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Players Association engages with collectors at The National

NEW YORK -- Players Association representatives found themselves in the middle of collectors' paradise when they traveled to the Chicago area this week to take part in The National Sports Collectors Convention.

The National, as it is known, is the biggest annual congregation of sports collectors and has been a midsummer staple for people in the industry since its first convention in Los Angeles in 1980. It offers a large roster of dealers with a full range of sports cards and collectibles, toys, game-used equipment and autographs.

"If you can't find what you're looking for at the National, it probably doesn't exist!" is the convention's slogan.

The 36thNational runs from July 29 through Aug. 2 and includes more than 600 dealers and distributors and 50 corporate displays in 350,000-plus square foot exhibit space at the Donald E Stephens Convention Center.

"We want to take a temperature check on the collectibles business in identifying new products, trends and opportunities, as well as supporting our existing partners who are attending this year's show," said Paul Zickler, the MLBPA's licensing manager.

Players Association trading card licensees Topps and Panini both have major presences at the collectibles showcase.

Topps hosted a VIP party on Wednesday and created exclusive Allen & Ginter die-cut cards to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the popular trading card line.

Topps also produced a five-card VIP set in the style of its 1953 Bowman Color product. The complete set includes five "cards that never were" -- pre-rookie cards of Ernie Banks and Al Kaline as well as images of Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays. 

Panini manufactured a special six-card set for VIPs featuring players in three sports. Kris Bryant and Joc Pederson are the baseball players.

Panini will also be doing free "Kids Breaks" and "Live Redemption Card Trade-up" during the week as well as hosting a party. 

Hall-of-Famer Rollie Fingers and two-time Cy Young Winner Bret Saberhagen were among the former players scheduled for autograph sessions.