“I’ll trade ya Willie Mays for a Mickey Mantle. Pete Rose for Reggie Jackson. Mike Trout for Bryce Harper.”
Through the years, sports card collectors have always traded cards. That much isn’t new. But with the country on near lockdown thanks to the coronavirus – resulting in many collectors staying away from retail stores – some resourceful collectors have jumped on social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, to make trades through the mail. Not only have some collectors been able to acquire cards and fill set needs, they also have forged new connections with like-minded collectors. Indeed, trading through the mail has been a hit with those house-bound collectors having an abundance of free time on their hands.
According to Beau Thompson, who is one of the most active traders on social media sites, completing a whopping 96 trades since March, COVID-19 created a perfect storm: socially connected collectors being house-bound and having a sudden abundance of free time on their hands.
“Many people were digging out their baseball cards while going through their closets and basements to pass the time,” Thompson explains. “Many former collectors that have returned to the hobby in the past two months just because it was something to do.”
As the internet has made it easier than ever to acquire baseball and football cards – there’s no shortage of dedicated websites for that – card collectors have turned to social media. For some, trading with like-minded collectors establishes a human connection that creates a sense of nostalgia – bringing a sense of normalcy during these atypical times.
“I buy some things through eBay but prefer to trade,” admits Chuck Van Horne of Menomonee Falls, Wis. “I like the relationships that develop among my collector friends. You get to learn about people and their families. I like the interaction that comes from trading rather than just buying a card off eBay.”
Lanny Ribes of Benld, Ill., agrees. “While I use eBay and COMC, it’s a different experience trading through the mail.” He should know: Since March, Ribes has completed more than three dozen trades through the mail.
“There’s a friendship built while creating the deal,” Ribes notes. “You get to find out what the other person collects, how they got started – a lot of great stories come from that. Sure anyone can just go online and buy the cards they need, and there is a place for that when you just can’t find them elsewhere, but it’s very robotic and takes a lot of fun out of the experience.”
But what about the virus? Are collectors concerned? After all, the deadly COVID-19 has claimed well over 100,000 U.S. lives as of June. “Since the virus hit, I have wiped down all of my packages with Lysol wipes before opening,” explains Ribes. “I have not done anything special to the contents inside the packages.”
Still, other collectors are unfazed that they may inadvertently bring the deadly virus into their own homes.
“For me, I have not had many concerns, as I believe most of us already have it,” explains Thomas Miller of Kenosha, Wis. “Some are just going to be better at fighting the virus off, and still be completely asymptomatic. I work in a hospital so I am constantly taking precautions at work and at home in regards to protecting my family from it. I guess I am having some blind faith to know that others are doing the same. I certainly am not licking any envelopes.
“However, my hands are getting pretty dried out from all the washing and hand sanitizing. Other than that, I really am not doing anything that I wouldn't normally do. I'm not sanitizing the envelopes or cards in any fashion. Not wearing gloves, even though maybe I should be.”
“It seemed as though early on there were some concerns, but I continued to trade, buy, and sell as I normally would,” notes Thompson. “The only thing that slowed me down was less frequent trips to the post office.”
And while some states appears to be loosening its restrictions, trading through the mail will likely continue. “In fact,” notes Thompson, “the trend may grow.
“A few of my trading partners during this pandemic are first-time-through-the-mail traders, and at least one expressed to me they had always been hesitant, but (trading through the mail) went much smoother than expected.”
Van Horne agrees. “I enjoy seeing what others collect and sharing. It is probably the reason I continue to collect. I think I would have tired of collecting now if all I did was buy cards off the internet.”