|2001 Hobby Report Card|
Part 1: The National Convention, Shows, and Dealers
This started out as a feature about my recent trip to Cleveland for the National Sports Collectors Convention. Then, after I returned from vacation, I went to what used to be a large local show which has dwindled down to nearly nothing. On top of all of this, the local card shop that I've been buying from for nearly a decade closed. My vacation turned into a time of reflection about where our hobby has gone and where it is heading. In reading my email I've come to realize that some changes are needed, and soon.
I've decided to turn this into a full report card of virtually everything in our hobby. From the National to local shows, from manufacturers to grading companies, from online buying and selling to home shopping channels, it's time to take a look at who's getting the job done and who needs to be kicked off the island.
THE 22nd NATIONAL SPORTS COLLECTORS CONVENTION
Who is running this thing? This year was the second time I've been to a National in Cleveland and it's almost impossible to believe that it's going downhill. First things first. Don't believe half of what you read. I've seen some hobby publications and web sites quote some outrageous numbers for attendance and dealers sales in Cleveland. I won't quote any numbers because I wasn't counting. Instead I was watching. I attended the show all four days. I arrived at the show early on Thursday just as I had four years ago. In 1997 the line for entrance was half way around the I-X Center. This year about 50 people had lined up. Once inside the show itself was almost bizarre. The center of the floor is the Corporate Sponsors including manufacturers (giving out promo cards) and grading companies (doing on-site grading). This area was crowded for much of the weekend. On one end was the autograph pavillion with various big name guests coming and going all four days. This area was also crowded (at least between 11am and 3pm when the guests were there).
The rest of the floor was made up of about 800 dealer tables. It looked like a ghost town. This is not to say it's impossible that some dealers made money. Many of them have very specific items available and it only takes a few sales to make it a successful weekend. Most were struggling just to make back some of what their table and travel costs were for the show. A few did not even show up for Sunday. This show is very poorly run from a dealer's perspective. People attending the show are drawn to the middle for the manufacturer promo cards and grading companies. If you came to get an autograph then you end up spending all of your time waiting by the pavilion for your ticket number to be called. On top of that, someone decided that they should announce autograph ticket numbers by a bull horn so you had to stay close if you had a ticket. If they had used the public address system then people would have had the freedom to visit the tables while they waited. Again I ask, Who is running this thing?
Are there good points to the National? Yes, but not due to the people running the show. The best part of the National is the accessibility of the manufacturers and grading companies. I'll get into this more later in this feature, but just being able to sit down and talk to a grader about which of your cards are best for grading, or talking to some of the top people at the manufacturers about what you like or dislike in their products.
OVERALL GRADE: C-
Have we experienced the death of local shows? I've gone to a couple in recent months that I'd been to in the past only to discover that they had been reduced to about 10 tables, half of which were covered with Beanie Babies. I used to do shows back in the late 80's and early 90's, and I always prided myself with organizing my table and bringing as many good, sellable items as I could stand to pack into my car. These days it looks like some dealers just pick their most unsellable cards and throw them on the table. They also show a sign that says "We Buy" making it clear that they aren't really interested in selling at all. Of course anyone who shows up with cards to sell is treated to the usual 25% of book offer (or less) that dictate our current market. I'm sad to say that the days of card shows with lots of dealers and competitive prices are long gone.
LOCAL CARD SHOPS
Recently the local dealer who I've been buying cards from for the past ten years decided to retire and not sell his business. This left my area (Southern Connecticut) without a major, local card shop. There are plenty of small shops, comic book shops, and even a mall chain store, but none who can offer the type of product coverage and price breaks that the closing shop had offered. I've started going to other stores and found some really nice people and great stores, but I'm spending more money then before, and I keep missing out on products that no one seems to sell in my area. I don't blame the shop owners. They charge real retail pricing because they are retail stores and need to pay their rent. They don't offer every product because they can't afford to stock the ones that don't sell well. If it wasn't for this site then I wouldn't care about the missing products, because frankly, I'm getting tired of buying a product to review for this site, just to find that it has virtually no resale or true collectible value. But, I'll get into this more on the next page when we discuss manufacturers
GRADE: A- (even if it's somewhat Incomplete)
Next page > The Card Companies > Page 1, 2, 3
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