined by Dwight Gooden and former Bears running back, Neal Anderson. Upper Deck took the opportunity to provide an award of recognition to the founder of Cards2Kids, whose organization has helped get trading cards in the hands of thousands of children around the country. Here is a look at the event.
The Topps redemption program was a particular point of contention for many attendees. Limited to a miniscule 100 cards per day, the program created a logistical challenge for show promoters who received several complaints from dealers. The program was on a first-come-first-served basis. With dealers being allowed early access to the convention floor and VIPs getting allowed entry a half-hour prior to the doors officially opening, regular attendees had little chance in participating in the program.
Long lines blocked access to dealer tables and caused unnecessary congestion right in the center of the corporate pavilion. Show organizers were seen discussing the situation with Topps officials which seems to be an annual problem for all parties involved. No other manufacturer's redemption program caused any such complications. Some adjustments were made over the course of the weekend to try and solve the problem.
For the last few years, Topps has hosted a town hall-style meeting. This year's even took place on Friday night, a full two hours after the show floor had closed. Participants were required to pre-register. Well over 100 people attended. The topics ranged from redemption cards, customer service, the National redemption program, upcoming products and more.
Several suggestions were made by the audience to improve various issues with the company's current challenges, all of which were met with a similar refrain of the recommended solutions not being "cost-effective." Several prizes were raffled off, however, it was clear that some participants, who were willing to take their time to provide feedback to the company, had hoped to be rewarded simply for attending.
The popular vintage message board, Net54, held their annual dinner for board members and special guests in a large banquet room at the nearby Hyatt Regency Hotel on Friday as well. Attended by close to 300 people, attendees uncomfortably waited for dinner, which was eventually served just after 9PM.
Speakers at the event included representatives from Game Used Universe, Simple Auctions, Lelands and National organizer Mike Berkus. Founder and CEO of Lelands, Josh Evans provided insight to the world of high-end memorabilia. One of his clients is Charlie Sheen. In 1991, Evans, at the request of Sheen, was able to acquire Babe Ruth's 1927 World Series Ring from Barry Halper for $150,000. He eventually, sold the ring to Sheen, which was delayed by one of his infamous rehab stays, for $225,000. Evans recently offered, him $5 million for the ring. Sheen's response, "Is that all."
Evans also made a bombshell statement when he revealed that his company doesn't use third-party authenticators, choosing instead to trust his own people. You can imagine the various hushed conversations that ensued as a result.
Leaf Trading Cards
Leaf Trading Cards had one of the largest footprints on the show floor. Their redemption program consisted of various 2013 products providing collectors the opportunity to earn "Leaf Bucks" in varying denominations. These "Bucks" could then be redeemed at the Leaf "Retail Store" in their booth for everything from Yasiel Puig sets to printing plates, unopened product and more. Saturday saw the awarding of the Leaf Lucky Clover. Collectors who had pulled a special redemption card from Sport Icons had a 1:3 chance to win a Josh Gibson cut signature card that has an estimated retail value of $40,000. Here is a video of the lucky winner.
In The Game/Sportkings
In The Game launched their latest Sportkings series and had a redemption program for those collectors purchasing a case of the product. Also in attendance at their booth was artist Jared Kelly who painted all of the art cards in the product. Also providing a grand prize drawing was ITG's, subsidiary company, Creative Cardboard Concepts, maker of last year's Music, Music, Music. One lucky winner of their product related promotion was awarded a Fab Four cut signature piece signed by all four members of the Beatles. Here is a video of the drawing and the winner's reaction.
The Upper Deck Company brought an all new exhibit space to the show floor. Anchored by a table where kids could create their own trading cards, the company's redemption program provided steady traffic. They also took the opportunity to showcase their credit card partnership with Dynamics ePlate, which allows collectors to earn points that can be accumulated and used to redeem UDA merchandise. The final day of the show saw the company raffle off dozens of prizes to an excited crowd.
Panini America stole the show with an impressive line-up of events and activities. Their wrapper redemption packs were a huge hit with collectors, offering a variety of limited edition cards. Their booth played host to the Boston Celtics Jared Sullinger for an hour-long autograph signing. Box wars, live case breaks, redemptions all insured a bustling activity at the Panini booth, every minute of the show.
However, the real spectacle was the Panini America VIP Party on the Saturday night of the show. With the blaring rhythmic styling of DJ Kool pumping the crowd with energy, the event provided an intimate gathering off media, deep pocketed collectors, celebrity athletes, models, industry personnel and some lucky winners. A five-star event featuring top-notch cuisine and open bar, patrons were treated to autographs and photo-ops with Dam Hampton, Chris Chelios, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Thomas Robinson, Johnny Damon, Pedro Martinez and Yasiel Puig, whose entrance was a thing right out of Hollywood. Here is a link to the photo gallery and here is a look at what one lucky winner of a VIP invite, courtesy of Blowout Cards had to say about the experience.
Cardboard Connection Radio
The crew of Cardboard Connection Radio gave away thousands of loose trading cards, hundreds of mystery packs with game-used or autograph cards, hats, t-shirts, supplies from UltraPro, boxes of trading cards and more. Appearing at the booth and signing for FREE, was former WWE Diva and TNA Knockout, Lisa Marie Varon, whose fans know her as Victoria or Tara. Sean Kane, of PaintedGloveCollectibles.com was on hand displaying his amazing work and worked on a beautiful Mickey Mantle piece. The team broadcast several shows, all of which can be heard here. Guests include; Will Jaimet of Heroes of Sport, Steve Hart from Baseball Card Exchange, Kevin Heffner of Historic Autographs, Hank Reed of Hartland and many, many more. Here is a clip of Lisa Marie engaging with here fans.
Here is a massive gallery of images from the 2013 National Collectors Convention.
- One dealer was asked to pack up and leave the show floor for undisclosed reasons.
- Wade Boggs and Luis Aparicio were a couple of the handful of autograph guests that had to cancel their appearances.
- Tristar had a redemption program for a Treasure Grab Bag with the purchase of any of their products. It was not very well publicized however.
- Josh Evans of Lelands shared at the Net54 dinner that Charlie Sheen accidentally threw away an autographed letter from Charles Comiskey commenting on the 1919 Black Sox scandal.
- At one point during the show, Upper Deck purchased everyone at their booth ice cream, saying, "Nothing is cooler than collecting Upper Deck trading cards."
- Show officials say it was the best attended event "in years."
- Numerous dealers were seen packing up as early as 11AM on Sunday, a true disservice to attendees and other exhibitors.
- Blowout Cards daily 3PM raffle, was a spectacle. At times it seemed the entire show had converged at their exhibit space.
- Tristar promoters tried to get the people in queue to sing "Happy Birthday" to Roger Clemens. No one obliged.
- Several vintage dealers reported record sales, others said they purchased a record number of material.
The 2014 National Sports Collectors Convention takes place in Cleveland from July 31 to August 3.