The Sports Card Market is Booming (Again) and I’ve got Thoughts

Sports Cards are hot in the streets folks. Yes again. Forget about GameStop STONKS. That’s old news. The real money is in the trading cards. Yes. Again.

You might be thinking, “Haven’t we heard this story before?” Back in the late 80s Wayne Gretzky and John Candy were shelling out a cool $1M for a Honus Wagner (which 20 years later we found out was a fraud, hope they got the insurance on that one) and now in 2021 we have Jordan cards going for twice that amount. Cards don’t have to be 100 years old anymore. Hell cards that are less than a year old are going for high six figures.

What the hell is going on?

Lucky for you the Lil’ Dogg has dipped his paw into the Sport Card waters and is here to report back. And let this pup tell ya, things are weird out there. Very weird.

Crazy PricesWhy?????

Here we have two “different” Zion Rookie cards. One goes for a measly $9,950 while the other is looking for 20 times that amount. The picture of Zion is the same in both cards. Even the basic design is the same between the two. I would even venture to argue that both “shimmer” even though the more expensive version is dubbed the Shimmer Prizm while the former is merely Hyper. Both are graded cards, meaning they have been evaluated by “professionals” and deemed to be in Mint or Mint like condition.

So what’s the difference?

Well it all comes down to print runs and what card enthusiasts call “variants”.

Back in 1989, the Sport world had Ken Griffey Jr. In 2021 we have Zion Williamson. Two phenomenons who’s intrigue and fame transcended their individual Sport and captured the attention of the outside world. In both cases their hype translated to skyrocketing card prices. But in 1989 that meant a Griffey you nabbed in a pack was worth $150. That’s $150 that you could maybe get from the local Card Shop owner. Walk in, plop down the card. Walk out $150 richer which for an eleven year old might as well have been a cool million bucks. Now we of course have the Internet. Instead of one Card Shop owner every few towns, we have millions of people with the ability to bid on any card they want. That’s one difference that’s obvious but the other is the card itself.

There was only one Griffey card that everyone wanted:

It’s availability was certainly scarcer than say your Bert Blylevens of the MLB world but I’m pretty certain if you ask any male who was between the ages of 8-15 in 1989 they either knew a kid in the neighborhood who had a Griffey Upper Deck rookie or had one themselves. Hell one of my best buds had SIX at one point and I myself once traded a Griffey for 3 Chris Sabo Rookies. (The Lil’ Dogg was always a gambler folks and ya win some and ya Sabo some 🤷🏻‍♂️). Which is all to say that while the Griffey was RARE it wasn’t some pie in the sky pipe dream to get one. You could find one, touch one, even get one in your next pack.

Those Zions? Hell no. You’ll never see one that’s not on a computer screen. Which brings us back to print runs and variants. Those Shimmers are 1 of 1. The slightly less shimmering are 1 of 25 or 1 of 50. But thing is there are dozens of variants in dozen of colors. Gold. Rose gold. Red. Pink. Sparkling. Hyper. Ice Cold. You name the Crayola crayon color and there’s a card for it. And all the star players get these now a days. The combinations are endless which of course adds to the frenzy but also makes searching for modern day cards a Byzantine and maddening process. Is the Hyper Pink more rare than the Ice Cold Blue? What about the Young Gun version? Or the Galactic Funk version? It’s literally endless.

Card Breaks – What does that mean?????

The biggest and newest development in the Sport Card world over the last ten or so years are CARD BREAKS. Card breaks are when a shop or dealer sells slots that allow you the average collector to buy a piece of an otherwise ridiculously expensive card pack, box or even case.

Let’s say you want a Jordan Rookie. Well you don’t have $2M spending cash (or do ya???) but you are willing to gamble a few hundred bucks at a chance at nabbing one. So a Card Shop says we have 1 unopened pack of 1986-87 Fleer NBA cards. There’s 16 cards in a pack. So the Shop sells 16 slots at let’s say $100 a pop (though these days for a Fleer 86 pack it’d be more like $1000 a slot. Yes really). The Shop then randomly assigns the 16 buyers to 16 slots as they open the pack – usually live on their YouTube Channel. If you have slot 6, you get whatever card is the 6th card to come out of the pack. If you are extremely extremely lucky you might get that Jordan. At the very least for a few fleeting moments you had a chance at getting one. In the end, your chances are only slightly better than your average Lotto pull. Mostly Card Breaks are the Sport Card world’s version of live entertainment.

Except they are the least entertaining things on Earth. The Lil’ Dogg has tried to watch a few of these and is attempting to participate in one (more on that in a mo) but it is EXCRUCIATING!!! First off the breaks take FOREVER. These YouTube live streams go on for no joke 10 hours!!!! There’s no schedule. There’s no time limit. They just go on live and randomly decide what they are opening while 20 diehards in the chat room kabitz at what they had for lunch. Maybe they’ll get to your pack today. Probably not. Who knows? I’ve been waiting 3 days for a pack I bought into to be opened. I got an email saying my break was in the queue and happening shortly. That was 72 hours ago and when I go to the live stream the breaker “Johnny G” is doing a 45 minute diatribe on the cauliflower pizza he had yesterday. True fucking story right there folks. What these card breaks really are is an excuse for dudes who have no real life friends to find other dudes who are willing to stay in a chat bullshitting about the Miz and the Undertaker for hours on end. Let me tell ya there is A LOT of WWF wrestling talk on these things. A LOT.

Card breaks should be cool and fun. Right now they suck so let the Lil’ Dogg fix this for ya: 1) An actual schedule you stick to. 2) Break the fucking cards! This should take no more than 10 minutes for a pack. Sure if it’s a whole box it’s gonna take some time but no reason it needs to take 3 hours 3) Stop talking about food and wrestling.

So that’s the gist of what’s going on right now with Sport Cards. Will this current boom be followed by a bust? Most certainly. The prices are currently insane. Just yesterday the first new NBA set went on sale from Panini and the site crashed instantaneously. And that was with the set selling for 3 times the price it was selling for last year. And that’s not even mentioning the absolutely ridiculous resell prices on EBay right now. It’s unsustainable. But will it go away completely? No. Ironically Cards are a lot like WWF wrestling. The booms and busts are there every few decades but it just keeps hanging around.

Now excuse me while I log back on to YpuTube to wait another 16 hours for my 89 Fleer NBA pack to finally break.

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