The State of the Cards and Memorabilia Collecting Hobby

Where Our Hobby Stands on Grading, NFT's, Price Records, and More
  • May 03, 2021

Our hobby of cards and memorabilia collecting has changed so drastically and rapidly over the last year that it's easy to miss major updates in the industry.  For example, the record for the most expensive card was broken FIVE times since the commencement of the Covid-19 pandemic. If you're getting back into the hobby after a break (even a short break), then things have changed!  Even if you're a seasoned veteran, the world has been so hectic that you may have blinked and missed major industry news. In this blog, I'll give you an easy "how-to" guide on what to do with your cards, and bring you up-to-date with the state of the hobby.



For years you knew the record for most expensive card belonged to the T206 Honus Wagner. The industry has been WHITE HOT over the last 12 to 18 months, so much that the record for highest price paid for a card has been broken FIVE times.  Here is the new Top 5 most expensive card sales:

  1. TIED. 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle PSA 9 sold on January 14th, 2021 to actor Rob Gough for 5.2 million dollars.
  2. TIED. 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Rookie Patch Autograph sold on April 25th, 2021 for 5.2 million dollars.
  3. 2018-19 National Treasures Luka Dončić Logoman sold on February 27th, 2021 for 4.6 million dollars.
  4. 2009 Bowman Bowman Chrome Superfractor  Mike Trout sold on August 23rd, 2020 for 3.9 million dollars.
  5. T206 Honus Wagner PSA 3 sold on October 7th, 2020 for 3.7 million dollars.
  6. 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Rookie Ticket BGS 9 and Auto grade of 10 sold on June 4th for 3,107,372 million dollars

Which card will be the next to break the all-time sale price?  There are three PSA 10 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle cards known to exist with the last-known sale of either three taking place in 1998.  If either Mantle card surfaces, seeing 10 + million dollars for a baseball card isn't out of the question. Goldin Auctions has a PSA 2 T206 Honus Wagner in their May auction that will certainly draw a lot of interest, too.


The parent company of the top professional card grading company, PSA, was sold at the end of November 2020 and finalized early 2021. The new owner of the parent company, Collectors Universe, is Nat Turner. Turner, 34, is an a tech entrepreneur known for selling Flatiron Health, his software company that focuses on data science, for 2 billion dollars.  


In nearly the same breath as "PSA Sold" I tell you that grading services were suspended. On March 30th, 2021, Collectors Universe President and CEO, Joe Orlando, reported PSA will shut down the following services:

  • Value
  • Economy
  • Regular
  • Express


The reason for the shutdown is that the backlog of cards PSA has is too great and must be handled before accepting new submissions.  Orland states that PSA "recently received more cards in three days than we did during the previous three months ... Given our growing backlog, it would be disingenuous for us to continue to accept submissions for cards that we will be unable to process in the foreseeable future."

PSA aims to bring all service levels back, in a tiered process, by July 1st, 2021.



Certified Collectables Group (CCG) has been grading comic books and currency since 1987. In February of 2021, a new branch of the group was created to grade cards.  The new branch CSG, is open for business to grade your cards.  The grading scale is much like PSA with grades of 1-10 being assigned to your cards, but the company also offers sub-grades for Centering, Corners, Edges and Surface.



In the Fall of 2020, a few new companies popped up offering shares of high-priced items. 

A platform allowing collectors to buy shares in assets.  The company acquires items and offers initial shares for you to buy.  If you choose, you can sell your shares in the item.  This Friday, a First-Edition Pokémon set is being offered. Last month, a sealed box of 1986 Fleer basketball was available that reminded me of when I opened a box about three years ago.  If only boxes cost the same amount as they did in 2017...


Collectable also offers fractional shares of cards and memorabilia with the difference from similar companies being payout occurs when the majority of shareholders vote to sell the item after an offer has been received.

Yesterday, a 1960 Topps Carl Yastrzemski PSA 9 rookie was initially offered two days ago at a value of $39,500 and an offer was made for $55,000 just yesterday.  If sold, investors made a profit very quickly!



With the card market being so insanely popular in the last 12 to 18 months, collectors have been completely clearing out shelves at retail stores like Walmart and Target.  You've probably seen nothing more than dust where you used to find cards at each store.  To protect store employees and vendors that stock the cards, and even other customers in the store, retailers have began to both limit sales of cards and indicate at which time cards are sold.  This move clears the aisles for other customers and allows employees to work in other areas of the store without interruptions.  Check with your local store as the rules seem to vary.

Target 1

Target 2


Like nearly every event in 2020, The National was rescheduled from July 29 to August 2, 2020 in Atlantic City, NJ. to December 12-16, 2020.  Unforntately the US still wasn't ready to accommodate large events and the 2020 show had to be cancelled.  As you read, the new date for the National is:

  • July 28th - August 1st, 2021 in Chicago, IL. at the Donald E Stephens Convention Center. 

Atlantic City is scheduled to get the National back in July of 2022 at the AC Convention Center.  

I can't wait until the National is upon us.  Back in 2018 with my other company, Vintage Breaks, I sold spots to customers in a sealed 1955 Bowman baseball pack.  We shocked the entire industry when a pack-fresh MICKEY MANTLE was pulled live on the main stage for a customer:




Over the last few months, NFT's have quickly become THE PRODUCT.  First, what is an NFT?  NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token; digital assets that are unique.  The NFT market tripled in 2020 and looks to continue to grow.  A few well-known places you can buy an NFT are:

Video clips of NBA players sold in limited quantities via random queue.  Collectors can buy and sell their Top Shot NFTs for actual currency and withdraw the funds.  Major auction houses are evening offering NBA Top shots.  A LeBron James Top Shot sold in February of 2021 for $208,000!

Topps entered the NFT world on April 20th, 2021.  Rather than video clips, you can buy a pack of digital baseball cards. 

  • Gary Vaynerchuk

My buddy, Gary V, is set to launch a brand new NFT on May 5th, 2021!  You can read about Gary's NFT offering here.  Gary is pumped about his new project, and so are we.  Gary is a blast to be around and truly knows his sports memorabilia.  I had the pleasure of going to Gary's office and open tobacco packs in search for a fresh T206!  You can watch Gary and I chase a tobacco card here.


NFT's are also a way for you to purchase unique items direct from an athlete.  In a world of limited public appearances, an athlete can safely offer digital assets from anywhere that allows you to buy direct.  Patrick Mahomes recently sold six different pieces of digital art for 3.4 million dollars!  Another good friend, Darren Rovell, believes "Digital blockchain art is the new money maker for athletes."  Checkout the Mahomes' NFT sale here.


To help you keep up-to-date on all things in the hobby, I have started my own podcast called Leighton's Loft.  Each week, we give away free prizes like vintage wax packs, free cards, or new items our guests are releasing.  Last week we had The Cobra, Dave Parker on the show!  The 1979 NL MVP opened a pack of 1975 Topps mini with us that we gave away as a prize, and included a copy of Dave's new book.

  • Where: HERE on Facebook live and then available on reply over on Apple and Spotify.
  • When: Wednesdays at 4:30 PM EST. 


I recently received a message from a customer we'll call "Jimmy" about 1986-87 Fleer basketball cards he found.  After taking a break from collecting, Jimmy was unsure what he should do with his old collection and asked the same questions you may be asking yourself right now - which card sets or players should he be aware of, should he get his cards professionally graded and how can he grade the cards, and what about protecting valuable cards?  I was happy to help "Jimmy" with an easy "how-to" guide that I'll share with you!

  • Player and Set information: Learn about important card sets and key players. We even provide photos of the key cards so you can compare your collection and ensure you're researching the right set.

  • Should you have your cards professionally graded: This article walks you through the factors to consider before having your cards graded. Getting cards professionally graded does not always increase their value; brush up on that article to make sure you're choosing the right cards to have graded.

  • How to grade your cards: Read about the top grading companies in the industry, the grading scales, links to each grading company, as well as a very helpful video on what you need to know about card grading.

  • Protect and Storing: Remember putting your valuable cards in screwdowns?  Turns out that was a terrible idea!  Screwdowns actually flatted cards over time.  Be sure to read all of our tips on which holders to use and where you can find them.

  • What are your cards worth? That is our FREE appraisal page!  We even have a spot for you to upload photos of your collection.

If you decide it's time to SELL your collection, you're in the right blog. Just Collect is always buying vintage sports and non-sports cards from 1879 to 1979 as well as select modern cards. 

With the booming industry, I'm buying more collections in a week than I used to buy in a quarter!  My wife said as long as I keep the dinner table free and clear of cards,  I can keep buying.  She didn't mention anything about the bedroom, though...

Some recent collections I brought:


If you have a collection that you are considering selling, contact me today to discuss or get my industry-leading purchase offer. Check out my buy list blog here

Don't hesitate to check out the Google Reviews left by many of the great people that have considered selling collections to Just Collect.

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