(Not) Live from the National: Wednesday/Thursday

Shenanigans from a guy who is definitely 100% not at the National Sports Collectors Convention

So last year, I had planned to attend the National. It was in Cleveland and relatively close by. Unfortunately, I had to drop out and missed the whole thing. I still lived vicariously through all of you fine people and put together a series of posts documenting it via Twitter.

This year, I pretty much knew I wouldn’t get there so I figured I’d pull the same dumb trick twice. Sophomore slumps are real and I have zero doubt this will be one. But whatever.

As it was last year, these will be posts of tomofoolery. If you’re looking for actual news stuff from the National, you can get that anywhere. I’m not here to be your puppet for that, my friends. In the words of Tony Kornhesier, I’m back for more cash. So let’s get to it.

Head Hunting

So, a big focus at the National is surely going to be the whole altered cards scandal. Folks aren’t happy and are going to showcase their displeasure. Heads might not roll but people are coming with all the jokes. I give you Exhibit A.

Hide and Seek

I don’t know about you but I hate it when my income goes missing.

Tweet National

Getting Your Ducks in a Row

So, we’re just really getting off the ground here. For the folks attending, that’s even in a literal context as planes are landing and people are just starting to get situated. I imagine all kinds of action will go down the first time with deciding where to eat, who’s sleeping on the floor, and such.

It’s going to take some time to get acclimated to our new surroundings. You know, figuring out if you’re supposed to tip the shuttle driver or not. Finding the free continental breakfast at your hotel and making sure seconds are not frowned upon. Getting new wifi passwords. Remembering which booth it was that had the special on bulk lots of 1991 Topps Chipper Jones rookies. This is the sort of stuff that just takes some feeling out and it’s going to take some getting used to. We’re all easing in here and that’s fine.

But come on, wake up people and focus! This is the National and there are 1990 Upper Deck box breaks to be had. This is no time for technological challenges.

Tweet National

Let’s Make a Deal

Alright, this is the big time. We’re here at the National and it’s time to get down to business. Some prefer to hang around for a few days then pick up a desired item towards the end when dealers get panicky about their budgets being overblown and whatnot.

Others don’t roll like that. If there’s a deal to be had, well, make the deal now. There’s really no sense in waiting and if you get a great offer, what’s the point, right?

So it happens. You get an offer and you weigh such offer. You make careful considerations, weighing the positives and negatives. The ‘If/Then’ scenarios are being played out in your head. Repeatedly, to the point of annoyance. The Jansport across your back feels a bit heavier and your palms are somewhat sweaty. The stench of the room with hundreds of deodorant-less men suddenly seems stronger. After enough prodding from a dealer, you’ve made your decision, tacitly nodding without speaking a word. He does a silent fistbump in his head, feeling he got over. It’s fine. A deal has been reached and there’s no turning back now.

CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR TRADE, SIR.

$$$

Presented without comment. What’s a half mil between friends?

Going on a Bender (and I don’t mean Chief)

Speaking of money. We’ve all been there, right? Maybe you’re itching for some cards but can’t dig up anything more than a little bit of spare change. You’ve got the uncontrollable urge to buy something but you’re fresh out of eBay Bucks and you’re another week away from payday.

These days when I get the itch for some cheaper, low-end stuff, I’ll dig around for some 1930s UK sets, old Exhibit cards, postcards, and whatever else from the pre-war era I can find. But back in the day, there was only one real fix — junk wax.

Now, I used to buy boxes in bulk from dealers when I could find them and just spend a weekend ripping the equivalent of a case of mixed packs. I knew there weren’t real finds to be had here. I think the biggest pull might have been like a $20 insert or something. This wasn’t about making money, it was about just opening packs like a kid. These weekends generally consisted of a lot of laying around the house, ordering a couple of pizzas, haphazardly ripping the cards, maybe some Final Fantasy 7 gaming, and me yelling at my wife to make sure she didn’t knock over the mammoth piles of cards I had from said rips.

I get it. Some days you just want to spend some time ripping junk wax. There’s no better time to do this than at the National. Boxes of 1990 Fleer and 1988 Score abound. Or, you know, maybe you want something a little nicer.

So here’s the thing. Some will be hypercritical about this and try to do the math in their head to see what’s needed to break even. After realizing what it takes, they will then endlessly deride such character for such a rip, claiming it’s a big waste. Wayne Gretzky’s rookie card is the big find, obviously, and a PSA 9 goes for around $25-$30K. Thus, you’re looking at two of those just to break even (assuming the price was at $50K), assuming you don’t hit the jackpot of a PSA 10. The math rarely ends up well, friends. That’s one reason I hate the idea of shelling out loads of cash for unopened vintage. Like, 80% of the time, it’s a losing fight in terms of making a profit.

But my deal is, this is clearly a person without financial constraints. This is not a $100 rip – it’s one in the five figures. Like, this is Edward Stratton from Silver Spoons with a freaking automatic train running through his mansion. Said person is not shacking up at the Red Roof Inn at the National with like three other dudes. They will not be partaking in your silly continental breakfast. Nah, man. This person is out to spend a boatload of cash, hang out in a pretty good town, throw down a half-dozen high end steaks, and go on a bender with regards to buying cards. That’s it. I mean, no one is buying this box and hoping for a PSA 10 Gretzky since the odds are quite clearly against you. People ripping a box like this are doing it for the sheer fun of it and if they happen to make money off of it, so be it. This is paying for the experience of opening cards, not the actual cards themselves. Fair. I mean, I could think of a million different ways to better spend $50K but you do you. I’ve got no beef, fam.

Who’s the Sponsor, Again?

Now, I’m all for cool gimmicky interactive things. Like, there’s a grading contest at the National. Then there are opportunities to make your own T206 cards. I mean, it’s all kind of fluffy but adds to the experience and helps fill some of the downtime you might be having if you’re stuck waiting behind dudes that are sprawled out thumbing through dollar boxes and stuff. Plus if you’re taking a kid, this is good, free entertainment. That’s a win-win for any mom or dad in this situation, I imagine.

Panini decided to throw their hat into the ring of the entertainment part of the event. There, people can make their own Rated Rookie cards and those of us that grew up in the 1980s love us some Rated Rookies stuff. Great idea and likely to get all sorts of foot traffic.

Only one problem and that’s, you know, TRYING TO FIND THE ACTUAL RATED ROOKIE LOGO AGAINST A BACKDROP OF PANINI LOGOS. Holy overdone sponsor placement, Batman. You’re Panini. We get it. Couldn’t you just drop the logo on the back or something. Woof.

lolwut

Alright, the sun is setting on the second day of the National. Maybe you’re an autograph hound. Well, friend, this is the place for you. A gaggle of guys are in town signing and even a 94-year-old Marv Levy is in the mix. If you love long autograph lines, standing in between collectors with dufflebags of equipment, opportunities for bad selfies, and a fifteen-second chat with an athlete for $100-$200, let me tell you, this is your happy place.

Sure, maybe you like autographs but some of the price tags — yikes. $500 for Mariano Rivera? Um, yeah, that’ll be a hard no. I mean, sure, you love filling up on $20 signatures at local shows and such. But now we’re just talking crazy.

You’re surrounded by cards. Like, this is the largest gathering of card collectors on the planet. It could be argued that there’s no better place to spend your money for cards. But maybe cards just aren’t your bag. You’ve tried to get into it but it’s not for you. Like, you only want autographs. And it’s autographs you’re going to find even if you have to lower your standards a little.

This, my friends, is right up your alley.

Oh, come on, button it up.

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