Hobby Musings: Steel City Collectibles’ Sean Bennett weighs in on hot card market – In this week’s edition of Hobby Musings, I wanted to take a global view of the hobby and see how our currently hot market compares to past booms, what is driving collectibles and where we have space to grow still.
I reached out to one of my favorite hobby shop owners, Sean Bennett. Many of you know Bennett’s name from Steel City Collectibles, but he’s actually been in the business for 30 years. Believe it or not, Bennett got his start at the tender age of 12, selling at flea markets and getting licensed a few years later. Following this, in 2002, he merged businesses with Ken Amoroso. So, in other words, he has a great perspective on the sports card timeline.
Here’s our conversation:
KS: Sean, the trading card market has not only survived, but has seemingly become more popular and lucrative during the coronavirus pandemic. Why do you think that is and what has been your response to it?
SB: Once COVID-19 hit, you weren’t able to travel, you weren’t able to go to the casino, you weren’t able to go out to dinner, you weren’t able to go to a sporting event, etc. I even told our breakers, as crazy as it sounds, you are one of the only forms of live entertainment currently. Be ready as a lot of the money that was spent on the items I mentioned above (fortunately for this industry) got turned into money being spent on sports collectibles.
KS: How does the state of the hobby right now compare to any other time during your career selling trading cards?
SB: It’s the strongest it’s ever been. You have resellers, collectors, investors and gamblers all buying at the same time. The most promising thing has been the amount of new collectors that have entered the industry.
KS: What challenges have you and Steel City Collectibles experienced during the pandemic?
SB: The biggest challenge has been making sure the warehouse is properly socially distanced. Any visitors wear masks, any employees within six feet of each wear masks, etc. One positive test in our crew of 25-plus, and you’re shut down for at least two days.
KS: One bit of disappointing, but not unexpected hobby news, was the decision to not have the National Sports Collector’s Convention this year. How do you think that will affect the hobby world in 2020?
SB: Surprisingly it will have no affect at all. Granted, with the current state of the industry it would have been an incredible show, and it’s always good to meet your customers, other vendors, manufacturers, etc.; but at that same time, there is no shortage of online buyers, so we have not seen any loss of revenue due to no major shows in 2020.
KS: What sports/products have your customers been wanting the most recently?
SB: Basketball is on another level. All years, all products. Whether it’s 1990-91 Fleer or 2019-20 Prizm, it’s all in high demand. Also seeing an incredible surge is any unopened soccer boxes of trading cards and stickers. Graded Soccer cards and stickers right now are experiencing higher returns than ever before, and I think it’s just scratched the surface.
KS: You and I have talked about this before, but even older wax such as 2013 football products that once upon a time could seemingly barely be sold are movable items right now. Is there anything from a sealed box perspective that currently is not in demand?
SB: No. Unopened trading card boxes are strong across all sports. We are seeing an incredible increase in demand on wrestling, UFC and NASCAR unopened boxes and cases as well.
KS: As hot as wax is, if you had to pick something, what’s an under-the-radar product you would recommend for collectors to look out for right now?
SB: I still think 2018 football products are undervalued. There’s a lot of room for growth there. 2017-18 basketball is about to explode as well.
KS: I know you do primarily hobby wax, but I wanted to get your thoughts on the current boom we’re seeing for retail products. How do you react to items like $20 blaster boxes going for well above that price at resale?
SB: Love it. It simply means the current demand is exceeding supply. The excitement on new products is at an all-time high.
KS: Do you see any end in sight for the current card boom we’re experiencing?
SB: No, Not at all.
KS: With that in mind, are there any words of caution or advice you’d want to offer to anyone buying right now, especially if they’re novices to the card world?
SB: When buying graded cards, stick to the major companies like PSA, Beckett and SCG. Don’t buy cards from no name grading card companies. The same goes for autographed memorabilia. PSA, JSA, Beckett, etc. Do your homework and don’t be afraid to ask questions from reputable companies as any time you are in a hot market, the scammers will be out there. Take the precautions mentioned above to avoid falling for some of these scams.
Kelsey’s ability to bring hobby coverage to the mainstream sports fan has been a true asset. GTS is happy to feature his thoughts on collecting in Hobby Musings. The opinions expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect those of GTS Distribution.
Hobby Musings: Steel City Collectibles’ Sean Bennett weighs in
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