While much of the sports collectible industry was shut down or forced online by the global pandemic, Eddie Pierson was still promoting card shows in Iowa.
The state’s less stringent COVID regulations allowed sports card dealers and promoters to move throughout Iowa and the region and take advantage of a booming collectible industry. Pierson, who has been attending card shows since 1999 and promoting since 2013, has been running shows since last July.
“We’ve been pretty lucky in Iowa,” he said. “We’ve had the excitement of shows for quite some time, and we have been able to take advantage of this huge uptick in our hobby and our industry.
“But … there is still a clamoring for shows and people are just super-excited that the hobby is in the stages that it is in, and I think this is the perfect time for us to do something where people can begin to network with other dealers and really create relationships so that they can continue to build their collections.”
Pierson and partner Jamie Zabel have created such an event with the Capital City Card Convention in Des Moines July 23-25. The three-day show, which is expected to attract more than 100 dealers, is the biggest card show in Iowa in at least 20 years, says Pierson, who has been promoting in the Des Moines area the past eight years.
Show Calendar: State-by-state list of cards shows across the country
Zabel, like Pierson, has been hanging around the hobby since the ‘80s and 90s and has set up at shows all over the Midwest. He began promoting shows last year and approached Pierson about planning a convention in Des Moines.
Their initial plan was to wait until 2022, when more of the country is fully vaccinated and recovered from COVID. But when word spread early this year that the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago might be postponed for a second straight year because of the pandemic, the duo decided to jumpstart the Des Moines show. Just five hours from Chicago, it could serve as an alternative destination if the National is postponed or canceled. And if the big show goes off as planned the week of July 28-Aug. 1 — which is looking more and more likely — the Capital City Card Convention could possibly attract dealers and collectors on their way to Chicago.
“We by no means wanted to step on the toes of the National. The National is an important convention for everyone in the hobby,” Pierson said. “But we wanted to be there in case the National did not happen as planned.”
Zabel has set up at the annual Sports Spectacular card show in Chicago and he and Pierson have both been to the National many times. The Capital City show is not meant to compete with the National, but to give Midwest collectors another big regional show to look forward to every year.
“Nothing can compete against the National. The National is a spectacular that everybody in the hobby should have an opportunity to go to,” Pierson said. “With all the great regional shows that have popped up in the last six months … we just want to be one more stop where they can see a brand-new clientele.”
While there are several good local shows in Iowa, the Capital City show will be the first convention-style event. It has already attracted dealers from all over the Midwest and from as far away as Ohio and Tennessee.
“The response has been great,” Pierson said. “We have a good core of dealers from multiple states. … People are excited.”
Pierson hopes the Capital City venture turns into a semi-annual event and is encouraging dealers and vendors to get in on the ground floor, ensuring space in future events.
With the hobby booming, he believes the demand for card shows and memorabilia events will continue to rise. The renewed interest in Iowa has allowed him to fulfill a lifelong dream of opening his own card shop. He opened Home Plate Sports Cards in Oskaloosa, Iowa in the middle of the pandemic last year.
“I’m one of those who was finally able to make my dream a reality,” he said. “The shops have been booming, the shows are just exploding, and it really is a great thing for our hobby right now.”
Tickets for the event at the Iowa Events Center are $10 per day (kids 11 and under are free) and $25 for a weekend pass (limit of 500). There are also VIP tickets ($50, limit 300) that comes with a bag full of souvenirs and goodies, including trading cards with “some pretty nice hits.”
Friday Fun Night (6-8 p.m. CT) will feature autograph signings from former Iowa college and professional athletes. Autographs are $10 each.