The Sports Cards & Collectibles industry was on fire coming into 2020. Four societal dynamics collided to prime the pump for what we’ve seen happen in the front half of 2020:
- A strong economy
- Card-minded nostalgia driven by males born between 1970 and 1984
- A social media framework of traders, sellers, and breakers replicating the card shop of the community concept that helped fuel growth in the 1980’s
- The continued commitment of long-time collectors and shop owners
If you look at Google search shopping trends over a 5-year span, the sports card industry began to bounce sometime late in 2016 finding an entire new baseline by the end of 2017. However, qualitatively, 2019 seemed to be the year where sports cards became “cool again.” The National sold out, breakers were multiplying, and you even saw new shops popping up in 3rd tier strip malls in mid-size and large cities. 2020 kept the ball rolling, at least if you use the world’s largest sports card marketplace, eBay, as any indication, as the hobby’s sales curve jumped again in January 2020 with PSA graded junk wax era cards spiking, iconic cards soaring, and new products growing +35% after release.
One might think that a global pandemic and fears of a recession would serve to reverse the trends in a luxury market such as sports cards, but, in the early days at least, Covid-19 seems to have further fueled momentum as collectors new and old were forced into the refuge of their homes and behind the comforting warmth of cell phones and computer monitors. It is a bit counter-intuitive, because sports collectibles are a discretionary purchase that many people would expect to regress when economic conditions tighten. We definitely saw this in 2007-2010. However, Covid-19 seems to have created a demand spike that is going to push the hobby for a while. Key Covid-19 factors driving the hobby are:
- More time for buying, selling, and trading online
- A longing for sports
- Shortage of new product due to covid-related production issues
- Iconic (and outsized) player coverage – Zion, Kobe, Jordan (The Last Dance)
So, as a collector, what do you as the nation attempts to emerge from Covid-19 in the back half of 2020? First, continue to enjoy the hobby, and not let investment-related considerations drain the joy or create undue stress. Second, help educate new and returning collectors – they will fuel the hobby’s future. Third, spend wisely on what you enjoy or believe could appreciate.
While current prices would contradict this assertion, every release is not a generational product and neither is every serial numbered parallel. However, America’s passion for sports and sports cards Is proving to be a resilient force that an international pandemic could not slow down…so far, at least. We live in crazy times, and those crazy times seem to be favoring men and women that enjoy chasing 2.5 x 3.5 inch pieces of cardboard.
Underdog is a new sports collectibles shop in Knoxville, TN - run by collectors for collectors. We sell breaks, wax, and singles at www.udogcollect.com. To buy, sell, & trade with other collectors, join our Facebook group - THE UNDERDOGS. Always bet on the Underdog!