Tips For National Sports Collectors Convention

The 40th annual National Sports Collectors Convention is in the books. It was my first time attending and I took away several tips for National Sports Collectors Convention. Before attending, I read several articles and blogs about best practices for attending the show.

My initial plan was to soak it all in. With the exception of missing out on a few things, I came home happy with how things fell into place. Here are a few items of note from my attendance.

Tips For National Sports Collectors Convention: Wear Comfortable Shoes/Clothing

Having attended the Cubs Convention over the past five years wearing comfortable shoes topped my list. The one difference between a large card show and the Cubs Convention is that I stand over boxes of cards at the dime box booths, which can really stress your feet and lower back.

I bought a pair of comfortable walking shoes for my honeymoon in Italy last year. The insoles had plenty of wear, but the shoes are in great condition. So, I bought a pair of Dr. Scholl’s insoles. Additionally, I went to Dick’s Sporting Goods and found some active socks with extra padding. This combination helped tremendously on the two longest days on my feet.

Portable Chair

Some booths have chairs. Actually, most of the dime box booths had chairs available for customers. Thank you, vendors! But, sometimes you need a break away from the booths. I found a portable chair that was super easy to pack in my backpack, and whip out in a moment’s notice. The $10 price tag paid for itself on the show’s busiest day, Saturday, when all of the chairs at side tables were taken and I had just spent three hours sifting through dime boxes. This chair will get plenty of use for other activities as well, especially at the Cubs Convention in January.

Work The Room

Another tip for National Sports Collectors Convention: work the room. I was able to peruse the show floor between Thursday afternoon and Friday. I arrived on Thursday around 3:00 and met up with the guys from the About the Cards podcast. Mike Sommer and Dub Mentality were also there. I knew The Singles Club was the first booth to visit, and sift through the dollar boxes. It was a good decision to spend most of my day one at this booth, because it was my only visit. Big Shep told me about another dollar booth that was sorted by team. This is my jam! The dollar boxes were underwhelming compared to The Singles Club. The first stack of dollar Cubs I grabbed was filled with junk era Andre Dawson cards. I would skip over those in a dime box.

Tips for the National Sports Collectors Convention with Big Shep, Wax Pack Hero, and Junk Wax Twins

Friday was spent walking around the show floor more to get an idea of the layout. My plan was to use Saturday as my dime box day, which worked out very well. The downside was missing the corners and outside booths. I nearly missed two of the best dime box booths that I didn’t find until Sunday. One of them was even a NICKEL booth. One other thing I need to make note of is where each vendor is located on the show floor. Print out a map with your favorite vendors.

Bring Snacks

A lot of complaints were in regards to the high-priced concessions. I was not surprised, and almost every article I read regarding the National had mentioned this. On Friday, I sucked it up and hit the concession stand for lunch. It was $14 for a slice of deep dish pizza and a fountain soda. In reality, this actually wasn’t bad because the pizza was very filling. However, I did stop at Walgreen’s on my drive to the show on Saturday and picked up some beef sticks and bottled water.

The Eats

The convention is surrounded my great restaurants, and anywhere you might be staying (surrounding suburbs). My first night (Thursday), my friend Dave and I ate at the bar and grill attached to our hotel in Wheeling (about a 20-minute drive from the show). We attended Club 400 on Friday night with special guest Pedro Strop, so Saturday night I had to get my fill of Chicago deep dish. Giordano’s is my typical go-to, which is where we went. You can’t go wrong with Lou Malnati’s or Gino’s East, either.

Giordanos deep dish pizza Chicago

Tips for National Sports Collectors Convention: The Strategy

This strategy will be different with each collector. Set collectors have their lists, singles collectors have their want lists, some collectors spend a lot of time in the Breaker’s Pavilion, while others take advantage of the autograph signers.

My strategy is volume, so the dime and quarter boxes are my friend. I also like to dig through the dollar boxes to find some bargains to either flip on eBay, or send to trade partners. Get to the bargain boxes early because they get picked over. This strategy is repeated on Friday, and then Saturday is reserved for the dime boxes. I am looking for the blowout deals on Sunday as vendors are looking to move inventory and possibly slash prices.

Tips for the National Sports Collectors Convention

Dime box strategy: volume helps. One dime box I was charged $40, and when I counted up the cards there were 587, so I basically received 187 free cards. Be willing to negotiate, and don’t be shy. Also, be courteous at the dime boxes. It happened less than I expected, but there were times when somebody just butted in, or invaded my space without saying a word. Say, “excuse me,” at the very least. Another thing is be open to talking to the collector next to you. You can help each other out. Heck, at the final dime box I was at on Sunday, I made a comment to the guy next to me about how many great cards were in these boxes. Turns out it was a trade partner that I have been communicating with through social media for a year.

Tips for National Sports Collectors Convention: Autographs

I’m an autograph collector, and I went with the Super VIP package that included free autograph tickets for all 18 autograph signers. There was only one signer that I really needed and that was Rick Reuschel who signed on Sunday morning. I had a baseball that his brother, Paul, signed for me at the Cubs Convention and inscribed “Big League Brothers.”

Big League Brothers autographed baseball Rick and Paul Reuschel Chicago Cubs

I needed Rick to finish it up, and I’ll display it with the 1977 Topps “Big League Brothers” baseball card.

My regret here isn’t choosing against the free autographs, rather not trading them away or selling for five dollars each.

Don’t Pass Up a Deal

Here’s a tip that can be used for more than just the National Sports Collectors Convention. Take a deal if you see it. The only passes I made that I’m disappointed with are waiting until Sunday to take advantage of the PSA custom T206 cards. PSA didn’t offer this on Sunday. I am really beating myself up for not getting my own custom Cubs tobacco card from my first National.

The only deal I passed on that I regret, and only partially, is a Gary Vee autographed Javier Baez card from his set that Gary was selling for $10. I waited around until Gary was at his booth because I wanted to get a picture with him. Fortunately, there is a Cole Roederer in the set, and bought it.

Gary Vaynerchuk at the National Sports Collectors Convention 2019

One deal I passed on that one day I might regret is a signed uncut sheet of 2010 Bowman AFLAC. This set features both Javier Baez and Francisco Lindor among other big leaguers. I have the autographed Baez version, but this piece would look great framed.

Tips for National Sports Collectors Convention: Freebies

Take advantage of the giveaways. This is one of the top tips for National Sports Collectors Convention I can offer. While I did get a few free shirts (Fritsch Cards and Mojo Break), I didn’t take full advantage of the freebies offered by various vendors. I’ll keep a closer eye on these next time.

Larry Fritsch Cards shirt


There were so many promotions and giveaways. I did miss out on the Gary Vee sets that Topps released during the show. In the future, I will try to do a better job on social media keeping up with National promotions by the various companies.

Meeting Collectors From Social Media

I met several people from social media. Unfortunately, I did miss a couple guys that were there one day. Since I’m walking around so much, it’s hard to nail down a time to meet.

My First National Summed Up

Awesome. I give the 40th annual National an A+. I was able to get some awesome deals, a lot of Cubs cards, and met some great guys and gals from Twitter. Hope you enjoyed some of these tips for National Sports Collectors Convention and hope to meet you at the next one.

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