For sports fans, it’s sad but understandable to see the world of sports come to an unprecedented standstill because of the coronavirus. “SportsCenter” is void of any plays of the day because there are no plays—nobody is playing.
Cancelations and postponements are hitting the world of sports collectibles, too, with many sports card and memorabilia shows across the country shuttering its doors to avoid a gathering of large crowds.
Most notable recently was the Chicago Sports Spectacular on March 13-15. Officials announced the cancelation on the eve of the show, citing the Illinois governor’s edict not to have events where 1,000 or more people will be attending. At least 20 signers had already canceled.
“I was in Rosemont along with 50 or more other dealers,” Ron Estes told SCD. “When the news was given that the show was canceled a little after 5 p.m., I did not hear a lot of grumbling from dealers. I believe the domino effect that had started earlier in the day with the professional and college seasons ending had sunk in to each of us.”
They would not be alone.
“I was scheduled to set up as a vendor at the Wisconsin Sports Collectors Association show this Sunday (March 15) at Gonzaga Hall in Milwaukee and learned that the show is canceled, which is huge because the association has been running a monthly show for the past 45 years and this is the first time they ever canceled a show,” Tony Gordon told SCD.
Gordon hosts his own show, Fat Daddy’s Sports Card Show, in Oak Creek, Wisc., and wonders if his shows of April 4 and June 7 will go on as planned.
“I honestly don’t know what to do,” Gordon said. “This is a totally new experience. I told my wife that the only thing it compares to is 9-11, when the whole country shut down after the terrorist attacks in New York and elsewhere. I observed today that states like Illinois, Indiana and Ohio are limiting large gatherings, so the state of Wisconsin just might make the decision to cancel for me.”
Rob Gomberg of RK Sports Promotions in Bordertown, N.J., told SCD his shows will go on unless he’s told to postpone them. His next show was scheduled for March 22.
“I have had a few dealers call me and ask if the show is still on,” he said. “They all said that they would be there if the show goes.
“The events that I promote are a nice escape from the real world garbage that is going on. The dealers and customers use the shows as a nice getaway.
“I'm sure that there will be some people that stay home, but hopefully they will be careful and attend the shows. We will make sure that there will be hand sanitizer, soap, etc. for everyone at the show.”
The 2020 National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City is still a long way off being at the end of July, and hopefully the pandemic will be under control by then. Still, NSCC officials are keeping close tabs on the situation.
“We are monitoring the situation and will be conferring with our Atlantic City Convention Center team as we move forward,” NSCC Director of Communications Ray Schulte told SCD. “The safety of our vendors, exhibitors, athletes/entertainers and attendees is our primary concern. Right now, we are on schedule, looking forward to another great National.”
Schulte said COVID-19 will affect how the hobby industry continues to approach business practices, such as shows being canceled, until public safety can be assured, but the “hobby market continues to remain strong and on solid footing, despite the emergence of the deadly virus.”
The economic impact to canceled card shows and card shop closures is immeasurable. One area of the hobby that could benefit is online auctions.
Asked if it was fair to say that the coronavirus isn’t going to impact auction houses that much, Michael Russek of Grey Flannel Auctions in Scottsdale, Ariz., told SCD, “I would say that’s a very fair statement. If anything, we’re going to see our website traffic increase with people being home from work and spending more time on their mobile devices and everything like that.”
As for the impact in general, Russek said, "I’m an optimist. The way I look at it is that people, if they do tend to pull their money out of the stock market, they’re gonna spend it somewhere in alternative investments, and sports have been a great avenue for that stuff. We continue to see the prices trend upwards even when there are some questions out there with the market turmoil.
“I’m expecting to see great things in 2020. The true, one-of-one rare items I have no worries about. Some of the lesser, maybe the high-run autograph-type items, those may take a hit as there’s going to be an abundance of those, but for the true, elite game-used and top-tier cards, it’s going to be an upward trend."