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Gotta Catch 'Em All: Pokemon and sports trading card industry booms during pandemic

Posted at 6:35 AM, Apr 19, 2021

WYOMING, Mich. — Dust off your old binder of Pokémon trading cards, because you could be sitting on a gold mine.

Thanks to the pandemic, buying, selling, and collecting trading cards, specifically 90's Pokémon and sports cards, has become a real money-maker for some people.

"COVID kind of kicked in, and a lot of people weren't sure what's going to happen with the economy," said Eric Purnell, owner of All Star Sports Cards & Gaming. "It kind of shifted to more of getting extra money, stimulus money, buying stuff for investments, and that's what I think really shifted."

Purnell says he's seen the industry boom impact his own business.

"Over the last probably two months or so, the gaming part of collectibles has just skyrocketed and boomed," said Purnell. "About two years ago, there was Pokémon cards we had in the shop that would sell for $3, $4. Now, those same cards are selling for hundreds of dollars."

Purnell says his sales in-store and online more than tripled in 2020, and business is still going strong.

During this resurgence, Pokémon cards have been selling anywhere from $10 to $50,000.

However, the price of a card is all dependent on how rare the card is, its condition, and professional grading.

One of the few top grading companies in the country, PSA, even suspended its grading services through July 1 due to a backlog of submissions.

Why does professional grading matter? If you get a top grade from companies like PSA, a card can sell for thousands of dollars more. Some highly graded cards have been reported to sell upwards of $300,000.

However, it's not just Pokémon cards, sports cards, have been seeing a major uptick.

"We get calls daily on players, on teams, on era's, sports, and it's all sports. It goes from $5, $10, $20 a box to $600, $700 a box. It's crazy. Myself and Brian made a pretty big purchase where we bought a couple boxes for $100,000 apiece about seven months ago, which by the way, now if I still had them, would sell about $900,000 apiece."

The trading card resurgence was brought to light by social media and YouTube influencers, including Gary Vee on the sports side and Logan Paul on the Pokémon side.

Social media is a big part of the industry. Jason Gross, All Star Sports Cards & Gaming's marketing manager, says their social media is a huge part of their sales and continued growth.

"Instagram and Facebook has both grown by over 200 percent since I started then in November, and then our TikTok has gained 2,500 followers within two, three months," said Gross.

While this industry boom is probably a trend that will eventually fade, the hobby continues to gain interest, and it shows in the numbers.

One eBay report showed trading card sales grew by 142% in 2020, with more than 4 million more cards sold than the previous year.

The most popular type of trading card sold on eBay in 2020 was Pokémon, with sales increasing 574% compared to 2019.

If somebody wants to join in on the fun, there are three ways to do so: investing, card flipping, and collecting.

For more information, contact All Star Sports Cards & Gaming.