My First National Sports Collectors Convention

National logo

It took months of convincing my old man, but as a 15-year-old I was able to make the five-hour trip from my hometown of Marinette, WI to the Windy City for the 1993 National Sports Collectors Convention.

McCormick Place

McCormick Place in Chicago.

At the time, baseball card collecting was at its peak, and this was unquestionably going to be the highlight of my summer. I think I accumulated a whopping $50 to spend at the enormous show, which was kind of a letdown at the time. Considering all I was looking to buy were cards to complete my 1993 Topps Stadium Club set, I think that my lack of funds was a good thing in hindsight.I’ll be honest, I barely remember anything about the experience, but one thing does stick out in my mind upon entering Chicago’s McCormick Place: dozens of tables were set up outside the convention and I witnessed countless numbers of collectors, and probably some dealers, going through literally hundreds of white plastic promo bags looking for the coveted Chris Webber promo card (the very thing that made the hobby great and horrible depending on how you look at it).

I couldn’t believe these guys were shelling out about $12 for each admittance ticket only to receive the promo bags, but when I finally strolled into the show  I saw numerous dealers charging upwards of $100 for that wood-bordered “Classic” Webber promo card (BTW, you can currently pick up the same card on eBay for about $1). Boy, have times changed.

Chris Webber Promo card

Selling for $100 at the show in 1993, you can get one of these Chris Webber cards for $1 on eBay.

The 2013 National takes place this week; I can’t believe it’s already been 20 years from my first one.

A few people asked me recently if in 1993 I could have ever imagined that I’d be working in the industry as a 35-year-old. I always give them the same answer: “absolutely.”

Your passion is your passion. It’s the only thing I’ve ever been infatuated with and between sports and buying and selling, to me it gets no better than this.

There will be many differences between the current National and my first, starting with the difference in venues. The Chicago National is now actually held in Rosemont, IL, and I thought that was particularly interesting because I’ve never even heard of another card show being held at McCormick since 1993. I asked National head man Mike Berkus what was the reason for the change.

“In ‘93 we were just beginning to hold the National in major convention centers,” he said. “McCormick was well known, but we soon found that its location and union fees became an issue with exhibitors.”

I like that the current venue is near O’Hare Airport, but it’s kind of a shame that it’s so far from downtown Chicago. I guess we always have Gibson’s steak joint to look forward to at least.

Alright, enough of my thoughts… As a special treat for my first Heritage blog, I asked a few of my hobby friends what their thoughts were regarding the differences between now and then, which I will share with you in a separate post tomorrrow.

If any of my blog readers ever would like to share their thoughts, I would love to hear your feedback and you can email me at

(Chris Nerat, one of Heritage’s Sports Consignment Directors, and a guy who knows as more about sports than most anyone I’ve ever met, should also be a well known entity to readers of Sports Collectors Digest (SCD), where he was an editor and writer, for several years. He’s good at what he does, as you’ll see below. – Noah)

By Chris Nerat


Posted by Chris Nerat

Consignment Director and Cataloger, Sports and Memorabilia

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