ATLANTIC CITY – The 2024 National Sports Collectors Convention could have a different look and feel.
For the first time since The National in 2004, a new sports management company will be running the biggest show in the sports collectibles hobby.
Business partners Joe Drelich, Brian Coppola and Jim Ryan, who run JBJ Corporation, have secured the contract to manage The National in 2024.
The contract for SMI LLC — run by John Broggi, who has been the show manager of The National since 2005 — will expire following the 2023 show in Chicago. When Broggi’s partner, Mike Berkus, passed away in 2015, his son, Dan, took over.
Drelich, Coppola and Ryan are excited for their opportunity to run The National.
“We’ve been admiring it from afar for 10 years,” Coppola told Sports Collectors Digest. “John and Berkus, they’ve all done a phenomenal job with the show. It’s an honor to be able to come in and just maintain the tradition and help them move forward over the next however many years. It’s a passion of ours to do this and we love it. They’ve just done a phenomenal job. This year’s show is incredible and last year’s show was incredible. Hats off to them in just everything they do.”
Broggi, The National’s executive director, declined to comment about the changes and the expiration of SMI’s contract.
Coppola and Ryan, who run JP’s Sports & Rock Solid Promotions, are also partners for the popular White Plains Baseball Card Show and Long Island Sports Card Shows.
Drelich is the owner of East Coast Sports Marketing LLC. He runs the massive Philadelphia Sports Collectors Show and Collectors Showcase of America (CSA) in Chantilly, Va.
“Jimmy and Joe run some really big shows on the East Coast. The CSA show down in Chantilly is probably my favorite,” said Chip Brady, the vice president of the National Board of Directors. “Joe has a CSA show and he also runs the Philly show and then Jimmy has the White Plains shows and the Long Islands shows, so we’re really confident they’re going to do a really good job. I think they’re also going to take a lot of new technology and maybe take us 10 [times] a little bit. That was one of the things they talked about … we can take it to the next level.”
When the NSCC board heard the proposal by JBJ Corporation, it was on board for a change of show managers.
“Personally for me, I can’t speak for everyone else, they have the background and I think some of the things I see them do at their shows I think will actually benefit us long term,” Brady said.
NSCC Board of Directors President Al Durso, who was just elected to the position on Thursday, believes the transition in show managers will run smoothly.
“John and Dan have done a fantastic job and the hobby is growing, it’s evolving. I think we need to look at other locations,” Durso said. “The locations we’ve been at have been fantastic, the dealers love them. It’s the dealers show. My job is to represent the dealers, and I can’t lose sight of that.
“This hobby’s been very good to me, and I’m looking to give back. I have no hidden agendas. I’m here to represent the dealers and what’s best for the dealers. But at the same time, we need to embrace corporate, because the world’s changing, it’s booming. There’s NFTs, there’s apps, there’s all types of things. But I think the thing we need to do is embrace corporate. We need to improve the customer experience at the show, but at the same time we can’t forget the dealers, especially the longtime dealers that the show’s been built on their backs.”
The three future show managers got word in late 2021 that they’re going to be taking over management of The National. They believe their contract will start next August immediately following 2023 show in Chicago.
“We’re moving every day and things are getting closer,” Coppola said. “I don’t know exactly what day you turn on the switch, but we’re progressing.”
How is the new management team planning on making The National an even better experience for collectors, dealers and corporate sponsors?
“I really have to see the inside of how the business is run. We’re not at that stage yet,” Coppola said.
“We’re going to keep moving with the industry as it changes and do our best to make sure all those new visions, corporations, ideas, whatever it may be are included in the progression of The National as The National grows and moves forward.”
With the 2023 National already scheduled for Rosemont, Ill., the location of the 2024 show has yet to be determined. According to Coppola and Ryan, this year’s show dealers will vote to decide whether the 2024 show will be in Atlantic City again, Cleveland or Rosemont.
Brady said he is hearing that the 2024 show will be held in Cleveland.
“I’m confident it’s going to be Chicago ’23, Cleveland ’24, Chicago ’25, and then mystery,” Brady said.
“Hopefully with the new management, we’ll have an area that maybe we didn’t visit yet,” he said. “Just me personally, there’s St. Louis, Indianapolis, Nashville, Orlando, there’s some really good places. I did a show in Nashville two weeks ago and it was really good.”
Added Durso: “I think we need to turn over a few new rocks. It’s not easy just to say, ‘Hey, let’s put it here,’ because they have to have the site available, it has to have so many square feet, we have to have so many hotel rooms.”
The first three days of The National had massive crowds. Attendees told SCD that the Day 2 Thursday crowd had the feel of a typical Saturday at the show.
“It felt like a Saturday to us trying to get them in here,” Broggi said. “Saturday’s crowd is going to be like a double Saturday.”
Ticket sales for the first three days of The National were ahead of last year’s sales. The 2021 show in Rosemont attracted the second largest attendance in the show’s 42-year history and many believe the Atlantic City show may surpass the all-time record.