Sports Collectors Convention showcases ultra-rare memorabilia amid soaring demand

The Sports Collectors Convention is underway in Rosemont.

This year, they are expecting 50,000 visitors over 5 days, the largest attendance ever, because over the last year and a half, collecting became a popular hobby and a way to invest.

The field of sports memorabilia is crowded. Thousands of vendors buy and sell at the National Sports Collectors Convention at the Stephens Convention Center. This show is one of the first to be back in business since the pandemic shut down public spaces.

But it’s not business as usual.

Steve Grad, with Beckett Authentication says the industry has "gone absolutely bonkers."

The value of collectibles is rocketing. Recently, a 1952 Mickey Mantle card sold for more than $5 million. That has everyone scrambling to authenticate their childhood collections. 


During quarantine, collecting became popular because people were cleaning out their closets, discovering their memorabilia. 

One athlete is responsible for driving up the price of collectibles.

Former Chicago Bulls superstar, number 23,  Michael Jordan. 

"Michael Jordan took it to another level just like his basketball game another level. People watched the ESPN documentary, "The Last Dance," Grad says, adding that prices exploded up to 20 times what they were months before.

Trading platforms also evolved to another level.

Collectors are now participating in on-line events called a box break, often seen on YouTube.

Collectors virtually buy a piece of a set of unopened trading cards, not knowing what’s inside. Each is randomly assigned a team or a card from a pack and the box or package is opened live to reveal what’s inside.

While we were watching, two participants scored the baseball cards featuring Jim Palmer and Mr. October, Reggie Jackson. 

Leighton Sheldon, of Vintage Breaks, says box breaks became popular during quarantine because the virtual experience offered fans a "chance of getting treasure." 

He says there’s a sportsmanship among collectors that begin to root for each other during a box break.

When it comes to trading cards, some are interested because they see a favorite player, others see a handheld piece of artwork, an investment.

The Sports Collectors Convention is open to the public and runs through Sunday.