"Well a person can work up a mean, mean thirst / after a hard day of nothing much at all..." - The Replacements, "Here Comes A Regular"
I'm still jobless as of this writing, and next week I might well become the first and only unemployed person to ever attend The National.
Even without a job, I've managed to bolster my savings a bit by selling off a few unneeded childhood treasures (people still buy Game Boys?) and dabbling in the book re-selling business. Honestly for the last month or so it's been refreshing to take a brief sabbatical from the dull work-a-day world. Another job no doubt awaits me, but for now I'm content to reset and not jump into anything.
And after weighing the financial pros and cons I've decided that, yes, a trip to The National is indeed in the cards (pun intended) - I'll most likely be there next Thursday to try to beat some of the weekend crowd.
I've talked about this a few times before, but despite my excitement, I have mixed feelings about The National and what it represents about card collecting - and that goes about tenfold this year, smack dab in the middle of a Hobby Boom.
It's a strange feeling to critique and/or be disgusted with a community that I myself am a part of. I've worked up a mean, mean thirst for The National ever since it was cancelled last year - you can't argue that it's not the best card show around. It just is. But I'm fully ready to see dudes with plutonium-locked briefcases opening boxes of cards with gloves and NFT bros and whatever other godforsaken get-rich-quick schemes are being peddled this year.
The sad part is that this is all that seems to get advertised about The National. No one mentions the unbelievable dime boxes and discount vintage that make this so fun for collectors like myself who represent about 0.0001 percent of the show's income. The sheer fun of The National for the collector often gets lost in the convention halls, tucked away into the corner.
It's always interesting to see what the cheap stuff is like at such a cash-fueled show like The National - and I'm wondering if it'll look anything like the excellent package I received from a loyal reader named Wes W. who's been shoveling stacks of cards on me for years now.
Wes always seems to send me the kind of stuff I rarely see in dime boxes - like Fleer Stickers and minor league cards, for instance.
The only bad thing about receiving minor league cards is that it gets me thinking about the millions of other minor league cards out there I still need, which let's just push that out of my mind for now, thank you.
Minor league cards are great for a lot of reasons, not the least of which because of how wacky and entertaining they can be.
(You can't convince me Stan Johnston & Walt Vanderbush weren't in Witness Protection.)
Like dudes in their early 20s need any excuse to flash their guns.
A few other randoms from Wes, including an Ozzie Smith that has me wondering how long it's been since I've had a slice of Wonder Bread (at least a decade).
Wes also sent me a handful of scrawled-upon cardboard, and while I don't specifically seek these out, I'll take any people are sitting on because I find them immensely entertaining.
They're also liable to open a Pandora's Box of mysteries - such as why that faux-Hal Jeffcoat signature is etched so deeply into that card, or what kind of cataloging was going on with that Geiger.
I try to be thorough with every trade package I receive - which why, for curiosity's sake, I flipped this '71 Milt Pappas over to take a look even though I already had a copy.
I'm glad I did, because staring out at me from the other side was...
...some other guy!
I have a few of these mismatched vintage cards, and like the written-on ones, I find them fascinating. For comparison's sake, I once found a beaten-up '59 Topps card under a bench at the train station after a day at The National. It wasn't even worth someone's time to put it in a garbage can. Think about that. (Oh, and I still have that '59 Topps card.)
To me, collecting isn't only about hoarding stuff I need. It's about learning to enjoy the hobby as much as possible, seeing where it's come from and where it's been. I think some of that is gonna be lost in the crowd I'm bound to see next week - like the latest-and-greatest wrapper redemption booths that seem to run on money and mob mentality. There's a ton of tables at The National that I have no problem passing up...but there's also a whole heckuva lot of fun stuff I wouldn't miss for the world (job or no job).
Because as hard as it might be to believe, there's actually more to The National than what gets advertised - you just have to look a little harder to find it.