Saturday, August 17, 2013

34th National Sports Collectors Convention -The Final Chapter

It's time for part 3 of my NSCC Trilogy. I promise there won't be any Ewoks. On the same night as the Topps meet and greet, there was dinner party taking place with the members of the vintage group Of the members of the forum that I met that night, and the ones I sat with during the dinner, I enjoyed the company of a great group of guys. The night led off with a couple of speakers, one was very well spoken, one sounded like an infomercial, and one made me laugh out loud several times for all the wrong reasons. I felt bad, but I had to leave before the final speaker to attend the Topps event. Many thanks to Leon Luckey for his hospitality, I hope to have him on the show soon to talk more about Net54 and vintage. 

I'd be cheating you out of a good story if I didn't at least elaborate on the speaker that made me laugh. It was Josh Evans. Josh is the founder of Lelands. He's done tremendous things for the industry in my lifetime, and I am a fan. His story is a good one, he is easily one of the most recognized leaders in the memorabilia and auction category. Somehow in his speech, he was telling a story that for the most part made sense. It was about his origins, and he infused a little testosterone to toot his own horn. That happens at the National. The story somehow kept focusing on Charlie Sheen and a deal that Evans was trying to close with the former Two & A Half Men star. So what was funny about it? Well at first it was about a specific item Sheen wanted and Evans found it. He basically used his savings to purchase it and needed to sell it ASAP.  As the story progressed, the item started being referred to as stuff. He also kept saying he has sold Sheen a lot of stuff. When Evans went to deliver it, Sheen was not at home, but in rehab. Before he could mutter another sentence, everyone at our table was making interesting guesses as to what stuff Evans was delivering to Sheen, and what stuff Sheen was doing to get into himself into rehab. The funny/sad part of the story is that we never learned what the stuff was. However the item Evans sold to Sheen was Babe Ruth's world series ring. I was laughing so hard that I swallowed an ice cube whole.

I can't say enough about Panini America's NSCC presence. I'll get to the VIP party in a bit, but even before that happened, they had plenty of events going on. From having Jared Sullinger signing at their booth to case breaks and a massively popular redemption program, it was a constant barrage of cool. They had a large group of staff present ranging from marketing and product development to sales and VPs. We spoke to many of them on the Cardboard Connection Radio Show. Use that link to check out the archives. Here's a look at a couple of the cards from their VIP set. It includes cards of EJ Manuel, Geno Smith, Nail Yakupov, Oscar Tavares, and the mystery cards were Ben McLemore & Nerlens Noel.

They brought former Buckeyes and current Celtics power forward Jared Sullinger to sign at their booth which created a nice buzz among attendees.

In addition they crafted a huge redemption set for those busting the many Panini products over the weekend. It contains 24 base cards, 23 rookies #d to 499, 13 Diamond/Court/Gridiron Kings, 10 Team Colors, a variety of Tools of the Trade, and Staff memorabilia cards of Tim Franz, Tracy Hackler, Jason Howarth and D.J. Kazmierczak. There are parallels of many of the cards, as well as the extremely limited Print Progressions.

There were two additional big events that Panini had planned for the week. One was a meeting with distributors that would address any issues with the removal of MAPP pricing, and unveil their plans for a new incentive program called the Panini Round Table program. It would put branded Panini items including box cutters, shirts and more into the hands of shop owners. You can listen to Panini's D.J. Kazmierczak discuss the Round Table program, and more by using this link (FF to the 16 minute mark).

The other event was their VIP party. To enter you had to purchase $7500 worth of Panini products, or if you were insanely lucky you could have won entry via a Blowout Cards contest or the Ultra Pro and Cardboard Connection Radio contest.

Scott and Tammy (the winners) pictured below, had a fantastic time at the party and really had a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here they are together at the VIP party shortly before enjoying the company of Dan Hampton, Chris Chelios, Thomas Robinson, Pedro Martinez, Johnny Damon, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, & Yasiel Puig.

This was truly a special evening. First class all the way. As you walked into the event you were given a gift bag. It was a beautiful Panini back pack with a 1/1 packaging printing plate, a redemption to use later for a Yasiel Puig autographed photo, a special VIP only Black Box, and some great Ultra Pro items to store your cards including storage boxes and one-touches. I was thinking to myself that was enough, a more than generous gift. 

Mike Trout Cracked Ice #'d to 5.
Then as you walked in you were given an additional redemption for a box of golden packs. Inside these packs were some pretty fantastic trading cards. Extremely limited editions of the Panini NSCC redemption sets with some amazing 1 of 5 and 1/1 memorabilia and autographed cards sprinkled in. Also seeded into these packs were instant redemption cards for items Panini had on hand including signed photos, memorabilia and more. DJ Kool was spinning jams, while some lovely ladies dressed in Panini gear, very tiny, Panini gear mind you, were dancing the night away. It was great to see some of our friends in a non-working environment for a change. Getting to spend some time talking about non-work things was a highlight for me. Make no mistake about it though, between tweeting, taking photos and filming interviews, it was was FUN work too!

Pictured here are some of the cards from the event I pulled out of the gold packs. I like collecting cards of the guests we've had on Cardboard Connection Radio, so the Tom Wilson card was a must keep. Wilson recently discussed being drafted and living out his dream of making the NHL.

The food was outstanding capped by a giant ice Panini logo that was surrounded by shrimp, oysters and crab. In addition there was Sushi, sliders, salads and even more delicious deserts.

Throughout the event athletes made their way in to socialize with the VIPs. It began with former Blackhawks great Chris Chelios and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist snapping photos and with each passing moment, it seemed another guest made their way in. Before you knew it, the room was buzzing about who would be next. The final two players to enter the room were former Red Sox and Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez and current Dodgers phenom -- Yasiel Puig. Both appeared to have a great time, laughing and dancing while mingling with their fans, and also the Panini girls. It will go down as one of the premiere events of this and any other National, past or future. Just wanted to say thank you to all the Panini peeps for making it a great event. They are a great group of people to work with.

This was a busy NSCC for me and the CCR crew. Sorry it took so long to jot down the meaty highlights, but there was so much to discuss and still I don't feel I covered it all. 

One last note. I always leave the National wondering what comes next. Time to put on the thinking caps, and try to outdo ourselves for next year in Cleveland. The show was a great success for Cardboard Connection Radio, and for that I thank anyone reading this, those that listen to our show, and visit our website. You make it worthwhile! While you might think I care more about all of the cool things I picked up, and they are cool, the best takeaway from the National is when we leave making new friends, business partners, and know that we've helped one or more of our friends make a connection within the industry. I am so excited to tell you we did that a few times over, and I cannot wait to see the results. 2014 is going to be a fantastic year.


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