On Saturday, it was announced that the National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City would be delayed, pushed back from the first week in August to December 12-16. In the announcement, the NSCC said that should conditions change, there will be a final decision made by the end of September with regards to the show taking place.
This seems like a fairly straightforward announcement, but there are actually a lot of layers to it to peel back. The first is that the dates are unconventional for a National. Typically the National’s official dates are Wednesday through Sunday, with Wednesday being an evening-only “preview” affair and Thursday being the first full day. That structure makes little to no sense in this format; Saturday is typically a great day for card shows, with most one-day shows taking place on Saturdays and the Saturday of the National typically being the strongest day out of all five. It would not be prudent to have Saturday be a preview day. So, my guess is that the Saturday here will be a full day.
Additionally, at a typical National, many dealers are starting to pack up and blow their remaining inventory out at a heavily discounted rate by Sunday. It seems quite obvious that in this revised scenario, Monday through Wednesday will be significantly less attended than the weekend. I don’t see too many dealers sticking around until Wednesday, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see some set up just for Saturday and Sunday and pack things in on Monday.
There are also a lot of shows around that time in the area that are currently scheduled with vendor commitments. In fact, just one week earlier and one hour down the road there is a large Philadelphia show scheduled. The “East Coast National” in White Plains, NY takes place the week before Philly. The Chicago Sportacular show is the week before that. So, that’s 3 huge shows that have already been on the books happening in successive weeks right before the new dates for the National.
It had previously been announced that a decision on holding the National would come by the end of May. The show promoters did not even wait until the end of the second week of the month to make the decision. I have little doubt that a decision on the December dates will be made before September 30. What will that decision be?
Already online, many dealers and customers are noting that they won’t be attending. It’s worth taking those posts with a grain of salt, since there is typically a waiting list for vendors and customers tend to show up even if they hadn’t originally planned to. That said, my gut tells me that the ultimate decision will be to cancel the 2020 National and wait until the 2021 engagement in Chicago. A confluence of all of the factors I listed above, combined with the difficulty of traveling to the Northeast in winter, the strange dates that lead into the middle of a week, the likelihood that most autograph guests will likely want to cancel out of an abundance of caution, the fact that school will still be in session at that time, and many dealers likely choosing to take a skip year, all point to this show not happening. Combine that with the fact that sports cards are having an online renaissance right now — making it more lucrative than ever to sell from home — and it’s hard to see how all the large vendors and corporate sponsors decide to put themselves at risk to go to Atlantic City if there are still lingering impacts of COVID-19.
It’s impossible to tell this far away from December, but it became clear to the National’s board of directors that the current dates wouldn’t work, and I’m glad they pulled the plug early enough to let vendors and attendees cancel their arrangements. Hopefully, things will begin to ease up and get safer over the next few months; if that ends up being the case, holding the National in December will be a no-brainer. I was very excited to see a reschedule announcement instead of a cancellation announcement, because I have every intent of going to the best card show the industry has to offer. If things are safe and the show does happen I plan on being there, but my best guess is that we won’t be seeing a National until Chicago.