Chicago Sports Spectacular Card Show Review

Rosemont, Illinois and the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center hosts the Chicago Sports Spectacular twice a year (March and November). This is the same venue that hosts The National when it comes to Chicago.

The Spectacular is a mini National and is held in a smaller area than the National. Still, about 300 booths are set up including Beckett and PSA as well as numerous sports stars signing autographs.

I was looking forward to this show as I had some great luck at the card show last November. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any awkward conversations with Frank Winters, or meeting Willson Contreras in a Denny’s parking lot.

Still, it was a weekend getaway to spend looking at baseball cards. Just days prior I secured tickets to see the Cubs and Cardinals play in London next June. I already have a week planned in Arizona for Spring Training and in January it’s the Cubs Convention. Needless to say…I’m on a card budget.

Card Show Strategy

Bargain shopping was my strategy this time. In fact, I didn’t even want to browse the vintage or higher end tables. It was all about the dime boxes, quarter boxes, and dollar autos.

Going into the weekend my plan was to attend Friday night and Saturday. Sunday was up in the air depending on how Saturday went in terms of time spent walking the floor, and more importantly money out of my wallet.

Saturday was the big day, so the plan for Friday evening was to walk the floor and limit time at each booth so I could get a good lay of the land knowing where to go and spend my time on Saturday.

Friday Night – Working the Floor

As I walked in, I took a quick lap before landing at a booth with quarter boxes. This booth was kind of a bummer. Not only was I looking for Cubs (obviously), I had several other players and teams to complete trades on my search list. Unfortunately, I only found a couple cards in the two boxes I searched.

Moving on, I found a booth that was like Singles Club light. This table had several dollar boxes with colors, serial numbers, and top stars. Picking through it I found some Gleyber Torres rookies, and had to pull them for my Torres “collection.” It’s a “kind of” PC for the sole reason that I recently set all of my Torres cards aside and realized I had a pretty tall stack. I’ll probably sell them off once the season starts next spring, but it’s kind of fun to pick some cheap cards up now and then.

As the show neared its end on Friday night, I found the table I had been looking for. At last year’s show I spent a better part of the day searching through the dollar autograph and relic boxes. This year the stock had diminished greatly and there was only about three rows of a monster box for baseball. I pulled a small stack of Cubs autographs, and ran out of time before sifting through other boxes. This table also had quite a few quarter boxes.

A+ Pricing, Failing Grade for Customer Service

The stage was set for a big Saturday knowing exactly where my first stop would be…the last booth I hit on Friday night. This time around I took a corner of the booth and sat in a chair. A space to my left to stack my piles with boxes in front of me. I probably spent three hours and even had a high school football playoff game streaming on my phone. A large box of Cubs with plenty of trade bait added.

After spending a few hours digging through these boxes, and looking through my cards when I got home it got me thinking. Gaining repeat business as a vendor is more than just good pricing. This booth had phenomenal pricing. But, as I counted out all of the cards it amounted to $77, and I was charged $75. I appreciate the $2 savings, but was a bit surprised there wasn’t more of a volume discount given. I thought about my time at this booth more. The most surprising part was that I spent three hours (maybe more) at this table digging through a dozen monster boxes. Not once did this vendor say a word to me. As my piles of cards began to tip over, it was me who had to ask if he had some type of box to put it all in.

That was disappointing to me. In all of the tables I’ve visited accumulating a pile or piles of cards, a vendor has always reached out to offer a box, or at least say hello.

Twitter In-Person Trade

Moving on, I ran into Adam. We set up a trade through Twitter and he dropped off a box of Cubs cards. I sent out some Aaron Judge cards for his son’s collection this week. He also mentioned there was a booth with a box of Cubs set aside.

Santa Clause Super Collector

The booth in question was likely the world’s biggest Santa Clause trading card collector. He even resembles Santa. I pulled some Cubs cards out of a box for a quarter a piece and he said he’ll bring a 5,000 count box of Cubs to the next show in March. By the way, his Santa Clause collection numbers 16,000 cards.

After visiting the Santa Clause collector, a neighboring vendor called me over. Phil shared a story about how became a minimalist collector. He also has a large quantity of Cubs cards that we will arrange a swap next year.

Bulk Trades With Steve and David

From there, I met up with Steve, who holds the One Million Cubs Project record for most Cubs cards traded in one deal. That number is approximately 35,000 cards in a trade we set up at last November’s show.

This year’s trade was only about 15,000 cards, but included a big box of unopened Cubs minor league sets from the 1980’s and 1990’s.

As we arranged our trade, David also arrived. The three of us were all making a deal. In fact, Steve offered up some Cubs to David to complete our trade. It was like a three-way trade in Major League Baseball. David sent me about 3,200 Cubs in exchange for the same amount of White Sox cards.

Shocking Revelation at the Dime Box Booth

With limited time remaining, I finally made my way over to a dime box that I had found Friday night. It wasn’t filled with too much I was looking to spend money on, though there were a couple rows of Topps Heritage Minors cards. I’m a sucker for Heritage Minors.

This time around, I was able to find some good stuff, and surprisingly in a dime box. As I went to pay I realized it was Jim’s Card Corner…my local card shop! I asked Jim if he had dime boxes in his shop, and he said he does, but doesn’t have them out. Well, this changes everything! I’ll be making more trips to my LCS knowing this information.

Autographed Baseballs at Discount Prices

My friend, Dave, had mentioned a couple booths with great deals on autographed baseballs. Signed Cubs baseballs are my second collecting passion behind Cubs baseball cards. My autographed baseball collection is around 350. One table had some good deals on authenticated signed baseballs and I picked out a Lennie Merullo for $25. Merullo was a member of the Cubs 1945 World Series team. I interviewed him about 10 years ago, and he was quite the character. He lived a long life, passing away at the age of 98 in 2015.

Two more baseballs were added for the low, low price of $5 apiece. What a deal! Ken Frailing was a Cubs signed baseball that was missing from my collection, and I couldn’t pass on a 1969 Cubs signed baseball for a five dollar bill…Paul Popovich.

Final Thoughts

Overall, it seemed as though the quarter boxes were mostly filled with cards that should have been in dime boxes. The dollar boxes had many cards that should have been in quarter boxes. That was my initial reaction after visiting a few tables on Friday night. Having spent more time at these tables on Saturday I was able to find more deals.

And so ends another successful Chicago Sports Spectacular. Since my budget ran out, I didn’t make a return on Sunday. It just wasn’t worth the $15 parking and $10 admission price. A success nonetheless as I added nearly 20,000 Cubs baseball cards to the collection and put myself in much better position to reach my 2019 goal of 400,000 Cubs cards by the end of the year.

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