The Beckett Blog

Can The National be more like San Diego Comic-Con? by Chris Olds
August 9, 2010, 2:54 pm
Filed under: Beckett Media | Tags: , , , , ,


BALTIMORE – The 31st annual National Sports Collectors Convention finished on Sunday and then dealers packed their boxes (hopefully lighter than when they arrived) and collectors went home with cards, memorabilia and empty wallets.

For five days, collectors looked for different trading cards, game-used items and received autographs at the Baltimore Convention Center. Some left with bags full of goodies they don’t even know where to put yet. While others left with just one or two coveted prizes.

Conventions like these have ways of changing over the years. San Diego’s Comic-Con, which started as a comic book show, has turned into one of the biggest pop culture events in the country. While there are still comics, statues of Superman and places to find your Klingon dictionary, there are different types of events such as Q&A panels with popular television shows that have become the heart of the show.

So how can the National get as big as Comic-Con?

Here were a few suggestions heard on the floor on Sunday.

Hours: The biggest complaint at the National was that it closed too early. Most people leave work around 5 p.m., but the National closed its doors at 6.

“Six is too early,” said Joe Smith, owner of Journey into Comics and Sports Cards of Circleville, Ohio. “It’s too big for them to shop. They should keep it open later.”

Suggestion: Leave the convention open until 8 p.m. on weekdays and 7 on the weekend. This will give collectors more time to stop over and the National could even offer deals. For anyone who buys a one-day pass after 5 p.m., they get the next day included.

Diversity: Card collectors had a difficult time finding modern cards. The amount of vintage cards was overwhelming. So much so, dealers with modern cards had a great week of sales. Smith sold many cards ranging from $1,500 to just $1.

He benefited from being one of the few in sea or vintage and memorabilia items.

“It was tough to find the cards I wanted because I thought there would be more guys I collect,” Brad Callagan, 15, of Baltimore. “I thought there would be more Orioles stuff to get since the show was here.”

Suggestion: Have small- to medium-sized dealers who deal in modern singles (anything from 1993 and on) enter a lottery to get a lowered-cost booth to attend the National. This will allow the dealers more exposure and a chance to sell some of their inventory.

Panels: The Topps Company had a two-hour panel of four executives on Thursday where they took questions from collectors and media members. There were 50 attendees and most of those who went enjoyed the experience and opportunity to speak directly to the people who matter at the card company.

Suggestion: Have each major card company do a panel at the National. This kind of session will break up the monotony of the show with collectors, and even dealers, getting a break from walking the expansive floor.

“I wish there was more stuff like that to do,” said collector Marie Pecora who attended the Topps panel. “For people who are here for all five days, it’s a good way to do something more than just look at cards.”

Not all agree the National should change much. The dealers are the ones who benefit most from the current format. With fewer outside distractions, collectors are spending more time on the floor buying items.

If there were other events that collectors had to pay for, dealers would lose out.

“I think the more they do things like that will take money out of the dealers’ pockets,” said Smith, who was set up at his first National. “I like the way they do things now.”

The card companies had extras for the collectors such as wrapper redemption programs, pack wars and giveaways. They recognized collectors wanted to do more.

Topps appeared at the convention for the first time in many years and had one of the most popular giveaways, a Stephen Strasburg 2010 Heritage wrapper redemption. Panini allowed convention goers to spin a wheel for prizes, Upper Deck gave away prizes and had a wrapper redemption as did TRISTAR and Leaf.

Collectors spent plenty of time in the corporate area with the major card companies and near the TRISTAR autograph pavilion through the five days. There were even unplanned moments such as companies just giving away cards simply because you walked by.

“You never know what you can find over here,” Callaghan said.

Susan Lulgjuraj is a sports journalist. She also blogs at A Cardboard Problem. You can also follow her on Twitter at @CardBandits.


9 Comments so far
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[…] She also blogs at A Cardboard Problem. You can also follow her on Twitter at @CardBandits. Can The National be more like San Diego Comic-Con? The Beckett Blog __________________ Shop for Sports Cards and Trading […]

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Joe Smith, who said that adding events to the show would take away from his sales is being shortsighted. Adding events would bring in tons of new blood to the hobby by raising the level of engagement between the companies and collectors. New blood = new money.

Comment by Wes Yee

If the side events are free, I agree. I do understand his point though. If other events cost money (and some will), that may take money out of dealers pockets. However, it also depends on how many new people would go to the National.

Comment by Sooz

The size and scope of the industry in card world — i.e. money — doesn’t compare to the cash flowing in the entertainment world, which is flowing over into SDCC.

However, there’s nothing that says it can’t …

Comment by chrisolds

Great piece. I basically stole the idea for my blog, SCU

Comment by Adam Gellman

Fan interaction is the key element at the comic-con. You have some of that at the National with the autograph signings and the giveaways, but to truly bring it to the next level, you need the panel discussions. Every time I went to the comic con in Chicago they had panels with celebrities for Q&A, which could easily be done here. They have panels with the comic companies for Q&A, which Topps did, but it shouldn’t be limited to 50 people. Think about how many people wanted to hear what they have to say. To limit that discussion to a select few turns me off as a collector. There should also be panels that are merely informative. Think E3 where the videogame companies announce new products and interesting things they’re working on for the future. Card companies could save announcements such as player exclusivity rights for the National. They could announce that new brand that will replace Chicle next year. More announcements like the return of Leaf! They should treat the convention like it is as important to their company as it is to collectors. Hype brings people in.

So, in short. Collector interaction in the form of panels and Q&A (not forcing them to spend money for exclusives – that’s not interaction), and creating major news to come from event. The event itself shouldn’t be the biggest story.


Comment by Communitygum

[…] with the National. There are too many great ways to pick up modern cards elsewhere. The fact that the few modern dealers at the National did well doesn’t undermine this argument. Those dealers did well because they were the exception in a […]

Pingback by Modern cards and the National – A good fit? | cheap wax fix

[…] Beckett blog had a post about making the National into Comic-Con. Comic-Con is huge. The exhibition part of Comic-Con is just of piece of the full show. What else […]

Pingback by Does the National need modern cards? | cheap wax fix

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