5 Things to Do While You’re at the 2021 National Sports Collectors Convention

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The 2021 National Sports Collectors Convention has arrived. For the next five days, much of the hobby world converges on the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, just outside of Chicago.

A massive crowd is expected, with collectors on the hunt for things they’ve been looking for for years, discovering newly wanted treasures and meeting some of their sports heroes.

But buying and selling cards and getting autographs aren’t the only things to do during National weekend. Here are five other things you might want to work into your schedule while you’re at the show.

1. Catch Up with Friends

Under normal circumstances, The National is a place to meet up with old friends who you haven’t seen in a long time. This is not a normal National.

It has been a long couple of years — especially the last 12 months — without a lot of in-person hobby interaction.

The social aspect of The National goes beyond the show floor. There’s dinners, trade nights, baseball games, informal hotel lobby gathering and more. Heck, some collectors might even head over to Lollapalooza and catch some Foo Fighters or Tyler the Creator.

As much as The National is about buying and selling cards, it’s the people and the community that many take away with each year.

2. Wander the Floor and Be In Awe

Chicago is home to lots of museums. However, for sports fans and collectors, the best one in town this week is The National. While there are plenty of opportunities to buy stuff, it might also be your only opportunity to ever see some of the pieces on display. Auction houses will have the memorabilia covered with jerseys, sneakers and other pieces connected directly to iconic moments. Places like Baseball Card Exchange will take you back in time with unopened boxes going back decades.

Don’t just stick to the biggest booths. Individual dealers have plenty of things as well you’re not likely to see at home, especially the niche ones that specialize in very specific things.

3. Take a Break at the Mike Berkus Main Stage

Lots of interesting content will be coming throughout the week from the Mike Berkus Main Stage. Here you’ll find everything from case breaks to interviews to special presentations. GTS’ Rob Bertrand and Ivan Lovegren will be hosting much of it once again.

In addition to taking in what’s happening on the stage, this is a perfect time to take a break. The National is a marathon weekend and it’s important to pace yourself and listen to your body. There’s lots of seating in front, so you can rest your feet, sip on a bottle of water and maybe have a snack.

A full main stage schedule can also be found on GTS’ site.

4. Eat a Good Meal

Chicago’s a big place and there are lots of places to eat. However, when in Rosemont, there are two favorites among National attendees, Giordano’s and Gibsons.

Giordano’s is where you’re going to get some delicious deep dish pizza. It’s pie where one or two slices is plenty. It’s also normal to eat it with a fork and knife so no judging there, either.

While they do offer takeout, the casual atmosphere is perfect for hanging out, catching up with old friends and getting to know some new ones.

If you’re craving meat, Gibsons Steakhouse is the place to be. It’s more on the upscale side but The National is only once a year so sometimes you’ve got to live on the edge — especially when the food is good and the company is great.

5. Visit Signatures for Soldiers

It’s easy to do good at The National. Signatures for Soldiers has a booth set up at the show. They work with Military Missions In Action, a charity dedicated to helping homeless and disabled veterans.

Attendees can donate directly at the show. They’ve also got a variety of items, many of which have been donated by athletes, to help raise funds. Signatures for Soldiers and MMIA are also the charity partners of the 2021 National. A special auction held at the show through Handbid will also raise money.

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Ryan Cracknell

A collector for much of his life, Ryan focuses primarily on building sets, Montreal Expos and interesting cards. He's also got one of the most comprehensive collections of John Jaha cards in existence (not that there are a lot of them). Got a question, story idea or want to get in touch? You can reach him by email and through Twitter @tradercracks.

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