Skip to main content

National excitement is different but still very real ...

I had a neat interview the other day with Mike Berkus, one of the three co-managers of the National Sports Collectors Convention, and one of the elements that came through with great clarity was the reminder that the vast majority of the people involved at that level bring with them a genuine affection and commitment to the hobby.

In the case of Berkus, easily one of the most articulate hobby spokesmen around, I was struck by the fact that despite the enormity of the National undertaking every summer, he remains a hobby guy at heart. Just like the rest of us, he longs for the anticipation and excitement that has always been a hallmark of the annual event, but unlike us, he’s in a position to have an impact on just how much buzz accompanies each show.

I thought it was pretty cool when Berkus told me he spent about $3,000 on vintage cards the last time the National found itself at the I-X Center near the Cleveland airport two years ago. If you’ve ever seen Berkus (or co-managers John Broggi and Bob Wilke) during the five-day extravaganza, you’d understand how much of a true hobbyist he would have to be to find time to scout dealer tables during that stretch.

In the interview, which will appear in the July 17 issue of Sports Collectors Digest and on the website, he waxed nostalgic about the passion for collecting that has always been present at the annual event, though he concedes that as each year passes it becomes more of a challenge to find ways to stoke those fires.

This year, he points to the addition of a new manufacturer, Panini, to the corporate section, a nifty Pepsi Party of a Lifetime promotion and the usual anticipation that surrounds the dozens of cool promotional cards that the card companies create every year just for the show.

And here’s a dollop from my end: the folks who produce the exotic Sportkings cards (shown here), which are modern versions that brilliantly capture the essence of the 1933 issue of the same name, will unveil their Series C in a couple of weeks in Cleveland.

I’ll admit I’m biased, since their principal artist, Paul Madden, is a friend and frequent contributor to SCD, but I just love those cards and am looking forward to seeing the next batch.

Much has changed in the hobby/industry in the three decades that the National Convention has been around, but one underlying thread runs through all those years: collectors find those parts of the hobby that tickle them each and every summer when the big show comes to town.