Sports cards are no longer child’s play

While the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down so many aspects of our lives, markets such as trading cards and stocks ballooned during the latter half of 2020.

A sports card market that was once barren quickly exploded as new investors searched for different avenues to spend their money and diversify their portfolios. 

Surviving the “junk wax era” proved difficult for the hobby. However, emerging stars across the majority of professional leagues helped blossom a regained interest in collecting. 

The combined effects of far fewer products being stocked and produced, as well as a new wave of buyers, created a scarcity in trading cards that hadn’t been seen. Boxes that would sit on the shelves for large parts of their respective sports’ seasons were now selling out before they could even be stocked. 

As products became more scarce, it only seemed to flood the hobby with more enthusiasts who were willing to throw money at cardboard for inflated rates. 

Boxes that initially retailed for $20 were now selling from anywhere between $40 and $100. This, however, was only what was happening at the retail level. Sports cards are typically considered either retail or hobby releases, with the latter costing more, but guaranteeing a better return. 

Panini, one of the leading manufacturers of sports cards, experienced a never-before-seen demand in relation to one of their popular sets: 2019-20 Prizm Basketball, which had an manufactured suggested retail price of $150. However, before the product was even released, the price began to soar before settling in around $600.

Today, the product is selling for between $2,700-3,500 on average. 

Nothing has really slowed these prices, with this year's releases for basketball continuing the trend of exceeding their MSRP. 

Last year, it was players like Zion Williamson and Ja Morant that created the buzz, but this year it is Lamelo Ball. 

As the card market continues to be considered an alternative investment to stocks, more and more people have jumped into giving analysis. 

SlabStox has become one of the leaders in feeding investors analysis, creating graphs based on various cards sales data. They highlight cards that are big gainers or big losers, and fill people in on when might be a good time to invest. 

Their newest project is SlabStoxPro, a database where users can view data on cards, such as the trends and analytics. It will also allow users to purchase cards directly from the database. 

New changes in the hobby like this have steered many collectors away, but with an abundance of new enthusiasts certain they can make a quick buck, the sports card world has slowly shifted into this stock market alternative. 

Unlike the stock market, there is a much larger risk in investing in a hobby that almost ceased to exist following the “junk wax era.” People from that era believed they were sitting on the next gold mine as they bought up every box they could get their hands on. at the end of the day though many of those boxes likely still lay in an attic or were donated. 

As the prices continue to ramp up and historic sales are being made week to week, the hobby’s success shows no current signs of fatigue. 

Unlike before, though, it is supported by investors with larger wallets than previous iterations of card collectors. Collectors like myself have been priced out as the market itself is continuously gouged by scalpers.

A hobby that was once beloved by young collectors has become a playpen for adults who only see the beauty in cards being their material value.

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