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Collectors show their support for Bills' Damar Hamlin

As sports fans celebrate the recovery of Bills safety Damar Hamlin, card collectors are showing their support by buying his trading cards.

Amid all the memorable heroics on the gridiron, hardwood and ice rinks around America, the biggest story in sports during the first month of 2023 was one that gripped us for days.

During the Jan. 2 Monday Night Football matchup between Buffalo and Cincinnati, Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest immediately following a collision with Bengals receiver Tee Higgins. The Bills training staff and attending physicians jumped to action and administered life-saving CPR and defibrillation.

Let’s size up what happened in the aftermath, and then we’ll describe the hobby fallout.

Bills safety Damar Hamlin gestures toward the crowd at Highmark Stadium.

Bills safety Damar Hamlin gestures toward the crowd at Highmark Stadium.

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For two days after Hamlin’s scary event, the sports world held its breath, awaiting news. And then … progress. At a press conference on Jan. 5, Dr. Timothy Pritts, a trauma surgeon at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, lauded those responsible for the emergency treatment. 

“We can’t say enough about the quick actions of the Bills training staff and the physicians who were on the field — of getting to [Hamlin] and recognizing that this was a very serious situation, and responding and saving his life.”

“And not just saving his life, but his neurologic function,” added Dr. William A. Knight IV, a professor in the department of emergency medicine at UC’s College of Medicine. “The reason why we’re here talking about his recovery of neurologic function is the true critical importance of immediate and good and high-quality CPR and immediate access to defibrillation.”

One week after the incident, Hamlin was released from the hospital on Monday and returned to Buffalo. 

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Hamlin’s progress came amid a groundswell of prayers, positive thoughts and well wishes. Then there was the support of a GoFundMe charity campaign Hamlin himself started three years ago to raise money for children. Immediately after Hamlin’s scare on the gridiron, more than 230,000 donations and $8 million poured into the account. When Hamlin started the charity in 2020, his goal was $2,500.

The support spilled into the collectibles hobby.

In the aftermath of Hamlin’s scare, multiple Hamlin items sold for eye-popping prices:

• $15,100 on 58 bids for a 2021 Panini Prestige signed Xtra Points Hamlin card.

2021 Prestige Xtra Points Damar Hamlin card.

2021 Prestige Xtra Points Damar Hamlin card. 

$14,949 on 40 bids for another example of the same card.

• $12,800 on 71 bids for a 2021 Panini Prizm signed Draft Picks Red card, one of only 199 made.

$12,100 on 39 bids for a Gold version of the same card (#7 of 10).

• $12,100 on 18 bids for a 2021 Panini Contenders autographed College Ticket card.

2021 Panini Contenders College Ticket Damar Hamlin card.

2021 Panini Contenders College Ticket Damar Hamlin card.

$10,500 on 32 bids and 15 bids for two other examples of the same College Ticket card.

All of the above were ungraded. Up until Jan. 2, collectors wouldn’t have put Hamlin cards through the grading process; he was considered what collectors call a “common.” Now, the man is anything but common, given his ordeal.

Here’s hoping we never see another example of the type of emergency that put Hamlin in the public eye. He’s been an outstanding performer at a position that doesn’t get the accolades or collecting attention we heap upon quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. As such, legions of football fans and collectors didn’t know about Hamlin until he was fighting for his life.