Collectors' delight: 'The National' sports (and other) memorabilia show rolls into Rosemont

If you're on the prowl for sports memorabilia, looking to sell rare items that may be gathering dust in your storage space or seeking autographs from famous athletes, the 43rd annual National Sports Collectors Convention in Rosemont is the place to be this week.

Thousands of collectors, dealers and traders will converge upon the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center beginning Wednesday for what is fondly called “The National.”

The convention runs through Sunday and will host what event Executive Director John Broggi describes as “some of the greatest sports vintage memorabilia in existence.”

“For two decades, The National has been our Super Bowl, Final Four and World Series rolled into one,” added Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions for Heritage Auctions.

After a VIP opening Wednesday, the convention opens to the public at 10 a.m. Thursday. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. General admission is $30 but free for children 12 and under.

Here's what else you should know before you go:

Bring a compass and a comfortable pair of shoes. The convention is spread out over more than 600,000 square feet of floor space, with some 750 exhibitors taking part.

If you want especially rare items, be prepared to part with copious amounts of cash. Mike Stoner, of Stoner Sports in Atlanta, is selling baseball memorabilia like a custom-framed Cy Young ensemble, including pictures and an autograph, for $3,795, and a Mickey Mantle autographed baseball going for $1,050.

Those on a budget still can find treasures, like a custom-framed autographed photo of Hall of Fame hurler Nolan Ryan pummeling White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura for $319.

Sports not your thing? It doesn't have to be. Quirky pop culture items also are on display. Marc Sonnabend of Arlington Heights is exhibiting a collection of vintage trading cards that came in packs of cigarettes and featured cultural icons like Walt Disney, Albert Einstein and Ludwig van Beethoven. The Disney “rookie card,” as he calls it, first was sold in 1931 in England, and the Einstein card contains information on the back in German.

  An Albert Einstein trading card is one of the unusual pop culture items on display this week at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Rosemont. John Starks/

Elsewhere, Heritage Auctions is exhibiting “Star Trek” uniforms, including that of Capt. James T. Kirk and a guitar signed by Kurt Cobain.

Be prepared to be blown away by historical items, such as tickets to the 1936 Olympics in Germany and programs from the famous 1951 baseball playoff series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants, cemented in memory by Bobby Thomson's “Shot heard around the world.”

Autograph seekers can meet and get signatures from a galaxy of about 125 superstar athletes. Among those scheduled to appear are Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Barry Sanders, Fred McGriff, Mike Schmidt, Floyd Mayweather, Dan Marino, Jerry Rice, Roger Clemens, Angel Reese, Walt Frazier, Ryne Sandberg and Emmitt Smith.

The Official National Trade Night, hosted by Roadshow Cards and Card Collector 2, will be held Thursday evening in the 2nd-floor ballroom of the convention center.

The convention has partnered with Signatures For Soldiers, a nonprofit organization raising money and awareness to assist military veterans with disabilities, members of the armed forces and their families.

For those who are looking to cash in on their personal collections, certified authenticators will be at the event appraising cards.

If you want to see legendary athletes in action in the era way before ESPN, Doak Ewing of Rare Sportsfilms in Naperville will be displaying his collection of sports DVDs taken from rare films featuring the likes of Babe Ruth and Shoeless Joe Jackson.

For more event information, visit You can also follow the event on Facebook and Instagram.

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