‘Kinda crazy now’: Pokemon, sports cards surging in popularity in Utah, worldwide

Local News
Pokemon cards

Cards are seen for a beginners’ clinic during the first day of the 2019 Pokemon World Championships at the Washington Convention Center August 16, 2019, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

(ABC4) – Dust off the binders of old trading cards sitting in your attic, you might be able to pay off the house with what’s inside. 

The trading card industry is having a renaissance and sports player cards and Pokemon trading cards are at the forefront of resurging interest in Utah and worldwide. 

“I think what really set it off and was about a year ago when the pandemic rolled around, you know you have a lot of people sitting around at home, kind of in quarantine and going through their old collection of cards,” says Tanner Powell, who works at Overtime Cards, a trading cards shop in Murray. 

“And then that kind of sparked everyone wanting to reenter the hobby, and see what it’s all about nowadays. With how the market is now, you’ve seen a lot of cards going in the million-dollar ranges which I think also brings more people in trying to find the golden ticket,” he continues. 

Million-dollar pieces of thinly-sliced cardboard are becoming more and more prevalent as the industry continues to experience explosive growth. In early April, an autographed rookie card of NFL superstar Tom Brady went for $2.2 million dollars in an auction, setting the record for the most expensive football card ever.

Baseball and basketball cards are also extremely popular. The bigger the name, the higher the value. A card kept behind plastic and given a high grade with an authenticator can raise the value even more.

With the hobby’s increasing visibility thanks to social media influencers like Gary Vaynerchuk and Logan Paul, more and more folks are hoping to cash in their old collections, or hop on the train and buy new cards. 

Powell sees plenty of dusty old binders come into his shop on a frequent basis. 

“We’ll have almost a couple times a day, people come in, looking to sell their old collection or some from back in the day. And with how the market is we’ve seen a handful of [Michael] Jordan rookie cards over maybe almost weekly. And we had a couple weeks ago someone with some nice vintage stuff from 1950s and 60s. It’s a lot tougher to come by now, you don’t see a lot, so that was a cool collection to look at,” says Powell. 

“It’s kind of crazy right now.”

Pokémon cards are even hotter. A Google Trends search for “Pokémon cards” shows a sharp increase in interest, especially in the last few months. In the interest by region portion of the trends search, Utah scored a 95 of 100 when it comes to the interest of the fantasy creature card collection. 

While card shops like Overtime can provide a few options when it comes to buying Pokemon cards at resell value, places like Target and Walmart have sold packs and boxes at regular retail prices. 

However, the madness has gotten so out of hand that the retail giants have put selling Pokemon cards on hold. On Thursday, both Target and Walmart announced that they would be suspending sales of the cards due to safety concerns. 

Avid Pokemon collector Jason Jung of Salt Lake City has firsthand experience when it comes to the local craziness in grabbing a set of cards. Jung describes to ABC4 how one day when he got a tip from a friend that the Target nearby would have a supply of box sets and packs. When he arrived at the store, he found a line of 30 or so lined up at the door, waiting for it to open. 

“The people at the front, they’re just grabbing like 10-12 boxes, likes as much as they could,” recalls Jung, who guesses those people were looking to flip the boxes for a profit. “But I walked up and was able to get my fair share and I was out.” 

It’s getting even harder now to get a box or pack of cards, according to Jung.

A few valuable Pokemon cards from Jason Jung’s collection.

Jung has built up a reputation locally after coming across some pretty valuable cards while pursuing the Pokemon hobby, including a couple of Charizards, which can go for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars on the secondary market. 

While gathering potential investments (yes, they call cards ‘investments’ nowadays) is a thrill for Jung and his friends, the local community involved in the collecting scene makes the hobby even more enjoyable. 

“If you can build relationships with people that you know, it’s so much better because some people will hit you up and say ‘Yo, I got these, I could get you those for retail, take care of you on a pack here,’” said Jung. “But it’s kind of crazy now.” 

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