Why collectibles dweebs (and big brands) are flooding Chicago right now

The National is collectors’ biggest event of the year, with more than just cards on the table (it’s money; lots of it).

baseball card

Today, tens of thousands of total dorks, weenies, and geeks will gather just outside of Chicago to browse 600k+ square feet of collectibles, trading cards, and assorted sports and entertainment memorabilia.

And though the National Sports Collectors Convention, AKA “The National,” is generally a joyous occasion, it isn’t entirely a happy one — after all, there are a lot of lonely moms with quiet, empty basements out there this weekend.

We kid, we kid (but also, are we wrong?).

This industry, though, is no joke

When billion-dollar companies invest in an event, it’s a good bet there are many more billions at stake, and, well, the big brands are inescapable at this year’s edition of The National:

  • $62B behemoth Fanatics is using the event to kick-start its new livestream commerce app.
  • Whatnot, the $3.7B company behind the US’s largest livestream shopping platform, is rolling out a big giveaway — Michael Jordan’s old 1996 Mercedes-Benz for just $23.
  • $23.75B memorabilia marketplace eBay has a booth accepting free drop-offs for its Vault program, which caters to the collectibles crowd.

BTW: That’s an actual vault, climate-controlled with 24/7 surveillance, biometric authentication systems, and background-checked security staff — all to keep your Albert Einstein “rookie card” safe.

Outside the convention…

… the collectibles business is packed with other intriguing stories:

  • How about a Magic: The Gathering trading card drawing $2m+ offers? The one-of-a-kind card, which depicts the “One Ring” of Lord of the Rings fame, isn’t even the Magic card known as the “Mona Lisa of collecting cards.”
  • There’s the former NFL player who retired to sell Pokemon cards full time — and who says he made $11.5m+ in a year doing so.

Trading cards remain so hot (in the next decade, the global sports memorabilia market alone is estimated to reach — yeesh$227.2B) that Disney’s even making its first foray into them.

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