Inside the Pack: 2021 National Sports Collectors Convention Review

The 41st annual National Sports Collectors Convention is in the books, and wow, what a show! I’ve never seen so many collectors in a single place before, and the excitement started Tuesday morning for early dealer setup and ran all the way through the end of the show.

From the dealer perspective, this was by far the best National I’ve had and many other dealers agreed. Most dealers I spoke to said the sales were the best they had ever had by a large margin. We also all agreed that the traffic was the strongest we’d seen. Until Sunday, which is usually the least-attended day anyway, the show was booming and absolutely packed with people who were willing to spend money. According to a poll the National organizers did, over 40% of customer attendees had never been to a National before. That explains the wide-eyed people I saw that were impressed at nearly everything they saw and couldn’t wait to move from table to table.

From a customer’s point of view, the show was phenomenal as well. Exhibitors, as usual, had some of the coolest stuff. The best thing I saw at a non-corporate booth was a complete graded 1952 Topps set and a sealed 1952 Topps pack. The auction houses also had tons of stuff on display, including Heisman Trophies, MVP awards, and a signed Babe Ruth bat. Among corporate sponsors, the absolute highlight was the SGC 3 T206 Honus Wagner. The card was beautiful and impeccably displayed, and is expected to fetch over $6 million when the auction ends.

The highlight of the National for me is always the people. I saw lots of folks I haven’t seen in years — in some cases, since the last National I did in 2018. I also met a ton of people I’ve known online for years but had never met in person. It was really neat for me to feel “sought out” by people who came to find my table specifically so we could catch up in person.

The table was so busy that I didn’t get a ton of time to shop around. When I did, I found a few things that are happily coming home with me. My favorite pickup came towards the end of Sunday, when I impulse bought a complete 1966 Topps Batman Black Bat set. I’m not super into non-sports, but I love the Batman set and have long considered putting the whole set together as I already had cards #1 and 2. My friend also found me a Doug Rader 2006 Greats of the Game autograph that I need for my set, leaving me just 4 shy of completion.

It’s tough for me to make traveling to the National happen in back to back years, so unfortunately, I don’t plan to be in Atlantic City in 2022. But in 2023, I expect to be back in Chicago for another exciting show. Whether the hobby continues the way it’s been going or not, I can’t wait.