The National Sports Collectors Convention is the largest annual sports memorabilia trade show held in the United States. Changing locations every year, the National celebrated its 40th event in Rosemont last week.
The five-day event featured more than 100 legendary professional athletes appearing for photo and autograph opportunities as well as vendors, licensing agents, collectors and more. The attendance is expected to surpass 50,000.
Although the convention location changes yearly, its ever-increasing growth limits it to a few cities in the country. Rosemont’s Donald E. Stephens Convention Center is large enough and has hosted it nine of the last 22 years. It will also serve as host in two of the next four years.
The economic impact of the National is huge. The Baltimore Business Journal reported a $15.48 million effect for the city when it hosted in 2010. It’s too soon to see the financial effect on Rosemont for this year, but it is expected to be even bigger. Area hotels are already selling out for the National’s return here in 2021 and 2023.
One vendor had some interesting merchandise. He had a whole section devoted to various autographed items from my late friend, wrestler-turned-actor Rowdy Roddy Piper. It was especially poignant seeing it on the four-year anniversary of Roddy’s passing.
My baseball card collecting days are long over, but I enjoyed meandering through the vendor area and perusing the memorabilia. Vendors told me Chicago Cubs collectibles sell strong everywhere but obviously especially well in Chicago. The 2016 World Series sparked a whole new line of Cubs souvenirs, and vendors saw it flying off the shelves. Fans are interested in anything that commemorates the first Cubs championship in 108 years.
I met Bob Griese and Ray Guy, two Hall of Fame football players from my youth. Both men looked great and were happy to discuss their careers. It is always surreal meeting star athletes I watched as a kid.
I also caught up with some friends. We enjoyed the time so much we decided to try to meet next year at the National in Atlantic City.
— John Wroblewski, online writer
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