The Sports Card Market Is At An All-Time High; Let Me Explain What I’ve Learned Through the Lens of Digital Innovation


© Darren Herman 2020

It all started roughly 30 years ago when I began to receive baseball, hockey, and basketball cards as gifts for my birthday. Back then, the card packs we would receive had sticks of gum in them that we had no idea who touched or added… but boy, did they taste good.

A few friends got into sports cards too, and together, we would go to the Westchester County Center every so often and attend a sports card show. At the time, we were kids with pocket money walking around the mostly adult cottage industry of sportscard collecting. Buying a $3 card at the convention center was pure adrenaline, and every so often, we’d buy a full set or box and come home to open it.

But, we had fun, and I would not trade that for anything.

I’d like to say that I started to learn “business” from reading the Becket magazine that I would receive each month in the mail. This magazine lists card prices of recent sales and highlighted cards that had high and low volume. I never knew how they got the information, and my parents always reminded me that cards are only worth what someone will actually pay you, regardless of whatever Becket says. I had a few cards worth $1, $2, $3… and I was over the moon.

Fast forward to today… 30+ years later. I’d all but forgotten about my cards. I bought my son a few packs last year and started to get the itch. I recalled my conversations with entrepreneur friends Nat and GaryV about their collections and inspired me to get back in.

November and December 2019 was when I started to make some “real” purchases. I also dove back in the market during a ski trip in January 2020… those evenings were when I purchased multiple Lebron James eTopps and some 2018 Luka rookie cards. I didn’t do much else until June 2020, just 85 days ago. Since then, it’s been game on. The “good cards” in the collection now number close to 900 and they are all available here if anyone is interested.

Today’s card market is such a transformation of what I remembered way back when. The Westchester County Center exhibitions still exist, but the digital experience is absolutely incredible these days, and collecting and/or investing is no longer solitary, a community now exists 24/7 online.

Card collecting has taken off. That is an understatement. If you do a Google Trends search, sports card collecting is seeing a significant resurgence.


Search for “sports cards” on Google Trends as of 9/3/20

Many smart people have thoughts as to why now is an all-time high in the card market. Some of those thoughts are:

1/ The stimulus checks are going into the sports card market,

2/ People have more time at home to browse for a variety of reasons, therefor, card collecting is an area that they are spending more time in,

3/ There have been 100–300% price appreciation in cards recently, and it’s hard not to make money. So people have dove into the industry with the hopes to make quick profits,

4/ People with large followings like GaryV and Darren Rovell (the cooler Darren) have openly discussed the card market and have introduced people who might have never experienced it or forgotten about it,

5/ The internet has brought exponential amounts of buyers and sellers together from across the world,

6/ More comfort in alternate asset classes,

7/ Sports gambling was relatively quiet for a while so sport card games offer up an opportunity,

… and clearly, there are many more reasons

To give you a sense of size and scale, a Mike Trout 2009 Bowman Chrome SuperFractor just sold for $3.84M. He’s still an active player in Major League Baseball. You might recall that Honus Wagner, another baseball player, was the previous high sale… at $3.12M. A bunch of Lebron James just sold for well north of $1M, and Luka Doncic, an active NBA player on the Dallas Mavericks in his second season, now has routinely six-figure cards on the market.

© Darren Herman 2020