For those who love conventions, then Chicago is the place to be this summer (July 31 – August 4). The National Sports Collectors Convention rolls into town to be situated at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center for about a business week’s time. This is the 40th anniversary of the convention, so it’s likely to have a big playout and event calendar heading northwest from last year’s convention in Cleveland. More importantly, the National will be one of the biggest draws of the year for the largest inventory of rare cards, memorabilia and sports image products in the country. It’s a great event to go to for any collector, even if just to window-shop and enjoy the experience.
The show can be described in one word: huge. There will be hundreds of vendors and dealers squeezed into every working cubicle of space in the vendor section of the convention. So, paying attention to the convention guide as well as the planned location for specific vendors would be a very good idea so your time is well spent. Otherwise, you might end up spending days walking the entire and miss that key product you’ve been looking for your entire collecting life.
Just being smart from the beginning, plan to bring a couple of items that will make your visit to the National worth all the effort. First, bring a backpack. Even if you haven’t worn one since your last day in school, having your hands free and place to put your stuff while walking the floor is just smart thinking. Wear really comfortable sneakers. Most people are not used to standing for eight hours in a day, and your feet will remind you of that fact with poor shoes or flip-flops. Bring a bagged lunch in your backpack and a bottle of water. Your money is better spent on what you want at the National versus throwing it way on hyper-inflated convention fast food.
For the collecting side of things have a game planned set out for what you want to achieve at the National. If you want something autographed, make sure to get your tickets ahead of time for the autograph signing events and bring your own Sharpie pen just in case. If you’re looking to sell stock to a dealer at the show, make sure it’s the premium best items you have. Mediocre items won’t get the time of day; dealers are at the National foremost to sell, not to buy more junk. Bring a camera as well or a good smartphone. You’re going to see stuff at the convention you may not ever see again, so take advantage of the opportunity. Finally, make sure to window-shop even if you are at the National to buy key items for your collection. The first copy you find probably won’t be the cheapest version at the convention. Look around and play the dealers off each other for the best price. Sometimes waiting to buy the last day may get you a price drop in your benefit. Dealers would rather sell than pack up and lug more inventory home.
Oh, and don’t forget, enjoy yourself. This isn’t a torture session.