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Be Prepared: Tips for Enjoying NSCC 2024

Updated: Jun 28

The countdown to the 2024 National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland, Ohio is slowly whittling down to zero as we approach day one on July 24th. I am planning on attending for the third year in a row, and I am so excited for the annual gathering that gets so many incredible members of the collecting community together in one place. For those who may not be very familiar, the NSCC is one of the largest (if not THE largest) card shows on the circuit. It has been around since 1980 and this upcoming show will be the 44th. National alternates around to a different city every year, which changes accessibility and the cultural influence a location may have, though the convention rarely crosses west of the Mississippi River. 

For a first time attendee, the convention can be overwhelming and time easily flies much like in a windowless casino. The combination of corporate presence, celebrities, and smaller vendors in one large space makes the show unlike any other with many opportunities at your disposal. If you want to tell your favorite brand how you feel about their product, you will likely be able to have face-time with someone from the company; if you want to see your favorite breaker in action, they will likely be there doing a live break; if you want to get an autograph from a legendary or emerging athlete, the National is the place to do it all. Though this will only be my third NSCC, I have learned a few tips and helpful hints to surviving such a jam-packed weekend through trial, error, and experience. Also, as you may have previously read, we occasionally attend other card shows in other cities throughout the year, so I am slowly refining my convention routine with every experience. Below are some helpful tips as we all gear up for the final month ahead of the National.

  • Time Management

While a rigid, minute by minute schedule is unrealistic, I highly suggest a loosely structured daily itinerary to help you see and do everything you want. Many times at shows I have seen collectors glancing at cases and taking notes on an item of interest and its location so they can come back after surveying all the tables. While I do not think it is realistic to do this for the entirety of the National floor, I do think it is a great strategy to help prioritize which areas to return to. Schedules and maps will start to emerge online in the next month, so check the overall schedule as well as any social media updates from the vendors, companies, and influencers you may want to see. If you have any activities with definitive time tables, such as autograph and photo sessions, outline those first and build the less time sensitive activities around your timing and relative location on the convention floor. If you have an appointment with Panini at 11:30am, but your favorite WhatNot breaker is going live at 12:00pm from the Break Pavilion, there is a chance they are on opposite sides of the convention floor. 


  • Flexibility

In tandem with time management, try to remain flexible. There may be last minute cancellations or unexpected opportunities that pop up, so while your schedule will help guide your experience, it should not be your gospel. Unexpectedly running into people you are meeting in person for the first time after regularly interacting online is one of the best parts of the National. Community drives the hobby, so if you have an opportunity to capitalize on that and connect with other collectors, I encourage you to integrate that into your plans. Saying hello to one person has quickly evolved into a way to meet collectors, connect with old friends, and go on a hobby adventure many times for me, so leave yourself open to the possibility of something you could not have planned for. 


  • Nourishment

Make sure you eat a decent breakfast before even leaving for the convention center, as outside food and drinks are listed as not allowed by the I-X Center and concession hours may vary. Making deals on an empty stomach is rarely a positive experience. Also, do not get so caught up in the excitement that you forget to take a break. Try to find a place to sit, decompress, and stop by concessions for a snack or a meal. The excitement and never-ending rows of tables and booths can sometimes cause you to ignore your body’s signals, so be sure to check in with yourself to make sure you are not going to neglect your well-being. If you feel yourself getting fatigued, be sure to take a beat and maybe go back to your hotel for an hour to rest and recuperate. And please, please, PLEASE, DRINK PLENTY OF WATER

  • Comfort

If you have ever attended a card show before, you know that the days can run very long. With Thursday, Friday, and Saturday clocking in at 8 hours, not including the VIP 30 minute early entry, the official trade nights from 6-11pm, and unofficial trade nights and get-togethers, a 16 hour day is more likely than not. Wear your comfiest sneaker and your best socks so you can stand over the dollar boxes as long as possible. To my fellow or soon-to-be over 30 crowd: be sure to pack some pain reliever, that midday backache is inevitable. If there are any other small comforts that you know will make your day more enjoyable, embrace them. If you were able to attend the NSCC 2023 in Chicago last year, the air conditioning was not what some would call “functional,” not to mention the body heat from thousands of card fiends packed into one space in mid-July. One thing that saved me from a literal meltdown (emphasis on the melt) was a small fan* that plugs into my phone (it’s honestly one of my top 10 lifetime purchases). There are also collapsible stools* that are very handy for line waiting and dollar box browsing. If something like AirPods, chewing gum, or lip balm will make your day even slightly more comfortable (and will not ruin somebody else’s), bring them.


  • Autograph/Photo Opps

One of the many things my husband, Bryan, has introduced me to is celebrity photo opportunities and signings at various conventions. The first convention I was able to attend he already had a whole routine, while I was overwhelmed with the opportunity. Being directly perceived by someone you have admired for their skills or looked up to from afar for years can be incredible, but it can also be a moment where you forget yourself. Do not lose your excitement, but be sure to gather yourself enough to respect the guests’ time and effort. A kind word or very brief reflection on their career will likely be appreciated, but do not put expectations on the guest nor their reaction. It may seem like sitting and signing is “light work,” but these guests have families, lives, and commitments outside of this one moment, and they are only human! They may be tired, they may be curt, they may need to take a break just before your turn, but they are still people and this is a work function for them. Some guests may also be very warm, friendly, and conversational, but please be sure to enjoy the moment while also considering the time of the guest and everyone in line after you. Live your best life and enjoy the moment, but do not lose yourself in the process.


  • Swag

One really fun part of any convention is free stuff, and as collectors there are so many products that make our experience more enjoyable. Again, the excitement of the event can get to your head and you lose sight of the reality: all of this stuff has to somehow make it back home with you. Fortunately, there is a booth dedicated to shipping services for the convention, but if you do not want to have that as an added expense, I recommend packing and consuming accordingly. You do not HAVE to take something just because it is free, and if that extra tee shirt is going to take limited space away from those slabs you just acquired in a great deal, maybe leave it. There are a lot of helpful and functional items handed out, too, like tote bags or portable power banks, and if you really do love that free shirt, please enjoy it! Just keep in mind you will likely be leaving with more stuff than you came with, but the same amount of limited overhead storage space on the plane.    

  • Be Considerate and Look Out for Each Other

With so many people gathered in one place, there is guaranteed to be some conflicts. Add in highly valuable and desirable items, and people are bound to be more defensive than they would be under other circumstances. Also keep in mind we are only 4 years removed from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and some people, especially the immunocompromised, are still uneasy in large crowds. Personal space is all but eliminated in a crowded convention hall, so if that bothers you be sure to mentally prepare yourself, and if you see someone else struggling maybe offer support. Theft and assault are also looming concerns at any large gathering, so be sure to stay alert for yourself and others. If you see something that is not sitting right with your gut, look out for your fellow collectors and check in with each other if something does not seem right. Also, please be respectful of the convention staff that make the National experience possible.

If this is your first time attending the National, nothing will fully prepare you for what an incredible experience it can be, but I hope that these tips will help ease some of the nervous excitement and make your time there most enjoyable. If you have any tips or suggestions to share, please do, and if these tips and suggestions help you to further enjoy the 2024 NSCC, let me know! 

*These are not sponsored links, these are just items I have personally bought and genuinely appreciated. 


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