The Sports Card Market Is On Fire
Plenty has been written about the rise of new retail traders turning to stock trading during the coronavirus pandemic. While these new traders have benefitted from a market that has mostly gone straight up since the lows earlier this year, the sports card market has also experienced a boom as a result of the pandemic.
As a matter of fact, blue chip sports cards may actually be a better investment than blue chip stocks, at least over the last decade. The Daily Mail says data from PWCC—which manages the largest trading card auction venue in the world, shows the index of the top-performing 500 cards had a return on investment of 216% since 2008 compared to 135% for the S&P 500.
"The market's just on fire," PWCC director of business development Jesse Craig told the DailyMail.com. "We're very fortunate to be in the business that we're in right now during a pandemic and still be thriving."
Just this month the Holy Grail of sports cards, the T206 Honus Wagner, sold for a record $3.25 million, exceeding the previous record of $3.15 million. The seller, who chose to remain anonymous, purchased the card for $130,000 twenty years ago.
The total is still short of the record $3.9 million paid in August for a one of a kind Mike Trout rookie card, proving collectors are increasingly turning to current athletes. Two different Lebron James rookie cards—the 2003 Topps rookie card and a chrome version of it, have increased 800% and 600%, respectively, on Stockx since last year.
Another measure—sports card sales on eBay, shows just how strong the market has been as of late. In a span of less than a month from May to June, more than 40 cards sold on eBay for more than $50,000. Through the end of July, the total more than doubled to 96 as more than 35% sold for $90,000 or more. eBay reported more than $600 million in card sales in 2019, marking a 40% increase from 2016. Executives from sports card companies such as Upper Deck and Topps say the past few years have been the best the industry has ever seen.
So what may be causing the renewed interest in sports cards? Similar to what has been suggested as causing the spike in interest in stock trading, people may simply just be looking for something to do to kill time.
"I think it was kind of this perfect storm this year with coronavirus," Craig said. "Everybody's sitting at home with time on their hands. … They started going through their old stuff, got reinvigorated, started paying more attention."
Experts say some collectors are drawn to sports cards because of nostalgia and their limited supply. Demand from countries such as China, the Philippines and Australia is also bringing fresh money into the market.
It will be interesting to see if the sports card market can continue its hot streak and how it will hold up if the stock market has another sharp selloff similar to earlier this year.
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