‘It’s the hottest market in the world’: Trading cards take off during pandemic


Since March 2020, we’ve seen shortages with many different items because of the pandemic.

Some personal hobbies even took a toll. And when everyone was stuck at home during the height of the pandemic, people tried to find new hobbies or resurrect old ones.

While going through shoeboxes in closets, many people across the country rediscovered their old trading cards they collected as a kid.

“It’s crazy. Right now it’s the hottest market in the world. They’re looking for everything that they can of sports and collectibility,” Chris Magstadt said.

And it isn’t just sports cards flying off the shelves. Pokemon cards have once again exploded in popularity. So much so, they had to release a statement acknowledging the run on Pokemon.

And if you play your cards right, you could even get some big money. A 1986 Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls card is valued at $75,000.

“Selling went up about 1,000%. I would field about 25 to 30 phone calls a week,” Magstadt said.

But then a huge problem arose: Pricing a card can depend on the grade it receives from a professional grading company, companies like Professional Sports Authenticator or Beckett Grading Services.

They look for things like the condition of the cards, bent corners, frayed edges or any type of damage to the card.

Getting a 10 on a card goes a long way for value, especially if it’s from PSA.

“A PSA 9 versus a BGS 9 of a key card sells for about 30-35% more than its Beckett counterpart,” Magstadt said.

During the pandemic, PSA took on a few million more submissions than they normally see, causing a massive backlog for grading.

Starting in April as a response to the massive influx of cards, PSA stopped accepting any new card entries looking to be graded. But that caused yet another problem, sending card prices through the roof.

A Lebron James rookie card and a Giannis Antetokounmpo rookie card each sold for $1.8 million at auctions last year.

In October, a PSA 10 graded 1st edition Charizard Pokemon card sold for over $220,000

“The disadvantage of seeing the prices go up so fast on these cards is it knocks the kids out of the collecting world because they just can’t afford it. Mom and Dad will give them a $10, $20 bill but we have more packs that are $100 plus just for a pack of cards anymore,” said Magstadt.

Kids like Charlie Anderson, a card collector of about four years now.

“The best part about collecting cards is seeing what you’re going to pull in each pack and just collecting them either from card shows that you can go to or from your friends,” said Anderson.

Anderson used to buy cards fairly often at retailers such as Walmart and Target, but because of the card craze, a lot of those retailers are limiting or just not carrying cards anymore.

“Yeah, they’re really expensive and basically can’t find them even if they’re the cheapest product that they have,” Anderson said.

A man in Wisconsin even pulled a gun on someone in a Target parking lot because they had bought the last of some cards.

“That’s the future of this industry. If we stop selling to kids at this point then we’re not going to have a future 10, 20 years down the road. Because we, back in our teens, were collecting cards, and that’s what we went through during this pandemic, and now they’re passing it on to their kids. But now with the prices going up, are those kids going to pass it down to their kids,” said Magstadt.

But the future of trading cards is looking up. So if you have cards lying around at home, take a look.

And PSA is hoping to start accepting admissions again in July.

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