Authenticity big improvement at 21st National
ANAHEIM. -- The year of the FBI sting was felt at the 21st Annual National Sports Collectors Convention in Anaheim. Some of the effects were apparent at this year's recently completed extravaganza. The amount of forged items on dealer tables was markedly down from previous Nationals. Crowds also were down. Some say attendance for the show was 30,000 tops. The reasons for the poor showing could range from location to the $12 daily admission. Maybe it had to do with distrust caused by news of forgeries during the year. Or a lack of bargains for autograph tickets. Or perhaps in the face of growing, regional shows, the National is just a misnomer. Patrons also told Sweet Spot that the quantity of vintage items was smaller than usual. The biggest deals again were those involving swaps among dealers, and even that activity was disappointing, with few blockbuster transactions reported. The National remains in a rut and will remain so until it comes up with a business model that can compete with other fan festivals. The next three shows will be held in Cleveland, Chicago and Atlantic City.
Dealer Rich Simon, meanwhile, said he had his best National ever, though there was little to buy. Much of what he found attractive was entertainment-related, non-sports. Neal Rosen, a dealer of autographed baseballs and photos, said he had a terrible show. Such is the range of experience at the National. Rosen said autograph collectors were pretty much corralled in the autograph area. VIP tickets that allowed collectors access to more than autograph guests mainly kept customers moving from queue to queue and away from the main exhibition hall. Other sources said the Saturday of the National, usually the best attended day, was unusually quiet. The nice, wide aisles seemed wider because of lagging attendance. Speaking of VIP autographs, Fred Lynn got up and left for unknown reasons before his signing time was up. Among the scheduled regular guests, Juan Marichal was a no-show. Rosen also said consumers at his table were consumed with dickering on price. "Everything on the table people wanted for one-third the price," he said. "And these were mostly common players. The mentality of the business is going south. People view this business more as a flea market."
Corporate booths, mainly those by the trading card companies, stayed busy with drawings and giveaways. Upper Deck had none of its big stars signing, but Bob Boone, Doug DeCinces, Tommy John, Maury Wills, Reggie Smith and Steve Garvey were there to sign Upper Deck items as part of a wrapper redemption program. The card company did give away three-card packs that are part of a Kobe Bryant set. Upper Deck also held drawings for single-signed baseballs signed by Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb, and a Hank Aaron game-used bat.
Down another aisle was an area that may have created the biggest buzz at the show -- the authentication areas organized by Collectors Universe.