It’s been more than two years since the last National Sports Collectors Convention and it looks like collectors can’t wait for the 2021 Chicago NSCC to open up Wednesday.
It might not quite be the Oklahoma land rush, but to hear dealers talk, collectors will have plenty of money to slap down.
VIP passes for the National have sold out, with only general admission tickets available. Even booth space is a commodity with the show long sold out to anxious vendors. who should see plenty of traffic at the Stephens Convention Center for the five-day event.
Jameel Mohammed of The Meelypops Shop in Gainesville, FL says he’s bringing two Chevy Suburbans packed with collectables and a staff of about dozen people to man three booths at the National (he’s located at #248-250). He’s focused on newer cards.
“We are bringing a lot of resources to buy. We move cards quite a bit,” Mohammed says. “It’s getting crazy how many people want to be there.
“It’s going to be a massive show, not just for dealers but for everyone and their mother walking around. I’d think two out of every three buyers are going to (also) be selling something, and that’s going to be more than $1,000.”
Craig Halbig of Halbig Vintage Sports Cards in Mount Carmel, IL is focused on vintage cards. He’ll be situated in booth 921.
Both dealers have gone to a number of shows in recent months. They think the trends they are seeing will hold at the NSCC.
“They have an agenda of what they are looking for,” Halbig said of the collectors and flippers who wiped out a good chunk of his inventory during one trip to the Dallas Card Show several months ago. “The challenge is going through the place without spending all your money. Who has the right stuff at the right price. I think it’s going to be a madhouse. I don’t think it’s going to be like anything we’ve ever seen before.”
He believes it’s the pent up demand from collectors who have been waiting for the National to return that will help drive sales. The NSCC typically draws a crowd from across the country and beyond. The U.S. border is closed but there are plenty of anxious hobbyists who will drive or fly to Chicago.
“There are a lot of collectors around the nation or the world that have not been able to go to that many shows because of Covid. They are just ready to go. I think collectors get excited because it’s the biggest convention in the world.”
Halbig is expecting a lot of sales volume from set building collectors and unique items; those pieces of memorabilia or rare cards that they can’t find anywhere else. He’s packing a boatload of binders with vintage ungraded commons, stars and high numbers. “We’ll be bringing a lot of high end inventory as well.”
Graded cards will be a definite discussion point at the event. The supply of lower cost graded cards has been on hold as authentication firms continue to wade through mountains of submissions dating back to last year. Halbig is watching how grading backlogs will push raw sales. “It will be interesting to see how many are aggravated, or will they be buying because of the delays?”
Either way, he’s built his business on classic cards. He likes the fact that the value of vintage cards is generally consistent. Older collectors are coming back from their heyday in in the 1980s and 90s, realizing there is still money in the market. During the pandemic he’s also seen younger collectors moving to an investment mindset.
Both dealers are predicting wax to sell well.
“Everyone is educated, everyone has the tools,” Mohammed said of the current landscape, much of which wasn’t in place two years ago. “I don’t know how many straight sales I’ll do. We’ll be bringing a lot of high end inventory as well, “Mohammed said.
He’s also seen the increase in the number of buyers who are looking to buy and resell for a profit. They are typically younger and looking to ride the waves of a market surge.
Inside that model are hybrid collectors. They may be buying cards and collectibles for sentimental reasons but they aren’t getting too attached, either. They’ll cast them off as quick as demand pushes the value up. Halbig says it’s almost like day trading. He said it’s not unusual to find kids in their late teens or early twenties with $100,000 in their Paypal accounts, looking for cards they believe someone else will buy at a higher price, either now or a few weeks down the road.
This National will be different in that more collectors, especially younger newcomers, are looking beyond baseball. Mohammed and Halbig have seen the unprecedented demand for basketball and soccer. It was only a matter of time for NBA cards, Halbig explained.
“It was just an undervalue. It’s really taken off.”
Still, he won’t budge much toward the 21st century cards that have exploded in interest—and cost– over the last two years.
“I can buy a Larry Bird rookie for those prices.”
Mohammed says his wish list for buying at the show is a combination of single cards and wax boxes.
He explains that fringe cards like Formula 1 racing are still below the radar, especially drivers like Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. He likes recently crowned NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. He believes Trae Young and Luka Doncic are setting up to be the next wave of stars that will be in high demand at the National and beyond. He adds 2003 Topps LeBron James rookie Refractors deserve a look. “I think they are low right now. He’s taken a hit, but, there’s always going to be a market for him.”
He still likes some football and baseball cards, too. He’d pick up higher end Patrick Mahomes rookies as well as Shohei Ohtani, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
He’d also like to score some 2012 Panini Prizm and older Topps Chrome basketball wax. “I do think those are going to dry up and early Pokemon boxes, the first edition, are going to dry up, too.”
Halbig banks on proven cards of time-tested stars over younger, white hot cards like Ohtani.
“I’d rather have someone in the Hall of Fame with a proven track record. I would go for someone like Mike Trout. He’s proven himself. The prices some of those cards are bringing are unreal (but) I’d rather buy a 1961 Billy Willilams or Ron Santo or 1965 Steve Carlton for $100 or $200.“
If his experiences in Dallas are any indication, his booth in Chicago be busy throughout the show’s five-day run.
“Everything vintage in the market was going crazy. Guys like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente. It was hard to keep up with the demand.”
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