With all the talk of cryptocurrency investments, or the increasing rise of non-fungible tokens, you might be surprised to learn that some people are still really into tangible collectors’ items, like stamps, comic books, and sports cards. For instance, a 1952 Mickey Mantle baseball card was sold for a cool $5.2 million in January of this year. Are sports cards (and other trading cards) making a bit of a comeback?  

To answer this question, CivicScience polled consumers about why they might be interested in purchasing the timeless collectors’ items. 

As it turns out, while nostalgia has remained the primary reason behind collecting cards, that percentage dropped between 2019 and 2020 (while reselling for profit rose). Regardless, most reasons behind purchasing have levelled out since 2020. 

This flatlining of impetus to buy trading cards may be explained in part by the fact that most people simply haven’t been buying them much at all. 

But if we do take a look at people who are buying cards by age, we see that it’s the youngest demographics pushing the burgeoning trend upward. 

Those ages 18 to 24 are much more likely than people 25 and older to have bought trading cards in the last week or month. This may make sense, as those younger do tend to be the trendsetters, but it may also be that younger people think buying cards now may have more value years or decades into the future. 

While the youngest age demographic mostly buys cards because they are a fan of the player or team, they are also more likely than any other age group to do it in order to resell for a profit later. Meanwhile, those ages 35 to 54 are the most nostalgic.

But sports cards and other trading cards have been huge business in the past, and the value that some cards still retain indicate that there are at least some collectors out there. As it turns out, nearly half the population (43%) has or used to have at least some trading cards, even if they aren’t collectors. 

The implication here might be that rather than buying cards, everyone might sort of just inherit them. Data across age support this, as we see that nearly everyone, except those 55 and older, has the same amount of cards, or used to have cards, regardless of whether they are a collector or not. 

In other words, not many are buying new cards — most just sort of, have them. 

So Are Sports Cards and Trading Cards Making a Comeback?

The short answer is maybe, but only among those who are already collectors. 

As it turns out, if people were going to start collecting something, it’s not going to be sports cards. Among popular collectors items studied, most people (56%) prefer to collect antiques, with sports cards a distant second at 15%. 

These trends are only more apparent across age groups as well. 

While this may suggest that sports cards are about to become a lot more valuable due to their rarity and demand among those that do collect them, it also shows that trading cards still have a way to go before being totally in vogue once again.