The South’s Got Something to Say
Nestled amid Atlanta’s skyline and vibrant streets lies a thriving community of hobby shops, trading card collectors, and trading card influencers. This dynamic ecosystem pulsates with passion and excitement, echoing the city’s renowned hip-hop scene and chicken wing joints—lemon pepper, preferably. Atlanta’s fiery love affair with card collecting solidifies its status as the premier hotbed of collecting in the South. In this hub, enthusiasts flock to celebrate the art, history, and thrill of trading card culture. During Culture Collision weekend, I explored Hotlanta’s rich history of collectibles and camaraderie.
Atlanta’s Legacy of Collecting: From The National to Culture Collision
Atlanta’s journey to becoming a haven for collectors dates back to its hosting of The National in 1992 and 1999, pivotal moments that drew enthusiasts from far and wide to revel in the camaraderie and excitement of The Hobby. In 2024, it’s now the home of Culture Collision, the first African American-run trade show and an event in its fourth year operated by the dynamic duo Prizm Gawd and Prizm Gawdess.
In the heart of the Renaissance Waverly Hotel and Convention Center, just a stone’s throw away from the Braves’ Truist Park, Culture Collision electrified the scene with an energy that feels like a postseason baseball game. It was a marketplace ringing with collectors, traders, and sellers converging from every corner of the nation.
Here, amidst the whirlwind of activity, vendors proudly displayed their treasures, each booth a dynamic showcase of pop culture delights. From Funko Pops paying homage to hip-hop icons like Outkast to bobbleheads immortalizing beloved Braves players and sporting legends, the offerings were as diverse as they were captivating. The spectacle continued with Topps products, boasting everything from Stranger Things sets to sleek Chrome®, Bowman, and Series 1 collections, each vying for attention with its unique charm. Autographed memorabilia from sports and entertainment giants added an aura of prestige, while vintage cards—like the coveted T206 set—spanning decades whispered tales of nostalgia and wonder.
But Culture Collision was more than just a marketplace—it was a celebration of contemporary culture in all its forms. Sneaker enthusiasts prowled the aisles, eager to snag the latest kicks to elevate their style game, and comic book collectors emptied their pockets on vintage. As the transactions unfolded, the competitive spirit soared to new heights.
In one corner, a highly competitive 3-on-3 basketball tournament ignited the court, where the winner was awarded a cash prize. Later on, trading card influencers took center stage at the Overtime Elite Center in the Card Star Game, another hoops affair. Team Santiago and Team Baez clashed in a game not just for sport but for a noble cause—to raise money for charity. The stakes were high, and the energy was Game 7-ish as players battled it out to claim the Jesse Howard Trophy, a symbol of excellence and dedication to the collector’s craft.
The Atlanta Card Family
Our exploration of Atlanta’s card-collecting scene led us to meet a plethora of card enthusiasts with memorable stories, including Georgia-based shop owners like Tyler Maner from Breaking Bangers, Brad Hainje from Duck’s Dugouts, and noted card collector Doctor Collectible.
Maner, a third-generation collector, encapsulated the community’s spirit, stating, “I love how Atlanta’s card community feels like a family. We’re not just competitors; we’re allies pushing each other to be the best versions of ourselves.” Reflecting on the Atlanta card community, Maner added, “What Atlanta collectors look for is what makes us such a vibrant market. In an area with such diversity, we have collectors who are always looking for the best of the best, no matter the genre.”
The Breaking Bangers crew
Brad Hainje, one of the partners from Duck’s Dugouts and a former PR professional with the Braves, provided insight into the diversity of Atlanta’s collector base: “Atlanta has such a diverse collecting community because it’s a melting pot of people from all over the country. So many collectors grew up in different places, so there’s a wide spectrum of collectors.”
Hainje also highlighted the unique vintage appeal of Duck’s Dugouts, “There’s all these newer-card focused stores popping up, but we’re more vintage; we’re more into the old-school stuff. Our main store in Marietta is like a museum. It’s massive. There, we do public signings. It’s not like the new stores with all the bells and whistles, but there’s nothing like it anywhere.”
Duck’s Dugout museum-vibes in Marietta
Doctor Collectible, an East St. Louis, Illinois transplant and one of the biggest trading card influencers in the game with over 19.4k followers on Instagram, shared his insights on Atlanta’s card-collecting scene, “Atlanta welcomed me with open arms when I needed it most. It’s not just a city; it’s a community that embraces reinvention and opportunity. And in the world of card collecting, that sense of belonging is truly special.” He recounted his journey: “Atlanta showed me a lot about the card scene. The first Culture Collision show was my first-ever card show. Growing up in East St. Louis, we had no card shop or show. So, Atlanta taught me a lot. From card shops like Dave Sports Cards, Wasteland Gaming, or Kaboom ATL that’s black-owned. I hosted my first trade night with Geoff Wilson at Kaboom ATL.”
Doctor Collectible also highlighted Atlanta’s growth in the sports card industry, stating, “I consider Atlanta one of the most growing cities when it comes to sports cards. CardsHQ is like the Disney of card shops in America right now. You have guys like Prizm Gawd running Culture Collision in Atlanta and Geoff Wilson with Sports Card Investor.”
Trade Nights in the “A”
The adventure continued with a trade night hosted in the hotel lobby, drawing collectors of all ages into a whirlwind of buying, selling, and trading cards. It was a sight straight out of a collector’s wildest dream, as enthusiasts of all ages sprawled across the lobby floor, passionately negotiating deals to enhance their collections or pocket some extra cash. Content creators were also in the mix, capturing the excitement for their channels and leading engaging activities like box breaks and games with fellow attendees. The momentum carried into the next night as we joined the bustling scene at Geoff Wilson’s CardsHQ for another trade night. Lines wrapped around the corner for the grand opening, reflecting the diverse crowd eager to explore new collectibles, engage in trades, and, as Denzel Washington once famously said, “leave here with something.” It was a testament to the enduring appeal of trading card culture and the tight-knit community it fosters.
Atlanta’s card-collecting community is a dynamic blend of passion and camaraderie. As visitors bid farewell to Culture Collision, they left carrying cards, memorabilia, and memories of an unforgettable experience—a testament to the enduring power of community and the universal appeal of collecting. As Doctor Collectible puts it, “Atlanta is pretty rare.”