Monday, August 9, 2010

The National Card Show: New Directions?

Comic Con in San Diego is covered world wide as one of the biggest events of the year, not only for comics, but for entertainment. Its become a spectacle because every TV show, Movie and Book that has the littlest connection with Science Fiction sends its entire cast for a panel. Because Comic Con has the ability to launch a new item more than any other outlet, everyone has embraced it as the way to go. The National will never be what Comic Con is, but it can easily be a similar outlet for the card manufacturers.

Right now, the National is little more than a place to meet other collectors, get some cool autographs and giveaways, and attend a humongous card show. All of those things are nice, but in reality, they don’t present anything more than concentration. By concentration I mean that the amount of each one of those things present at the national is higher than anywhere else. However, if Comic Con relied on all of those things like the national does every year, it would never have reached the heights it has.

What I would think should be the focus of a new area of the National, is going in the direction that many studios and writers are doing with Comic Con. Have panels set up for all the card companies, some of the message boards, and maybe even a blogger panel if they want. Get people involved with the upcoming releases much ahead of where they are being notified right now. I know for a fact that new sets are developed months, sometimes years in advance, and this gives the casual collector the opportunity to view said annoucements in a different way. We all know that Green Lantern is coming out soon, but when you have Ryan Reynolds showing footage at Comic Con, things are taken to another level. As an example, despite how bad I feel it looks, Topps Unrivaled Football would have been something great to showcase at the National show. Have the mock ups ready, bring in Clay Luraschi, and field questions on the new product and the brand direction in general. It would be great.

In fact, a company like Upper Deck could greatly benefit from something like this. Because so few people understand the upcoming focus of the company, they would have had a tremendous opportunity to showcase what they are going to bring to the table. I have no idea how they are going to keep the prestige associated with SP Authentic in college form, but I would no doubt love to have the opportunity to see a few previews when that panel takes the stage.

It was interesting to see Topps try to organize a meet and greet night, but im not sure if that was the best way to start this sort of thing. It seemed to be formatted similarly to a Comic Con panel, but it was only open to a small amount of people, most of whom already were established as news dissemination points. Plus, with the amount of disconnection that Topps has had, up until recently, with the collector base, there werent high hopes. That is where the opportunity to change the format comes into play. Make it a spectacle. Get people excited. Bring Stras-mas to the people in a way like Comic Con does for Spider-man and Superman.

Although the National provides a unique gathering place for everyone in the industry, it rarely provides a reason to go for people outside the industry. A card show and autograph show may bring some, but a spectacle has a much wider appeal. Maybe the National doesn’t want to head in that direction, but with the income starting to dwindle on some of the manufacturers, I think they would jump at the opportunity.


  1. Part of the growth of ComicCon is based in the convergence of the sources of things syfy, fantasy, and horror, and *how* those things merge.

    Especially now that cosply and being a weeaboo, otaku, or mary sue is met with a shoulder shrug at worst, and not viewed as whack-job nerdy, there is an aspect of communal spectacle that I suspect is just plain absent from the NSCC.

    Add to the fact that part of the spectacle is that it is in a city like San Diego, where even the cosplay women and booth models are a high percentage of ridiculously hot. Nothing against those cities, but Cleveland, Baltimore, etc. aren't exactly glamour magnets, despite their specific sports and hobby histories.

    What's also killing traffic at the NSCC, I imagine, is the vacuum of people under 25. ComicCon practically looks like a scene from Logan's Run--sometimes in costume! Card shows, and the National included, already look like they are going the way of stamp and coin shows, where it's all old people that smell like Winstons arguing over esoteric vintage rarities and variations.

    Occasional spikes in contemporary interests, like Stras-mas, make the situation a little better than coins and stamps, but most of them still have a half-life of Tylenol. Really, the last real meaningful previous spike was 2001 with Pujols and Ichiro, and we have 9/11 and the dotcom bubble to thank for sapping the energy out of that one early.

    As for ideas, maybe they National organizers can take a page or two from ComicCon, such as:

    - What about a costume contest, with a substantial prizes (like $5k total) to get interest rolling?

    - Changing the date of the show, and making it correspond to some other 'gravity' event in parallel, like the NFL Rookie Premiere?

    - Where were the different, but related sports interest / collectibles companies and enterprises? Like video game developers like EA, and their NFL exclusive Madden releasing this month? There's too many standard audience types eating the same old vintage dog food at sports collectibles shows, and from what I've heard, the National in particular.

    If you haven't found a a buyer yet on eBay for your Shoeless Joe Jackson game-used underpants, you probably won't find one at the National (at your listed dream price, to boot). Diversify the show content! (but be careful not to abandon the core).

    Those are just a few ideas off the top of my head. I am hopeful that the hobby and the National can evolve; it must. I understand that longtime calcified interests are difficult to change and grow, but some new ideas put into motion need to happen.

  2. The National will never be anything like comic-con because the National is a Greed Fest as is the entire industry. Attendance at the national for card makers is not designed to show what is coming and cause excitement, it is designed to drive sales to the dealers, and the company. The National gets worse each year because the entire thing is based on "what's it worth?" and not "how can we make this industry better. IT has always been that way and IT will always be that way as sad as that is.

  3. I've been saying the National needs to move from a 'used car salesman' attitude to more of a convention for years. I'd like to see:
    - informational sessions on how to spot fake autos, patches and such.
    - See some debuts of new products
    - even some larger card castle building contest would be cool to see
    - Heck, even some industry awards. UD had their blog contest earlier, they should do it at the National for some fun.

    Just my 2 cents