Hobby Musings: Tips for navigating the National – It’s hard to believe, but this year’s National Sports Collectors Convention is only a few weeks away. After being held last year in Atlantic City, the show is returning to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois. The show can be an overwhelming experience, especially for a first-time attendee.
Having been to a few of them myself, here are a few pieces of advice to hopefully help make your convention a little easier. In addition, if you have helpful suggestions, be sure to share them on Twitter and tag @GTSDistribution and myself @KelSchroy75.
1. Hobby Musings: Tips for navigating the National – Plan your time well and pace yourself
This may seem like an obvious one, but I can tell you from personal experience that the show day flies by. Before you know it, everyone is closing up for the night, and you’re regretting not getting more done. It certainly helps if you have a few days to explore the show as you certainly need them to properly see everything. You may be thinking to yourself that you couldn’t possibly need that many days for a card show.
The National isn’t your typical weekend show, and it’s not just the sheer amount of dealers. Besides thumbing through cards and memorabilia, you’ll spend a decent amount of time waiting in lines while you’re at the show. Whether it’s at the autograph pavilion or an exhibitor’s booth for a wrapper redemption program, you’ll be spending quite a bit of time in lines. Besides that, you’ll also likely find yourself spending lots of time staring at the unique and historical memorabilia the auction houses have on display. Either way, it helps to have a little bit of a plan going into the show.
2. Hobby Musings: Tips for navigating the National – Be as prepared as possible
Again, this may seem fairly obvious, but when it comes to a show like this, you can never be too prepared. First off, dress as comfortably as possible and wear comfortable shoes. Especially in Chicago, the floor isn’t exactly the easiest on feet, and yours will be sore quickly enough.
Getting more to the hobby part of it, it never hurts to bring supplies with you. Whether it’s a card box or sleeves, you may find yourself with no way to properly protect your new items. While most dealers are kind enough to give you something for your cards if they have it handy, you don’t want to be caught unprepared. This especially is true for a long show day where you may have a bunch of stuff bouncing around in a bag. If you think you’re going to be purchasing photos or a baseball, it doesn’t hurt to have protective items available for them too.
Also, it never hurts to have some spare items to get signed or your camera handy to get a picture. You never know which athlete you’ll run into on the show floor or around the city. Besides the people who are there to sign at the pavilion, other athletes may be in attendance for a variety of the reasons. Over the years, I’ve seen the likes of Ricky Williams and Evan Mathis roaming the show floor. Former Tigers ace Denny McClain also happened to set up a table on the show floor offering a variety of autographed items for sale. It just goes to show that you never know who you’ll run into at the National.
3. Hobby Musings: Tips for navigating the National – Don’t sleep on the freebies
One thing that has always set the National apart from other shows is the large amount of wrapper redemptions the companies offer. Essentially, card companies announce certain programs that are available before the show. You then purchase the required product, at the show, and take it to the company’s booth. Based on the company’s promotion, either your box or pack seals will be broken, and a company representative will give you your redemption packs. These packs can contain anything from base cards to redemptions for memorabilia items. At the end of the day, they’re a nice bonus to your show experience, especially if you come away with a nice pull.
Besides the wrapper redemptions, many of the exhibitors and other booths offer a variety of prizes and raffles for show attendees. Upper Deck holds a daily raffle near the end of each day. The offer a variety of prizes from boxes to signed memorabilia. All you have to do is stop by and get a raffle ticket. One warning though, you have to be present when they hold it. Panini has done multiple free breaks for children for a variety of products. A chance to enjoy the show with your younger collectors, the spots for the free breaks fill up quickly and the lines tend to be very long.
Topps and Alan Narz have been very well known for incredibly animated sessions of pack wars throughout the show. They also do a free meet and greet early at the show. Held last year on Thursday evening, it gives you the chance to ask Topps employees questions of your choosing. You can also score an exclusive item and/or sweet prizes. Last year, Topps gave everyone in attendance a 1/1 exclusive Allen & Ginter card. The year before that, it was an exclusive Jose Abreu autograph. Be sure to sign up quickly though as space is limited for the event.
If you’ve ever wanted to have your own trading card made, the National is a good place to do it as several companies offer them. Upper Deck and Topps have done them in recent years. PSA is offering a new twist on it this year as you can get your own card made and even have it encapsulated. Besides the custom cards, PSA is also giving away game-used bats of Derek Jeter, Kris Byrant and Frank Thomas during the show.
Go GTS Live’s very own Rob Bertrand and Ivan Lovegren will once again be hosting the main stage in the case break pavilion. Besides hosting a variety of guests, they’ll also be breaking several products. Best of all for you, they’ll be giving away many of those cards. They will also host trivia contests throughout the show with correct respondents receiving free packs. While you’re in the case break pavilion, be sure to keep an eye out for free spots in various sports breaks.
4. Hobby Musings: Tips for navigating the National – Above all else, enjoy yourself
The National is one of the truly special and enjoyable events of the hobby. It’s the largest gathering of the year for hobbyists the industry alike. It also offers you the rare opportunity to meet up with scores of your fellow collectors and get some face time with the leaders in the industry. It also offers arguably the best in-person opportunity to add items to your collection.
If you’re there to buy or simply to browse around, the National offers something for everyone who attends. As has been the custom, the show is free to children 12 and under, so don’t be afraid to bring your family to the show. All in all, Chicago is a fun site for the National and offers plenty to do outside the show. If this is your first time attending the show in Chicago, I highly recommend Giordano’s Pizza. It’s a short cab ride and a medium walk from the show site and quite excellent. Either way, I hope you have an enjoyable show and find some good items for your collection.
Editor’s Note: Be sure to check-out our Complete Guide to the 2017 National Sports Collectors Convention.
Hobby Musings: Tips for navigating the National
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