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NSCC director Mike Berkus talks show success, group breaks and West Coast venues

By Susan Lulgjuraj | Beckett Sports Card Monthly Editor

The 2013 National Sports Collectors Convention has wrapped up.

Dealers and collectors visited the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont for five days (although some more) to spend money, meet with friends and see sports memorabilia they may never see again.

With the NSCC over, director Mike Berkus spoke to Beckett Media about the show.

Beckett Media: How did the National go from your standpoint?
Mike Berkus: I would say one of the best in the last eight to 10 years.

BM: What makes it one of the best?
MB: I would say a steady stream of attendees, a sold out floor, dealers and corporates being delighted.

BM: How was attendance this year?
MB: Although we don’t release attendance numbers, we were about 25 percent ahead of any year that we had advanced sales recorded.

BM: It beat last year?
MB: Yes it did. I think Baltimore 2010 is probably second place. This would be first place.

BM: What do you think has made the National so successful?
MB: I think the individual enthusiasm. I think on the floor, dealers and corporates and everyone had big plans for the show. They got excited about it. That excitement led to a lot of publicity and a lot of marketing. It’s back to the passion. I think things have eased up in the economy in the country. We’re the survivors. The people in the business now are smart and they are not going to be blindsided. I think the timing is really good for a good show.

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BM: What did you think of group breaks being added this year?
MB: It’s exciting. We might even be looking toward a pavilion next year of case breakers. We’ll see if we can get an organized scenario and people plan for it and make a big deal about it. Maybe give them a central zone to do that. It crept up on us as far as participants and what they do and how they do it. I am glad that it exists. I think it’s an exciting part of the hobby. I am glad to see the manufacturers and distributors get involved.

BM: What do you think about adding athlete panels or discussions to the National?
MB: Athletes want to get paid to sit on a panel. They don’t really care. The show is so large and walking the floor, most people don’t have time to do anything off the floor. Anyone who has tried to do anything during show hours, it has not been successful and that includes eBay holding seminars on how to be better sellers. We now recommend against it. If you are competing with taking people off the floor, your chances of failure are pretty high. The other thing is this, if you wait until after, people really tired. It’s a long day.

If the demand were there for the educational aspect or the exchange of information, if they really wanted it, we would hear about it and do it. That’s what the trade show for is in Vegas. The times we tried, and we tried with a lot of effort, the times we tried have been miserable failures. We can’t get either side to play

BM: We get this question all the time, so we have to ask. Why isn’t the National on the West Coast?
MB: Because no facility will have us. You can put that in the headline and I hope the facilities read it. I would like to have $20 for every hour I spend calling them or being in meetings with them. No one will have us if we want to plan it more than two years out.

John Broggi (show manager): But we can’t do that with the need for hotel rooms and other things. Many of them want 12 months or less.

MB: It’s unrealistic. All of sudden, if we switch gears and throw it in the Anaheim Convention Center because they graced us with an OK, how do we change? It’s like when airlines change equipment on a flight, people get bumped. It’s not an option. This takes years to plan out. They (the dealers) don’t want to be surprised.

BM: Every year, it seems things happen. This year, there were a couple of Mickey Mantles reported stolen and one dealer apparently being kicked because of a fake, how do you prevent these sorts of things and what do you do once something has happened?
MB: Prevention is impossible. Detection or action is possible. We have 20 cameras going in the camera room with police non-stop. We have uniforms, undercover, the convention center has their own security as well. We probably pay $25,000 for security. It’s like anything else, if there is a traffic accident, a cop has to be called to come.

We have no second chances. We prosecute to the fullest. They are taken downtown. We don’t care if they are a doctor or a lawyer or they say a mistake happened. We will file charges if you are caught stealing something and the rest can be sorted out by the police.

When it comes to fakes, our policy is simple. We cannot monitor every transaction. We hope people are careful with what they buy. If there is a dispute, we will hear the story. We have a uniformed officer with us. If it seems appropriate, we will get dealers side of it. We ask if we can take it and get it authenticated. If the dealer says yes and it comes back authenticate, that’s between the dealer and customer.

If dealer does not want to authenticate it or it comes back it’s not authenticate, they have two choices. They can refund the money and put (the item) under the table. Everyone makes mistakes and all is forgiven. Or they are going to be taken out of the show.

Susan Lulgjuraj is an editor of Beckett Sports Card Monthly. You can email her here with questions, comments or ideas. Follow her on Twitter here. Follow Beckett Media on Facebook and Twitter.

15 Comments

Ted

Great job Susan, You asked all the right questions.

Posted August 7, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Permalink
John

Is Texas “West coast”? How bout Atlanta, New Orleans…?

Posted August 7, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Permalink
Robert

How about Vegas? you telling me you can’t plan it in advance in Vegas?

Posted August 7, 2013 at 9:03 pm | Permalink
Arthur

Why does it need to be planned more than 2 years in advance? I’ve been to many conventions larger than the National and they were all able to swing it.

Posted August 7, 2013 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

Event planning a sports collectible show can’t be any more difficult than the myriad of other conventions that occur in Vegas or SoCal (both are pretty top notch convention cities). There are a number of trade conventions that don’t even return year after year, so the changing sites excuse shouldn’t matter. I know of many trade organizations that plan 2 years in advance for their annual conference, whilst also changing locations every year, so stop with the excuses. If the people with a voice in the organization really were interested in having it on the West Coast, it would have happened by now. Of my many years (decades) in the hobby, I do not remember the convention ever going to the West Coast.

It’s a real shame to, because I know of at least half a dozen collectors personally who drop thousands of dollars on cards every month on a consistent basis and that’s just within my small sphere of influence out in the LA suburbs. It’s just the typical East Coast bias that rears its ugly head time and again in this hobby.

Posted August 7, 2013 at 11:21 pm | Permalink
Robert

Probably needs to be 2 years in advance because some convention centers are booked as least that far out. I think my local one in a U.S. top 50 city could be booked for a Natty in 2015 if Berkus was really serious about hosting a national west of the Mississippi in an area not called SoCal.

I would like to see my city or Phoenix as the host (and if it was in either of those two cities, I’d be attending). Not going to nattys in chicago, new york, baltimore, S.O.S. host cities in the east because of the crowding and long travel time — it’s not as leisurely and wide open as it is here out west where it’s best!.

Posted August 7, 2013 at 11:28 pm | Permalink
Chris

Robert – Most buildings don’t even stay standing for two years in Vegas!

Posted August 8, 2013 at 1:32 am | Permalink
James

I love these industry fools falling over each other to cater to group breakers, who are not innovative, not tech-savvy and are just a fad in the hobby. Margins are falling, there is zero real money to be made without 12-16 hour work days. The guys can’t even set up their own site. Clown shoes.

Posted August 8, 2013 at 8:37 am | Permalink
Trey

With the success of Comic-Con, has San Diego ever been considered as a location for the National?

Posted August 8, 2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink
Susan Lulgjuraj

Kevin,

I’d like to favorite your comments, but no option here. Thanks :)

Posted August 8, 2013 at 9:47 am | Permalink
Susan Lulgjuraj

Trey, The attendance for Comic Con and NSCC are very different. CC also is very Hollywood, guest panels and stuff like that. CC also has a number of events happening around the city as well, it’s not centralized to just the convention center.

Posted August 8, 2013 at 9:49 am | Permalink

If the West coast is really out of the question, maybe the South coast is an option. I would love to see this thing come down to New Orleans…. We’re convention experts, a great sports town, and a super fun tourist destination.

Posted August 8, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

Sooz that was a great interview. Very well done.

I think there are valid arguments on both sides of the table. But the fact remains that, while not financially feasible for many collectors, Chicago is more of a centralized urban location within the US from east to west coast. I’ve been to 6 NSCC shows in Chicago and you can guarantee geography plays a much bigger role here than anything else. So until they throw a bad show with minimal attendance and major backlash from the dealers, it is going to keep coming back here.

I don’t think the NSCC is abandoning the west coast. I just think they are playing the cards that guarantee a payout and riding a good thing as long as they can. It is true that Anaheim won’t give them dates far enough out for planning and that means they would have trouble finding a backup plan if things fell through. They have been publicizing that fact since the last show in Anaheim. Chicago, Cleveland, and Baltimore (and Atlantic City) have all shown they are more than willing to work with them so that’s where they go. The cities that they pick have to have enough lodging willing to book years ahead of time. They also have to have a convention center and not cost a fortune to stay in for a week. But ultimately, the dealers are all asked to vote for where they go and obviously no one is voting for other locations.

I’m not sure on how true this is but I heard some dealers talking at this years show about having 2020 in New York and 2022 in Houston. I suppose they are just rumors.

Posted August 8, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Permalink
Jeramie

Las Vegas NEEDS the NSCC. There are only 4 cards shops in the entire valley. The card shows are very weak, with the same dealers over and over. Not to mention our next show isn’t until the end of October!! Sorry, but one show every 6-8 months just isn’t cutting it for the hardcore collector. Please NSCC help Vegas collectors by bringing a real show to town. You’ll have fun…I guarantee it!

Posted August 9, 2013 at 8:56 am | Permalink

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