Friday, August 8, 2014

35th National Sports Collectors Convention Recap Part 4 of ?

We decided to something non-sports on Thursday evening. After the show we got something to eat, then we went to go see Guardians of the Galaxy. I am glad we did, it was amazing. I wanna see it again. I honestly thought that Dave Bautista stole the show. He was phenomenal as Drax. Michael Rooker was also pretty amazing, but then... when isn't he? The movie looked sensational, it was funny, the action and effects were top notch and we even got a little more of Thanos. The best thing that happened that night was when we got to the theater. Ryan who is from a remote planet named Hoth, er... Canada, was completely in awe of the machine that lets you select your own drink. It was one of those Coke dispensers where you could choose Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Powerade, etc and then add Vanilla, Cherry, Orange, Lime, Lemon or Raspberry flavoring. You can only imagine how he reacted when he found out that all of our seat at the movie were luxury recliners. That was priceless.

Before that however we went to the Topps meet and greet. I have been a fan of this event because it gives collectors the opportunity to ask the questions of Topps that need to be asked. Unfortunately in the past those vocal collectors you see making horrible comments on social media NEVER ask those questions in person or try to initiate a conversation to get their point across. I was hoping this year would be different. Topps has had a rough year. Some major customer service issues have had some collectors taking their issues to the Better Business Bureau. They also just found out at the show that they were going to lose football beginning in 2016.

I'll say this. Alan Narz made that event. His energy and levity kept it fun and flowing so that some of the turbulence in the audience didn't escalate. We heard questions like, Why do we see the same photos on cards all of the time? The answer was that they use Getty Images and they only have a handful of photos of certain players that are suitable to be used on a card. If that were me, I'd do what it takes to change that. Cost also came into play, but to me if you are using legends in upper echelon products, make the investment. Sometimes you have to spend money to make money.

Another question was, Why aren't there more women in the company? (to be fair, the front of the room was filled with at least 10 male Topps employees, and their newest team member, Susan, was not there). This was kind of a loaded a question, but it was valid. Topps has female employees, this I know for a fact, but from a female collector perspective, it was a sausage fest. I believe if Topps was really listening, they would make sure to bring out some of the women next time and to other events.  Why? I can tell you that after sitting at a National for five days the crowd is like 75-25% male to female and all of the companies need to work harder to make collecting appeal to all demographics. Say what you will, and note that I am a happily married man, but seeing the Panini Girls later in the week was probably the only female contact some of those people had the entire week.

The other moment that was addressed was the very nonchalant language on the back of Topps memorabilia cards. This one is all about accountability. Not putting any info about the relic piece virtually makes it nothing more than a base card to collectors. I can tell you it is not even a matter of having it dated and labelled to the specific game. It was a plea from collectors to assure that it is REAL and that it indeed came from an event that they can pin it down to. The language currently on the back of their cards is so vague it could've come off the rack at Marshall's for all we know. I usually don't chime in at this event, I like to people watch, but here I did say something. I simply said, show collectors you care and change the language and then we will care about the relic cards again.

Hands down my favorite moment of the Meet & Greet was when one of our favorite collectors spoke up. This man is singly responsible for one of my favorite National moments. To us he is known as Santa Claus guy. Several years back, we were discussing the art (I use that term loosely) of including a Santa card into a product and how it expanded to using memorabilia and autographs of St. Nick in products. This guy literally runs up to our booth and starts going off about how he collects Santa and it created a moment we'll never forget. We thought so much of it, that we actually brought Santa Claus to the National the very next year!

It was funny to see him this many years later still pulling for more Santa cards. Maybe a Santa Claus and Rally Squirrel dual card is in the mix. Just so you know. I find a lot of things funny in this industry. However, this guy is a die-hard, so here is something to think about. One of the problems I have with Santa cards is that they aren't legit, you know why and I am not going to spell it out. But... what if instead of Santa being on a card by himself, he was part of an insert or box set with other people? I'd actually be into giving my kids a card of Anthony Rizzo with Santa or LeBron James with Santa. Make them all horizontal cards with dual autos or dual relic. Perhaps a holiday in store promotion like Black Friday, then all of those Santa hat cards could have some purpose...

Friday was going to be an extra busy day. Things kicked off at 10am and ran through 5pm. The only real gap was a hour at 3pm.We got to see Finest Box Breaks, Bighurt35 and more. There was some excitement for the Upper Deck break because they opened the first cases of Exquisite Golf. That was something to see. Truly some of the most impressive cards come from Exquisite. The designs are unlike any other company's cards. That has always set Upper Deck apart from the rest of the pack. This was no exception. We saw on card autos of Nancy Lopez, Arnold Palmer and a dual Cheyenne and Tiger Woods. UDs Chris Carlin said on the stage that the cases he sent over were ripped off by UPS. He worked with Dave & Adams to make sure he would have the product for the break, and they came through. Lots of ooohs and ahhhs during this one.

I had a chance to roam the floor a little more on Friday and picked up five boxes of WWE Heritage hobby boxes for $20 a piece. At that price, I decided I would put together a master set. I am pretty close actually, just missing 10 inserts, so that was pretty cool.

By evening time we had a couple of options and weren't sure what we were going to do. There were a couple of parties and we just wanted to go check out the city and maybe catch a ballgame. We wound up going to the Hard Rock Cafe for the Peach State event and man was it ever worth it. We got to really chat with some of the people we had been working with over the past few days and see them outside of the case breaker pavilion. That's always good to get a feel for what people are like.

 We were eating when we looked up to see Jose Canseco walking in. Behind him were some Panini America representatives and former NBA great Mark Aguirre. That was an awesome surprise. I know a lot of people railed on Jose when he wrote his books. Not me. I thought he did the right thing. He told the truth and sometimes the truth hurts. I told him that then and I thanked him for it tonight. I also told him a funny story about how when my daughter met him in 2001 at the Big League Challenge in Las Vegas. She was 5 and I was waiting for a couple people at the signing booth for Upper Deck. He saw her and said, "Hey Princess would you like an autograph?" It turned into more than one, and I will never forget that.  He was awesome then, and on this night, he was still a good guy. When I told him the story, he asked to see a photo and I said she's 18 now. He deadpanned, "Damn, I'm Old." I told him man, you still look amazing and I just wanted to say thanks for being genuine. You earned a fan for life.

Mark Aquirre was equally nice. I watched him play often for some of the most amazing Detroit Pistons teams during the 80s and 90s. I love surprises, well good ones at least, and this was truly a surprise. I had thought we were just going to enjoy a dinner with friends, but Peach State and Panini America raised the bar while everyone in the Hard Rock razed the bar.

Here we were 4 days in and the energy level was high and the memories kept coming.

More to come...

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