COVID-19

Baseball card collecting during pandemic hits prices out of the park

Jasmine Garsd Nov 11, 2020
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A boy looks at a display of baseball cards at the Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia in 2018. Hunter Martin/Getty Images
COVID-19

Baseball card collecting during pandemic hits prices out of the park

Jasmine Garsd Nov 11, 2020
Heard on:
A boy looks at a display of baseball cards at the Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia in 2018. Hunter Martin/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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If you are of a certain age, you might remember the joy of buying, collecting and trading sports cards. It used to be a popular hobby, then fell out of favor. But now, apparently, it’s back.

It turns out this is yet another unexpected side effect of the pandemic, and as more people are collecting, the value of certain cards is skyrocketing.

Ken Goldin, a collectible card auctioneer, remembers auctioning off a 2009 autographed Mike Trout baseball card in May. In case you don’t know, Trout is a center fielder for the Los Angeles Angels, three-time American League most valuable player and a seven-time winner of the Silver Slugger Award.

Prior to the pandemic, I would’ve expected the card to go for about $500,000. The card went for $922,000!” Goldin said.

At the time it was a record for the highest-priced modern trading card. Goldin said he’s since broken that record seven times. 

According to the site Sports Collectors Daily, compared to last year, baseball card sales were up more than 50% on eBay March through May. 

“The sports card market is doing very well right now, I believe, because it’s part nostalgic, part art and part investment potential,” said professor John List at the University of Chicago, who studies behavioral economics through the baseball card market.

If you factor in “that everyone has been cooped up back home and longing for the good old days, and you make for a very special market moment,” List added.

But can it last? Card collecting was popular in the ’80s and ’90s. What happened then is a case study in supply and demand.

“the manufacturers back then really overproduced the product, which basically devalued it,” explained Jason Howarth, the vice president of marketing of Panini America, the world’s largest sports and collectibles company. “You know, trading cards are built on scarcity. The value is in the scarcity.”

He said that since then manufacturers have learned their lesson, so maybe this is a winning streak that will continue even after the pandemic. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

How long will it be until the economy is back to normal?

It feels like things are getting better, more and more people getting vaccinated, more businesses opening, but we’re not entirely out of the woods. To illustrate: two recent pieces of news from the Centers for Disease Control. Item 1: The CDC is extending its tenant eviction moratorium to June 30. Item 2: The cruise industry didn’t get what it wanted — restrictions on sailing from U.S. ports will stay in place until November. Very different issues with different stakes, but both point to the fact that the CDC thinks we still have a ways to go before the pandemic is over, according to Dr. Philip Landrigan, who used to work at the CDC and now teaches at Boston College.

How are those COVID relief payments affecting consumers?

Payments started going out within days of President Joe Biden signing the American Rescue Plan, and that’s been a big shot in the arm for consumers, said John Leer at Morning Consult, which polls Americans every day. “Consumer confidence is really on a tear. They are growing more confident at a faster rate than they have following the prior two stimulus packages.” Leer said this time around the checks are bigger and they’re getting out faster. Now, rising confidence is likely to spark more consumer spending. But Lisa Rowan at Forbes Advisor said it’s not clear how much or how fast.

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