Hobby Hotspot | Tracking the Hobby’s Monthly Trends

May 2024 Hobby Trends

Date: Jun 1, 2024
Author: Greg Bates, Senior Writer
Topics: Card Culture, Greg Bates, Hobby Hotspot, The National
Length: 1355 Words
Reading Time: ~7 Minutes

Welcome to the latest column from RIPPED senior writer Greg Bates. Each month, he examines The Hobby’s current and emerging trends and offers expert opinions on all things collecting.

Not gonna lie, I’m brimming with excitement. The National Sports Collectors Convention is just eight weeks away. The anticipation is killing me. There is nothing like the National.

This year will mark the seventh National I’ve covered as a journalist — the previous six when I freelanced for Sports Collectors Digest. I’ve been to the last five shows in Rosemont, Illinois, in 2015, ’17, ’19, ’21 and ’23. I also hit the 2022 convention in Atlantic City.

This will be my fifth National in a row since the pandemic wiped out the 2020 event. It will be my first experience in Cleveland for the big show. The I-X Center will host its eighth National, first since 2018. This year’s show runs July 24-28.

As we move closer to the main event — which is sure to be the social event of the season for The Hobby — here at RIPPED, we have you covered. Starting in mid-May, we kicked off a series of stories to prepare collectors for The National. The first piece introduced collectors as to why The National is so important to The Hobby. Last week, my story focused on three longtime hobbyists who offer advice to everyone from first-time attendees to lifelong showgoers. Every week, I will write about a new topic relating to The National. It will range from what the third-party grading companies will offer on site, to what will be going on at the Breakers Pavilion, to a preview of the entire show, and where the state of The Hobby lies entering the convention. We are thrilled to provide extensive coverage of The National. RIPPED writers will also be on site to keep everyone in the loop on the show’s happenings.

A Simpler Time for Card Shows

I fondly recall hitting local card shows in mostly northern suburbs of Minneapolis while growing up in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Those shows were fabulous. So much eye candy to go around. I was tracking down unique singles to add to my vast Kirby Puckett PC, picking up wax boxes of the newest Topps Flagship release, and exploring products from new card companies such as Upper Deck and Score.

As a kid, I never knew about The National. I must have lived inside a little collecting bubble in a small Midwest town. But then again the internet hadn’t become mainstream for a young collector to surf the web and discover the biggest card show in the country. While digesting Beckett price guides and Tuff Stuff magazine — two of the absolute must-have publications in The Hobby at the time — I never stumbled upon the convention. And maybe that’s a good thing. But, boy, it would have been fun to head to one of the shows, especially the famed one in Anaheim, California, in 1991. Over 90,000 collectors packed the Anaheim Convention Center. It was the show that raised the bar in The Hobby.

Hitting my First National

I still vividly remember walking through the main gate doors at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont in 2015 for my inaugural National. Just 50 feet into the show floor was Goldin Auctions’ booth anchoring a prime location. Company founder Ken Goldin, decked out in one of his patented, colorful button-up shirts, was close by to mingle with prospective auction bidders. This was long before Goldin earned instant fame when Netflix picked up the show “King of Collectibles: The Goldin Touch.”

I perused some of the dealer tables and stepped back to soak up the magnitude of The National. It was massive. The Wednesday crowd — like it is most years — was filled with diehard collectors in search of the best finds on Day 1 of the show.

After getting my bearings in the 300,000-square-foot hall, I was off to seek stories. I won’t forget that one of the first collectors I spoke with at The National was on a mission to find a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle. This guy had $5,000 cash burning a hole in his pocket. He found some iconic first-year Topps Mantle cards in a PSA 1 grade ranging in price from $11,000 to getting one dealer down to $5,500. But this collector was sticking to his guns. “$5,000 would be my limit on that. And that would be ‘The Holy Grail’ I don’t tell my wife about,” he said to me. I got a good chuckle out of that money quote. I’m not sure if that guy ever found a taker for $5,000. But for that collector’s sake, I hope he did. Here we are nine years later, and you’d be hard pressed to find a typical Mantle PSA 1 for under $30,000. That card’s price has increased 6X in just a decade. Amazing.

That first National for me was an eye-opener to say the least. Being back in The Hobby for just a few years at that point after taking nearly a 20-year hiatus, I learned a ton at that event. Checking out dealers’ tables, seeing what the corporate booths had going on, and chatting with collectors got me back in the loop.

I was only at the convention for the first two days on that Wednesday and Thursday — the weekend tends to be the busiest. But I was absolutely wiped out making the three-hour drive back home. I was in collector comatose having seen so many high-end cards and unique memorabilia.

The National is exhausting — but in a good way. It has anything and everything you’d ever want to find, all in one location.

Last year’s National in Rosemont topped the previous 42 conventions in size with well over 100,000 attendees, space as it used 600,000 square feet for the show floor, and just sheer craziness in a booming hobby.

The National is the show you can’t miss. So don’t miss it. Book your plans today, and make it happen. You’ll be glad you did. I hope to see you there.

Hobby Hotspot From the Mailbag

Thanks to everyone who reached out to me via email to share stories and provide some feedback. Let’s dive into my inbox.

My grandson, Alex Brady, played on the LSU baseball team with Dylan Crews, when they were both sophomores. Alex was a relief pitcher, at the time. I would LOVE to find a DCrews card for Alex. What are my best odds of finding one? I have never purchased a pack of cards before. Not even sure where to purchase? Can we buy them at big box stores, or do we purchase direct from Topps? How many packages are released in a series/year? Or can you buy a whole series of all team rookies where you are guaranteed your favorite player’s card?”

– C. Rison

What a fun email. This lady’s grandson got to share the field with one of the top prospects in all of baseball. The Washington Nationals outfielder is one of the top chase cards for this year’s Bowman Baseball product that was released on May 8. Crews’ 1st Bowman auto cards as well as his numbered parallels have been extremely hot on the secondary market. In trying to help this nice lady out, I emailed her back and explained that since she is looking for just one specific player in the product, her best bet would be to buy a Crews card on eBay. Not looking to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to open a bunch of packs, this lady was going to get exactly what she wanted. Let’s hope she was successful.

Drop me a line at gbates@collectfanatics.com and let me know who you are collecting out of this year’s Bowman release. I’d love to share some collectors’ thoughts in my column next month.

Fanatics Collectibles senior writer Greg Bates writes a monthly column exploring the trends of The Hobby. Prior to joining Fanatics, Bates was a freelance writer for 10 years for Sports Collectors Digest.

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