By Ray Schulte, SchulteSports.com
For the past 30 years the multibillion dollar sports collectible industry has looked to the National Sports Collectors Convention, referred to as the "National,” as the crown jewel event -- a place where collectors and dealers can meet annually to buy, trade and discuss collecting memorabilia, trading cards, autographs, game-used equipment and other sports related collectibles. In 2010, Baltimore and the Convention Center will host the 31st National Sports Collectors Convention for the first time.
At this year's convention was held at the International Exposition Center in Cleveland I caught up with Mike Berkus, founder, executive director and promoter of the event, to discuss the history and significance of the event not only for collectors and dealers but the city of Baltimore.
Ray Schulte: How did the National originate?
Mike Berkus: Gavin Riley, Steve Brunner and I created the event in Los Angeles at the Airport Marriot during the 1991 Labor Day Weekend.
RS: How do you feel the National has impacted the growth of the sports-collectible community?
MB: We always felt the National would be the one place each year that this Hobby could come together, meet other collectors and dealers, and just have a great time. Now it appears that with eBay and the advent of online selling and buying, the National truly is the one event of the year that brings our Hobby together, face to face.
RS: What's the greatest event you have hosted thus far?
MB: Without question, the 1991 Anaheim convention, where we saw 101,000 attendees. This event launched the National as the “Hobby’s showpiece.”
RS: How is the memorabilia market holding up with the economy?
MB: Fairly well. Even the high end product has sold better than expected. This hobby has always been an escape from people’s day-to-day problems and this economy has only increased that need to escape.
RS: How many dealers and collectors/fans attended this year in Cleveland? How many do you expect in Baltimore?
MB: We had more than 700 dealers from around the country exhibiting, and approximately 24,000 collectors and fans attended the event. In Baltimore, we have a smaller space [at the convention center] allocated us so we can only accommodate 605 dealer exhibits. However, attendance should increase to 35,000 with this being Baltimore’s first National.
RS: How does your event impact a host city?
MB: We will sell more than 4,000 room nights per night, restaurants handle as many as 15,000 customers, and everything from tourism to car rentals jumps dramatically.
RS: How do you determine your next host city?
MB: My partners and I look at various factors including the availability of convention facilities throughout the country before presenting a written report to our board of directors. They, in turn, present the advance locations to our participating dealers who vote on the city location.
RS: Are your dealers excited about coming to Baltimore?
MB: Baltimore has so far generated more excitement than we have witnessed in over 10 years. Upon returning home from Cleveland I had over 140 e-mails requesting space and information for Baltimore. I do not remember this ever happening.
RS: Do you partner with city businesses?
MB: Absolutely. We must have strong partnerships in each city we visit to make the National a success. We cannot be truly successful as a standalone event. We depend on all forms of media to join with us in contests, hotels to be receptive to our thousands of attendees and dealers. Local business can participate as corporate exhibitors and/or partner with us in promoting and advertising the event.
RS: What makes the National a can’t-miss event for Baltimore sports fans?
MB: The high profile athletes we bring in, exhibitors and memorabilia from around the country. We average over 90 superstars at every National. TriStar is our partner in bringing in athletes and they work closely with us to make the National a success.
For more information concerning the National, which will be at the Baltimore Convention Center Aug. 4-8, visit www.nsccshow.com or more about Baltimore’s National, visit www.SchulteSports.com.
Posted Aug. 17, 2009