August 11, 2012

My National Experience: How I Stumped The National

I want to start by saying that The National was awesome. I saw the greatest variety of sports cards and memorabilia I've ever seen under one roof. Granted, that roof was over 300,000 square feet in size, but you recognize the sentiment. And even more impressive than the stuff I saw and bought were the people I met there, from Gary Engel, author of the Japanese Baseball Card Checklist and Price Guide - Vintage Edition, to Rob Klevens of the Japanese card–specializing Prestige Collectibles, to Ryan Christoff of, who confirmed that that 1950 Toletero I had bought and sold on eBay a few years ago was indeed genuine (and that I was sort of an idiot for selling it...but I knew that already).

I also met John Parker of 99% Basketball. With a dealer booth a-splayed with cases containing the most bizarre basketball memorabilia and international rarities, I thought Finally! Someone who can identify my old poster and tell me what it's worth!

I had brought an old poster with me that I had found (i.e., ripped off a street-level billboard) while on a family trip to Amsterdam back in the early 1990s. As an aside, you ever walk through the non-tourist section of the Red Light District with your kids? I don't recommend it. It was scary. Anyway, I've kept the poster folded up in a drawer for the last 20 years, and actually had forgotten about it until I went back to my parents' house to sort through some stuff last year. Here's the poster:

Now, I wasn't expecting it to be worth a fortune. I know enough about poster collecting that anything with creases (that didn't start out with creases) doesn't have much value. Also, the back has significant paper loss, as it started its life pasted on a billboard. But the colors are still bright and the subject matter is unlike much else on the market. Granted, this is post–Dream Team, but the idea of a major American sports star like Magic Johnson barnstorming in another country is right up there with Babe Ruth's barnstorming tour of Japan in 1934. Surely, I thought, this is something with value that would defy condition sensitivity.

Here's where it gets interesting. The convention's unofficial tagline is that if you can't find it at The National, it doesn't exist. Well, Mr. Parker had never seen this poster. In fact, he had never heard of this European tour. So much for finding out more about it! Now, I have seen one or two references to the Pepsi Magic Tour on the Internet, including this YouTube video of the Magic All Stars versus a team called New Zealand All Stars.

But that's where my knowledge ends. Judging from the video, I'm guessing there are T-shirts and other memorabilia out there—certainly country-specific player uniforms worn by Magic and his all stars.

In my next post I'll showcase some of the cards I purchased at The National and share my thoughts on the experience.

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