What a weekend spent in Chicago at The 2021 National. One of my bucket list items for quite a while...I was actually on my way to The National 10 years ago when a family emergency forced me to turn around and miss the event. Didn't miss it this time and had a great and amazing experience. There are dozens and dozens of other collector reports of The National and I thought I'd also post my thoughts here of my Saturday and Sunday experience.
1. The Donald E. Stephens Convention Center is huge. It took my brother and I 12 hours to walk and look at every single booth while stopping at about 10-20% of them to look through boxes. If I was to do it again 3 days would have been perfect. We walked 9 miles around the convention floor weaving in and out.
2. The modern-card hobby is in a boom right now for sure as there were a ton of people. I can't help think the modern cards market is going to collapse in on itself soon with the prices being thrown around.
3. There is plenty of vintage at The National...don't let the modern-card YouTubers lead you to believe otherwise.
4. 1986-1987 Fleer Jordan rookie cards are not rare, however, they are rare in the PSA 9 and PSA 10. I could have walked away with 2-3 dozen graded examples PSA8 and below.
5. Likewise, 1951 Bowman Mantle and Mays rookie cards are not rare either. Surprising how many The National brings out of the woodworks.
6. After plenty of research, we ate a big breakfast and brought sandwiches and power bars for lunch and snacks so we didn't have to wait in line and pay the crazy vendor prices. People always seem to be complaining, but with a little preparation we were just fine and saved all that time. They did need more tables and chairs around the perimeters though.
7. I have a good sense of smell and I didn't smell nasty BO until the last day with one of the venders. Thanks to all the collectors out there for showering.
8. Absolutely bring good shoes. My hip flexors were really sore after two days of shuffling on the concrete floor and bending over looking at cases.
9. The aisleways did get crowded and I did run in a fellow sumo card collector so I was probably guilty of clogging the aisles. The convention center needs about 15% more space to spread out and give people a bit more room to maneuver in the aisles.
10. People were really polite as well as the dealers. I didn't have one negative interaction!
11. I asked about 6 dealers and they all said they had an amazing show as far as sales. Money was flying around no doubt.
12. The modern-card YouTubers were out and about, but I very rarely saw them...I only saw their videos afterwards.
13. People say there were a bunch of kids there and they definitely were, but this hobby and industry really isn't for them anymore.
14. People carrying lock boxes around with tens of thousands of dollars in slabbed cards is a site to behold. When it is a 10-year old kid it makes me sad though.
15. There is plenty of stuff to do: autographs, memorabilia, box breaking, card shopping, dime boxes, dollar boxes, corporate booth festivities. There is not a shortage of fun.
16. There were good deals abound, but you had to search. I was surprised how much inventory was still sitting around at the end of the show leading me to believe the prices were a bit high for most buyers.
17. Beer at The National. A brilliant idea designed to pry more dollars out of people's hands.
18. NASCAR card collecting is dead at the moment. I saw maybe one or two booths with unopened, but no one was selling any singles. Soccer, Wrestling, MMA, and F1 have all overtaken NASCAR at this point. Again it's pretty sad to see how far NASCAR has fallen.
19. I'm not sure we'd do the VIP Passes again. Unless you are going to be there all 5 days, it really wasn't worth the price for what we did.
20. I bought 5 items there...yes only 5 items:
a) An unopened taba pack of late 1950 sumo bromide cards!
b) A box of 1987 Donruss to rip back at the hotel and relive my youth!
c) A 1990 Donruss Nolan Ryan Learning Series Card
d) A SGC 7.5 2018 Topps Chrome Ohtani - I wanted to own an SGC slab to have in my collection, but didn't want to spend a ton of money so I rescued this one.
e) A full set of 1991 Kicks American Taekwondo Association Cards
Well, there you have it. Would I go to The 2022 National in Atlantic City? You bet!