The Hidden $15 Billion Opportunity in Trading Cards

During the global resurgence of trading cards, CollX research finds that solving problems of price discovery is a massive opportunity.

The Hidden $15 Billion Opportunity in Trading Cards

What's The Size Of The Trading Card Market?

The Trading Card industry has been the subject of massive hype and attention over the last few years. From the resurgence of sports cards to the increasing cultural relevance of Pokémon, more eyes are watching how the card space will evolve. Industry players like eBay and Collectable have previously looked at the growth and size of the trading card market. A new report from Sports Card scanning app CollX has produced findings from proprietary research that indicate we may be underestimating the potential of trading cards.

At the beginning of 2021, eBay launched their very first “State of Trading Cards” report, highlighting a 142% YoY increase in domestic trading card sales. eBay sold four million more sports, collectible card games and non-sports trading cards in 2020 than the year before. Other highlights included 1586% YoY growth in soccer cards, 373% YoY growth in basketball cards, and 574% YoY growth in Pokémon cards. On top of this, growth in non-US markets increased by 162%.
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A 2018 Forbes article looked at the sports memorabilia industry, citing research from the Founder and CEO of Collectable, David Yoken. Their findings estimate the total value of the US sports memorabilia market to be $5.4 Billion annually, which includes “total gross merchandise volume [GMV] from eBay, independent auction houses, online retail venues, and other sources.” 87% of that number comes from the $4.7 Billion in annual eBay sports memorabilia GMV. Collectable’s research was done in partnership with venture capital firm Charles River Ventures. Critically, the definition of sports memorabilia goes beyond just sports cards to also include items like sports apparel and equipment.

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CollX's New Research Paints A Detailed Picture

Contributing to this wider body of research, CollX has now produced one of the most recent and deepest reports on the sports cards industry. To answer the question of how many card collectors there are in the United States and if there's an opportunity to expand the market, CollX did an Omnibus survey of over 1,000 US adults in partnership with Engine Insights. The survey found that 156 Million American adults own collectibles, 85 Million own trading cards, and 62 Million are interested in learning the market value of their cards. Out of the 85 Million owners of trading cards, only 23 Million Americans are active participants in the hobby who have bought, sold, or traded cards.

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This tells us there is a hidden opportunity in trading cards, in the US alone. The critical point is that 85 Million people already own cards--they just need a reason to buy, sell, or trade. And 62 Million actively express their desire to learn the value of their cards. CollX’s research is a reminder that technology and tools can help solve problems that grow markets. Whether through CollX or any other company, it appears that the single biggest way to grow trading cards is by helping people better understand the price of their cards. Solving that problem of price discovery is a massive, multi-billion dollar opportunity.

The Sports Cards Opportunity Is Even Bigger Than We Think

85 Million adult Americans own sports cards, but only one-third of them have bought or sold cards. Theoretically, those 85 Million could all become not just card owners, but also active card market participants one day. The research from CollX tells us that giving people the opportunity to better understand the price of their cards will help shift these tens of millions of customers from owners to active participants.

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By definition, most collectors do not own expensive, rare cards. The long tail of collectors are people who own raw, ungraded cards. The study determined that 33% of American adults own trading cards like sports cards or Pokémon, and that if you gave them the ability to get pricing on those cards, you could potentially expand the market by 2-3x. With a tool to assess the value of their cards, the 23 Million Americans who have bought/sold cards could expand to a number closer to 50-60 Million.

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If (per the 2018 Collectable research above) the US sports memorabilia market is $5.4 Billion annually, and helping people learn more about their cards could grow the market 2-3x, considering the overall growth of the industry, the potential size of US trading cards could be $15 Billion -- or maybe more?


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