Tuesday, August 5, 2014

35th National Sports Collectors Convention Recap Part 1 of ?

Evolve. That was the word I chose to be the focus of the 35th National Sports Collectors Convention. I am pretty sure this will be a multiple post recap. I have a week's worth of happenings to recap and here, I just write, no structure, no deadlines, no nonsense. So get ready for a lengthy, wordy adventure.

A little over a year ago I was sitting in Las Vegas trying to get an Internet connection to work at a very important event. It was the second time I was doing the exact same thing with the exact same result. I made a decision that I would not be doing it a third time. I knew that there were some big changes looming in the trading card industry. I began to contemplate what the future would look like. After 14 years of reporting on this industry, I took a look back and thought about our accomplishments and whether or not I wanted to continue doing what I do, take on more, or just kind of fade away into the sunset.

I thought about doing something I wouldn't normally do to acquire tickets to a private NHL event in 2001 to show them how serious we were about becoming a major player in this industry. I remember the direct result of that was being invited to be the hosts of the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards show. When we met resistance with our radio partners, we learned what we needed to do to survive and evolved to be able to do what they couldn't -- take our show on the road and broadcast clean, clear shows from anywhere, anytime. I think about how Sportsology changed the way trading card news was delivered to collectors. Thanks to an Intranet that we could edit anywhere there was an Internet connection, we didn't have to wait on an editor to approve it, we could share it with you immediately. Some companies didn't adapt and they aren't here anymore.

Our show has always been about you, the collectors. We did it for a long time without making money. Anything we did make, we put right back into the show and for travel expenses. It just made sense to broadcast from events like SportsFest, MLB Fanfest, NFL Experience, NHL Draft etc, etc. But to us, there was no place better than the National to do what we do.

Back in Las Vegas, as I was watching the Internet cut in and out during a broadcast with the Soup Nazi to the point that we needed over an hour to try to edit the audio to make even remotely worth listening to, I began planning our events for the 34th and 35th National. Both of those events were a tremendous success for us, but the 35th was unlike anything I could have ever anticipated. We knew we wanted to do something different and we put out a couple of feelers to see if any of those ideas could come together. If you are an avid listener of the show, you know how much I'd like to create a trading card product. One of the things on my bucket list was to have our logo on a set of cards. I simply cannot put into words how cool Tom Geideman at SA-GE is for making my dream come true. I think that set looks awesome, and I loved that I got to see people trading them and listing them on eBay at the National!

We also are very passionate about our friends in this industry. Look we may not agree on everything. My personal stance is that I don't need to say it on the show, but our opinion is not always the opinion of the guests we have. Many times I sympathize with the small guy or the underdog because I believe fair competition breeds better products. At the same time, I am in awe of what you can accomplish when you assemble the best team in the business. Lucky for me, freedom of speech is the First Amendment. It is NEVER my goal to piss people off, just have a forum for conversation. Got it? I don't know everything, I don't claim to. I make mistakes, and sometimes I get hot and things come out of my mouth that I should probably keep to myself. Again, it is because I LOVE this industry and can't stand seeing some of the things happen that can be easily fixed.

In 2013 we met this artist that painted the most amazing images in a very retro style onto baseball gloves. Rob, Russ and I were so enamored with his work that we invited him to to join us in Chicago in 2013. So it was a no-brainer to have Sean Kane back for 2014. He is one of the most talented artists I know and his product has to been seen to be believed. This year, he provided a Cleveland Indians glove for a collectors to win and it was so beautiful, I am surprised no one walked off with it.

The other thing we enjoy is informing people about cards, sports and whatnot. The Ladies of Baseball and the Negro League have never gotten the attention they deserve. Rob had reached out to Cleveland's Baseball Heritage Museum to see if they would be interested in coming out to the National and we could help spread the word about their cause. When we found out that former Indians 2B Vern Fuller was the Executive Director of the museum, we knew we had to see if he'd sign at our booth. Another no-brainer. Cleveland rocked as we raised some money for their cause and Vern, who thought no one would remember him, signed a bunch of autos for fans.

About 2 weeks before the National took place I had scheduled both David Gelfman from RippingWax.com and NSCC Founder Mike Berkus on back-to-back Cardboard Connection Radio shows. We were so excited for this year's show. I am not sure what it was. Perhaps the rumors of change? Maybe it was because 2013 was such a success for us? I think it was more of the fact that we just love being in front of an audience. It's much more fun than doing the show from a studio. As the announcements trickled down we just continued to get excited. After both of those shows aired, I had a phone call with Mike Berkus about our availability at the show. We had scheduled some broadcasts and events and after-show fun, but he asked us to be the hosts of the newly formed Amazon.com Sports Collectibles Main Stage. It was the centerpiece of the first-ever National Sports Collectors Convention Case Breaking Pavilion. Another no-brainer! Of course we said yes. We had no idea what to expect. We could picture it in our heads, you know? A huge area of tables set up with the country's best breakers with a center stage to show off their skills. Add in a couple of athletes like Carlos Baerga and Bobby Hull, and a couple of the top manufacturers including Panini, Topps, Upper Deck and the new repack sensation -- Super Box and you've got yourself one heckuva party. Factor in some excited collectors, outstanding products including Prime Hockey, Five-Star Football, Exquisite Golf, and Super Break Greatest of All-Time Edition, the event just blows up beyond your wildest imagination. There were breaks all week long, a couple were specifically for kids. Even Beckett got on the main stage. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus (we brought him to the National in 2011). We shared a stage with Beckett. Miracles happen. We almost took it to another level, but that will have to wait for another time.

I have always had fond memories of previous National events, I added several in 2014 that I will never forget. For instance, I got to chat about baseball with Carlos Baerga. To hear what he collects, to hear how he feels about sharing a stat with the great Rogers Hornsby... wow! How about walking Bobby Hull up to the stage and when you go to shake his hand you are greeted by his pearly white grill, not in his mouth, but in his hand! To see all of the happy kids at the Panini and Beckett breaks was a blast. You can't take back the first time a kid sees cards or opens a pack. I got to enjoy that with several hundred children... and believe it or not Bobby Hull. He opened his first pack of cards on the Amazon.com Sports Collectibles Main Stage!

My hat is off to David Gelfman and Mike Berkus for putting that segment of the show together. Amazing. Nearly 40 breakers, all in one place showcasing to their online users and to the 40,000 or 50,000 that showed up to the National. It was an honor to be a part of history.

We truly have been blessed. Look for more to come, there were five days of madness and mayhem. I'll try to get them written soon. In the meantime, check out some images on our Facebook page and be sure to listen to our radio shows from the show floor.

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