Hobby Musings: 2018 another strong year for the hobby world – 2017 was one of the stronger years for the hobby in a while, so I was curious to see how 2018 would follow up. Having the chance to talk formally and informally with people across the hobby, most accounts came to the conclusion that 2018 was another exceptional year in sports cards. With strong rookies, strong sales and some mainstream stories to boot, 2018 left us with some interesting stories.
The 2018 National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland proved to be a success. There was some speculation as to whether it could be a better location than 2017 in Chicago. However, the busy crowds during the show proved once again just how good a host city Cleveland can be for the National. The people in charge of the show obviously agreed as it set to return there in 2022.
The National also generated one of the biggest hobby stories of the year when Vintage Breaks pulled a high-grade Mickey Mantle card from a pack of 1955 Bowman. I was off to the side of the National’s main stage when the card was pulled. The roar of excitement from everyone involved showed once again how a group of adult men can instantly be reduced to their childhoods because of a baseball card. The pull has helped spark a wave of interest in vintage card breaking. It’s a category I expect to grow even more in 2019, especially if more sealed vintage packs and boxes can be located.
Check out a video of Vintage Breaks’ 1955 Bowman Pack Break from the 2018 National Sports Collectors Convention
A card not nearly as well known as the ’52 Mantle also captured some of the national spotlight recently. Mark Jackson’s 1990-91 Hoops card received a major spike in popularity thanks to the discovery of the Menendez Brothers in the background. The card took on a life of its own and quickly became a popular seller. Quite possibly the strangest hobby story of the year, it goes to show how supposed hobby trash can instantly become treasure.
Coming off of incredible rookie classes in 2017, 2018 proved to be another strong year for the newcomers. Baseball was arguably the biggest rookie winner of 2018. Following a 2017 that included Aaron Judge and Andrew Benintendi was no small feat, but Shohei Ohtani mania quickly swept the hobby nation. Coupled with other impressive rookies like Gleyber Torres and Ronald Acuna, baseball products were again a hot commodity this year. 2019 should prove to be an interesting year for baseball cards as super prospects including Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr. are expected to make their MLB debuts.
Ohtani laid claim to the most talked-about card of 2018. With a chase that was ignited in part by a big money offer from Blowout Cards, Ohtani’s autographed Superfractor had people scrambling for boxes of Bowman. With the chase lasting for quite some time, the card was eventually pulled and auctioned off for a staggering $184,000. A big sale for a modern trading card, it showed once again how big numbers aren’t reserved for only vintage cardboard.
Bowman also gathered a nice chunk of hobby attention earlier in the year thanks to its Mega Boxes. A product sold only at Target, the boxes featured a variety of numbered parallels and autographs. The boxes delighted many who were able to get them. They also frustrated several, including myself, who were left with only an empty display box to stare at.
Football came into this year with a lot of promise because of the five rookie quarterbacks selected in the first round. So far, that promise has paid off as a number of the big rookies, including Baker Mayfield & Saquon Barkley, have performed well on the field and in the card community. Football rookies also yielded some nice surprises like Broncos rookie RB Phillip Lindsay. Lamar Jackson’s late burst onto the scene after taking over for Joe Flacco as the Ravens’ quarterback provided another good rookie option. With prices already respectable for his cards, a deep postseason run can only help elevate the hobby profile for the former Heisman winner.
The biggest hobby winner in football this year though was Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes. Not getting to play much in 2017, Mahomes quickly made up for that by having an MVP-caliber season in 2018. As such, the demand and prices for his cards skyrocketed considerably and are still strong sellers heading into the postseason. Mahomes’ strong year not only helped fuel his singles, but also kept prices for 2017 football products at good levels. An easy pick for me as the 2018 trading card MVP, Mahomes is a perfect example of how much the QB positions means to the card market.
With 2018 in the books, we turn the page to what promises to be an interesting 2019 in the hobby. I mentioned the potential baseball rookies already, but basketball could end up being the biggest winner this year. With a rookie class that could include Duke star Zion Williamson, Panini will have a nice challenge on their hands to fill demand.
The football card market will be an interesting watch this year as the potential 2019 rookie class leaves a lot to be desired at first glance. That being said, all it takes is one big rookie to fuel demand. As the 2013 class showed us too, a year that seems lackluster at first can produce some nice players in the long run.
All in all though, I’m encouraged by the overall state of the hobby heading into the year. There are still some issues and problems, including the universal fact that redemptions stink. That being said, the strength of recent years have helped to build considerable momentum in the card world on multiple fronts. That momentum has generated a sense of hope and positivity in the card world that seemed to have been lacking for quite some time.
We’ll have a better sense of where things are by the time the National returns to Chicago this summer. One thing is for sure in that the hobby is fun, enjoyable and generating a lot of interest and dollars. That’s a win-win for everyone involved in the card world, and hopefully it continues to stay that way for a good while.
For more Hobby Musings from Kelsey Schroyer, follow him on Twitter @KelSchroy75.