Friday, August 1, 2014

The National Show Review

Going in to my first National, I didn't really know what to expect.  In terms of size, selection, and pricing I went in just looking to enjoy the experience and hopefully add some new cards.

Check on both accounts.

I left the house around 7:30am, getting to the show about 15 minutes after the doors opened at 10:00.  The second I passed through the front doors the sheer scope hit me.  I've been to some pretty large card shows, but the sheer scope and spectacle behind the National is something that really is tough to describe.
I made a point to walk the entire convention floor, even though I undoubtedly skipped over many tables with greats finds that I just never got to.  Large memorabilia pieces, jerseys, autographed books, supplies, McFarlanes, and old wax boxes were pretty easy to come across.  That was a pretty big deviation from the standard card show fare, and was a nice surprise.  

I tried to avoid spending too much time "window shopping" at the higher end pieces in order to maximize my time at the event, and I think I managed a pretty good haul, including the amazing autographs I posted about earlier today.

The same dealer who sold me the autographs was telling me that some of the dealers were already talking about leaving as early as Fri or Sat after a poor showing Wednesday and weak traffic Thursday.  It's hard to judge traffic in a venue so large, but the show was a lot less crowded than I had expected.  When I went out to my car after the show, there were only maybe another two or three rows of vehicles behind where I had parked early in the morning, though VIP parking is on the other side of the convention center.

I do wonder if the mix of dealers was weaker than some larger markets.  I was told the National comes to Cleveland simply because the rent is so cheap.  The IX Center controls the $8 per vehicle parking lot surrounding the venue, and the concessions inside looked like a series of small restaurants lining the wall of the building rather than the standard $5 hot dog at most convention centers.  Oh, and did I mention they have a ferris wheel in the middle of the freaking show floor?

I didn't see a couple dealers who always do the big Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Cincinnati 100-200 table shows, so I wonder if Cleveland isn't known for being a great market.

People were very correct that you need to write down table numbers - there were a few booths I wanted to go back to, and never found since I forgot to take their number.  

In terms of the actual content, I wasn't blown away.  I saw lots of tables with $2 gu/autos, and $5 and $10 boxes.  You can routinely get most of the $2 cards for about half that price on COMC (though I did find a few steals, including a $2 Andruw Jones auto).  The $5 and $10 assortments weren't much better than what I find at local shows - cards priced right at or slightly above ebay values. aren't paying anything to ship the card to me.  In fact I'm paying to come to you and buy it.  In short, my goals of snagging some nice mid range cards at solid prices didn't gain any traction.

The dime box assortment also seemed less exciting than reports I read from Chicago last year.  I was able to fill in my team sets from recent 2014 Topps releases, but I didn't see any boxes of minis, Topps parallels, or the like from this year.  It seemed a little strange to me.

Speaking of strange, I didn't see a single Andrew McCutchen card all day.  They were missing from every dime box, quarter, and even dollar box I looked through.  I don't know if he has developed a strong national following or if his cards were being abducted by aliens.  But it seemed very strange.

Another oddity was the glut of cards from 2010-2012 that I came across.  Almost nothing from the 90's-mid 00's, and very little from 2013 and 2014.  But if you wanted Bowman paper cards, you came to the right place.  I think you could have completed entire sets of Bowman Blue cards from one dealer's $.25 box alone.  I know I've had pretty similar gripes about other recent shows, but I had thought the selection might be a little broader at the National.  Guess it just goes to show you that somewhere out there there must be a collector with an entire house full of cards from 1998-2005.

But I see how you could easily spend a year's salary at the National.  I thought I had walked the entire floor, when I realized I hadn't seen anything about the card company exclusives.  Oops!  There was an entire section I completely missed.  There was drool-worthy stuff all over the place.  Most of my purchases were of the $10 and under variety.  It felt like almost everybody around me was dropping $100+ per transaction.

There were dealers everywhere, and it looked like most of them were looking to scoop up whatever deals there were and make even more money off of them.  But there were still plenty of great finds to be had, and I added some nice cards to pretty much all of my collection (except hockey, which seemed almost invisible at the National).

The day did end on a bit of a sour note though.  After going through the cash I had brought on hand, I went to reload at the atm.  This lovely sign greeted me.
The other ATM machine in the venue had the same sign.  I asked the front desk, and apparently there was some problem with the line, and they pretty much said "yep, you're out of luck."  And with absolutely nothing nearby, I couldn't walk elsewhere to get more cash.  It was a pretty shitty end to a great experience, since there were a few small items I wanted to go back for and none of the sellers took cards/paypal for some reason.  I guess it was life's little way of reminding me I was still in Cleveland.

  But maybe it's for the best, since I think those few nagging loose ends might be enough to motivate me to drive back again tomorrow.


  1. A Ferris wheel in the hall? Weird.
    The ATMs were down? I bet once the dealers learn of that more of them leave early. What a bummer.

    Thanks for the breakdown and the pictures. I'm going to try hard to hit the National when it returns to Chicago.

  2. The ATM thing really put me in a bad mood. They had been working when I passed them earlier in the day, but were down at 4:45 or so - there were just a couple things I wanted to pick up, probably less than $30 total. Cash is king, but I didn't want to be carrying a ton of cash with me all day. Overall, it was a great experience.

    It'll probably be at least 2018 before I get to another one - Chicago and Atlantic City are a little too far for my budget.

  3. A ferris wheel at a card show? Can't say I've ever seen that before.

    I had much better dime box experiences at my National forays than what you appeared to have yesterday. Sorry it didn't work out better for you. I did notice the rash of 2010-12 cards at the National around here as well. I usually skip those tables. They might have some good stuff, but not nearly enough to warrant me spending a good half-hour digging through them.

    I can't believe the ATM broke down. That seems like the one area you'd think the show's owners would have a handle on. Especially with all the high-end cards that swap hands at the National.

    If you can, I'd recommend going back tomorrow. Some dealers start to mark down items the last couple days to unload inventory. You might get a steal that you couldn't have found yesterday.

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