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Cleveland Shines in Return Engagement

The National's return to Cleveland after five years posted positive results, with good crowds through the first four days and plenty activity on the floor.

You know it’s going to be a good show when you walk into your booth fresh off an airplane, knock over an expensive framed piece in the booth next door – but don’t damage it – and then are bombarded for the next two hours by SCD readers and other interested parties. Welcome to my Thursday of The National in Cleveland.

The first few days of The National are always the busiest. This year’s guests included a gentleman who was passionate and desperate to find collectible Coke caps featuring ballplayers. If anyone is knowledgeable and looking to sell, e-mail me at the address at the end of the column. Another person was going booth to booth with a simple request: “Fred Merkle?”

I also got to chat with a family that included a boy under the age of 12 who collected T206s. Say that again? Smart choice in the category of baseball cards. There were no shortage of folks who wanted to share cards, many regionals involving the Cleveland Indians, that were not included in the Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards. I thank you all.

A great find brought to the show was a Cincinnati team-signed ball from the mid-1970s, with Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Sparky Anderson, that was scooped up at a garage sale for $2.
National Convention founder Mike Berkus told the Cleveland Plain Dealer this year’s convention was the third-best in terms of attendance with 43,200 people coming into the I-X Center over five days. Berkus said the biggest convention was in Anaheim in 1991, with 105,000 people in attendance, followed by the 1983 show in Chicago, which drew 67,000.

National board member Rick Giddings said VIPs were up 85 percent to years past and the five-year lapse since the last time the show was held in Cleveland helped boost numbers.

The back of the room provided the most energy of the show. You could hear shouting on a regular basis associated with the card manufacturer giveaways and events surrounding the case break pavilion. The new additions to the show did what they were intended to do – provide a venue for an emerging area of the business and allow for some new energy into the show. It worked.

The show was quite roomy, with plenty of seats around for collectors to park it for a rest. There were also plenty of things for kids to do, from riding the Ferris wheel to playing games, creating their own cards and participating in the card giveaways at Topps, Panini, Upper Deck, etc. Speaking of the Ferris wheels, the sound of it starting up replaced the usual sound of the card slabbing machines you often hear at shows.

And if you think many private sales take away items that could be available through auctions, I share this tidbit: One auction house representative said they would rather sell an item for less at auction vs. a private sale because of the butterfly effect of that sale online, with online searches and publicity leading back to that auction house, resulting in more sales down the line. A very interesting thought process.

Finally, for those pining for coverage of cards and hobby pioneers after a couple of issues surrounding the National and the Baseball Hall of Fame, rest assured we have some great stories on tap, from an interview with Sy Berger and his wife to the Topps Parker Bros. story.

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