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EDITORS NOTE: This column appears in the Sept. 1 issue of Sports Collectors Digest. To subscribe, click here. To get a digital issue, check out our SCD store. 

ATLANTIC CITY — It took nearly 10 minutes to walk from one end of the Atlantic City Convention Center to the other, winding through more than 600 dealer tables and corporate booths.

From the main stage and breakers area to the TRISTAR Autograph Pavilion, the 500,000-square-foot facility was swarming with people, collectors buying, dealers selling and the industry’s largest companies showing off their latest cards, memorabilia and new hobby platforms.

The show floor was abuzz with wheeling-and-dealing, big pulls and spectacular collectibles on display under bright lights and sparkling glass cases.

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As SCD writer Greg Bates and I worked the show floor, we were in awe of what the modern hobby has become.

We examined the 1952 Mickey Mantle card that is expected to surge past $10 million at Heritage Auctions and break the all-time sports card record. We marveled at Ken Kendrick’s $100 million card collection. We mingled with large crowds at Topps, Panini and Fanatics. And we chatted with such movers-and-shakers as Collectors CEO Nat Turner, Goldin’s Ken Goldin, Collectable’s Ezra Levine and Fanatics’ Josh Luber.

Amid what was surely a record crowd, the whirlwind of activity was dizzying at times, leaving you in awe of the immensity of the modern sports collectible hobby.

It was exciting, exhilarating, enlightening and overwhelming.

Yet the most enjoyable and rewarding experience of the National Sports Collectors Convention took place across the street, in a dark bar at the Sheraton Hotel, where a group of hobbyists and content creators gathered to talk cards, collecting and their love for the hobby.

The informal gathering featured true, pure collectors who represent the very lifeblood of the hobby. Without them, there would be no bright lights and big crowds across the street.

“This is the hobby,” said Mike Moynihan, the Baseball Collector who shares his passion for the hobby on multiple podcasts and YouTube channels.

Content creators like Moynihan, John Newman of Sports Card Nation and hobby pioneer Dr. James Beckett have parlayed their love for the hobby into popular platforms that are influencing other collectors. Others have carved out their own special niche, like Texas Card Dude Brad Bethune, Val Marz and Logan Ward of Nascard Radio and Jeff Baker of TTM Cast.

Content creators (from left) Mike Moynihan, Brad Bethune and Dr. James Beckett on state at The National.

Content creators (from left) Mike Moynihan, Brad Bethune and Dr. James Beckett on state at The National.

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Their devotion to the hobby runs deep. So deep they are indeed having a profound impact on other collectors.

Like Chris Damron of Glasgow, Mo., who started buying and selling cards again after watching Moynihan and other hobby YouTubers. He used the proceeds from his collection to buy his wife’s wedding ring and adopt a son from Russia.

“What these guys do is very, very important,” Damron said. “They made me get my cards back out and start collecting again.”

Or Rick Geraci of San Jose, Calif., who started watching hobby videos while recovering from a broken neck in 2019. They inspired him to start collecting vintage cards and fly across the country to meet his hobby heroes.

“These guys are on the front lines. They go to all the shows, and I got started by watching their videos,” Geraci said.

Though big money has poured into the industry in recent years, it is also being fueled in part by a major social media and online presence of influencers who love sharing their passion for the hobby.

Moynihan, Newman, Beckett and others are part of a bi-weekly live call-in show called Hobby Hotline (which we’ll profile in a future issue of SCD). A 12-person panel from the show appeared on the main stage at The National, a well-attended Q&A that put their zeal for the hobby on center stage.

“As a prolific content creator, we think we don’t have an influence. We are just dudes, we’re just collectors, we just love the hobby,” Moynihan said. “But the reality is, if we influence one person, that’s good, that’s good for the hobby, and makes it all worth it.”

It is that kind of passion and willingness to help others that drives the hobby. Along with many others on YouTube and social media, they are inspiring collectors to flock to shows like The National and make the hobby a thriving, booming industry.

Jeff Owens is the editor of SCD and sportscollectorsdigest.com. You can reach him at jowens@aimmedia.com or on Twitter at @jeffowens_jeff. 

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