If you were a vintage sports card dealer who didn’t do much this past weekend, you missed out on a potentially profitable weekend.
The Fanatics Sports Spectacular at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont is built around a few dozen autograph guests—including numerous Hall of Famers in every major sport—who get paid to sign. However, the show crowd always includes some want list-toting card collectors and at least on this occasion, there were fewer than five dealers in the room who specialized in vintage cards.
Show attendance was solid and the dealers were swamped, at least in the hours before the arrival of the athletes on Saturday afternoon. In a picture worthy of the explosive hobby days of the 1980s and early 90s, customers sometimes had to wait for the first wave of collectors in front of a dealer’s booth to clear out before getting a crack at the binders, boxes and display cases.
The show wasn’t a big one in terms of the number of dealer booths, taking up only a smallish quadrant of one hall inside the Stephens. However, a steady parade of big name signers took seats in the back of the hall on Saturday and Sunday.
Frank Thomas, Barry Sanders, Terry Bradshaw, Deion Sanders, Mike Ditka (now sporting a beard), Dave Winfield, Boomer Esiason and Charles Woodson were among those signing Saturday.
The big attraction, though, was the appearance of several Chicago Cubs players on Saturday night. After beating the Pittsburgh Pirates that afternoon at Wrigley Field, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Jason Hammell, Addison Reed, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and a few others caught a lift to the convention center where they were met with a huge throng of fans and collectors who had bought autograph tickets.
— Sports Collector (@SportsCollector) May 15, 2016
Bryant and Rizzo sold out long before the weekend. Both posed for pictures in between signatures (Bryant autos are still available on the company’s website) and Rizzo even participated in a pre-planned marriage proposal that played out during the signing session.
The two-day event wrapped up Sunday afternoon with Peyton Manning, now retired and under contract to Fanatics, making a rare show appearance along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jerry West, among others.
— Fanatics Authentic (@FansAuthentic) May 15, 2016
Fanatics will hold another show in Chicago Nov. 18-20.