The sports trading card market is projected to reach $98.75 billion by 2027

According to analysts and forecast agencies, the sports trading card market is projected to reach $98.75 billion by 2027.

Will you invest in it?

Before you answer, let’s see what are the market’s key drivers and main challenges so you can make an informed decision.

  1. How big is the sports trading card market?
  2. Sports card trading market statistics
  3. Sports card trading market short history
  4. Types of sports trading cards (printed + digital)
  5. How valuable are your sports trading cards?
  6. The world’s most expensive sports card sold to date

How big is the sports trading card market?

The sports trading card market has been around since the 19th century closely following the history of baseball.

Although in the early days, sports cards were limited to baseball, over time, they would go on to include other sports: basketball, cricket, boxing and football.

The first producers of sports cards were tobacco companies so adults were mainly collecting them.

New market research shows the sports card industry was worth $13 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $98,75 billion by 2027.

Sports card trading market statistics:

  • The number of baseball cards produced each year is about 1 to 2 million
  • Topps and Panini are the most popular brands and producers of sports cards
  • ESPN reports that over 950 million sport trading cards have been produced and counting
  • In 1993, there were over 4 million baseball card collectors, and now there are only around 900,000
  • The decline in interest is because the younger generation grew up playing video games, not watching sports
  • Today, there is a trading card resurgence as a direct response to the pandemic shutdowns in 2020

Sports Card Trading Market short history:

The beginning – 1886

The first official baseball card set was produced in 1886 by a tobacco company. The small card was meant to stiffen the cigarette pack and promote the cigarette brand. These tobacco cards were addressed to adults.

The 1950s

In the 1950s, baseball trading cards began targeting kids when Topps, a bubble gum producer, started inserting them into bubble gum packs. Topps was the leader in the trading card industry from 1956 to 1980.

The 2000s

In the early 2000s, the sports card industry struggled to go digital and launched digital sports cards. But what’s the point of buying a digital sports card which is easily duplicated?


The sports card fully embraced digital 20 years later when technology, in particular blockchain, was now able to produce original, unique and authentic sports cards in the form of NFTs.

8 types of standard sports cards (printed)

Do you know your sports cards? Here’s a short breakdown.

  1. Base card = A common card that is part of the main set
  2. Insert card = a card that is randomly inserted into packs
  3. Parallel card = A card that is a serial numbered version of another non-serial numbered card
  4. Numbered card = A card where the manufacturer has stamped the print run onto
  5. Short print card = a card that is limited in print compared to the base cards.
  6. Autograph Card = A card that has been signed by the player
  7. Game use or relic card = cards that contain a piece of game used material such as a jersey
  8. Redemption card = the producer’s promise of an autographed card that will come at a later time.

Sports cards & experiences as NFTs (digital)

NBA’s Top Shot Moments

Tired of collecting the same old baseball cards? It’s time to switch to basketball!

NBA provides basketball fans with a new kind of collectables: the Top Shot Moments. With the Top Shot Moments, fans can collect and own the NBA’s greatest highlights.


NBA Top Shot Moment (image credit: nbatopshot.com)

Top Shot Moments are video clips of basketball plays with animations. These clips are licensed by the NBA and minted on the blockchain in limited supply.

Each Moment has a nonfungible token (NFT), which is unique to that specific Moment. The NFT proves the authenticity of the traded Moment, and without the need to send physical memorabilia, the transfer is very quick.

NBA Top Shot has earned over $700 million in total sales in less than a year. The NFT marketplace for basketball “moments” now boasts 1 million users.

How valuable are your sports trading cards?

Whether you are a newbie or a veteran collector, you need to ascertain the value of your sports cards.

The value of a trading card depends on a combination of the card’s condition, the subject’s popularity and the scarcity of the card.

The card’s condition is graded by third-party grading services such as PSA. Collectors send their cards to have them graded. The PSA use 10 grades ranking from poor to gem mint.

The world’s most expensive sports card sold to date

$6,6 million – The 1909 Honus Wagner T206 SGC 3, sold August 2021

1909 Honus Wagner T206 SGC 3

image credit: robbreport.com

$6 million – The 1914 Babe Ruth Baltimore News, sold June 2021

image credit: Collectable, image source: theathletic.com

$5.2 million – The 1952 Mickey Mantle baseball card, sold January 2021

image credit: PWCC Marketplace, image source: nypost.com

$5.2 million – LeBron James rookie card, sold April 2021

$3.9 million – Mike Trout draft prospect card, sold August 2020

$2.3 million – Tom Brady rookie card, sold April 2021

image credit: PWCC Marketplace, image source: esquire.com

Sources: Verified Market Research, Gold card auctions, Indoor Game Bunker, QY Research, Spectrum News1, Deseret, KTVN


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