The hobby continues to grow and draw more people in.
That’s the take from the 2023 Fall Sport Card and Memorabilia Expo in Toronto over the weekend.
The 35-year-old semi-annual show saw record numbers straight across the board. Already the second largest show next to the National, this year’s Fall Expo had a larger attendance, more dealers, and more autograph sales than any Expo in previous years.
“We don’t have an official total for attendance yet, but our record was 25,000 and we blew through that easily,” said show owner Steve Menzie.
Menzie said the addition of a Thursday VIP Night and having PSA do onsite grading during the show were significant factors in making the show bigger and better than ever. There were 500 dealer and corporate booths on the floor. New and old wax, graded cards, autographs, memorabilia and vintage items were all part of a continuously busy show floor. Auction and consignment dealers were there for collectors who had special items to sell. Grading and storage companies also had a bigger presence than shows in the past.
The autograph line-up was the strongest the show has ever had. While the show and the autograph guests are primarily NHL players and legends, Mike Tyson was in Toronto signing and proved to be the most popular guest in the show’s history, while Ric Flair was also very popular as “woo” could be heard throughout the hall during his signing period.
The hockey autograph line-up was a who’s who of NHL legends. Former Toronto Maple Leaf captains Dave Keon, Wendel Clark and Doug Gilmour drew huge crowds. Other big draws included Carey Price, Ray Bourque, Brett Hull, Adam Oates, Paul Coffey, Peter Forsberg, Marcel Dionne, Charlie Simmer, Dave Taylor, Ryan Getzlaf, Scotty Bowman and many more made appearances in the Ultra Pro Autograph Pavilion.
Unfortunately, Reggie Jackson cancelled before the show and Hall of Famers Dave Winfield and Tim Raines were also last minute cancellations.
Upper Deck Series 1 a Popular Pick
The Expo is known as the world’s largest hockey collectibles show, and Upper Deck left a huge footprint on the event. 2023-24 Series 1 was by far the most popular product on the show floor, thanks to Upper Deck’s wrapper redemption program and the Connor Bedard draft pick short print cards that are part of the release.
Beyond new wax, interest is as strong as ever for Wayne Gretzky as the demand for graded 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Gretzky rookies continues to be a cornerstone of the Expo show floor. Grading companies also see a lot of Gretzky rookies submitted during the show. Vintage items such as BeeHive photos were easy to find. Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe and Jean Beliveau cards continued to be sought after items.
While the hockey portion of the show is truly national, the markets for the other sports is more regional. Toronto is a Buffalo Bills market, but NFL sales were reported to be a little bit slower this year than last year.
Baseball remained steady at the show, though the sport still does not have the popularity as it did in 1993 after Joe Carter’s home run and back-to-back Blue Jays’ World Series titles. There were many Shohei Ohtani graded rookie cards available, and graded cards of Ronald Acuna Jr., Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Aaron Judge were all active.
Basketball was also slightly down at the show, perhaps a reflection of the rebuilding phase the Toronto Raptors are in.
Beyond the four major sports, there was a surprising amount of action on graded Lionel Messi cards. Messi has made a major impact on Major League Soccer and the interest in the sport among casual fans and collectors. Messi has had Topps Now cards, and his first Topps MLS cards are expected to be on the market soon.
Expo Main Stage
One of the popular features of the Expo is the main stage. Throughout the show, there were interviews with autograph guests and hobby experts. Kicking things off Friday night was a panel of hobby content creators.
One of the most entertaining sessions of the main stage was hosted by hockey historian and researcher Paul Patskou, as he interviewed well-known hockey author and Hockey Night in Canada personality from the 1960s-80s, Brian MacFarlane. The 92-year-old author of 95 hockey books is also the inventor of the cartoon character, Peter Puck. He told many stories, including playing for the Inkerman Rockets junior team. The Rockets played in an outdoor rink in 1940s and 1950s in the one-stop-sign village about 30 miles south of Ottawa. The Rockets made it all the way to the Memorial Cup finals for the Canadian junior hockey championship. They were defeated by Jean Beliveau and the Quebec Aces.
The next edition of the Sportcard Expo takes place April 25-28 with another show in Edmonton May 3-5.