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Surviving Chicago

The 43rd National Sports Collector Convention is just a few days away. Soon, every hobbyist that is able will descend on the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center just outside of Chicago for the annual gathering of card nerds, sports geeks, and enthusiasts alike. Now, before you get offended by the monikers above, please know I proudly lump myself in with those very same card nerds, sports geeks, and enthusiasts. With that, The National is all but a right of passage in the hobby. So, for those first timers, or less experienced card show attendees, here are a few things you need to know before you hit the show floor.

This Isn’t Your Dad’s Card Show

Local and regional card shows are nice, but they do not hold a candle to the mayhem of The National. From the moment you walk into the building your senses are being bombarded by all of the usual sights, sounds, and yes, even smells, of a local card show, but turned up to 11 (you’re welcome Spinal Tap fans). You should be mentally prepared for that. Seriously, it’s a lot. However, if you are able to jump that hurdle you will be in for an exciting time on the show floor. Anything you're looking for, you will most likely be able to find it. That is unless you are looking for a Pat Sajak autograph. Really, I’ve been looking for one since 2017 and it has eluded me. Yes, I know I can buy it on eBay, but I want the experience of finding it on the floor.

You Want How Much

The hobby on a whole is still coming out of that Covid Cloud and some dealers, not all, are looking to recoup what they spent during the pandemic. So, don’t be shocked if you are at a table and that coveted card you need to complete your set is overpriced. You have a choice here, you can try and negotiate, which will sometimes work, or you can move on. Chances are you will be able to find said item somewhere else on the floor. So, don’t be hasty and pull the trigger before you are ready too. There is nothing worse than blowing your whole wad at the first table you come to, well, unless it’s on a Pat Sajak autograph. Then, by all means, buy that thing and then come see me at the Signature for Soldiers booth, and let’s spin the wheel of fortune.

Don’t Skip the Quarter Boxes

Pro-Tip here. Year after year I watch folks walk by quarter and dime boxes without a second glance. “Big mistake. Big. Huge!”. Now, I’m not saying you’re going to find the holy grail of collectibles in said boxes. Still, those same boxes might have something you need, or better yet, something you want. However, you will never know unless you take a moment to check them. I get it. The display cases with the PSA 10s are eye catching, but finding that missing piece for a quarter is more fulfilling. So, if you’re reading this and asking yourself, did he just drop a Pretty Woman reference to make a point about The National? The answer is yes. Yes I did. More importantly though, if you have time, do yourself the favor and stop down to check out those quarter and dime boxes. You may be pleasantly surprised.

The Hype Train

Once upon a time, yours truly was the host of one of the better podcasts in the hobby. Looking back on The FatPacks, there are some things I wish I would have handled differently, the least of which was chasing down influencers and celebrities to come on the show during The National. Prime example, Gary V. I spent the majority of the 2019 National weekend trying to get just five minutes with the man. In the end, we made it happen, but looking back, I did not gain anything from it. You’re going to want to snap a pic for the gram, and that’s cool, but don’t lose sight of why you’re there. Chasing down (insert social influencer) for a quick photo and a few likes isn’t worth the hassle if it means it's taking away from your enjoyment. Now, I’m sure they’re a great guy, or girl, and I’m sure they would accommodate, however, remember, they’re there for a reason as well. There is a time and a place for everything. Take advantage of the opportunity should it present itself, otherwise, don’t be that guy.

To Grade Or Not To Grade

Last but not least, let’s talk about grading. Not every card you have needs to be slabbed. Yes, I’m talking to you, One of One card grading guy. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. During my time at Beckett, I saw more than one disappointed BGS customer who was 1000% certain that their pack fresh Magic Jordan Topps Prizm Refractor Rookie 1/1 was a Black Label.It went straight from the wrapper to a sleeve into a toploader. Those disappointed customers were quick to scream and shout from top of their social platforms that Beckett screwed them over when their card came back an eight.

The truth is, pack fresh doesn’t mean a damn thing, and first time graders don’t always comprehend that. Do yourself a favor and don’t jump in any grading line unless you have done your homework. In fact, it would probably behoove you to have a reputable dealer take a look at your submission first, just to be safe. In the end, like DJ Quick said, “If it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense”. So, as tempting as it is to make your first submission, with any of the on-site graders, show a little restraint before you do. I know you’re holding a Magic Jordan Topps Prizm Refractor Rookie 1/1, but it may not be as clean as you think it is.

1 Comment

Brad Bethune
Brad Bethune
Jul 25, 2023

Nice article, E. Loved the references! Can not believe you snuck in a "Pretty Woman" reference.

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