Trading For Treasure: the pandemic creates a trading card boom

Local businesses see big uptick in buying and selling baseball, football, basketball and other cards.
InvestigateTV's Rachel DePompa takes a look at the market for trading cards.
InvestigateTV's Rachel DePompa takes a look at the market for trading cards.(InvestigateTV)
Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 4:16 PM CDT
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RICHMOND, Virginia (InvestigateTV) - Get out the old dusty shoeboxes from the attic because a historic trading card boom is underway. One company is cashing in by helping thousands around the world buy and sell little cardboard versions of their beloved sports icons.

Once a beacon of childhood memories for generations, trading cards are now a booming business for the Camann family in Richmond, Virginia.

“My mom works. My brother-in-law, two of my sisters’ boyfriends, my nephew even comes in for a few hours. We ran out of family members,” Zach Camann said.

He started DCSports87 in 2016 after leaving the Coast Guard.

Camann was selling sports cards from his basement on eBay. His brother-in-law — now Vice President of the company — quickly joined him.

“It’s something that was a side hustle for me basically. It was something I did at night, after work. Never thought we’d have you know 20 people in an office,” Tory Hermens said.

Now they’re in a nearly 7,000 square foot office building with 40 employees.

Half work remotely, and those in the office take photos of other people’s collectibles, pulling cards for and from the auction and mailing them out.

“If you don’t know, consignment is when they submit their cards or collectibles to us. We sell them on eBay because we have the manpower to support that. We have the platform and the big follow of our store,” Hermens added.

DCSports87 lists about 3,000 cards and ships 1,200 to 1,400 packages daily. This saves customers time while still earning big money.

“We take a cut of that and they get the rest. So they save the work of shipping and listing and everything they have to do online,” Hermens said.

Some cards sell for $10, $20, even $30,000. A signed Kobe Bryant is asking for nearly $60,000 to buy it now. Auctioned cards start out listed at 99 cents.

“A Patrick Mahomes rookie patch auto, that’s at $7400 with still three days of bidding left,” he said.

While many businesses suffered during the pandemic, the trading card industry exploded.

“I wasn’t worried about the market and our volume and everything. The only thing I was terrified of was mail shutting down,” Camann said.

According to Verified Market Research, the trading card industry was worth $13 billion in 2019 and could be upwards of $100 billion by 2027.

“There’s a variety of different types of collectors. A lot of them are in it because they love their sports teams and they want to collect all their favorite players,” Camann said.

Trading cards are not just a family affair: For some, it’s an investment.

“It’s really gone from where it was just people who collect to now it’s way more of a stock market, speculative, type atmosphere, to where it’s all about buying and selling, how can you make a profit,” Hermens said.

From a 1953 Mickey Mantle to a rare Mike Trout rookie card, soccer cards, UFC, and even passionate Pokemon collectors are feeding the resurgence.

“Two years ago we did about $1.5 million dollars in sales on eBay. Last year that went to a little over 9 and this year we’ll end up at about $40 million,” Hermens said.

So what makes one card worth more than another?

Buyers are looking at the condition of the corners, if there is any whitening along the edges, how centered the image is on the card and if there is any surface damage. Some companies ‘grade’ cards and give them a rating: The higher the rating, the better the condition, the more it’s worth.

“To end up with a 7.5 on a 1953 card is really hard because most people in 1953 were putting them in their bike spokes,” Hermens said.

The boom doesn’t seem to be slowing down as the tug of nostalgia brings a century-old past-time roaring into the 2020′s.

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