Inside the Pack: Tips for Visiting the National Sports Collectors Convention

Next Wednesday, the National Sports Collectors Convention will take place in Cleveland, OH. This year will be my second trip — my first was two years ago in Atlantic City. I quickly discovered one thing: I thought I had known what a baseball card show was like, but I was wrong.

The National is unlike any other show anywhere, including the huge shows in places like Chantilly and New York and Houston. Those shows are terrific, but they aren’t the National. I highly recommend taking a trip to a National one year if you’re a card collector. When you do, here are some tips that come from my experience as a first-time visitor to the National in 2016.

Give yourself time to walk around, then make a plan

At a normal card show, you’re likely to spend a few hours browsing; at a large-scale show, maybe you’re there all day. But this is the National, not your local 40-table hotel show. You’ll need an entire day just to look at everything there. I highly suggest going for more than one day, and using the first day to leisurely look around at the offerings. Write down booths you’re interested in visiting again, because you will forget where they are. Then, on the second day, go back to the tables you made a note of.

Keep an open mind…but narrow your focus

This one seems a little oxymoronic, so let me explain. You are bound to run into items you had no idea existed, or even items you didn’t know you wanted until you saw them. If you go in looking for just a few specific items, you’ll pass up all the other great offerings that dealers have. That having been said, if you KNOW that you want something (for example, a few cards to finish off your set), know exactly what you’re looking for, because you’re likely to find hundreds of dealers with the same card. Know the condition you want, as well as the price point. Which brings me to my next suggestion…

Only bring as much money as you’re willing to spend

If I brought $5,000 cash to the National with me, it would be gone in an hour and I’d have some awesome knew pieces for my personal collection. Money is sure to burn a hole in your pocket, so only bring as much cash as you’re willing to spend.


Talk to other collectors

My favorite part of the National experience is connecting with other collectors. Last time I went, I was casually talking to another collector about how I was missing one card (Tommie Aaron) to finish my 1971 Topps set. A few hours later, he walked up to my table and handed me the card, telling me he saw it on another dealer’s table. The camaraderie among collectors in unparalleled, and the National is a great place to meet like-minded card-obsessed folks.

Visit the corporate booths

I can’t recommend this one enough. The corporate booths have awesome giveaways, surprise guests, and tons of other promotions. Plus, it’s a great place to meet up with other collectors, as my previous point suggests.

This one is self-explanatory. Hope to see you there!

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