Is Baseball Card Collecting Still Popular?

90s Topps Baseball Cards

Is Baseball Card Collecting Still popular?

We have all heard the stories… “I went off to school, work, or war, and my mom threw away all my baseball cards”. If your parents are still storing your old ball cards… GO GET THEM! Now is probably a good time for you to go look for them because sports card collecting is back… and back big time! Baseball card collecting is still popular, and that’s an understatement! To be honest, its grown from Baseball Card Collecting to Basketball Card Collecting and Football Card collecting… Some just refer to the hobby now as “ball card collecting” or sports card collecting”

The biggest sports card sales in history have taken place over the past two years, during that span, the record for the “most expensive card ever sold” has been shattered twice. For example, this spring a 1952 Topps Micky Mantle card was purchased for over $5 million. Card values are is spiking at insane levels. A Michael Jordan rookie card sold at auction for over $700,000. Take a look at BETA Sports Cards and under “It Sold For How Much??”, look at what some of the insane sold prices for ball cards. 

As card values are spiking, transaction numbers are following suit. eBay has been the go-to source for buying and selling ball cards. During eBay’s “State of Trading Cards” report, eBay announced that the trading card category on its site grew by 142% in 2020 with over 4 million more cards sold compared to the prior year. eBay is seeing a dramatic increase in sales, both in volume and in overall sales dollars.

Why is Baseball Card Collecting So Popular Right Now?

Well, it’s not just baseball cards… it’s all sports cards: Baseball, Basketball, Football, and even golf! In fact, Baseball is probably the LEAST popular of the major sports, but overall baseball card collecting is still popular. But… WHY? One word… COVID. Thanks to the pandemic shutdowns in 2020, live sports were shut down, and people started to look for their old ball cards through their parent’s attics and basements hoping to hit the jackpot. There is one other reason for the uptick in ball card collecting… During the pandemic, there was a documentary, “The Last Dance” which followed Michael Jordan and the Bulls through their last championship run. For me… this turned the collecting snowball into an avalanche and a lot of childhood memories of collecting Michael Jordan came back to life.  

Famous people are collecting and promoting the hobby as well. The most recent notable celebrity is Drake. He recently bought boxes… yes … BOXES of 1986 Fleer, and 10, yes 10 boxes of Flawless which sells for over $40k EACH.. CRAZY! Other celebrities are Mark Wahlberg, Logan Paul, Bryan Cranston, and Charlie Sheen just to name a few… BTW… Charlie Sheen’s collection is worth a blog post just by itself!

What Type of Collector Are You?

There I believe there are three types of people participating in the hobby… “Quick Flippers”, “Long Term Holders”, and those that are collecting “For the Memories”. 

  • “The Quick Buck Flipper” — Flippers are more interested in making a quick buck than collecting cards. They load up on boxes from local stores like Target and Walmart to resell them online for a marked-up price. The recent pandemic surge in interest in the hobby plus the increase in the number of flippers has created problems for manufacturers like Topps as they struggle to keep products on store shelves; therefore limited availability equals more expensive cards.
  • “Long Term Holders” — Like the stock market, card values fluctuate over time. Investor type people see trading cards like they do with stocks. They put in the time to research player and card trends and are always looking to buy low and sell high like a typical investor.  Like the flippers, the Holder-type folks are in the hobby for the money, but they deal in larger sums and seem to find enjoyment in the ride. The sums of money they deal with are outside my comfort zone. 
  • “For the Memories” —  Kids who enjoyed collecting sports cards in the late ’80s and early ’90s are all grown up now some with kids of their own. These 80s -90s kids now have a disposable income. I have 2 daughters, so they have no interest in the hobby, so for me, I’m just reliving childhood memories. What I started to do when I got back into the hobby, was go buy the cards that were unattainable back when I was a kid. Surprisingly most of those cards now are considered the Junk Era, and now that Ken Griffey Jr Rookie, doesn’t cost a fortune (unless it’s graded, which that again, is a subject for its own blog post.). 

Junk Era… My childhood collection is Junk?

When I collected cards, 1987-1994, card companies like Topps, Donruss, Upper Deck, Fleer, Score, and Bowman overproduced cards in huge quantities just so they can meet the demands of the hobby.  The rarer the card, the more expensive the card is. Card manufacturers claim they are not producing cards as they did in the 80s, some cards have very limited print runs. With that said the availability has and will always drive the value of a card. So with the overproduced cards of the 80s and 90s, you will find most of those cards are not work diddly-squat. 

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