The Nationals

More room trading treasures
On the show floor
Checking out the options
Crowds attend the auction

Like many of you, I belong to a collecting club or organization and like most, mine offers rewards like publications and events that culminate in the yearly grand event,“The Nationals.”

The main collecting organization that I belong to is the N.F.L.C.C., The National Fishing Lure Collectors Club, and each year around the second week in July people gather in some smaller population arenas like Louisville, Grand Rapids or Peoria, because big cities just charge too much for their services. We exchange, buy, sell and learn, see old friends and have a great time. Hopefully we also find those elusive pieces to fill in the blanks of our collections.

Really, we aren’t that sophisticated like some of our more involved and older relatives. (I tend to look at all us collectors as members of an extended family). We like beer more than wine and we have only been around since 1976. But we tend to be an enthusiastic group.

Most of us are from the Midwest to the East Coast and that is where are Nationals are usually set. Most people drive and we do have rivalries. The Southerns don’t like driving too far north and visa versa. So depending where the Nationals is located there is a definite attendance skew. Nothing to do with what happened a long time ago, it’s just about how much driving is involved hauling tons of stuff for sale or trade. Those of us who are out west, either have to fly, take a lot of time off to drive (which most of us don’t), or pass. I choose to fly. So, I have to ship my stuff, which is expensive, but OK.

Room trading rules

The Nationals always opens on a Thursday and is over on a Saturday. But, that is not the whole picture. I was told that in the first years of the founding of the club, you weren’t allowed or supposed to buy or sell anything on the floor of the event; you were only able to trade. So some enterprising individuals told other enterprising individuals that “…if you come to my room, well, let’s see what can be worked out”. You get the picture.

From that point on “Room Trading”(which can include over three hundred rooms and many of these rooms have their doors wide open at various times prior to the floor show on Thursday), as it is referred to only grew and now can be bigger and more important than the floor event. Furthermore, there are other regional events held through out the years that are smaller, but still significant and “Room Trading” is just as important at these events as well.

Why? Well, you are only allowed to show fishing related objects on the show floor, but in your room, you can sell anything legal. Also, you have a chance to find items first that won’t even make it to the floor. Many of the big deals happen or begin in the rooms as well. Also, there are those people who won’t even stay until Thursday, since they had enough even before the main event, which I think is sad. Complicated isn’t it? The dynamics have shifted and the floor event seems almost anticlimactic,

Opportunities on the show floor

Still,that is not the whole truth. People will begin to leave on Friday but on Friday night there is an auction, and that can be very important. Saturday is an odd day because many begin to pack up and leave as soon as the show opens, but it can be the most productive time if you have the patience to troll the floor. People may not want to take some products home, or didn’t sell enough and need to unload, or bought too much and need to sell what they think they don’t need.

Finally, we are an organization filled with sharks. We sharks troll the rooms looking to see what items are priced incorrectly and snatch them up. At times it feels that if we sell something to another reputed shark, we must have priced it way too low, but than we forget that maybe they may really need that item for their collection.

So, when I talk about the Nationals, I don’t talk about the three-day floor event. People actually begin to arrive as early as the Saturday or Sunday prior to Thursday. The peak day is Wednesday. Furthermore, the Nationals is a closed event and is not open to the public. You have to be a member of the N.F.L.C.C. to attend.

This year’s NFLCC

Now, let me discus the 2008 Nationals that was held on July 10th-12th in Peoria, IL. First, an overview. Flying is a pain, especially these days, and with $4.50/gallon gas, driving is worse. So, I began to send out my stuff on the week before the Nationals. I wanted my material there when I arrived on July 8th.

I ship UPS insured and can track it and before I took the “red eye” Monday night I found out that all four boxes of stuff arrived safely (expensive but efficient). I don’t want to rely on the airlines to make sure that my packages make it to the destination and TSA won’t let us take lures on the airplane–usually. I take a small carry on roller bag filled to the gills with reels, oh yeah and with clothes and toiletries.

I was up at 6:30 AM (PST) the Monday of travel and arrived in Peoria that Tuesday Morning, got to the hotel, checked in, had lunch and began “Room Trading.” Then, I opened my room to sell, took a break for dinner, and then went back to “Room Trading.” This hotel had twelve floors. Many of us start at the top, walk down the stairs to the next floor, and repeat this procedure multiple times, every day until Wednesday night.

On Wednesday, I followed the same agenda until about 11PM that night, when I packed my stuff up in preparation for setting everything up on the floor of the convention center at 7:30AM Thursday, staying until 6PM. Friday morning the show opened around 10AM because of the business meeting and closed at 6PM. At 7PM there was an auction lasting until around midnight. Saturday at 8AM we were back on the floor. The show is virtually over by noon but officially closes at 2PM. I have been participating in this same scenario in various cities for most of the last 15 years and at 62 I still get excited about it.

2008 is a complex and tough year. We have had to battle with an economy in recession, a housing market in crises, an erratic stock market and $4.00/gallon fuel prices. So, I didn’t expect too much from the Nationals this year.

Words of Wisdom:
• You can always make a show a good one if you want to.
• There are always good buys if you look hard enough.
• You can always sell if you adjust honestly to the market.

A profitable event

From my point of view, it was a difficult, but still a profitable event. First of all, attendance appeared down, even with “Room Trading.” Many regulars didn’t attend, and people we are used to seeing year after year weren’t there. For the first time, it seemed that there were some empty tables and aisles appeared to be wider. There were more collections for sale than normal and prices were low on many items. There were people who haven’t adjusted to the changing market over the last few years and still had items that have been on their tables for the last couple of years (they just don’t get it).

The enthusiasm was there to an extent but not as high as it has been in the past. A common problem, as with other collectables groups, is the aging factor; where are the youth, the next generation to carry the torch?

The bright spots were that there were some great lures that went for great prices above what I thought they should bring and there were bargains to be had if one had the eye to ferret them out. Of course there are the intangibles, seeing those friends that we don’t often get to be with and the overall circus atmosphere, which makes it a real pleasure to once again attend the Nationals and be kids for a few days.