“Sports cards are about to become a cultural phenomenon again.” -Gary Vaynerchuk
Gary Vaynerchuk has a big platform. An energetic entrepreneur and digital marketing guru, he’s the owner of New York-based Vayner Media, which created the recent Dwyane Wade ad that had the sports world buzzing earlier this month. An early champion of social media, his followers number in the millions. Would-be Gary V’s hang on his every word there. He built a small family wine business into a huge internet success and still sells it. He’s also written best selling books and is in demand as a speaker. He still hustles on Saturday mornings, showing fans how to flip garage sale goods for profit.
How’d he get his start?
By selling sports cards as a kid about 30 years ago.
In recent months, he’s let it be known he’s getting back in the game at 43. A little buying here; a few packs opened there. Now, he’s apparently jumping in with both feet. He’s coming to the National Sports Collectors Convention this summer, set up and ready to wheel and deal.
— Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) April 17, 2019
On Wednesday, he appeared on the Rich Eisen Show, telling a nationwide audience why he’s bullish on the hobby.
We’ll excuse the pronunciation of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s first name, but if you’re in the hobby–especially in a selling role–you have to love this. A well-respected business and social media king touting trading cards as hot market that’s about to get hotter. Of course, some of what he talks about here–kids who grew up 30 years ago getting back into the hobby–isn’t new. It’s one of the reasons why things have been on the upswing for a while now. It stands to reason that 80s and 90s kids who loved cards then would get back in now that they’re adults with more disposable income and kids of their own. However, hearing that statement on a huge stage from someone who’s not really connected to the mainstream hobby–yet–opens the door a lot wider.
There’s no mention of the vintage market, but he’s discussed it recently, too.
There are other well-known folks who’ve been talking about their collections recently. It’s all good.
There is a cautionary tale here, though. That last “boom” left a lot of people high and dry. They bought so many boxes, cases, sets and singles of some “hot” players in the late 1980s and early 90s that increased production led to a glut of product we’re still dealing with today. Of course, it’s a different market now and has been for a while: Serial-numbered cards. Grading. Autograph cards. A fairly liquid online market where it’s easy to buy and sell. Information? We’ve got it.
Speculating in high-end rookie cards can pay big dividends. Ask anyone who loaded up on Mike Trout from 2009-2011, on LeBron in 2003 or Patrick Mahomes in 2017. The vintage market is generally strong with high-end examples of the top cards growing year-over-year. Yet the risk factor is much more amplified today. Instead of losing a few bucks because a player didn’t pan out in the 90s was like whiffing on a penny stock unless you were buying cases. Whiffing on a high-end card investment today can cost thousands of dollars. Can’t miss prospects do miss. Career-defining injuries do happen.
The hobby is a different world, too. Dozens of new products across all five sports being released every year. Grades. Half grades. Parallels. Autographs. Auto Relics. Chrome. Prizm. One-card boxes. Three-color patches.
It’s a lot to know–and a lot different from just knowing whether Steve Avery’s most popular rookie card is Topps, Fleer, Donruss or Upper Deck.
Sports is still sports, though, and people have always needed a tangible connection. Cards and other stuff provide it. It’s why the hobby isn’t going anywhere–at least not for a long time. In fact, it’s been growing at a pretty good clip in recent years.
Gary V is usually right about trends in the online and business world. It’ll be exciting to see if his enthusiasm leads to a huge increase in the number of fans and former collectors becoming active in the hobby over the next couple of years, whether they’re collecting, flipping, dealing, breaking or a little of everything.
It’ll be a lot better if they come prepared to learn–and stick around long-term.