Hobby Musings: Reflecting on a historical 2021 NSCC- The 2021 National Sports Collectors Convention concluded over a week ago.  After the 2020 show was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, the hobby’s biggest event was able to held at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.  This was backed up by the fact that all of the National’s ticket packages, with the exception of general admission, were sold out in advance of the event.

By most accounts, the 2021 NSCC seemed to be an incredible success overall.  Crowds were busy every day, with seemingly increased traffic on even the show’s traditional lighter attendance days. Walking around the floor from Wednesday-Sunday, there were several times where I found myself having to stop and maneuver around people because it was so busy. I’ve been to every National since 2012, and the traffic for this show comfortably surpassed them all. That’s made all the more incredible by the fact that was additional space made available for vendors to set up this year, and it was still a packed floor. Speaking to dealers across the show, many reported they had matched or eclipsed their 2019 National sales only a few days into the 2021 show.

From their recent newsletter release, the National had to this to say about the 2021 show, “The recently completed 2021 Chicago National Sports Collectors Convention will go down as one of the biggest and best Nationals in history.  Attendance records were smashed on Wednesday starting with the biggest VIP Party every held. Each day of the National had long lines of both VIP and General Admission attendees anxious to get onto the show floor to visit exhibitors and corporate sponsors.”

While the National didn’t announce exact attendance numbers, they did release this statement through their newsletter, “NSCC Show Managers John Broggi and Dan Berkus both agreed that the attendance at the 41st National approached the all-time record set at the 1991 Anaheim National.”  The newsletter added that the 2021 show is being considered the second-highest attended show of all time. Also, they revealed that online ticket sales showed that nearly 47% of online tickets were purchased by first-time National attendees.

Hobby Musings: Reflecting on a Historical 2021 NSCCPanini made the decision to not hold its VIP party at the National, but they were set up in full force on the show floor.  As usual, there were long lines for events such as their kid’s breaks and redemption trade up program.  They did make fewer silver pack wrapper redemption packs than usual this year. However, the packs that were released proved to be very full of value. Every card in the pack was numbered, and the hits that came out of them proved to be quite impressive.

Topps brought back their Bowman-based pack redemption packs. Containing numbered parallels and randomly inserted autographs, the packs were once again a hit among show attendees. In addition to this, Topps also hosted their annual Q&A. As a reward for going, attendees received an exclusive Luis Robert autographed card numbered to 150. The Topps booth featured a variety of special guest appearances, including Baseball Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins and Chipper Jones, and card artists like Blake Jamieson and Lauren Taylor.

While Upper Deck did not have a booth at this year’s show, the company still had a presence at the NationalChris Carlin was a one-man hype gang as the company made several key announcements, including their upcoming AEW product. Carlin also hosted the company’s expired redemption raffle and a giveaway raffle for attendees on Friday.  Show attendees were able to score wrapper redemption packs with with randomly inserted autographs if they bought qualifying products.

Onyx made its presence known in a big way. The company’s booth featured a wide array of impressive autographs and game-used memorabilia, including a Ronald Acuna game-used glove for $50,000. Aside from that, Onyx hosted its first-ever VIP party.  Held at the nearby Dave and Buster’s, attendees were treated to a variety of attractions. Hall of Famers Randy Johnson and Fergie Jenkins, as well as NFL Pro Bowlers Frank Gore and Chad “OchoCinco” Johnson were in attendance. Besides taking photos with show attendees, the four also signed cards that were given away at the end of the night along with a VIP box containing a random autograph that could include anyone from Jasson Dominguez to Steph Curry.

Leaf may have secured the award for the most interesting card at their booth. Thanks to a deal they did with Joe Exotic of “Tiger King” fame, the company had Pro Set autographs and base cards available for attendees to buy.  Leaf also had Hobby Musings: Reflecting on a Historical 2021 NSCCredemption packs featuring the first-round quarterbacks in this year’s NFL draft, and redemption boxes featuring a 1/1 autograph. One big takeaway from Leaf this year was the importance of Pro Set for the company, and the positive chord the brand’s reintroduction has struck for collectors.

One other card company making a big comeback is Wild Card. Back after a few decade of absence, Daniel Atkins and his son Ty had a busy National as customers consistently came for redemptions packs and boxes. Besides the sealed items, Wild Card also gave us a glimpse of the hobby’s NIL future as they had autographed cards of Alabama QB Bryce Young and Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler for sale. These proved to be popular among show attendees and were quickly selling on eBay for more than the initial offering price.

Another booth that proved to be popular at this year’s show belonged to eBay.  Displaying some of Emmitt Smith’s careerHobby Musings: Reflecting on a Historical 2021 NSCC memorabilia, the company was also offering $10 discount coupons to be used on the site. However, it was their DJ Skee cards that proved be a new hit at the National this year.  Show attendees were able to randomly receive one of the four cards in the set.  Anyone who was able to complete the set was able to register for a fifth card to be sent out at a later date.

Some other observations from the National…
Vintage once again continued to dominate at the show, but I was surprised to see the large amount of raw vintage compared to graded. There was also a lot of graded modern, which isn’t surprising given the current state of the hobby market.  While prices were high at a lot of dealer tables, there were some nice deals to be had.  I was also pleased to see that nice items were able to be had at all different price points, so a collector with any budget could walk with something nice.

Technology is playing a bigger role in the hobby than ever before.  With companies like Cardscore and Collectable setting up at the show and having large presences, it’s interesting to see all of the different options for people to partake and potentially invest in the hobby.  Collectable in particular had a nice giveaway program and was showing off a sweet Wilt Chamberlain gamer.

With the 2021 show in the books, the focus shifts to 2022 as the show returns to Atlantic City for the first time since 2016.  The National announced that booth space for next year’s show is already sold out. While the 2022 show will have a hard time topping the incredible success of this year’s NSCC, it will certainly be fun to see if it can pull it off.

Hobby Musings: Reflecting on a Historical 2021 NSCC – Image Gallery


Kelsey’s ability to bring hobby coverage to the mainstream sports fan has been a true asset. GTS is happy to feature his thoughts on collecting in Hobby Musings. The opinions expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect those of GTS Distribution.

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