Story at a glance

  • The economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic have been reflected in the stock market.
  • Recent phenomena such as the rise of GameStop stock have challenged the status quo of Wall Street.
  • A resurgence in sports trading cards is driving up their value, and some people are looking to cash in.

Bummed about missing out on the GameStop craze? Don’t worry, there’s another taking over, and you might already have the goods buried in your garage or a childhood bedroom. 

A new report from eBay revealed a 142 percent surge in domestic sales of trading cards on the e-commerce platform, and the company doesn't expect that to change anytime soon. 

“Last year saw an industry-wide surge in collecting and flipping trading cards due in large part to people staying home and finding new ways to spend their time, turning to cards while there was a lack of sports on TV. In addition, new collectors are entering the trading cards space as another avenue of investment to diversify their portfolios,” said Nicole Colombo, general manager of Collectibles & Trading Cards at ‎eBay, in a release. “We anticipate that this trajectory will keep pace in 2021, and to meet this demand, we’re continuing to build on new ways to enhance the eBay experience for buyers and sellers, especially in the collectibles space.”


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Gross sales in basketball cards have quadrupled in the last year, with vintage cards going for millions of dollars. Unlike stocks, however, there’s a lot of nostalgia and emotional attachment wrapped up in what used to just be a hobby for many people. 

"It's hard to find someone [in] my generation whose first business wasn't buying baseball cards when they were 10," Josh Luber, co-founder of StockX, a sneaker resale startup, told CNN Business. "We're all of the age where we have a little bit more money, but we're also in positions of decision-making for investment funds."

The sneakerhead pivoted to form Six Forks Kids Club, an alternative asset management company focused on trading cards. Now that Wall Street’s getting into the game, the rules are changing. 

"There's never been a time like this in the history of the business," collecter and investor Ken Goldin told CNN Business. "I would bet that for every person who wanted a Michael Jordan rookie card in 2019, there's 100 [now]."


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The phenomenon isn't restricted to sports — in fact the Pokemon Company just announced it was "actively working to print more" due to high demand — but baseball and basketball trading cards remain some of the highest valued. 

Last month, actor Rob Gough bought a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle PSA 9 (reportedly one of six such cards of legendary baseball player Mickey Mantle) for $5.2 million, shattering the previous record of a Mike Trout rookie card that sold for $3.94 million. And some investors are convinced the market will only continue to grow due to the limited supply of original cards. 

But some are raising their eyebrows at the card-collecting frenzy. Suspicions of fraud have reached the FBI, according to a Washington Post report, triggering a criminal investigation into allegedly doctored cards that reportedly involves one of baseball card collecting’s largest authentication firms, a well-known sports memorabilia dealer and one of the largest trading card auction houses. At the same time, the widely reported phenomenon behind GameStop’s meteoric rise in the stock market has prompted fears of a bubble — although diehard enthusiasts aren’t ready to call it just yet.

"This is now part of our culture," Goldin said. "I wouldn't go anywhere near the word bubble."


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Published on Feb 12, 2021