The demand for sports cards is at an all-time high

Sports cards rise in popularity amidst the pandemic

Collecting sports cards is an old hobby that has seen an unprecedented surge in popularity over the last year. As a result, the  trading, buying, and selling of sports cards has never been hotter.

In January, American entrepreneur and Indianapolis-native Rob Gough bought a rare 1952 Mickey Mantle baseball card for a record-setting US $5.2 million. Meanwhile, a limited edition LeBron James basketball card sold for a little over $1.8 million last July.

Trevor Ingram, owner of Sports Card Check-Swing in Brossard, said demand for cards started reaching all-time heights last year.

“In the early stages of the pandemic, I think people were looking for new hobbies to pass the time from home and get their minds off the virus,” Ingram said. “Collecting cards just so happens to lend itself well to confinement and social distancing.”

The most common and affordable method of collecting sports cards is to buy individual packs, in which consumers can expect to get several cards from the base set with a slight chance of pulling exclusive cards called inserts. Cards from the base set are common and guaranteed in every pack whereas inserts are unique cards that are randomly inserted into packs, which makes them considerably harder to acquire.

“Autographed, jersey memorabilia, and rookie inserts are generally worth the most, but it depends on the sport and particular set.” Ingram said.

Retail and hobby boxes offer packs in greater bulk with better odds of pulling a set’s valuable inserts. The former is widely distributed and sold at most retail outlets, while the latter is an alternative that gives avid collectors a certain number of guaranteed hits at a higher cost.

Cards can also be acquired on an individual basis. Nowadays, a desirable card is a point and click away for card gatherers, thanks in large part to the internet, social media, and e-commerce platforms like eBay.

According to Ingram, a fervent card collector himself, the most dedicated people in the hobby will do a little bit of everything. For Ingram, that means generating a personal collection of untouchable cards, which allows him to regularly open packs for the sheer joy and excitement, while simultaneously turning a profit whenever appropriate.

“As a kid, I was addicted to the mystery that comes with opening a fresh box of cards,” Ingram said. “Even though there are better ways to spend money in the hobby with the lopsided pack odds nowadays, the thrill and excitement of opening packs isn’t there when you are buying cards secondhand.”

With the hobby’s resurgence in recent times, Ingram said his valuable sports stock sells out in a matter of hours. He added that due to limited supply and absurd demand, prices for card packs across every major sport have risen by a large margin.

“Now, some boxes are selling for up to five times their original price, and those numbers will keep climbing so long as people are willing to spend,” Ingram said. “Unfortunately, average people who are interested in collecting but don’t want to spend an entire paycheck on cards are being priced out.”

Despite the growing costs of collecting sports cards, Ingram said there are ways to stay engaged without breaking the bank amidst the card market boom.

While most card investors set their sights on the exclusive mint-condition cards, many will bundle their non-graded cards for sale at a modest price. This remains a viable option for those who are looking to open packs with their children or just indulge in the mystery themselves.

“Getting a card professionally graded is costly and usually takes a few months with shipping,” Ingram explained. “Grading significantly boosts the value of cards, but most of the time it’s simply not worth the struggle unless the card is worthwhile.”

Sports Card Check-Swing never put products on reserve for clients in the past — according to Ingram, no one ever asked, and the need was never there.

Today, Ingram said he gets calls daily from clients asking him to put aside products for them; often months ahead of scheduled release dates. He added that if not for an imposed limit on the number of pre-orders he can accept, the local card shop would have nothing to sell on the days of release.

“I’ve been in this business for over 30 years, and this is undoubtedly the biggest sports card boom I’ve ever witnessed,” Ingram said. “Yet, I think the industry is years away from actually reaching its peak.”


Photo by Liam Sharp


New collections at Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts prompts some questions

Are museums and art collectors tokenizing or supporting artists? 

Bruce Bailey is a philanthropist, art collector and “major friend” of Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA). Originally from Ontario, Bailey studied law in Halifax and became close with many artists attending Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD), thus beginning his art collecting practice.

Today, his collection includes hundreds of works, from local Canadian artists like Michael Snow, Christopher Wahl and Kent Monkman, to old masters, like Francisco Goya, Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt and Otto Dix. A mere handful of these are currently on display at the MMFA in “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”

Mary-Dailey Demarais and Bruce Bailey

The name attached to this collection is derived from a line in Song of Myself, a poem by Walt Whitman. The collection’s curator, Mary-Dailey Desmarais, chose this name to allude to Bailey’s love for humanity, the human experience and all the good and bad that goes with it.

The moon is a recurring image among the collection. I see it as something that grounds us, reminding viewers of their size and role in the universe: something the entire world can look to.  

The museum also recently opened a new collection wing, The Arts of One World, a tribute to Martinique poet and philosopher, Édouard Glissant, whose work questioned ethnocentric views of world history. The collection is divided into wings and rooms dedicated to different continents, Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean and the ocean (“The Blue Continent”), each containing contemporary art works and cultural objects.

The collection is a result of years of work and a team of cultural curators, critical museologists, and various historians and art specialists. The exhibition prompts further research and educational practices for children and adults, with tours, workshops, discussions and more. It isn’t a collection to be taken lightly, it requires reviewing and multiple visits – or just one very dedicated and attentive day.

Part of The Arts of One World collection, Recasting the Fabric of the Americas includes a gold emblazoned work by Mexican artist, Betsabeé Romero. Guerreros en cautiverio III (Captive Warriors III) is a piece acquired with funds that Bruce Bailey raised for the purchase of an artwork, but not from Bailey’s private collection. Guerreros en cautiverio III is an engraved tire decorated in gold leaf. The statement accompanying the work described Romero’s interest in human migration, borders and boundaries, and cultural traditions, “to activate the craft of history, to weave memory in new ways, particularly those of Indigenous peoples.”

“Weaving memory in new ways…” Collecting and displaying cultural artefacts, paintings included, isn’t easy. It has to be approachable. It has to make you want to look closer and do the work, encourage exploration, reading, and questioning. 

I find myself asking whether these works should be in a museum, would they be better off in their homes? Where are their homes? Who made them?

It’s easy to track contemporary works, and including them in rooms saturated with ancient objects is empowering. But they’re hard to follow when walking through. Everything needs to be read.

“We are now living in a golden age,” Bailey said. He has an engaged and audacious vision, radically supporting Indigenous and gay artists.

Viewing these two new collections, Bailey’s and The Arts of One World, put the practice of collection at the forefront. Each time an object is displayed, its context, at face value, will change too. Bailey’s artworks don’t mean the same thing in storage as they do up on the gallery’s walls. The way they are placed and the works they live beside will change the story they tell. Collections create a narrative, and viewers should ask themselves who the narrative is for, who put it together and who might be at a loss because of it.

“Art has been a refuge for me because it has allowed me to create an alternate world that allowed me to escape from the grim realities of my real world,” Bailey said, in a documentary about his work as a salonnier, currently on view at Cinéma du Musée

The term “salonnier” refers to “les salons de Paris,”  a cultural archetype of largely private and upper-class gatherings, most frequently involving the arts.

“By establishing an intellectually stimulating and egalitarian space for discourse, [salonniers] promote Enlightenment values of rationality, equality, and fraternity, realize a distinct social good and are at the forefront of important issues shaping society and politics,” according to The Public Sphere’s Salons.

While salons are traditionally elitist happenings, Bailey’s role as an openly gay salonnier, and thus a significant figure of Canadian culture (the National Post called him the Canadian Gatsby) dismantles some of these notions. Although it’s hard to find the line between the good that is being done and the tokenizing.

The tokenization of art (“offering fractional ownership of single tier-one artworks,” according to The Tokenizer), is a very capitalist thing in and of itself, but I’m using the term here to refer to “a member of a minority group included in an otherwise homogeneous set of people in order to give the appearance of diversity,” according to Lexico.

The western institutional art world and the people that run galleriesvare predominantly white. The works chosen to be part of this collection become cherry picked symbols of the culture and country from which they were made. Accepting that as a fact, and attempting to dismantle it so collections like The Arts of One World can exist, free of these notions, is impossible.



Photos by Cecilia Piga

Exit mobile version