Monday, July 28, 2014

Prepping for the National

At this point, I consider myself a seasoned card show vet.  I've been going to shows since I was 10 or 11, and in that time have seen everything from a 4 table hotel show to the 100-200 table extravaganzas.  But this week will be my first National.

I've been drooling over the concept of attending a National since seeing the annual writeups and photos in Becketts growing up.  In recent years I had a few chances to make the trip, but balked at the last second.  Cleveland and Baltimore were both within driving distance in recent years, but I decided against both trips.  With the National not scheduled to be near me again until 2018 in Cleveland, I can't pass up this chance.

But from what I've seen and read online, the National is definitely a different beast from my usual show prep.  I'm expecting to see more modern cards, more mid-end, and hopefully some great deals.  The National is definitely the place for high rolling collectors.  Online posts talk about people dropping a few grand, a feat that can be easily accomplished with some mid to high grade pre-war vintage.  But my budget will have a few zeroes knocked off of it from those figures.  And there isn't much online about the low end collector experience at the National.  Understandable I suppose when there are literally millions of dollars of cards and memorabilia changing hands.  My stack of dime cards isn't all that exciting in comparison.

Any tips, advice, or anecdotes from those who have been in years past would certainly be appreciated.  Tomorrow I'll be writing about my targets for the day.  But today, it's all about the show survival guide.

1) Food!  When prepping for a show, it's easy to overlook the non-cardboard necessities.  But any big show inevitably requires loading up one of the small compartments of my backpack with some granola bars, a bottle of water, and maybe a sandwich or two.

I want to maximize my card browsing time, particularly when I have a two hour plus drive each way.  And any chance to save money frees up some extra cash for the card budget.  Packing food kills two birds with one stone, allowing me to take a quick bite while walking between tables.

2) Checklists I admit I'm a little more disorganized than most.  Luckily having a photography memory has allowed me to get by without the most up to date checklists for years.  But at almost 13,000 Pirate cards, the photographic memory bank seems to be on overload, and I've accidentally bought more than a few doubles over the last year.  I'll be going fully equipped with paper checklist for my vintage needs, and an electronic copy of my master Pirates checklist.

I'm quite possibly the only person under 30 without a smart phone, so it does add a little challenge for the day.  But Kate's iPod touch should allow me to access wifi in the building.  I updated my website to have the most recent version of my master Pirates checklist, with scans for about 75% of the cards.  That should provide a nice backup option and visual checklist if I need it, though it will undoubtedly be a huge pain to get the pages to load at the convention center.

3) Trade bait   I'm usually not one to do trades at shows, but I have a Bowman Chrome autos from Mike Stanton and Evan Longoria that I pulled from blasters years ago that have just been sitting in boxes ever since.  I won't be actively looking to trade them, but having some extra bargaining chips in case I come across any must-have Pirates cards will be nice.

4) Comfortable shoes  A long day of walking, standing, and flipping through boxes on far from cushioned floors means a comfy pair of shoes is a must.

5) Notepad, pens, and venue map I've never been to a show that had a map before.  And I'm assuming that map is there for a reason.  I've read that having somewhere to jot down table number, isles, and anything else you want to come back and take a look at is a must.

I made a major dent in my vintage needs at the last Robert Morris show, and have already come pretty close to meeting my collecting goals for the year.  I'm hoping to just sit back and enjoy my experience at the National, without getting too stressed over what I do or don't find.


  1. Mark, I went to the Baltimore National in 2012, and it is an experience to say the least.

    It is sensory overload for sure. I wound up using two days to make sure that I went through everything, and I'm probably going to do that again this year.

    It sounds like you're well prepared, especially with the checklists and the food. Just be ready for a lot of walking!!

    I'll be up there myself on Friday and Saturday, prepared for battle.....

    1. I'm definitely going Thursday. Depending on how things go (and where my budget is at), Kate and I may make the drive out again Saturday or Sunday. I overspent at Robert Morris, so I'm trying to stick to a tight budget...key word being trying.

  2. Wish I could make it down to Cleveland for the National this year. Guess I'll have to wait for the next time it comes back to Chicago. Some of the best dime boxes I've ever picked through were at the National. Can't wait to see what you find, Mark.

    Have fun!

  3. Have you find tons of Pirate goodness!

  4. Good luck! Can't wait to see what you walk away with!