Today marks the beginning of "The National," the annual sportscards convention. This year's event is being held in Baltimore and runs through Sunday. Although this National is closer to where I live than at any time since 1999, I am unable to be there this year.
So...instead of dwelling on the fact that I can't make this year's show, I'll take a glimpse at another show from the past.
The National has been held every year since 1980 and has rotated through several cities. The '80 show was in Los Angeles and would travel to Detroit, St. Louis and Chicago after that. The rules in place allowed several dealers to "bid" on the next year's show and the election would be held at the convention. The prospective sponsors would make their case before the assembled dealers and officers of the committee. Once the votes were tallied, the winner would be announced. For the fifth show in 1984, the event would be held in Parsippany, New Jersey. It was just across the river from New York City and widely hailed as the "New York National."
Attendees of that show were able to pick up this program:
The group that won the right to sponsor the '84 National are assembled in this photo from the program:
For those who haven't been to a National, it's worth going just to see the stuff on display. Along with the cards, memorabilia from sports and entertainment are available, autograph guests sign throughout the weekend and many hobby names will be on the floor. While attending other Nationals, I've met Penny Marshall and Dr. Jim Beckett walking the floor as collectors and even Howard Bedell, who was on a 1962 Topps card as a player.
In the case of Howie Bedell, he walked up to a table, looked at a binder with some 1962 Topps cards in it, found the one with him on it and asked the seller, "is this one even real?" The seller assured him that it was authentic, especially for a "no-name" player. Bedell handed over his business card and said something about how that was certainly not a "no-name" player. Perhaps noticing that I (standing 4-5 feet away) was chuckling to myself over what I just saw, Bedell have me a slap on the shoulder and asked me how I was doing. Meanwhile, the seller was asking him if he'd do the honor of signing his card but Bedell politely declined. I actually enjoyed being there for that, if only to see a seller get reminded of the importance of not automatically downgrading a player on a card.
One thing that I wish would still be a part of the convention is a series of seminars. For one day, many subject matter "experts" would discuss a topic for an hour. The '84 National program had a list of the schedule:
Another feature of the National was a luncheon. In recent years, there have been several groups that have luncheons and dinners with interesting speakers from auction houses and grading companies, but none are officially recognized by the National committee. In most cases, you need to belong (or know somebody who belongs) to a group to know about them. However, here's an event that was listed in the '84 program:
As for autograph guests, the list is rather short and includes mainly players who were local:
with the schedule of autograph guests at this year's show. That might be due to the fact that in '84, these autographs were included in the admission price. Today, all autographs are a separate fee and even the VIP package sold to collectors only includes a limited number of free autographs.
Another thing missing from current National programs that should be there are articles. Fortunately, the 1984 program has several, like this one:
Though I'm not able to make this year's show, I'm looking forward to being there next year in the Chicago area.
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