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Booming Card Market Takes First Small Dip of COVID Era as Attention Shifts to Other Collectibles

Booming Card Market Takes First Small Dip of COVID Era as Attention Shifts to Other Collectibles article feature image

1986-87 Fleer case, recently purchased in a record-breaking auction.

Focus on digital cards and moments have taken some attention away from physical cards in recent weeks, marking the first significant overall drop in the red-hot card space.

eBay powerseller Rick Probstein said that while the top cards are still seeing record prices, the rung below that is down about 10% over the past two weeks, with the even more common cards down about 20% in his estimation.

Data from market aggregator Sports Card Investor shows a less drastic decline, showing that the average card is actually up 1% in the last two weeks, but that basketball, the primary sport of COVID-era collecting, is down 5% over that same time period.

“Some of the iconic cards have finally cooled off and are contributing to this market fall,” said Geoff Wilson, who runs the company. “Kobe’s 1996 Topps PSA 10 is down 28% since its high point on February 12. LeBron’s 2003 Topps Chrome is down 23% from its high point on February 6.”

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Wilson says that while the market has dipped down, it’s important not to lose perspective.

“These cards are still up more than 200% since November,” he said.

Collector Patrick Ryan, whose Instagram feed (ThePRyanCollection) became a must watch over the past year, agrees.

“What we are seeing with the card market feels a lot like what we saw from 2015 to 2019,” he said. “Prices take three steps forward and one step back. And the modern and vintage markets are never synchronized because when we start to see enough volume to push prices down in one category, it’s generally because money is moving out of another category.”

Ryan says another factor is diversification outside of cards.

“Obviously Top Shot is getting a lot of attention and dollars, but so are some of the more traditional categories like autographs and memorabilia,” Ryan said. “The rise in price in authenticated signatures of Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth and Arnold Palmer is undeniable.”

Ken Goldin of Goldin Auctions says he hasn’t noticed a shift in the overall market. A 1996-97 Topps Chrome Kobe refractor card he is selling in his current auction will sell for more than $1 million.

“I’m a macro guy, not a micro guy,” Goldin said. “I haven’t seen many changes.”

At the very high end, Goldin broke the record for the highest priced 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie cards when he sold two of them for $738,000. Last week, Robert Edwards Auction sold a 10 for $615,000.

Leighton Sheldon of Just Collect, which specializes in buying collections, has noticed a significant rise in the Michael Jordan rookies coming to market.

“The recent escalation in prices on the 1986 Fleer MJ and sticker have caused the public to go through childhood belongings in hopes of finding riches,” Sheldon said. “We’ve never had so many Michael Jordan rookie calls and emails as compared to what we’ve seen in the last 30 days.”

And supply takes time to even make it to the marketplace because many cards being plucked out of a sheets and shoe boxes haven’t been graded. Sending to get graded, post and sell take another month.

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