Despite a slower-than-anticipated Sunday, the National Convention’s first sortie into Baltimore and its family-friendly Inner Harbor proved to be a successful move for the hobby institution in its 31st year.
No attendance estimates were available as of Sunday afternoon, but an admittedly unscientific sampling of dealer sentiment over the weekend was certainly positive, and the raves for the facility and the ambiance of the Inner Harbor were simply off the charts.
The Baltimore Convention Center, which was the site of FanFest when the Orioles hosted the All-Star Game in 1993, is certainly one of the most imposing facilities to host the National Convention, and the location near the Inner Harbor gave this year’s edition a decided edge as well.
Veteran hobby dealer Chris Porter described the convergence of the hobby’s marquee event at the Baltimore facility as a perfect storm. “This is a great location for the National, and this show was phenomenal,” said Porter. “The amenities are wonderful for families, and the key has been having the National on the East Coast, which brings in numerous collectors who might be at their first National.”
Another well-known hobby figure, Josh Evans of Lelands.com, put it in collector-friendly grading terms. “On a scale of 1-10, I’d give it a 6.5,” he said with a chuckle, obviously pleased with his dexterity in assigning a half-grade. “I though dealers did well, maybe half of them did well, and we also had a good weekend.”
Evans’ comment points up the difficulty in polling dealers at the end of the show, especially at the hobby’s largest event with perhaps 600-plus different dealers; there will almost always be some who do well and others who come up short, and the explanations can be just as varied and elusive.
Heritage and Legendary auctions both held successful auctions at elegant facilities to complement the hobby’s show case event on Thursday and Friday, and an autograph lineup that included the likes of Cal Ripken, Frank Robinson, Jim Brown and Willie Mays gave rise to huge lines in the autograph pavilion, most notably on Saturday.
As is traditional at National Conventions, the card companies helped stir the pot with elaborate promotions and redemption cards, and in Topps’ case, yielding more vast lines as collectors waited patiently in line to open 10 packages of Topps product in order to get a nifty 2010 Topps Heritage card of Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg.
I’ll have much more on the morrow and later in the week, including photos from all five days.