If you have never experienced a National Convention, you are missing out. You are missing out on a gathering of collectors that happens only a few times a year, and this is definitely the only of those events with this type of fanfare. The convention is always important because of attendance, announcements and giveaways, but there are also other things at work that will definitely make this worthwhile for anyone interested in attending.
Each year, the convention is comprised of a few groups of people. First are the collectors, who will travel from around the world to Chicago, which will house thousands of exhibitors looking to connect with new customers and sell their wares. Every type of collector will show up, whether they are modern hit chasers or vintage pre-war set collectors.
The second group is the card manufacturers, who will all be there to meet their customers and give a bunch of stuff away. In recent years, the only reasons some manufacturers attend are just to be seen and make it rain wrapper redemptions, offering little in terms of actual experiences with their customers. Topps is one of the only companies that offers a formal Q and A, but all the companies have reps on the floor during the whole show if you have something to say.
The third group of people are the exhibitors, who sell everything from packs and boxes to game used memorabilia. I would advise against buying sealed wax from anyone but the usual suspects, as trust is always a huge issue with low volume sales. Blowout, Atlanta Sports Cards, DA Cardworld, and all the big players will have huge setups, and if you are going to buy, that’s where I would go. All should have special deals for the show, and will likely have the best prices.
One thing about the national is that most of the people who set up ALSO sell their stuff on ebay, which means there really arent many cards that you cant already find (likely cheaper) online. They have to pay for their space at the show, so that means overhead and higher prices. You can also buy the wrapper redemption cards you actually want, instead paying all that money for boxes of product you would never buy in the first place:
2014 Panini National Convention Kris Bryant Auto
2014 Panini National Convention Johnny Manziel Auto Patch
2014 Topps National Convention Mike Trout Ginter Mini
2014 Upper Deck National Convention LeBron James Auto /8
This includes the packs themselves, including the gold ones from the Panini VIP party:
Lot of 10 Gold Panini VIP Redemption Packs
The one thing I would actually consider buying at the show is memorabilia – especially signed and game used. Those types of things can be had for some GREAT prices, and if you question a signature authenticity – PSA, JSA and the other auth companies are on hand to take a look. Make sure you get a receipt to prove any issues if one surfaces.
There will literally be tables and tables full of bats, helmets, balls, plaques, figures and artwork, all of which will literally blow your mind. Want a vintage bobblehead? Someone will likely be selling hundreds at negotiable prices. Want a signed ball from Babe Ruth? Im sure you can track one down.
Group breaks will also be a huge draw for people at the event, with the show organizers realizing how much product really flows through these individuals. They will have an area at the show again, and it is likely that they will be breaking non-stop for every single minute of the convention. If you want to jump in on one, all the big sites will be there.
As a collector, its important to go and experience everything that show has to offer, whether its the massive amounts of giveaways that will be happening, or the opportunity to catch up with your buddies who have only existed as a username prior to the show. Its a way to connect with cards in a way that isnt available online or in a shop, and to also be a part of the hobby’s fabric that is slowly thinning at the edges.
Speaking of giveaways, they will be all over the show floor, and some will be worth your time to check out. There should be a running monologue in your head about the true motives behind each giveaway, and if you read my posts about Father’s Day and Black Friday, you now know why Panini’s booth features hundreds of thousands redemption packs to bribe people into buying their boxes at the show. Dealers bring specific Panini overstock to the floor solely for the giveaways, and there is A LOT of Panini overstock these days. So much so that it can choke the distros without these types of events in place.
You have to make the giveaway worth people’s time if you expect them to voluntarily open Spectra Football:
Trust me, Panini doesnt love you enough to give away free shit without scratching their own back too. Its why there are specific products that are required to get packs. They want you to buy the stuff that no one can move at the show, so that their true customers can clear shelves of all those terrible sets that Panini puts out. Sure, the redemption packs have some nice cards in them, but from personal experience, you have to get CRAZY lucky to pull anything worth while.
The main rule is simple. If you wouldnt normally buy the box, dont buy it to get the wrapper redemption either.
Here is the underlying point of this post and its one you should take very seriously. If you are reading this blog, you are likely a part of the online community. Use this time to hang out – set up meetings with your contacts from Twitter and the boards, and use the show as your own cardboard vacation. Most people go to the national only to spend time there, so the free time after hours will be plentiful. Try to get involved in the group activities that will be taking place, and dont be afraid to join up with a group. There are lots of people who would love another person to keep things fun.
None of my friends collect cards, and not many understand why I do. The feeling when you are sitting at a table full of people that all get you the way you understand yourself, its an unequaled sense of belonging. Can you get that at your local shop? Of course. Can you get that online? Yes. In the same dose as the national convention? Nope. And that’s why you need to go.
Although Chicago is usually a show location that I will attend each time, the recent addition to our family prevents a vacation this year. I wish I could be there with the gang this year, but its just not in the cards. Have fun, and if anyone gets some cool Vikings or Twins stuff in their redemption packs – shoot me a message.