By SAM RAKESTRAW
Special to the Journal
The National Sports Collectors Convention (NSCC) returned for its recent 43rd annual, four-day show at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. Last year’s convention was held in Atlanta; the NSCC returned to Rosemont having last been here in 2021.
On the very first day, the turnout surpassed expectations as organizers reported a record number of dealers, traders, graders, and collectors joining them this year.
Since 1980, the NSCC has been the go-to event for every aspect of owning sports trading cards and memorabilia. Hundreds of dealers and the most trusted graders in the industry make an appearance to look at the latest and classic Topps and Panini products going back to as late as the ‘40s. Perfectly graded rookie and all-star cards of some of the biggest names in sports like Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, and Tom Brady can always be found in eyeshot.
The fun part is finding one for the price one is looking for.
“We see thousands of cards here every year,” says Ryan Greene, a member of the PSA team, “This is the one show where we really go all out with full-scale on-site grading operations. We bring all our equipment from Santa Ana every year. It’s our Super Bowl, and it’s also a Super Bowl for the whole industry. There are a lot of people who save the biggest card they own specifically to grade on-site with us.”
PSA is one of the first names that comes to mind when it comes to quality card gradings with several million entries in their database. Other grading companies like CGC and Beckett also make special gradings appearances. WhatNot, a hobby-selling app, served as a major sponsor at the event where they hosted live streams from some of their sellers directly from the showroom. They also hosted what is known as case breaks where they open sealed card packs and merchandise — that tended to draw a crowd.
The autograph pavilion also saw some appearances by former sports stars like Jaromir Jagr, Reggie Jackson, Joe Montana, and several more. Sports cards aren’t the only type of cards celebrated at NSCC. Garbage Pail Kids and Wacky Packages are also celebrated because of their historic place in the Topps catalog. The Pokemon trading card game still has a mighty demand in North America and several young fans visit the card show to get their favorite or a highly coveted one of their favorite characters. Signing all things Pokemon was Jason Paige, the singer of the original theme song when the show had first begun in the ‘90s.
“There’s a massive demand (for Pokemon),” said Paige, “It’s a world of about two billion Pokemon fans and it’s only about 10 million of them that have figured out that I’m the guy. There’s always a bubble of nostalgic joy that pops inside their hearts and all the love they experienced as a kid will always be triggered by that ‘I want to be the very best.'” Paige had brought Pokemon cards and merch from his personal collection as well to share with fans.
While the main show ended at around five or six, several hotels in the Rosemont area hosted “trade nights” where attendees would flock to the lobbies offering deals and trades on the collection and hauls they just got. One Trade Night on Thursday was officially hosted by NSCC, but the rest were all hosted by third parties of fans.
“Trade night is a better chance of making a deal with someone on a non-commercial level. I could make a small profit, but I really do like doing this for fun and talking with people and having a good time,” said Edward Huezo. At the end of the day, it’s a celebration about cards, collecting, and the community.