The National #8 | Seeing it All Over the Years

Handful of Dealers Have Logged 40-plus Shows

Date: Jul 5, 2024
Author: Greg Bates, Senior Writer
Topics: Dealers, Greg Bates, Joe Esposito, Kit Young, The National, Tom Daniels
Length: 1075 Words
Reading Time: ~6 Minutes

Enjoy our eighth story in a series to help collectors prepare for the 44th annual National Sports Collectors Convention, which will be held in Cleveland from July 24 to 28. We will introduce a new topic each week leading up to the show.

This week, we look at dealers that have set up at The National for 40-plus years. They reminisce about the origins of the first shows and its rise to prominence. Don’t miss next week’s story on what the hobby’s largest auction houses have on tap for the show.

Every year during the National Sports Collectors Convention, dealers can choose where their booth will be located at the following year’s show.

The pecking order is determined by seniority. So, when it’s time for Tom and Anita Daniels to choose their spot, they are either first or second. That’s because the couple has set up at every National.

The Danielses and John Rumeriz are the only dealers in the show’s history who have made it every year. In a few weeks, those National pioneers will pull into Cleveland to work the show for the 44th time.

Being one of the original dealers at The National holds significance for Daniels.

“It means I’m old,” joked Daniels, who runs the Baseball Card Shoppe in Madison, Wisconsin.

“In the past, more so than recently, a lot of our friends were at The National. At one time, corporations had parties, so everybody was at the parties together. After that, we still went out to eat with each other. So it’s getting back with friends, and that was part of it. Plus, the excitement of The National.”

In terms of years working The National, several dealers are on the tails of the Danielses and Rumeriz. B.A. Murry as well as Jerry Adamic from Jerry Adamic & Sons have both just missed one year. Kit Young will be setting up at his 42nd convention.

Young, who runs Kit Young Cards in San Diego, missed two shows in the early 1980s. He didn’t make the fifth convention held in Parsippany, New Jersey.

“It was a big show, but it wasn’t The National, that was the difference,” Young said. “For me to haul my rump across country and put a table there, it just wasn’t meaningful enough. That particular year, maybe I was feeling lazy. I just chose not to go. That was long before it became quote, unquote, The National.”

Joe Esposito was in college when he attended his first National as a collector in Chicago in 1983. He set up as a dealer the next year and has worked every convention since.

“Most of the dealers that were in that room sold vintage product,” Esposito said. “The hobby wasn’t as diversified; it was very card orientated. Not a lot of memorabilia and not a lot of new product. It was mostly just people that dealt in vintage cards.”

Kit Young (far right) will be setting up at his 42nd National Sports Collectors Convention later this month. Photo by Greg Bates

Starting to Get Big

Partners Mike Berkus, Steve Brunner, and Gavin Riley used to put on regular card shows during the summer. Over Labor Day weekend in 1980, the trio upped their show to a much larger scale, holding the first National at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel. Young remembers being one of around 150 dealers in attendance.

“It was exciting,” Young said. “It had a little bit different vibe.”

The first six Nationals were all held at hotels. By the mid-to-late ’80s, the show kept growing, and it needed to expand to larger venues.

“Really, to me, what turned the hobby early on was you were getting a lot of the coin dealers,” said Esposito, who owns B&E Collectibles in Thornwood, New York. “A lot of companies in the coin hobby, which was the big hobby back then, were starting to branch out into the baseball card business. That’s when I saw the handwriting on the wall and that this is becoming bigger and bigger.”

The 1991 convention at the Anaheim Convention Center in southern California blew the gates wide open. An estimated 100,000 collectors attended the show, shattering the attendance record until 2023.

In Anaheim, Esposito was staying on a high level in a hotel next to the convention center. He remembers looking out the window on the opening day of the show.

“I saw these lines of people at 7, 8 a.m. wrapping around the place,” Esposito recalls. “I was like, ‘Holy crap. This is going to be some show.’ Boy, it was. There were a lot of people there. You could hardly walk around the show as a dealer. To go to the bathroom, it took you 20 minutes.”

Daniels was on the NSCC Board of Directors and remembers the jam-packed venue.

“They wouldn’t let people in the doors until people left because the fire marshals were directing it, and there were so many people there,” Daniels recalls. “I know people were selling their passes outside. I think that was maybe the first year of promos. Mike Berkus had the idea for promos, and it went over big.”

Tom Daniels and his wife, Anita, have been dealers at every National. They are one of just two companies to have achieved this feat. Photo courtesy of the Daniels’

From Adversaries to Friends

With so many years logged at The National, the longtime dealers pick booth locations relatively close to one another since they are the prime spots to attract customers walking through the main gate.

Although they are all competing for business, the seasoned dealers have created a tight bond over the years.

“That’s part of the fun, seeing all these characters,” Young said. “It’s the only time you see each other during the year. Most of the prominent dealers in the country don’t do card shows.”

Esposito has been good friends with Young for over 40 years, often going on vacation together. According to Esposito, Young has taught him so much about life away from the hobby.

It’s all about camaraderie and sharing a passion for the hobby. “You go to their weddings and funerals, that type of thing, so you really become lifelong friends,” Daniels said.

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