FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – For over 30 years, Sport Spot has been a go-to location for trading card enthusiasts. Owner Ron Straessle prides himself on how the store has adapted while interest in the hobby has ebbed and flowed over the years.
“There used to be eight to 10 shops in town,” Straessle said. “We’re the last one.”
As the last fully-dedicated trading card shop in Fort Wayne, Straessle and his team have enjoyed a boom in collecting over the last year.
With many stuck at home in the early months of the pandemic, interest in trading cards skyrocketed. The exact reason for this uptick in demand varies, yet Sport Spot Owner Ron Straessle attributes this spike to the popular documentary, “The Last Dance,” which centers on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls during their 1998 championship season.
“I think people that are collecting now, younger kids, they never saw him play, and that really exposed his career and got basketball rolling,” Straessle said. “The other sports started to follow.”
The rising demand for trading cards yielded soaring prices. Straessle mentioned that the starting price for cards featuring top athletes like Tom Brady, Mike Trout and Zion Williamson sell for hundreds of dollars. Vintage cards with baseball legends like Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron start around $500. Depending on other factors like the card’s surface and edges, they could be worth thousands.
Others have taken advantage of this trend by buying cards on behalf of collectors. Card breaking involves a purchaser (AKA, the “breaker”) buying hundreds to thousands of dollars of card boxes on behalf of others. Shortly after purchasing these boxes, the breaker divides these cards for the buyers, mainly based on team.
Breakers like Midwest Box Breaks often live stream their breaks and reel in thousands of viewers. Some of them do not even pitch in and just want to see what is in each box or pack.
Baseball, basketball and football trading cards are not only categories seeing a surge in demand. Straessle also mentioned how interest in other sports like MMA, soccer and golf has also surged. He even stocks non-sports cards like Pokémon and Star Wars.
Straessle has seen steady foot traffic throughout the past year, even seeing customers that had not visited in years. These longtime customers are now bringing in their children to try and get them interested in the hobby. That was not the case 10 to 15 years ago.
“We went through a long period where the kids were out of it,” Straessle said.
Straessle has been around the industry long enough to know that this surge in demand will not last forever. What he does hope is that this will bloom into the next generation of card traders and hobbyists.
“It’s been around forever, it’s going to go on forever,” Straessle said. “As long as there’s sports, there’s going to be card trading.”