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The cool stuff competes with grim headlines ...

Here’s the blog I wrote up on Friday at the National Convention. I didn’t exactly write it up on the back of a cocktail napkin, but it’s close. My reasons for not sending it have been discussed, but I pass it along here under the heading of “better late than never.”

You want to know how cool it is at the National Convention? In the space of a half hour after I walked in the door last Wednesday in Cleveland, I saw old friend Dave Czuba, Alan Rosen’s right-hand man who is coming back from a battle with cancer, spotted an eye-popping trio of unopened Topps baseball boxes from the mid-1950s and heard a couple of great stories about Ted Williams signing autographs back in the earliest days of the organized hobby. It’s nice to get the immediate reinforcement and reminders of those things that make the National Convention so special.

Those three things sum it up pretty nicely: good friends, good stuff and good stories. All of that contrasted sharply with the gloomy rumblings on a day later as the hobby reeled from yet another mainstream media story casting a negative light on the hobby at the moment of its showcase event, followed by unsubstantiated reports that the FBI was visiting once again and passing out subpoenas to various dealers, auction houses and grading services.

This time it was the revelation of inquiries into stolen historical documents from public libraries in Boston and New York City, and it was the second consecutive year that somebody rained on the National’s parade. In Chicago last year, the New York Daily News reported that federal agents had waded through the dealer tables interviewing a number of dealers about alleged shill bidding and card doctoring. As might be anticipated, finding individuals who want to go on the record saying they have been thusly visited by Justice Department minions is more than a little problematic,

By Thursday night in Cleveland, Michael O’Keefe, the Daily News reporter who wrote the bylined piece about stolen library archival material, was appearing as a guest speaker at a reception for the online chat forum Network 54. He shared speaking duties with one of the most visible names in the auction world, Josh Evans of, who as always spoke candidly about some of the challenges facing the hobby/industry.

The controversial always competes with the day-to-day proceedings at the National, but it wouldn’t be fair or accurate to say that it sucked the air out of the room. A show as long running and dynamic as the National has always been able to juggle the competing forces of damaging news events and the traditional hoopla surrounding the hobby’s biggest event of the year.

But even as the 700-plus dealers trudged back to Cleveland for the third time in the span of seven years, it might not have been too much of a stretch to suggest that many of the assembled hobby elite might have been looking past Cleveland in anticipation of a much ballyhooed inaugural trip to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor next year. To muddy up a sports cliche just a bit, we typically do them one National at a time, but this year might have been a bit of an exception.

Still, I managed to fight off any inclination to mope in that august (August?) setting. While I didn’t see quite as much spectacular memorabilia as I have in recent years, the array of vintage cards never disappoints. A quicky visit to Steve Hart’s Baseball Card Exchange booth revealed full, unopened boxes of 1954 Topps and Bowman baseball, and another of 1955 Topps Baseball. That trio almost certainly came from the famous Alan Rosen find in Paris, Tenn., in October of 1987. The freight was a cool $50,000 each, which naturally left me without any particular strains from temptation.

On the morrow, I’ll recount those stories about Teddy Ballgame, courtesy of hobby pioneer Pat Quinn of Sports Collectors Ltd.


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