'Almost like starting a brush fire,' Trading cards a hot commodity amidst pandemic
BARRIE, ONT. -- Among hundreds of hockey cards, a near-mint condition Connor McDavid rookie card may be the highlight of Don Preston's entire collection.
"I've had some bigger cards over the years, but right now, that's probably the nicest individual card I have," he says.
Preston, the owner of All-Star Sports at the Tanger Outlets in Cookstown, says he's been collecting hockey cards for nearly 40 years.
Along with the Oilers' star forward rookie card and many others, he's found several of their values have skyrocketed after the pandemic sparked a boom in the sports card hobby.
"You see cards that have gone up one hundred times their value in the course of a year. It's shocking how quickly they've gone up," Preston says.
He says he, too, has taken advantage of the market's high demand, selling off some of his collection.
"Unfortunately, some of them I may have sold too early, but on the other hand, there's things that I have purchased over the period of time that have increased quite a bit since I've purchased them over the past year."
It's a growing trend that has buyers willing to break the bank to get their hands on some of the rarest cards.
A rare mint condition 1979 O-Pee-Chee rookie card of the great one, Wayne Gretzky, sold to an anonymous buyer last month for $3.75 million U.S.
Owners of Doug Laurie Sports at the Kozlov Centre in Barrie say collectors aren't just scoring big with hockey.
"Oh, it's everything," says Wayne Frazer. "It was almost like starting a brush fire."
Frazer says part of what's driving the market is many looking to make a quick buck.
Some collectors are now finding themselves spending hundreds on specific boxes of cards, including baseball and Pokémon.
However, if you're searching for some brands, including Upper Deck hockey, you may be out of luck.
Hockey collectors have left some shelves bare, having also bought up as many boxes and packs of the latest series on the hunt for the latest Young Guns rookie cards, including New York Rangers Alexis Lafreniere or Minnesota Wild Calder Trophy candidate Kirill Kaprizov - both of which are selling high on eBay.
Frazer says while his store limits the number of specific products they'll sell to one person, some buyers find ways to buy up stock and flip the sealed cases on open markets like an online auction website and Facebook Marketplace.
"So they were looking for, what do you have on the shelf that you don't know has gone up in the last 24 to 48 hours that I can buy and turn around and list for double," he says.
Owners say the third instalment of the latest Upper Deck hockey series is expected to hit shelves later this month, but just like the previous two series, don't expect those to stay on shelves very long.