COVID and the Card Market

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on various aspects of our lives, including the world of sports and collecting. With the suspension of major events like basketball, football, and baseball games, card collectors and memorabilia enthusiasts were left wondering how the industry would be affected. While the industry initially saw a boost due to increased leisure time at home, a long-lasting drop-off followed years later. In this article, we dive into how COVID impacted the collectible card market and the resulting effects years later.

First and foremost, the pandemic boosted the card market in the early months by providing an activity for collectors to do while stuck at home. As sports leagues suspended games, ESPN aired classic games throughout history, which led to increased interest and demand for sports memorabilia. Furthermore, with the stimulus checks issued by the government, many individuals had extra spending money to invest in new collections or expand existing ones, leading to a surge in sales. For instance, Roberto Clemente's 1955 Topps rookie card sold for $478,000 in February 2021. This upward trend soon fell off as the pandemic persisted.

With the extension of lockdowns and delayed game schedules, sports fans became less interested in collecting cards, and prices began to drop. The pandemic also had a significant impact on the economy and resulted in a reduction in disposable income for many households. Therefore, collectors were hesitant to continue making large purchases, leading to a sharp decline in demand for the collectible cards. For instance, prices of LeBron James rookie cards that skyrocketed to $110,000 in 2020, gradually dropped to $35,000 in late 2021. 

The high value caused by the initial surge in demand resulted in a market bubble, causing prices to plummet back to reality levels. The market bubble burst with an influx of sellers trying to offload their collections, but with a decline in demand, buyers had less interest in purchasing at inflated prices. The drop-off in prices was mainly seen in high-end and rare cards, as common ones maintained or slightly decreased in value. In 2019, one card publicly sold for over $1,000,000. In 2020, that number rose to 9, and then 43 in 2021, and 39 in 2022. So far in 2023, only two cards have sold over that one million dollar mark. As the pandemic eventually fades away, collectors’ attention has somewhat shifted towards more traditional activities leading to long-lasting changes in the industry. 

COVID undoubtedly had an enormous impact on the collectible card market, with hobbies as popular sports and leisure activities halted. While a surge in sales initially emerged, the pandemic's extended lockdown and decreased disposable income led to a significant decline in prices that followed after a few years. While demand for collectible cards continues, prices have fallen closer to reality levels due to decreased demand and a market bubble. The post-pandemic market is likely to see more traditional hobbies regain interest, but card collecting remains a unique hobby that will always have its followers. If you are a card or memorabilia collector looking to expand your collection, be cautious when buying highly valued items and understand that prices may fluctuate in the unpredictable world of collecting.

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