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A Collector’s Goldmine: How Chicago’s Record-Breaking National Sports Collectors Convention Captured the Magic of “The Hobby”

A Collector’s Goldmine: How Chicago’s Record-Breaking National Sports Collectors Convention Captured the Magic of “The Hobby”
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As the doors of the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center opened for the 43rd annual National Sports Collectors Convention, referred to as “The National” by attendees, the city of Chicago temporarily became the Mecca for card collectors around the globe. With over 100,000 attendees in a record-breaking showing, the recently concluded event left an indelible mark on collectors, traders, enthusiasts and industry insiders— all of whom were hunting for the hidden treasure within the packs of untapped potential.

Amidst the crowd was Matt “Dappz” McGuckin, founder of Dappz Sports, who along with the Dappz team was attending the event for the fourth consecutive year. Despite stirring up a massive presence at his booth year after year, McGuckin acknowledges the magnitude of what this year’s event means for those in the hobby.

“At this year’s National in Chicago, some of the biggest names and well-known athletes made appearances for the first time,” said McGuckin. “We saw Allen Iverson, Ozzie Smith, Rickey Henderson, Jalen Rose and many others. It goes to show how athletes are more excited about the hobby than ever before.” 

The increased engagement from celebrities and athletes not only signals the rapid-pace at which this industry is growing, but also the scarce opportunity for fans and their favorite superstars to come together on equal grounds. From your average Joe collector to influencer icons like Gary Vee, The National attracts sports fans from all walks of life with the goal to either to come up big on a rare gem or showcase the most valuable cards they have on deck. For leaders in the space such as McGuckin, it was an opportunity to interact with supporters and fellow enthusiasts beyond the screens of social media. 

A Collector’s Goldmine: How Chicago’s Record-Breaking National Sports Collectors Convention Captured the Magic of “The Hobby”

Sourced photo

“The most important thing for us was that we were able to meet nearly 100,000 hobby enthusiasts,” McGuckin said. “We have millions of followers on social media but it’s incredibly rewarding to engage with the fans in person, taking endless pictures and talking shop about the hobby that we all love.” 

In an event that features an array of prize possessions put on display, including 32 PSA 10 Michael Jordan rookie cards valued at half a million dollars each, McGuckin embraces the moments where he could give back to the community that keeps the hobby thriving. In a collaborative feel-good gesture of gratitude, Gary Vee and the Dappz team came together to give away 100 packs of VeeFriends (Gary Vee’s card collection) to all the young hobby fans at the event— a moment that symbolizes the symbiotic relationship between dealers and collectors. While McGuckin operates on both sides of the fence, he still fully welcomes the chase of discovering his next cherished card that will make heart tremble— a personal quest that led to a little sweet taste of victory during his five-day journey.

 “One of our coolest transactions that happened for us at the show was when we purchased a card for $5000, only to find out it was worth closer to $30,000 once we got the card graded,” McGuckin said proudly. “That’s why people love the hobby— because it’s full of these kinds of surprises and there’s the potential to come up big on a card if you’re willing to go the extra mile.”

The addictive thrill of going above and beyond for a glimmer of gold is not exclusive to sports fans, as this year’s National showcased the expansion into audiences broader than those found in the stands of a game 7 playoff game. Perhaps one of the most talked about occurrences at The National was centered around the speculation of what was going to happen to an extremely rare Lord of the Rings card. Was it going to be crowd-sourced on Kickstarter like the internet rumors speculated? Has the card surpassed a million dollars in worth? While on stage discussing the possibilities of what could happen to this card, McGuckin was front row to witness the card’s destiny. 

“It turns out, the card not only got purchased for $2.6 million, which is now the highest selling Magic the Gathering card ever, but it was announced days later that Post Malone was the one who purchased the card. In doing so, he literally changed this seller’s life. This man bought a $400 box and three months later, the guy is a millionaire.” 

The chance for a life changing transaction is the driver behind why the card collecting community keeps coming back to the annual event. Despite the uncertainty, like-minded travelers from all over the world embark on the pilgrimage to share in the joys of scoring rare finds, along with the pitfalls of coming up short. However, for McGuckin, the buck does not stop at this show alone.

“There’s a diversification happening in the hobby,” he noted. “Trading card games like Dragon Ball Z, Pokémon, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars are making a big splash in the space and that can allow us to tap into more markets. That’s why we’re stoked to get more people into the hobby, with our sights set on the upcoming Dallas Card Show in September, New York Comic Con in October and LA Comic Con in December to let them know how exciting this world is.”

While the Dappz Sports team has no plans on stopping their train anytime soon, The National marked a signature spectacle in their ongoing journey. When asked what it meant for the record-shattering event to take place in the Windy City, McGuckin approved of Chi-town with flying colors. 

“Having the event in Chicago makes the show more accessible to everyone. Not only is it a tourist hotspot that makes traveling easier, but there are a ton of great hotels, restaurants, and experiences in the area that makes it feel accessible, yet still prestigious. The energy was great all week and we would definitely vote for Chicago to host The National again.”

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