Sales of basketball cards increased 373 percent from 2019 to 2020 led by a quartet of current and former players according to new data released by eBay.
The list of top selling players was dominated by five familiar names. A resurgent interest in Michael Jordan cards before, during and after ESPN’s The Last Dance documentary pushed him to the top of the list, followed by Kobe Bryant, whose cards saw a year-long rise after his death in a helicopter crash in January. LeBron James, who captured another NBA title with the Los Angeles Lakers, was the third biggest seller, followed by Zion Williamson and Mike Trout.
eBay says sales in each of its sports card categories grew by a wide margin last year as collectors, investors and fans pounced on both current and vintage cards in what’s become an explosive growth market in collectibles.
Sales of soccer cards increased by the largest percentage as the once quiet, niche market began to expand at a record pace in North America and beyond. eBay reported soccer sales were up by a whopping 1,586 percent. Sales of hockey cards grew 258 percent, football 168 percent and baseball 73 percent.
“Last year saw an industry-wide surge in collecting and flipping trading cards due in large part to people staying home and finding new ways to spend their time, turning to cards while there was a lack of sports on TV,” said Nicole Colombo, general manager of Collectibles & Trading Cards at eBay. “In addition, new collectors are entering the trading cards space as another avenue of investment to diversify their portfolios.”
eBay’s report included non-sports and gaming cards as well and the overall growth leader last year was Pokemon, where sales were up 574 percent.
Among the top sellers highlighted in eBay’s report were the $555,988 paid for a 2000 Tom Brady Contenders Rookie Ticket Autograph, $500,000 for a 1996-97 Topps Chrome Refractor Kobe Bryant and $511,100 for a Magic: The Gathering Black Lotus (all graded Gem Mint 10 by PSA).
In all, U.S. sales of trading cards grew 142 percent from 2019 to 2020. Over four million more trading cards were sold by U.S.-based accounts in 2020 than the year before.
The increase in cards wasn’t confined to North America, however. Globally, eBay says sales were up 162 percent, led by Australia, where trading cards grew by 379 percent. China was next at 205 percent, Canada at 149 percent and sales in Europe as a whole grew 113 percent.
Columbo says the company doesn’t believe a slowdown in interest is imminent.
“We anticipate that this trajectory will keep pace in 2021, and to meet this demand, we’re continuing to build on new ways to enhance the eBay experience for buyers and sellers, especially in the collectibles space.”