Things are still a bit up in the air if I will be attending this year which is disappointing because I was planning on doing a live Tweetcast complete with pictures on Twitpics to help those not attending stay connected and provide a service to the blogsphere of "bringing the National to you". So keep your fingers crossed.
In the meantime ,for those of you who are attending either for the first time or are repeat visitors, I thought I'd share with you some of my tips, tricks and insights as someone who has attended several. If you have ideas to share add them to the comments and if you have a question, just ask.
The VIP Package- An always tempting purchase. If you are going to be there the whole show I think it is definitely worth it. You'll have access to the show before the general public including a sneak peek before the show starts.
This will allow you to quickly pinpoint dealers and booths you want to visit during the show without the traffic. Dealing with visitors as a VIP allows more one on one interaction and lends itself to deal-making as you are competing for the attention and time of the seller with other attendees.
The cards, and autograph tickets are just perks and not THE reason to purchase the package. Reason being is that the FREE autographs are typically of lesser know, more easily attainable athletes and the cards you can find on eBay within hours of the show's starting anyway.
What and what not to bring- These things might seem rudimentary but are easy to forget and/or overlook none-the-less.
1) Roll behind or day pack- This really depends on what your overall plan is at the show. Are you bringing your own material to be signed like bats and jerseys or just cards, balls, and photos? Are you stocking up on wax? (Hobby boxes get heavy in a day pack.)
2) Something for notes- I use my Blackberry, maybe you are a pen and notepad guy. You would not believe how easy it is to lose a particular booth or dealer where you saw something of interest but need to come back to. Write it down!
3) Your own stash of penny sleeves, top loaders, team bags, and snap tights. Many dealers provide these, some do not. Don't get caught sticking them in your notebook.
4) Camera- A lot of times, dealers will have personalities at their booths for PR and if you ask politely they almost always let you grab a photo.
5) Comfortable, not cool shoes- It is amazing how much you will walk and walk and walk and walk some more.
6) A few blank official MLB balls- You never know who you might run into at a National and the nice thing about a baseball is they are small and regardless of the sport, autos look cool on them. Great in a pinch.
7) Pens- Let's review. Sharpie fine point (blue or black) for photos and posters. Ink only- for baseballs. Paint Pens- Gloves. Sharpie regular- Bats, jerseys, caps.
8) If I'm there and I see you with a Beckett (Sucks) in your hand, so help me . . .
9) Bottle of water, energy bar, nuts- You will get thirsty and hungry and the $14.00 you will spend at concessions you could have spent on wax. The energy bar and nuts are filling enough to get you through to dinner if you eat a solid breakfast.
You don't have to see it all- This is particularly true if you are attending for more than one day. If you are only there for the day, prioritize and plan. Do you want to see the T-206 exhibit at PSA's booth? Do you want to give T.S. O'Connell from SCD a piece of your mind? Do you just have to get that Bowmanc Chrome RC graded? Need singles to complete your 1978 Topps set?
Write them down and cross off when you are finished. Be sure to include the things you'd like to do if there is time, because often times, there is.
Corporate exhibits- The card companies always have a great collection of memorabilia and their wrapper redemption programs are always a big hit. To avoid the line, get to their booths early. Be sure to stop by all the manufacturer booths. You never know what sort of unexpected and/or unannounced show giveaways they'll have.
E) Auction houses- Stop by their booths. You will see some cool stuff and you will get a firsthand look at how that side of the business really works. While you are at it go shake Mr. Mint's hand. Regardless of your feelings about him personally, he IS an iconic figure in The Hobby.
F) Grading- The grading companies usually have show specials and if you have cards you planned on getting graded anyway, you might as well take advantage of the show specials. I am not going to tell you what or what not to grade, you should know this by now but if you still don't know, ask Gellman at Sports Cards Uncensored, he'll be glad to help you. LOL :)
Autograph Pavilion- Some athletes are very reasonable others are ridiculous. If you don't like the price, don't pay and bitch about it later. It is what it is. If anyone is signing for FREE, don't be "that guy". You know, the one who, asks to have 5 things signed, a photo taken or 3, an attempt at small talk, etc. Be polite, get your sig and picture and move on.
Red-blooded American males all have one thing in common, we like women, pretty women. Companies know this, their will be some nice eye candy. Be polite, AND TAKE PICTURES PLEASE. :)
I) Buy something you wouldn't normally- If funds allow this is a great way to make a lasting memory of the trip. When it comes to your team and player collection its hard to remember what you got where and when. Buy some oddball item, slightly expensive or out of the norm item and you will remember the show every time you see it.
J) Where to buy- Autographs. With the rampant amount of forgeries on the market the saying goes buyer beware. However, I have found one dealer above others to have the best selection, prices, and reputation and that is Rich Altman of Hollywood Collectibles. He is usually near the front and has a ton of material and he is willing to negotiate within reason. I am sure there are others but he is who I have used for my 500 HR Ball Collection at the recommendation of a couple I know "in the industry".
K) Attend a live auction- Typically one or more of the auction houses host an event, off-site, one evening of the National. This is a very unique experience and an opportunity to see a seldom seen side of the Hobby business.
Plan accordingly, budget wisely, leave the credit card in your hotel room and most importantly have fun!