National looks for success in Windy City

It’s only natural for show promoters to be nervous these days about the impact high gas prices and other economic concerns will have on attendance for sports collectibles shows. Promoters of this year’s National Sports Collectors Convention are not immune from that concern, but hope the inherent strength of the Chicago market – which has hosted more Nationals than any other city – will help make the event a success.

“We always love going back to Chicago because the fan base is so strong there,” said Mike Berkus, co-executive director of the National. “This is the type of city that’s the perfect venue for us. We have a neighborhood convention center, so you don’t have to fight downtown. We’re right by the airport. It’s a real comfortable place for us. We get a good turnout, we sell more dealer exhibit booths and more corporate sponsorships than any other city.”

Local promotion of the show has ranged from newspaper ads and a promotion with local Arby’s restaurants offering a chance to win a meet-and-greet with Joe Namath, to promotions at the popular Taste of Chicago weekend. Nationally, the event certainly garnered plenty of attention with last week’s public autograph offer to Steve Bartman (see below).

All of the card manufacturers will have a presence at the show, with each offering show-exclusive cards for consumers who purchase VIP admission packages. Topps has produced a five-card set for the VIP package, with cards reminiscent of the original 1958 Topps cards. Upper Deck has produced a 24-card set of Upper Deck spokespeople and other sports legends. Upper Deck’s National VIP sets will also feature randomly inserted single and combo-signed cards of stars Carmelo Anthony, Dennis Rodman, Jonathan Toews, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Patrick Kane and Yao Ming.

Donruss is offering a six-card, die-cut set featuring some of this year’s top NFL rookies. Sport Kings is producing 18 exclusive cards featuring both an original 1933 Sport King athlete and a current star from the same sport. Press Pass has created a six-card NASCAR set for National VIPs, five cards distributed in the VIP gift packs, and a sixth that will be available only at the Press Pass booth. Tristar Productions has created a seven-card preview set for its 2008 Prospects Plus Minor League set. Five cards will be part of the VIP Gift Package, and the other two will be available at the Tristar booth. Finally, Press Pass will offer a National-exclusive base card parallel from 2008 Legends Football to anyone who opens a six-pack mini-box of the set.
Tristar will be overseeing the autograph lineup for the show. The autograph lineup includes nearly a dozen baseball HOFers and more than twice that number from football. In all, nearly 100 autograph guests will be on hand over the course of the show. Autograph times and prices are available at www.nsccshow.com.

The National will hold its grand opening for consumers on Wednesday from 5-9 p.m., with free autographs from Cubs Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins, former Cubs pitcher Milt Pappas and NFL Hall of Famers Roger Wehrli and Jackie Smith. The first 3,000 attendees at the Sneak Peek event will receive a specially created eTopps promo card of Babe Ruth created in the format of the turn-of-the-century Allen & Ginter cards.

Kids ages 12 and younger will be admitted at no charge all five days, courtesy of nflrush.com, with special giveaways and other activities for Kid’s Free attendees. Sunday has been designated as Family Day, where up to six people can be admitted for a single $25 admission charge.

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