We’ve all seen comments that a lot of sports cards have been selling during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve heard from regular hobbyists, dealers and hobby shops about increased business. We’ve even gotten a few cold hard facts about sales of Michael Jordan items. Now, though, we’re getting a much deeper look at just how significant the increase has been compared to 2019 and early 2020, a time when there was already a lot of buying and selling in what was becoming a strong market.
Since so many people have been at home with computer access and eBay offers the most common access to a huge number of popular cards in both straight sale and auction markets, they’ve been the go-to source for most buyers. Some of those purchasers are collectors with more time and more disposable income, some are former collectors who have used the quarantine time to get back into a hobby they once knew and others are jumping in for the first time.
The Market as a Whole
Millions of sports cards sell on eBay each year but this year’s numbers have established new records. Company reps tell SC Daily that sports card category sales from March through May were 92 percent higher than they were during the last three months of 2019.
Since the coronavirus outbreak, basketball cards have become the most popular, with sales spiking more than 130% from March through May compared to the last three months of 2019. Baseball cards take the #2 spot, with sales up more than 50%, followed by football cards, with a 47% increase.
Just in the last three months, basketball card sales on eBay have risen 56%.
While eBay doesn’t release dollar figures for items sold, we can get a percentage-based look at overall sales by sport and player for the last few months.
Here’s a look at more sales numbers:
They’ve been in demand since their pre-draft cards hit the market last summer, but since the coronavirus outbreak, trading card sales for rookies Zion Williamson and Ja Morant have skyrocketed. Williamson cards spiked 115% and Morant’s by nearly 200%. Although Morant has seen a larger increase since late last year, the quantity of Williamson cards sold is 50% higher than Morant.
Sales for Michael Jordan trading cards increased more than 370% between the beginning of March and the end of May. Much of that is undoubtedly due to the buzz surrounding “The Last Dance” but basketball in general has been on fire.
Since the coronavirus outbreak, LeBron James card sales increased more than 315% while collectors also bought Kevin Durant, who hasn’t played a minute over the last several months. eBay says Durant trading card sales went up more than 320%.
With people unexpectedly spending more time at home, sales of baseball cards on eBay jumped 61% from February to May 2020.
According to eBay, Mike Trout cards have seen the largest increase in sales among popular players. Compared to October-December 2019, sales of Trout in March, April and May were up 150%. Since there haven’t been any regular season games in 2020, the spike in sales comes primarily from growing interest in cards during the pandemic.
Derek Jeter’s election to the Baseball Hall of Fame and the increase in collector interest since March has caused sales of his cards to more than double compared to the last three months of 2019 and during the pandemic months alone, Jeter sales have jumped 56%. With a fairly minimal checklist compared to current players, Jeter rookie cards have been on a steady rise since last winter.
The interest extends to players who have been retired for more than a few years. Jackie Robinson baseball card sales have jumped by 182% from the beginning of March to the end of May. Ken Griffey Jr.’s cards spiked have more than 140% in the first six months of 2020. Cal Ripken Jr. cards have been on a roll, too, doubling since the beginning of March.
Football cards are up 62% since the virus hit North America.
With the likelihood that large shows may be few and far between across North America for at least the next several months, collectors lucky enough to maintain a level of disposable income or investment funds will continue to spend it online.