After a year of delay, The National is back. Here’s what’s buzzing in the hobby ahead of this week’s big event.
The wait is finally over. The 41st National Sports Collectors Convention is upon us. After what has definitely felt like a lifetime, the convention receives its long-awaited kick-off on July 28 in Rosemont, Illinois right outside Chicago and extends through August 1.
Commonly referred to as The National, it is the largest gathering of sports cards and memorabilia collectors under one roof. The 2020 National was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but had previously taken place in various cities in the United States since 1980.
Thanks to both a year of delay and a surge in popularity for the hobby, this year’s event at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center is expected to break attendance records.
Vendors, influencers, and collectors are expecting attendance records to be broken at this year’s event. The 2019 National had over 50,000 attendees and with the recent boom of interest in trading cards, attendance is expected to be double that number or more. The record attendance at The National was in 1991 at 90,000 people.
With expected attendance to be more than 100,000, the 2021 National is poised to blow that figure away.
So, aside from the record-setting crowds, what are the other storylines collectors need to know as the big event returns? Let’s identify three major items to look out for.
Mystery Boxes, Raffles, & Breaks
Gambling, for lack of a better term, is a huge aspect of card collecting. Whether it’s opening a Topps Chrome pack or entering a Panini National Treasures break, collectors need to scratch their itch to get that big hit. This year at The National, there isn’t a lack of opportunities to score a whale.
The Blowout Cards Mega Mix makes its triumphant return. Doubling in price from 2019, the $500 mystery box has the possibility to come with high-end hobby boxes, sealed cases, and autographed memorabilia from superstars of the past and today.
Check out what one collector found in their 2019 Blowout Mega Mix box:
In addition to mystery boxes, attendees can purchase raffle tickets from various vendors, many of which offer prize pools worth tens of thousands. One of the most notable is SlabStox’s charity raffle, which takes place Friday night, July 30. Collectors will have an opportunity to win uncommon prizes including various hobby boxes, from a 2019 Topps Chrome Fernando Tatis PSA 10 rookie card to a 2007 Topps Chrome Kevin Durant PSA 9 rookie.
Select Basketball Arrives
Panini is set to release its 2020-21 Select Basketball offering this week, and vendors will have cases on-hand to break at The National. Filled with hobby-exclusive designs like Zebra and Tie-dye Prizms, collectors will want to be the first to hit either a LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, or Tyrese Haliburton in either of these variations.
Before this year’s release, collectors were only able to buy Select Basketball cards directly from Panini or from card shops. The 2020-21 edition Select Basketball, meanwhile, will additionally be available in retail stores like Walmart, which will offer exclusive Tiger Prizm and Elephant Prizm editions.
Will NBA Select experience a short boom just like 2021 NFL Select did, or will the hype of LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards carry the value of the product throughout the offseason and into the next?
The State of the Card Market
As cards were “crashing” over the past few months, Facebook groups, Blowout forums, and Discord channels were clamoring about how the market is finally crashing and we’re entering Junk Wax Era 2.0.
Other well-known cards are on the rise as well. 2013 Panini Prizm Giannis Antetokounmpo PSA 10 rookie card dipped down to as low $1,100 only recently, but reached as high as $3,000 since the Greek Freak’s NBA Finals MVP performance. Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani is showing pitchers really can have legit card value, and Panini’s online releases are still selling out.
With expected record-breaking sales to go along with expected record-setting attendance, it’s safe to say the card market remains seriously healthy. The National will be filled with vendors and collectors from across the country (and the world) looking to buy up the rarest of grails, stock up on the next rising star, or add to their personal collections for the long haul, and with the hobby continuing to ride such an impressive wave of renewed popularity, this year’s edition of the big event is absolutely not one to be missed.
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