The 2021 Spring Sport Card and Memorabilia Expo is in the books. The Toronto show, known as the world’s largest hockey card and collectibles show, show owner and promotor Steve Menzie is hoping this was the final virtual edition of the semi-annual event.
Menzie said the most important thing when he starting running his show virtually in the spring of 2020 was to stay relevant in the hobby. He says the virtual show has been a success, and it has been tweaked as there was some trial and error involved.
“We have been looking to mimic the in-person experience,” Menzie said. “Collectors miss the show, and we had to come up with something that would keep them engaged not just with the show, but with the dealers and with the hobby.”
The two shows in 2020 had a combined attendance of more than 10,000. The 2021 Spring Expo had a smaller attendance of about 3,000, but Menzie said this year’s show was a better experience for collectors.
“When we did our first two virtual shows, we had a lot of collectors, especially from the U.S., that had never been to our show in person,” Menzie said. “We were able to introduce the show to many new collectors, who might think about coming up to Toronto for the show once we can do things in person again.
“This time around, we had a smaller attendance online with collectors, but our engagement was much better,” he said. “We had a strong line-up of panelists for chat sessions throughout the weekend. Collectors really enjoyed that.”
Border Closure a Factor
Menzie said there were a number of factors involved in the smaller attendance this year. The border between Canada and the U.S. remains closed for everything expect essential travel, and Canada is behind the United States in their re-opening plans.
“The shows in the U.S. are starting up again, and the American collectors are getting to the big shows,” he said. “Taking part in a virtual show just isn’t the same for them. We also had the show on Father’s Day weekend. We probably lost some collectors because of that, but we also wanted to provide an opportunity for fathers to take part in the event with their kids and enjoy the hobby experience together.”
The 2021 Fall Expo is tentatively planned for the second weekend in November. Ontario heads into Step 2 of its three-step re-opening plan on June 30. Unless there is a fourth wave of the COVID-19 virus caused by the Delta variant that originated in India, there is a cautious optimism that the show can take place as scheduled.
“It’s important for us to keep that weekend in November,” Menzie said. “That is always the induction weekend for the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, and it has traditionally been the weekend for the fall show.
“More importantly for the hobby, that’s also the weekend that Upper Deck releases Series 1 Hockey. That is one of the most anticipated products of the year, and Upper Deck has always released the product in conjunction with the show.”
Upper Deck has participated in the virtual shows, and their 2020-21 Series 1 Hockey release earlier this season was a huge hit as collectors were chasing first overall draft pick Alexis Lafreniere of the New York Rangers. While rookies usually cannot be included in fully licensed trading card sets until they play their first game, Upper Deck was given permission to include Lafreniere in Upper Deck Series 1. His Young Guns rookie card was immediately selling for $300 ungraded and has held its value through the hockey season.
In November, the anticipation in the hobby will be even greater for Montreal Canadiens rookie Cole Caufield. Drafted 15th overall by the Canadiens in the 2019 draft, Caufield played college hockey for the University of Wisconsin and won the 2021 Hobey Baker Award as the top player in the NCAA. He signed with the Canadiens in March, after the cut off to be included in any of Upper Deck’s 2020-21 product.
Caufield has been an offensive spark and has played a huge role in the Canadiens’ upset wins over the Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets and Vegas Golden Knights on their way to the Stanley Cup finals.
The combination of Caufield’s offensive potential, his popularity in the US because of his Hobey Baker Award, and the fact that the Montreal Canadiens are one of the most popular teams in the world, it is the perfect storm to drive sales of next season’s Upper Deck series 1 product.
During the virtual Expo last week, Upper Deck announced that Caufield would be included in the set and also revealed the artwork for the card. Speculation among the collectors chatting online about the card was that it would carry a value of $400 ungraded out of the gate.