What’s Driving the Sports Card Market to New Heights?

The sports card industry has always been full of intrigue and innovation. There are avid collectors, casual collectors, and more so recently, a growing number of investors. However, it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm that the industry underwent its biggest change yet.

According to a report published by Karl Nordin and Maada Coomber of Suffolk University, the stress caused by the pandemic led a large number of Gen Z and Millenials to seek comfortable content and hobbies — such as sports cards — that would provide a break from the news.

On the flip side, as the pandemic slowed in 2021 and 2022, so did the growth of the sports card industry. There’s no reason to believe that the market will implode as it did in the mid-1990s, but the bubble has burst.

What we’re left with is a sports card market that’s stronger than ever. Older collectors are falling in love with their childhood hobby. Younger collectors are coming to understand the joys. And investors are turning to sports cards as a means of diversification.

Proficient Market Insights released its Sports Trading Card Market research report in October 2022. Here’s the key finding:

Due to COVID-19 and Russia-Ukraine War influence, the global Sports Trading Card market size was valued at US$ 1223.5 million in 2021 and is forecast to a readjusted size of USD 2241.6 million by 2028 with a CAGR of 9.0% during the review period.

In other words, even though the market is no longer in hyper-growth mode, the next five years are predicted to be anything but stagnant.

Top Sales From 2022

For a better idea of how high sports card sales are soaring, here’s a list of the top sales from 2022. (numbers courtesy of Beckett)

1. 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle – $12,600,000

Grade: SGC 9.5

Date: August 27, 2022

2. 1909-11 T206 Sweet Caporal Honus Wagner – $7,250,000

Grade: SGC 2

Date: August 4, 2022

3. 1909-11 T206 Sweet Caporal Honus Wagner – $3,720,000

Grade: PSA 1.5

Date: October 9

4. 1909-11 T206 Sweet Caporal Honus Wagner – $3,136,500

Grade: PSA 1

Date: March 31, 2022

5. 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Tom Brady Autograph 008/100 – $2,400,000

Grade: BGS 9/10

Date: October 20, 2022

6. 2020-21 Panini Flawless Triple Logoman LeBron James 1/1 – $2,400,000

Grade: PSA Authentic

Date: June 25, 2022

7. 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Tom Brady Autograph /100 – $2,300,000

Grade: BGS 8.5/10

Date: February 1, 2022

8. 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Rookie Patch Autograph Parallel LeBron James /23 – $2,100,000

Grade: BGS 8.5/10

Date: June 25, 2022

9. 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Tom Brady Autograph 091/100 – $2,040,000

Grade: BGS 8.5/10

Date: February 19, 2022

10. 1997-98 Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems Kobe Bryant 004/100 – $2,000,000

Grade: BGS 8.5

Date: February 22, 2022

11. 2020 Panini National Treasures Platinum NFL Shield Justin Herbert #158 1/1 – $1,800,000

Grade: BGS 8.5/10

Date: September 10, 2022

12. 2020 Panini National Treasures Platinum NFL Shield Joe Burrow #156 1/1 – $1,700,000

Grade: BGS 9.5/10

Date: September 12, 2022

13. 2006-07 Exquisite Collection NBA All Access Triple Logoman Michael Jordan / LeBron James / Kobe Bryant 1/1 – $1,680,000

Grade: PSA Authentic

Date: August 6, 2022

14. 2003-04 Exquisite Collection LeBron James RC 30/99 – $1,572,000

Grade: PSA 8.5/10

Date: January 8, 2022

15. 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle – $1,560,000

Grade: PSA 8

Date: February 26, 2022

While all 15 of these cards eclipsed the $1 million mark, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Every day, thousands upon thousands of sports cards trade hands, both in private and public transactions.

Sports Cards as an Alternative Investment

With so much economic uncertainty over the past two to three years, many people have moved away from traditional investments and toward alternative vehicles. And that’s where sports cards fit in.

As sports cards continue to grow in value — as the top 15 sales of 2022 prove — investors are becoming collectors and collectors are becoming investors. Today, investors and collectors alike have come to realize that high-value sports cards can be a substantial part of a diversified investment portfolio.

Online platforms, such as ALT, have also helped to accelerate the trend of investing in sports cards. In short, ALT makes it simple to buy and sell investment-grade trading cards.

Investors benefit in many ways:

  • The ability to purchase cards on ALT’s fixed-price marketplace.
  • The ability to purchase cards in ALT’s bi-weekly liquid auctions.
  • The use of the ALT Vault to keep assets secure and enable hassle-free selling.
  • Quickly list and sell investments with fees as low as five percent.
  • Receive up to 60% of a cash advance when listing for sale in a liquid auction.

In the past, one of the biggest challenges of sports card investing was liquidity. Today, with the help of platforms such as ALT and eBay, this is no longer a concern.

The Introduction of New Sports

For many years, the four primary categories of sports cards were baseball, basketball, football, and hockey. While these sports still lead the way, many others are making a dent in the market. And with that, there’s more opportunity for collectors and investors.

Up-and-coming sports include soccer, MMA, and NASCAR. Let’s take a look at GemRate’s December 2022 recap.

While soccer is a distant fourth when measured by the total number of graded cards, it was more popular than hockey in December 2022.

Baseball, basketball, and football remain the top three categories — and probably will well into the future — but the growth of additional sports is one of the primary reasons for the recent uptick of the sports card market as a whole.

The Future is Bright

If recent history is any indication, the sports card market will continue to experience new highs in the years to come. Furthermore, investing in sports cards can be a profitable and enjoyable hobby for investors and collectors alike.

However, it's important to remember that like any investment, there is always some degree of risk involved. It's essential to conduct thorough research, stay informed about market trends, and diversify your portfolio to minimize risk.

Overall, the sports card market is on the rise and the future is bright. Those who get involved are in a position to build a collection that has both personal and financial value.

This article was produced and syndicated on Wealth of Geeks.


Chris Bibey is a freelance writer and content marketing consultant from Pittsburgh, PA. His work has been published in Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Fast Company among hundreds of other online publications.