Sports cards, memorabilia businesses see spike in sales

If you happen to have $900,000 collecting dust, have they got a deal for you.

Because of its gaudy price it made headlines that a signed rookie baseball card of Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout sold recently by Goldin Auctions for $922,500.

Chalk up another affect of the COVID-19 pandemic - a surging collectibles market driven by online purchasing, free time and the constants of supply and demand.

Marc Goldsmith, owner of Chicagoland Sports Cards & Memorabilia in Buffalo Grove, once had his eye on the Trout card, of which 5 were printed.

"I passed on trying to buy that card for $550," said Goldsmith, busily preparing for this weekend's public reopening under COVID-19 guidelines.

"All the gamblers and the people in the stock market have taken their money and put it into collectibles and sports cards," Goldsmith said.

It's not just high rollers moving the market.

"I would say them and everyone," Goldsmith said. "Business has tripled, I would say, in the last couple months, just by sales."

As well, newly creative marketing such as selling slots to join in the opening of memorabilia "mystery boxes" and card pack "breaks" shown on YouTube and social media has fired collector imagination.

Mitch Adelstein, operator of the Chicago Sports Spectacular memorabilia shows at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, said online prices inflated "three, four times" in April.

"People are sitting at home with nothing to do, with a credit card. There's only so much time you can spend on Netflix," said Adelstein.

He's seen similar increases in non-sports items such as comic books and Beatles, Coca-Cola, Disney and McDonald's collectibles.

"You're starting to see inventory dry up, and obviously when you see inventory dry up because people don't have access to the players it pushes up the pricing and the interest level of the product that is still on the market. Typical supply and demand," Adelstein said.

Like Adelstein, who offers more than 10,000 items of all types on his eBay site, the wise memorabilia and card dealer has thrived during the pandemic through online presence.

"Had we not set up an internet business we'd be in trouble, I think, but we've had our website since 2000. We have had a price list on social media and people have been driving up," said Steve Wilson of Jim and Steve's Sportscards in Waukegan.

"Our internet sales have skyrocketed," Wilson said.

He's had to hire his sons, J.W. and J.R., to keep up.

"There was a quick moment where I thought we were going to be in trouble, but then it turns out without sports, sports cards are the next-closest thing," he said.

The good news is there's also room at the lower end of the market. Wilson said he fields many $5 online orders, and the average walk-in customer spends around $100.

"You can stop in and buy a complete set for $59.95 or you can get some packs of cards for $2, $3. A team set you can buy for $5," he said.

"You don't have to spend big bucks to enjoy it. It's just where you want to take your collection."

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