The National Wrap

This item was submitted by Tim.  You can follow him on Twitter, at @therealdfg.  

Now that we are a few days removed from this years National Sports Collector’s Convention in Chicago, I thought I would gather my thoughts and talk about my experience this year. I know, I know. You have already read 300 posts about the show and you are over it. Well, tough.

This was by no means my first trip to the rodeo, so to speak. I have attended the last five NSCC shows that have come through Chicago (my first was at the 14th show in 1993, also in Chicago at McCormick Place). Because I live so close to the city, it doesn’t take much to make the 50-60 minutes trip out near O’Hare to attend a show.

But this year was different than in past years. My focus this year was less about the fulfillment of want lists, the acquisition of mass quantities of cardboard, auto-hounding, or ultimately breaking the bank. This year I decided to make it about the three most important things that keep my in the hobby…Friends, Family, and Fun. I’d call it a success.

We hit the show for one day out of the five it was opened. Our day of choice was Saturday, which is generally the busiest day of the show both with events, autograph guests, and foot traffic. We showed up to an already packed house at 10AM, right as the doors opened. Oh, I forgot to mention. The “we” I keep speaking about are my wife and three boys all under the age of 12, which means FREE ADMISSION! But that’s not why I brought everyone. I love to share and encourage the hobby with my family. What better way to do that than to experience the biggest show of the year.

My hobby has been something that has taken up a large portion of my time, energy, and attention since I started collecting. This is why I try to involve everyone in the collecting process. My two boys are well aware of my cardboard obsession and it rubs off on them. I encourage them to participate, not just accumulate. What does that mean? Actually look at the pictures, the design, the colors. Read the stats on the back. Read the player story-lines. Staying engaged with the cardboard in your collection makes a big difference in what you collect, how you collect, and why you collect. I keep this at the forefront with my kids so they stay engaged and it is exciting for them.

My step-son has just recently been introduced to the world of cards and he is a natural. His first “real” cards came last Christmas and he hit the ground running, organizing them by teams without being prompted. It almost brought a tear to my eye…almost. My wife. Well that’s a whole different ball game. She is, dare I say, almost as obsessed as I am. I got her hooked by including her while breaking open boxes. She LOVES to open packs. She, unlike myself, even enjoys numerically sorting cards. She loves to be involved, because I love to be involved. We can have intelligent (if you call it that) conversations together about cards, players, teams, and the sports themselves. She’s said on a number of occasions that she never thought she would actually like sports. Cards have helped bridge that gateway. If you are reading this, you’re welcome, Babe.

With the family portion out of the way, let’s move to friends. As many of you know, I have been blogging since 2009 (not as much recently but still). I have made many friends in the hobby over the years as a result. Twitter has only helped to magnify that, as have the many other trading forums and seller’s gateways out there in the interwebs. The National is probably one of the best places to meet up with many of these people, put faces to names, talk shop, and generally just enjoy the company of other similar minded collectors. I have a few people that I almost always see at local shows in Chicago and we trade cards (yes, I said trade). I will say that unfortunately this year, circumstances beyond my control made seeing a few of my collecting buddies impossible. But nonetheless, Sal (from Puck Junk…you know the “other” guy from the podcast…ha ha) and I got together, swapped some cards, swapped some stories, and got caught up. I also met a couple faces from Twitter and got to talk to a few VIPs from the card manufacturers. The National is by far the best socially interactive environment for collectors.

Which brings me to the FUN portion of the post. What would this hobby be without fun? It wouldn’t be a hobby, that much is for sure. Sometimes I think collectors forget the fun part. It becomes more about the “hits”, more about making money, more about turning a profit. It turns the hobby into a job, which is fine if that is actually your job. But for the rest of us, hobby burnout is easily achieved when the perspective inches away from fun.

The National this year was the most fun I have had with the hobby in quite a long time and I think has energized me to get back on track with my collecting goals. Why? Well the first two reasons I have already discussed are a big ones, family and friends. Beyond that though, where else can a guy (or gal) completely geek out over cardboard and just be one of the crowd? There was something for everyone at this years’ show and we took every opportunity we could in the short time we were there.

Instead of spending all day hunting and gathering, we spent most of our time having fun. We participated in the Upper Deck wrapper redemption program which got us four packs that resulted in four autographs! The kids got to experience their first “group break” as they participated in Panini’s Free Kids Break featuring Paramount Basketball. There was even some team trading going on before hand. We got Topps to float me 300,000 Bunt Coins and experienced their “death by plush” red carpet. We took pictures with dinosaurs. We jumped into a Shadowbox card with Michael Jordan. We saw so much memorabilia and cool artifacts from sports’ storied past (some iconic in nature, some bizarre). We saw auctions items drool worthy. We got to hear an epic “Pack Wars”.

From a collection standpoint, we picked up multiple early 2000s hockey wax boxes for the price of one of today’s releases. We got to sift through dozens of boxes of $.10, $.15, $.25, and $1.00 boxes (although the kids probably were sick of that quickly). My team sets and player collections increased. I knocked a bunch off my want lists. The kids picked up a box to break together and the amount of free cards given to the kids was crazy, too thanks to Panini, Topps, and host of other dealers.

I’m glad I got to experience the National this year and I’m looking forward to 2017. But mostly, I’m glad my family got to experience it with me. Those memories will surely outlast any cardboard we added to our collections.

You can also find this piece, along with some pictures here, on Tim’s blog.  

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