Pokémon and sports trading cards can be worth thousands; here's what one Utah collector wants you to know

Zack Browning's Pokemon cards collection is pictured in his residence, in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., February 14, 2021. Zack Browning/Handout via Reuters

(Zack Browning/Handout via Reuters)

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SALT LAKE CITY — In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many industries in different ways; toilet paper sold out, store shelves were bare, hundreds of thousands were pushed out of work and the country experienced an economic crisis.

But one thing COVID-19 has impacted was a little unexpected — it has absolutely skyrocketed the cost of Pokémon and sports trading cards.

Remember those cards you, your siblings or maybe your friends traded as a kid? Now, they can be worth up to hundreds of thousands of dollars for just a single rare card. Collections can be worth millions.

"The market for all collectibles really have just like seen a crazy increase with the whole pandemic and people being stuck at home and they're like 'Hey, I want to do things I used to love as a kid' and they really want to get their cards back," explained Matt Steggell, a local Utah collector. "So I've seen like 1,000% increases over this last year."

Steggell was recently involved in a collection sale that got his clients $360,000 — money they used to buy a home in Utah. One person bought the entire collection, which hadn't been touched in 15 years.

Even just one year ago, that same collection wouldn't have sold for nearly as much; Steggell estimates it would've gone for less than $100,000 before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the market. It was by far the largest sale he has been a part of in his experience as a collections seller, something he does on the side as a hobby.

But it isn't just Pokémon cards selling for big money, it's sports cards too. The trend has blown up so much in recent months that Target had to stop selling the trading cards in stores after a fight broke out at a Wisconsin location of the retail giant. Target still sells the cards online.

Before stopping the in-person sale of trading cards, Target limited the commodity to one per customer, prompting some to hang out in parking lots and pay others cash to buy the cards for them as a loophole to the one-per-customer rule.

The biggest thing is know what you have before you sell it.

–Matt Steggell, a Utah collector

In another twist to the perfect storm that led to Pokémon cards popping off during the pandemic, 2021 marks the 25th anniversary of the franchise, bringing in even more renewed interest.

"Everyone's scrounging for this small subset of cards … the demand is just through the roof," Steggell said.

Selling to the wrong buyer could mean potentially losing out on thousands more and giving away your collection for more than it's worth. Instead, Steggell advises taking the collection to a trusted source who can help value the cards and help the owners find a good buyer.

For those discovering their childhood hobbies that have been tucked away in closets for years are now worth thousands of dollars, Steggell has some advice:

"The biggest thing is just do your research before you sell it, because there are people like me who want to get a good deal," he said. "If you want to get top dollar, make sure you do your research; there's tons of resources out there on YouTube and everything but that's the biggest thing is know what you have before you sell it."

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Lauren Bennett is a reporter with KSL.com who covers Utah’s religious community and the growing tech sector in the Beehive State.


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