Welcome to Chicago! More specifically, the village of Rosemont, which is located just outside the Windy City where this year’s National Sports Collectors Convention takes place.
The 43rd edition of the National will be held at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center between July 26-30, 2023. It is where the hobby — collectors, dealers and the major trading card companies — comes together once a year.
The NSCC dates back to 1980 in Los Angeles and has grown into the collectibles industry biggest event. The 1991 convention, during the height of the Junk Wax era, held in Anaheim is considered the highest-attended National. Last year’s NSCC in Atlantic City, N.J., according to organizers, was also well-attended despite the venue’s location.
This year’s venue, on the other hand, is known to collectors and dealers since it has hosted previous Nationals. It is also home to the Chicago Sports Spectacular, one of the best regional sports card and memorabilia shows in the country.
Here’s what you need to know before heading to Chicago this month.
How Do You Prepare?If you’ve ever been to the National, then you know how large in scale the showroom is. As a result, wear comfortable shoes (everyone says that and it’s true!) and bring snacks. It’s a long day on your feet and you’ll need the extra comfort and food. There will be concession stands on the showroom floor, but much of it will be expensive hot dogs and hamburgers.
You should also bring a wish-list and a budget. The National is the place to get those collectables you don’t often see. I think the National is a great place to search for your grail card.
Hockey fans will realize that much of the show offers up expensive cardboard such as Wayne Gretzky’s rookie or Alex Ovechkin’s Young Cards card. There are lots of chances to dig through quarter and dollar boxes so use up your time there if you are visiting for a few days.
Show Hours and Admission
Be aware of show hours and make sure you have tickets.
Here are the hours:
Wednesday, July 26 (Sneak Peek): 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Thursday, July 27: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Friday, July 28: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday, July 29: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday, July 30: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Anyone who purchased a VIP package can enter at 9:30 a.m. during the four days of the show open to the general public. To purchase tickets and VIP packages online, click here. A single-day ticket purchased ahead of time online is $25. They sell for $30 at the door. Super VIP packages are sold out.
Pristine Auctions, which is sponsoring the VIP party on Wednesday afternoon, will feature special guests who will sign one autograph for free. Hockey fans should note that Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne will be among the guests.
DealersThe showroom floor at this National has been expanded from 400,000 square feet to 600,000. (You can see the floorplan here.) That means even more booths and table to visit compared to past shows. A big chunk of the space will once again be taken up by corporate sponsors and box breakers.
Expect Fanatics and eBay to take up plenty of real estate. Hockey fans will want to take note of Upper Deck’s pavilion and giveaways.
You can check out the complete list of dealers and vendors here. Anyone interested in hockey needs to stop by our very own Puck Junk booth (which will be Booth 1011).
The National offers up of plethora of former athletes that collectors can meet and get balls, posters and cards signed.
The autograph pavilion, which is run by Tri-Star Productions, will feature 125 signers. They include basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabaar and football star Jerry Rice. You can check out the full list here.
The list includes a who’s who of the sports world, but only two hockey players are signing autographs at this year’s National: former NHL superstar Jaromir Jagr and former Chicago Blackhawks goalie Murray Bannerman.
While the National is a fabulous show, collectors know the Sports Card Expo in Toronto each fall and spring is the best place to find the biggest lineup of hockey legends who sign autographs.
Many will be wheeling and dealing at the National. Not only is the convention floor the place many hope to sell cards, but also during Trade Night. Popular at many shows, the National will host their very own once again.
I wrote about the growing popularity of trade nights for Sports Collectors Digest a year ago, which you can read here.
The National’s official Trade Night will take place on Thursday, July 27 from 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. in the second floor ballroom. That could be a place for hockey fans to find one another and buy/sell cards. I will definitely be attending and looking for some hockey cards that evening.
Whether you’re a regular or this will be your first time, hope to see you there!
Clemente Lisi is a lifelong Rangers fan who first started collecting cards in 1986. He collects both vintage and modern with a focus on rookie cards. Follow him on Twitter @ClementeLisi.