The Road to the 2024 National: Meet vendor Leighton Sheldon of Just Collect

If you're looking for vintage cards, the Just Collect booth is a must-visit

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The National Sports Collectors Convention will held July 24-28 in Cleveland.

Editor's Note: cllct is profiling some of the top dealers you will see at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland this summer. Next up in our series is Leighton Sheldon of Just Collect.

Leighton Sheldon has been coming to the National for 27 years, and while the cards at his booth haven't substantively changed, the world around him certainly has.

Sheldon is a vintage-card specialist, making his money by having extreme knowledge of mostly vintage baseball offerings. Sheldon will offer deals to the last generation of collectors that are fair, but can be profitable to him.

Leighton Sheldon loves to visit with collectors and discuss potential deals. (Credit: Leighton Sheldon)
Leighton Sheldon loves to visit with collectors and discuss potential deals. (Credit: Leighton Sheldon)

The reason Sheldon is a must-visit in the hall if because he has seen a lot, and he's willing to talk.

"I like when people come over, they ask questions and then they buy their first vintage card," Sheldon said, while admitting that talking is always a challenge.

"It's such madness at the National with the amount of people, you don't want to be talking to someone for 21 minutes and miss other conversations you need to have that will lead to a sale," he said.

Sheldon is one of those dealers who believes anyone in the game of collecting has to be at the National as a responsibility to their investment.

"It's like a collecting Hall of Fame on wheels," said Sheldon, who has a storefront in Millburn, N.J. "It's must see. It's here for a week, and then it's gone for another year."

Sheldon says he does put out a couple things in his case that he's not selling, just to make people stop.

This year, he will have a 1952 Mickey Mantle PSA 2 that he says looks like a PSA 7 and a Type 1 photo of Jackie Robinson from the first time he put on the Brooklyn Dodgers uniform.

One thing that has changed over time in vintage cards is grading, as it's becoming harder and harder to see anything raw.

"In 1998, when I went to my first National, people were only grading the best cards," Sheldon said. "Now, they grade everything because a Bill Dickey that was $20 then is now $200."

One thing that hasn't changed? The group of people who are always skeptical as to whether the kids will want vintage. But that has always been overestimated. There was a huge pendulum swing back to the older cards when the modern NBA junk-slab era became apparent, as everything was overproduced and overgraded.

Sheldon stresses the National is only good if buyer and seller come in having done their work.

"I know that everyone wants yesterday's comp, but I spend a month on working on my prices," Sheldon said. "There are obviously deals to be had, depending on the person or the quantity they buy."

Sheldon's best piece of advice for the National?

Come with plenty of cash.

"A lot of people spend time looking at prices," Sheldon said. "What many don't realize is that the best position you can put yourself in is to just have enough cash. So, many dealers are willing to do a better deal for cash, even in the era of Venmo, Zelle and Paypal."

Darren Rovell is the founder of and one of the country's leading reporters on the collectibles market. He previously worked for ESPN, CNBC and The Action Network.