The second to last day at the National Sports Collectors Convention featured the biggest crowds of the week at the Autograph Pavilion which had some of its bigger names of the week. Cal Ripken had a huge line in the afternoon. Tristar’s TNA Wrestling autograph and photo opp promotion with Ric Flair among others was hugely popular. The Flair photo line was insanely long. Rafael Palmeiro had a decent number of people in his autograph line, but drew only two or three photo opps. He looked significantly smaller than in his playing days. Jim Taylor in what was billed as a “rare public autograph appearance” was pretty ornery refusing to sign a few items, most of which were already signed by Paul Hornung. He also put just “Jim” on collector’s trading card and finally put “Taylor” on it after being pressed to do so. It was all and all pretty bizarre. Darryl Strawberry drew a nice crowd. The buzz on the floor involved Leaf giving away a Joe Jackson cut signature to the grand prize winner of its Sports Icons contest. The estimated $80,000 card was won by a Tennessee collector. Also was word of a number of high dollar items having been stolen from various dealers over the weekend. I heard talk among a number of dealers that they would not be back on Sunday. Very few deals left in the bargain bins from dealers selling modern cards, and many of the wax wholesalers were marking down their prices a bit. I saw one deep pocketed fellow cracking multiple cases of Panini National Treasures and Upper Deck All Time Greats basketball. Saw at least two Jordan hits out of the all time greats among his break. Must be nice to have insane amounts of money.
Decided to sleep in and only caught about half a day of Day 3. Much smaller crowds than on Thursday which was kind of a surprise. The dealers who were not selling as much as they had hoped to this point in the show were beginning to grow impatient, meanwhile many others, especially those with modern cards, had significant dents made in their bargain boxes and showcases. I saw one modern dealer get completely bought out today. Roger Staubach was the main autograph draw in the afternoon and had a solid line throughout. Former gold glove winner Buddy Bell was able to finish his signing session in half the time it took 79 year old Hockey Hall Of Famer Pierre Pilote to make it through half of his, and many people in the Pilote line had to jump over or duck under barriers over to get Bell, and then duck back in the Pilote line. Panini seems to have the most popular wrapper redemption program as their pavilion is constantly packed every time I walk by. Highlight of the day was seeing a Brien Taylor 1992 Topps Gold card, worth a fortune in 1992, passed over in a nickle box in 2011.
The first full day of the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago brought out good sized crowds spread throughout the convention center floor. The biggest buzz on the show floor was the news the Leaf signed a deal with Ichiro to appear on autographs in the company’s upcoming baseball releases. Also a dealer was led out in cuffs after being caught apparently selling jerseys he was falsely claiming to be game worn. Modern single cards, especially those from Bowman rookie and prospect products were selling very well. Most bargin boxes were elbow to elbow with collectors jostling for position to find a bargain. As was the case with vintage discount boxes. Bryce Harper, Paul Goldschmidt, and Jurikson Profar seemed to be among the most heavily sold rookies at the show. I went to the Topps Q&A forum which allowed collectors to ask any questions of the Topps brass represented. Nothing really earth shattering came out of the 90 minute session. The biggest issue Topps seems to be focused on correcting is making a more information based website, as well as making sure the websites for collectors to enter promotional codes are actually functional upon the products release rather than days or weeks later. Additionally they addressed redemptions and the hope to make a more collector friendly method to deal with redemption replacements. The autograph lines were fairly short, as was the talent signing. The big guns begin coming out on Friday. The vast majority of the modern dealers I talked to were very happy. As an indication of how well modern product was selling, I offer you the pictures below. We featured ROC Sports Cards case of Bryce Harper cards and autographs that was completely full when we saw them Wednesday afternoon. As of Thursday afternoon only about 20 remained.
Internet and 3G issues aside, it was a fun first day the 2011 National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago. Words cannot describe the magnitude of the show. The last National that I went to was over a decade ago in St. Louis, and I would estimate nearly double the amount of tables. The convention center is huge, and the room is completely packed end to end. Today was the preview day, and I was able to move through about a quarter of the dealer tables in the four hours we were allotted. Tons of awesome vintage stuff, a lot of wax from the usual suspects such as Blowout Cards, Dave & Adams, and Atlanta Sports cards among others. There was more modern stuff then I expected, I’d guess about 25-30% of the overall tables. The most impressive modern showcase to be seen all day was the Bryce Harper showcase (pictured above) from the guys at ROC Sports Cards. The pair of brothers who run the operation at ROC are awesome guys and if you are at the show, I would highly recommend you stop over and check their stuff out at Booth #418 on the convention center floor. The VIP pre-show reception had around 300 collectors in attendance. Long lines for autographs from Don Kessinger and Bill Madlock as well as Dick Fosbury of the Fosbury Flop fame. The longest lines of the day were when the convention floor opened and former Cubs pitcher Lee Smith signed autographs at the Freedom Cardboard corporate booth. If your not a member of the Freedom Cardboard forum, and you collect baseball cards or sports memorabilia, you have got to sign up for their forum as its the best I have found online by far. They are also live streaming all National long through their site. Former White Sox Billy Pierce and Carlos May were the first true paid autograph guests of the weekend, and they had moderate traffic through their lines. Hopefully we will have the internet issues we had today taken care of and I plan to update periodically throughout the day tomorrow.
We will be on site at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago all week. We will be providing live tweets on our twitter feed @MinorLeagueBlog and will be posting periodically here on our website as well. Be sure to tune in. If you are at the convention be sure to follow us on twitter as we will be giving things away throughout the weekend. Also if you are there, be sure to send us a tweet letting us know as it would be great to meet you.