The National In Baltimore: One Day Or Two?

I am going to the National this year.  That part is not in question.  However, I’ve been going back and forth about whether I should go for Saturday and Sunday, or to try to maximize the hell out of Saturday.  It’s not as knee-jerk of a “Hell, yeah, both days!” reaction as you would think.

…But I would like you to hear (or at least skim through) my case, and give me your thoughts on what there is to do at the National and whether it’s worth staying overnight for me or for anyone in the greater Blogosphere.

I went for one day in 2010 and I fell a little short of doing everything I wanted, but that was partly due to being unprepared.  When I first got to the 2010 National, I looked around and said “Well, this isn’t that much bigger than other shows I’ve been to”, and started casually looking at tables in the room.

That’s when I discovered that there was a second room just as big (if not bigger) than the one I was somewhat unimpressed by.  At that point, I wandered around in an overwhelmed daze, repeatedly saying “Ho…lee… crap!” (Or something along those lines –  I try to keep things somewhat family-friendly around here.)  As a result, I wasted some of my time being overwhelmed, and more of my time looking at things I can get at a regional card show.

Before I get into what I’m looking for from the National, I should probably give you a brief rundown about what kind of collector I am, and what I want.

I am a set collector (especially 1970’s) and a team collector (Mets & Orioles).  I don’t go much into autographs or relics, I’m not especially particular about condition and I don’t do graded.

I operate within a nebulous fiscal structure which is easiest to explain as “I’m on a budget” or “I’m cheap”.  A somewhat more accurate explanation is that I don’t get anywhere near $50 worth of joy out of buying a single $50 card.

Baltimore is close enough for me to do a day trip, but it’s far enough that a hotel room would be needed if I do two days.  It doesn’t have to be in Baltimore and it only has to be nice enough that I won’t worry about catching diseases from the bathroom fixtures or being a food supply for things living in the bedding and carpet… but it’s still an added expense. Also, since the National doesn’t sell weekend passes, I would have to buy two individual day passes ($18 each in advance).

Oh, and one final thing:  this trip is about the National and only the National.  Spending half of Sunday at the National isn’t a great option because I’ve already “done” Baltimore.  I’ve been to the Babe Ruth Museum, the Sports Legends Museum and the National Aquarium, and I’ve toured Camden Yards several times.

Now that I’ve got all the “background stuff” out of the way…

What I will be doing at the National:

  • Looking for lesser-condition cards to complete sets and team sets (i.e. the 1973 Schmidt/Cey rookie, high-numbered 1960’s Mets, etc.)
  • Looking for offbeat stuff like 1964 Topps Giants, Hostess cards, Japanese cards, 1970 Fleer/Laughlin World Series, etc.
  • Window-shopping for the really cool, vintage stuff which I could never afford without selling my car.  In 2010, someone had a beautiful Pilots road jersey that I spent a long period of time just looking at with a dopey grin on my face.
  • Doing my best to document the experience for this blog.

What I will NOT be doing at the National:

  • Standing in lines for autographs.  I’ve never been much of an autograph guy, and I’m pretty sure that the players that I would get excited about will not be there (at least, I didn’t see B.J. Surhoff or Frank Catalanotto on the list).
  • Looking at graded cards, as they usually fall outside of my “budget”.
  • Buying the VIP package.  I don’t need the autograph tickets, and this year’s promo cards don’t interest me so I would just try to sell them, which wouldn’t likely be worth my time.
  • Spending much (if any) time at the corporate booths.  The wrapper redemptions wouldn’t get me cards I want, and I don’t know of anything else at those booths which would be a better use of time than walking the floor (enlighten me if I’m missing anything).

So what do you think?  I’m obviously currently leaning towards the “one day” idea.  I think if I’m there when the doors open and I stick to my game plan, I can get everything accomplished in one day.  I’m a little bit apprehensive that I’d come back for the second day, I’ll spend an hour or two finishing things I didn’t get to on Saturday and then say “Now what?”

…But I can be swayed.  What am I missing?

What hidden gems are there which would keep me occupied for two days?

What recommendations do you have for me, or anybody attending the National?  Things to see, things to avoid, ways to maximize time and/or money?

2 thoughts on “The National In Baltimore: One Day Or Two?

  1. No recommendations. I’ve never been.

    I’m told that you can’t see everything you want in one day. Also, I’m told that some dealers start packing up on Sunday.

    You sound like my kind of collector. Get something good!

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