National's synergy relative to the entertainment hobby
non-sport cards and related memorabilia have always been a part of the
annual National Sports Collectors Convention since its 1980 inception in
Los Angeles. However, some
segments of our hobby – specifically collectors of classic Gum Inc,
Bowman, Topps and early 20th Century cards – remain
comparatively tiny. The
sports collecting public usually perceives the hobby as a second-tier
pursuit. Even the term
“non-sports,” coined as a utilitarian designation by trading card
pioneers such as Jefferson Burdick, carries pejorative overtones.
“Non-sports” rankles some of today’s manufacturers of
entertainment card products.
gulf between collectors of early gum cards and those of current products
seems to have grown more pronounced in recent years, an understandable
development given the static state of the vintage card hobby and the
evolving trends associated with today’s trading card manufacturing
entertainment memorabilia, which not only includes trading cards, but
also a plethora of innovative consumer goods, exists as a burgeoning
hobbyists enjoy their own mega-event, the annual San Diego Comic Con, a
show held every July. Huge
numbers of attendees from North America and international locations view
San Diego as a week-long holiday event, and in the process form
face-to-face relationships with others normally corresponded with
online. Non-sport card
producers such as Topps and Inkworks are regular corporate exhibitors at
at the Comic Cons in recent years call to mind the crowd sizes witnessed
at previous Nationals. Sports collecting matured in 1991 at the Anaheim NSCC.
Roughly 100,000 people shoehorned their way into the convention
center during the four-day weekend.
This writer was there and had been amazed at the blocks-long
lines that snaked around the building some three hours prior to the
Saturday session opening.
frenetic energy could not be sustained indefinitely.
But the National remains the premier show for sports collectors.
Admittedly, the robust attendance figures of the early 1990s –
boosted by curiosity seekers and part-time casual collectors – appears
today as a nostalgic part of its history.
National’s executive board seeks to entice non-sport card
manufacturers to become active participants in future National events.
Mike Berkus, a founding member of the National’s first convention,
“I would love to find a way to include these wonderful card groups.
We have approached a few, like Allan Caplan at Inkworks, but to
no avail. It is
disheartening to these card companies attend (San Diego) and find better
meeting grounds that we could provide for them.”
recent years, non-sport firms Bench Warmer and Dart Flipcards World held
corporate booths at the National. Such
representation, though, is intermittent.
we approach (non-sport manufacturers), they do not find the value of the
National, and that is our fault,” Berkus said.
“If we could create some type of non-sport excitement, some
value in being there, or even find a reason to create a non-sport
section, there would be real merit (for both sides).”
year’s National in Cleveland took place one week after the San Diego
convention. The 2008
National, to be held in suburban Chicago, will open four days after the
Comic Con’s conclusion. Smaller
trading card firms would be hard pressed with the turnaround time to
exhibit at both shows. Still,
the National’s prestige should carry weight in drawing
non-sport/entertainment card producers.
It would further enhance the event’s interest level on a
national and local basis.
convention field has become intensely competitive.
Wizard World shows in several cities, including Chicago,
demonstrate the drawing power entertainment conventions now enjoy.
Will the National be able to tap into this energetic field?
notes: The National’s 28-year history has witnessed
exponential growth and also lean times in the sports collecting hobby.
A fascinating display had been constructed by Berkus containing
artifacts and photographs on the convention’s first shows in Los
Angeles, Detroit, St. Louis and Chicago. Also inside the display cases were publications dating from
the 1960s and earlier; these typewritten news sheets had been published
by figures such as Charles “Buck” Barker, an important chronicler of
trading card collecting years before the hobby’s general organization
in the mid-1970s.
convention program listed 357 dealer booth holders and over 30 corporate
IX Convention Center, located immediately south of the city’s
municipal airport, is a huge facility, and perhaps could have housed
more than an additional 200 exhibitors.
The building’s south end featured several food courts along
with two alcohol lounges where thirsty collectors and dealers could
discuss transactions and other business.
The IX Center also sports a 75-feet high (?) Ferris wheel which
did not appear much in use during the weekend.
Robinson, of West Orange, N.J., is a dealer in baseball cards and
non-sport collectibles who also promotes an annual trading card show in
the greater New York City area. Robinson
has exhibited at Nationals for over 20 years and vividly recalls the
craziness associated with the 1991 Anaheim National.
“People were throwing money at you for most of what you had at
your booth,” she said. “It
was the height of promo card mania, and the aisles were clogged three
rows deep at our tables and most everybody else.”