Toronto

Pokemon and sports cards business booming after rise in popularity during pandemic

Remember those old Pokemon and sports cards you collected as a kid that are now sitting in a binder at your parents' house? They could be worth $100,000 or more.

Your old cards could be worth thousands of dollars, experts say

The sports or Pokemon cards buried in your basement could be worth a lot

CBC News Toronto

3 months ago
2:21
If you have a binder of sports or Pokemon cards buried somewhere in your basement — they could be worth a lot of money. The business of collecting and selling cards has been booming during the pandemic. Talia Ricci with the story. 2:21

Remember those old Pokemon and sports cards you collected as a kid that are now sitting in a binder at your parents' house? They could be worth $100,000 or more.

The business of collecting and selling cards has been booming over the past year and some experts say it's thanks to the pandemic. 

For many people who've held onto their collection, like Kemptville, Ont. resident Logan Fournier, this could be an opportunity to cash in. 

In just seven months, Fournier went from searching his parents' basement for his childhood cards to opening his own local shop during the pandemic and earning $1.2 million in sales.

"I came across my old Pokémon collection and I was like 'this is crazy' everything is sleeved and in perfect condition," he said.

Fournier, the owner of Hobbiesville, was able to achieve his dream of opening a hobby shop thanks to the money he made selling his old cards. 

Logan Fournier, owner of Hobbiesville in Kemptville, Ont. says he has plans to expand his hobby business after the growth his shop has experienced. (Derick Deonarain)

"At the start of the pandemic I saw that some of the Pokemon cards I had were going for five-,10 thousand dollars and I was like 'this is weird. There's something here,'" he said.

Fournier says his business has grown so quickly that he's planning to expand things in the near future by opening up new shops in Toronto, Ottawa and possibly the U.S. to meet demand.

His story isn't unique. 

Card sales saving local businesses

From Pokemon to sports cards, local card shops say the demand has skyrocketed.

In eBay's 2021 "State of Trading Cards" report, the e-commerce corporation said they saw a record growth in their trading card sales, with Pokemon topping its list.

For William Chong, owner of Dolly's Toys & Games in Scarborough, those sales have actually helped keep his business afloat. 

"When the pandemic started, we were so worried we'd be shut down but then sales increased. Sales have gone up maybe 1000 per cent, ten fold. It's been very busy for us," he said. 

William Chong, owner of Dolly’s Toys & Games in Scarborough, says the resurgence of popularity in Pokemon and sports cards during the pandemic helped saved his business. (Paul Borkwood)

He tells CBC News Toronto that the sports card boom has been happening almost since the pandemic started.

"We've seen a huge comeback for hockey and vintage sports cards. Any of the big hall of fame names, if you have any of those cards in good condition, you're looking at a lot of money," he said. 

In December 2020, a Wayne Gretzky rookie card — rated as a 10 on the Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) card grading system, sold for $1.29 million US.

How card grading works

Brad Hartlin, who represents PSA Canada, a company that grades sports cards and sends them to the U.S. says there's an 8-step process that goes into getting a card graded and potentially sold for a large amount of money.

Owners send cards in to one of three industry leaders like PSA to get professionally graded.

Sports and trading cards are marked by these companies with a numerical grade.

In the case of trading cards, industry leaders use a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being "Poor" and 10 being "Gem Mint".

How card grading works

Toronto

3 months ago
0:42
Brad Hartlin, who represents PSA Canada, a company that grades sports cards and sends them to the US says there's a process that goes into getting a card graded and potentially selling them for large amounts of money. 0:42

These companies have professional graders who are trained and experienced in the field of cards and collectibles.

Hartlin says professionals on his team look at several factors to determine if a card is worth being sent off for grading.

"In order to be a 10, it needs to be 50/50 centring all the way around the card, then you look at the corners and check to see if they're dinged. Then you look at the surface to see if there are any slight flaws, printer lines, slight scratches," he said.

Hartlin says the prices someone will pay are based on the grade of the card, with 10 being the most valuable.

"This is how you end up with PSA 10 Charizards that sell on eBay for around $500,000 or people who end up buying a house from selling a few cards. This stuff does happen," he said. 

Hobby was 'bubbling' for years

While the card business may be seeing a spike in sales right now, one expert says this resurgence was always going to happen because of entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk and famous YouTubers like Logan Paul who were putting millions of their subscribers onto the hobby before the pandemic.

Josh Luber, co-founder of StockX, a multi-billion-dollar online "stock market of things" that specializes in shoes and collectibles says the hobby was starting to bubble up in the last few years. 

"The trading card industry was going to blow up this year anyway. I think it would be extraordinary to see what would have happened if there hadn't been a pandemic," he said. 

Card boom was always coming says StockX Co-Founder Josh Luber

CBC News Toronto

3 months ago
0:47
StockX co-founder Josh Luber tells CBC News Toronto that the resurgence of Pokemon and sports card was always going to happen this year regardless of a pandemic. 0:47

Luber tells CBC Toronto the major comeback trading cards are making is due to many popular interests meeting at the intersection of a global pandemic. 

He says it's the convergence of things like sneakers, streetwear and fashion, with sports cards, Pokemon and the lockdowns from COVID-19.

"You add a pandemic into this mix and you get a lot of people stuck at home, feeling nostalgic for their youth or passing something on to their kids by rediscovering the joy of opening a pack of cards," said Luber.

"Every time you open a box or pack, it feels like you're a kid on Christmas again."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Derick Deonarain is a producer for CBC News who grew up in the Northwest end of Toronto. When he's not chasing breaking news you can often find him covering stories that meet at the intersection of culture, social justice, sports and art.

With files from Paul Borkwood

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