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Atlantic City, here we come ...


Where do we go from here?
Just about every National Convention has buzz, and this one was no exception. As has been customary over the years, the search for controversy has held a good deal of sway – this year taking the form of an alleged major crackdown on the hobby by the Feds – but it’s tough to say whether the New York Daily News stories trumpeting that impending doom were the result of that circumstance or the cause of it.

In any event, the FBI’s impact on the Baltimore National was relegated to a supposed sighting of an agent on Friday, but if there was anybody there who looked like Efrem Zimbalist Jr., I didn’t see him.

Presumably as a result of the mournful meandering about potential Justice Department mayhem, a number of prominent dealers and auction houses huddled up on Wednesday and Saturday evenings to talk about possibly launching an umbrella trade association that might address such concerns about ethics and promoting a positive image for collecting.

That’s a tough nut for almost any business, and has proven so for several attempts in the 1980’s and the early 1990’s in the collecting world, with the last effort, Sports Collectors Association International, promptly euthanized shortly after its birth in 1992. While the concept has been revived from time to time over the years, nobody has gotten much beyond that stage since, with the typical observation frequently being sardonic references to “herding cats” and the implacably independent nature of most card dealers.

With one of the hobby’s highest-profile collectors, Denver attorney Marshall Fogel, at the forefront of the effort, there’s much reason to pay particular attention to this current attempt. I’ll have more on the initial machinations behind the “Collectible Trade Association of America” in coming weeks, based on an exclusive post-National interview with Fogel.

As the curtain came down in Baltimore, there was initially little word on the fate of the admittedly tentative idea, and so that occasionally hackneyed chatter gave way to fevered discussions about the show itself and whether the 2010 version was robust enough to prompt a return to the Inner Harbor in 2014. Such is the nature of the National Convention that the location of future ones often preempts the immediate debate about the efficacy of the current entry.

The National Convention’s annual meeting often would provide those answers, with the NSCC members voting right there at the show on Friday evenings, but this year the decision was made to send out ballots in October for the voters to decide between Atlantic City and Baltimore for 2014. The next three years had already been determined: Chicago in 2011, then Cleveland and back to Chicago in 2013.

According to NSCC Executive Board Member Rick Giddings, everybody wants to return to Baltimore but there are still questions about the availability of the convention center for the weekend needed. “I thought Baltimore was great,” said Giddings, adding that the board is looking for assurances the convention center can offer the dates needed for the first weekend in August, rather than the second weekend as the center proposed.

So the NSCC board is waiting for confirmation about dates, which is expected within the next several weeks. The Baltimore Center typically had been willing to provide dates and commitments two years out, but the NSCC needs to have a three-year window. Giddings said that assuming the NSCC’s dates can be accommodated, the ballots would be sent out in October asking members to choose between the two East Coast cities.

He added that in the event Baltimore could only offer the mid-August time slot, the city would not be included on the ballot and members would be asked to choose between Atlantic City and a likely alternate location, with no hint offered of what that might be.

“Baltimore won’t be on the ballot if we can’t get that date,” Giddings noted, adding his guess that Atlantic City would likely end up the site of the 2014 National if that happened.

NSCC board members said that the Atlantic City proposal made at the annual meeting had included a number of assurances about concerns that the board had had about the site, including a massive block of an estimated 3,000 hotel rooms being made available, along with enthusiastic pronouncements from Atlantic City officials about major improvements – including expanded parking – made to the area since the last time the National visited in 2003.

That show was pretty widely panned by dealers and collectors as one of the more disappointing Nationals in the storied history of the event.

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