The resurgence of sports card collecting

Old-school hobby makes a comeback amid pandemic

Trading cards are often ranked by condition, using a grading system that ranges from one to 10. Photo Peter Vryonis

For some, collecting sports cards has been a lifelong hobby. The same cannot be said for Julien Harvey, a Concordia Stingers equipment manager. He admits that he got started because his friend owed him money and repaid him with a hefty amount of baseball cards. “And once you’re in, you’re hooked,” said Harvey. He’s been collecting for a little bit over a year now.

With the pandemic has come the introduction of new hobbies. One particular hobby that witnessed a rise in its popularity is the collection of sports cards. This is a pastime that can become quite pricey, but it hasn’t stopped some from trying to collect the most pristine cards on the market.

His main collection consists of football cards, the professional sport he follows the most. He’s dabbled with soccer cards and most recently, basketball. However, Harvey cannot wait for the new Formula 1 cards to appear on the market. 

“My main purpose in collecting is not to make money,” said Harvey. “When I sell cards, I reinvest what I get into more cards.” He stressed that card collecting should remain a hobby in order to keep the fun aspect alive.

There are four ways Harvey collects his cards: buying packs, participating in auctions, buying and sharing boxes with friends, and buying specific cards on online platforms to fill certain collections.

He shared some advice for people that start trading. “Study the cards before buying them, I lost a lot of money buying cards with no value in the beginning,” said Harvey. “It is also important to have personal collections and not just hunt the pristine cards. That’ll take the fun out of it.”

Another Montreal collector, Jesse Reeves, has been collecting for years. “As far as I’m concerned, I’m a custodian of Canadian history,” said Reeves. His most valuable card is a Bobby Orr 1966 rookie card that he bought 15 years ago for $2,000. That same card now has a value of $6,000 dollars, according to Reeves.

“If I were to sell any of my cards, I’d want them to be passed on to someone who values them like I do.” He’d also love to pass on the cards to his grandkids.

He has a ton of cards that are scale-graded. The grades range from one to 10, and Reeves tends to go for 7s or 8s which are cards in near mint to mint condition.  “You don’t have to spend a lot of money to be a card collector,” said Reeves. “There are a ton of cards that are a four or five scale that are in great condition.”

There’s a ton of sentimental value for him as well. Many of his cards are not graded; he just loves to pick up a card and marvel at it without worrying about its value. 

The pandemic has prompted a lot of people to get into cards, causing a lot of competition among collectors. “It’s getting very hard to collect vintage cards,” said Reeves. “The supply has almost dried up.” Card packs are a lot more expensive now. You don’t need to be a millionaire to collect, but the spike in activity during the pandemic has driven up the prices of most of the market’s most coveted cards and collections.