Tuesday, August 13, 2013

National Sports Collectors Convention Takeaways Pt.2

So many interesting things took place during the 34th National, I needed more than one post to cover it. Tons of highlights and some seriously ridiculous lowlights. Our interviews with Tracy Hackler, Brian Price, Brian Gray, Scott Prusha, Rick Klein, Jonathan Dalton, Chris Carlin, D.J. Kazmierczak, Will Jaimet, were a lot of fun. Sorry if I am forgetting anyone, we covered a lot of ground, but there were more events that just didn't make it onto the radio show.

A lot of people came up to us and asked why we weren't in the corporate area. Here is your answer. We didn't want to be. Imagine if you were next to us, and paid X amount of money for your spot. For 90% of the show you had speakers blaring towards your setup, and you couldn't hear your customers -- you'd be pissed, correct? Well I would too, and I didn't think it would be fair to do that to whomever surrounded us. Also, if we had a guest like Lisa Marie or Sean Kane, and a line formed, would you want it in front of your space, hindering people from seeing what you have at your booth? I didn't think so. I was grateful for Mike Berkus and his crew for finding us a great spot that didn't do either of those things, yet kept us right out there where people could see, hear and talk without taking away business from another company or dealer.

A true highlight of the show for me was to meet some of my artist friends including Jared Kelley, Brian Kong and Sean Kane. Catching up with Jay Pangan and Paul Madden was also a treat. All are uniquely talented individuals, and have done some amazing work for their respective manufacturers. Seeing Sean Kane's work up close was mind-blowing. It looks good online, but when you see it in front of you, WOW! Watching Jared's processs of painting a card from start to finish was also an amazing thing to see in person. I hope Dr. Price has him and Paul at the booth again, dueling artists was AWESOME! Jay, well he's one of the nicest guys I've met and generous. I only wish I had more time to spend with them all. Oh, and if you are a fan of MLB mascots like I am, be sure to check out Brian's work on Trolley Dodgers‬, Pinstriped Yankees, Wearing Redsox‬. He stayed through the week to also appear at Wizard World's Comic Con (more about that in an upcoming post).

You'll see a thousand complaints about the littlest and biggest things that took place at the National. It doesn't matter what you do, you will NEVER please everyone. If you can learn to live with that, you'll sleep better at night.

So here's my take on the Topps redemption program. The Yasiel Puig Gypsy Queen card was easily the most popular and sought after at the show. I'll take the high road unlike some of you that just shoot from the hip. They are short-handed. I don't know why, I won't pretend I do, but they are. They need a few more bodies and minds over there. They have a solid crew with Clay, Mark, David and Jeff, but their redemption program is ALWAYS big time and they need to staff it like it is big time.  That they let dealers get in line before the show opened to the public, well that needs to be fixed too. It's not rocket science. Do a dealer redemption line, and an attendee line. Don't start the attendee one until at least an hour after show opens to the public. VIPs should be able to get in line first. At the very least, someone should be checking badges and monitoring the situation. When you keep it limited, expect madness. Something had to change, and it did by the third day. Hopefully collectors left happy and not frustrated.

As far as their meet and greet. It continues to astonish me how many people won't say the stuff they say online once they are face-to-face. I watched people that completely disrespect that company on a daily basis act like they were best friends in that room. It was sickening.

Some of the comments made were gold. I loved the collector that asked about more Santa cards. His comments totally validated us bringing him to the National 2 years prior. Clay at Topps said he's tough to get to sign. We had him at the National in 2011, and he signed a ton of autographs! They were pretty upfront at this meet and greet stating that cost is something that stops them from doing things. I suppose I can understand that, but would it really have killed them to bring in a UFC guy or girl to sign, or even a WWE person? No it wouldn't have. I'd like to offer assistance to them in the future if they need another person at events. I have loved the Topps brand since I was 5. I can't stand seeing some of the flak they take, but some of it is justified. I bet once they address the redemption issues and, get customer service back on track, some of that criticism will subside. For those that think they don't care, they do, but where some companies can turn on a dime, make a decision in a snap, or make an instant change, Topps may not be able to because of corporate. I am fans of their staff, they are all very intelligent guys and I think they just need some help. One last bit of advice for them, if they are reading. When you get that many Topps collectors in a room, don't let a single one of them leave with nothing. Throughout the evening they had a raffle for people to win prizes. Some walked out with 3 or 4 boxes of product. Some left shaking their heads with nothing. Considering those people hung around for 2 hours after the show closed, throw them a bone for being a dedicated enough fan. A pack probably would've sufficed. Topps brought 2013 mini to the show. For the second consecutive year, they have created a mini set based on their flagship product. Many people love them, including me. I skipped the minis this year. Why? Last year there was an awesome bonus mini pack only available at the NSCC if you bought a box. That was the tipping point for me. This year, that wasn't available, thus I didn't bite.

My son Will made a card at the UD booth.
He even tried to replicate the logo. Nice!
Upper Deck had a firm goal to reach a lot of different collectors. The fantastic "Make Your Own Trading Card" booth was a smash hit. It allowed kids to make their very own card using markers and a blank canvas. It was simply awesome to see kids partaking in this trading card goodness. In addition, they were essentially a loading dock for Cards2Kids. Dealers, retailers and collectors could drop off their unwanted cards at the UD booth and they'd go directly to the charitable organization. Simply spectacular! We dropped off a huge box of singles for them. On top of that, they had quite the rousing success with their Fleer Retro redemption promotion. When the National was ready to come to a close, they held a raffle for many of the items on display at their booth. They really didn't want to take anything home. Rumor has it that at one point during the show, they bought everyone at their booth ice cream. Why? Because collecting Upper Deck cards is COOL. You know cool, like Ice Cream. Shame I missed that, but I need an ice cream cone like I need another chin. Listen to Chris Carlin on Cardboard Connection Radio (skip to the 51 minute mark).

I was happy to see Collector Revolution set up at the show. I like what they are doing. Their customer base is growing and I continue to hear nothing but great things from the ones we talk to. That's a good sign. I will continue to observe their growth. The man in charge, Jonathan has a solid game plan, and the sky is the limit.


Some of my favorite people in the world are affectionately known to our group as the Brian Triad. That would be Brian Price, Brian Gray and Brian Wallos. You know them as the President of In the Game Inc., the owner of Leaf Trading Cards, and the man behind Benchwarmer. I often ask myself what would happen if the three of them merged. Now that would be something, wouldn't it? All three brought something special to the National. ITG put a fantastic cut signature autograph featuring all 4 of the Beatles. Yeah. John, Paul, George & Ringo on a single card. Amazing collectible. Check out the video of the presentation with special guest assistant Benchwarmer Mary Riley.


ITG's Chicago-centric redemption set was sharp too. Featuring great art of popular Chicago Blackhawks, it was on my must-have list. It was also great to see my friend Stephen Laroche and spend some time with him, as well as catching up with Allan Levine.

At the same time ITG was doing their promotion, Leaf was also doing something special. They had the Lucky Clover drawing for a Josh Gibson autograph. I told you we were busy right? We captured that on film too. Bringing the National home for collectors since 2000, yeah that's us.



As for Benchwarmer, Brian Wallos brings his lovely ladies to the show and the lines for them to sign cards is consistent throughout the entire weekend. Lots of people claim to have the best booth. Brian by far has the best looking booth. The one man and multi-woman show adds a dynamic to the National that no one else can pull off. As dedicated as his ladies are to the Benchwarmer cause, some of his collectors are even more dedicated. Some Benchwarmer super collectors were at the show, and they had some jaw-dropping cards in their collections. Me? I usually try to get all of the girls on the National exclusive cards, but again I was WAY too busy, so I snuck by and grabbed a Billie Jo Powers autograph. She was one I didn't have in my collection.

So, think I am long-winded yet? I've got more. Look at least one, if not two more posts about the National coming soon, or when I find some more time.

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