AUSTIN, Texas — The simple hobby of collecting sports cards is becoming big business. Just ask a longtime owner of a sports card shop. 

“Our sales are stronger than they’ve ever been,” says Walt Case. 

Case has owned Card Traders of Austin the past 26 years. He’s seen the ups and down of the industry but has never seen anything like what is going on now. 

“Prices, demands are just off the rails. It’s completely crazy,” says Case. 

Just recently a rookie card of Mavericks star Luka Doncic, sold for $4.6 million. There are many reasons for the recent spike, but Case points to one major contributing factor. 

“Pandemic, one word, plain and simple. These folks are sitting around at home, they’ve got discretionary income and don’t know what to do with it,” Case says. “[They] Can’t go on vacation, can’t go out to eat, can’t go to bars. So what are they going to do? Hop on the internet and see this hobby kind of going crazy.” 

A lot of those people collected as kids and are nostalgic about those memories and decide to get back in. Central Texas native Kevin Bradley is one of those people. 

“For me getting back in, I would say the primary catalyst was COVID,” says Bradley. "I just hopped on Ebay one day and looked at the stuff I had when I was a kid and some of the stuff I never could afford. I made a couple of buys, some packs, cards and boxes.”

Bradley says when those cards came in, the same magic he felt as a kid came back. Growing up in Houston, Bradley loved sports cards and loved a local shop, Ted’s Baseball Room. It's a place he eventually worked at, but over time his interest in the hobby faded away. He started a family as he finished up college and got into the working world. He says he paid almost no attention to the sports card market over the years, but in the past year, that totally changed. 

“It was just where our world was, a way to escape,” says Bradley. "Then what you realize is that it’s a legitimate investment market place.” 

That is what many others are realizing. Sports cards are almost viewed as art that can appreciate over time or even like stocks that can go up and down in real time. The industry is also very different with the amount of outlets to purchase and sell cards. 

“You can buy anything, anywhere, anytime,” says Bradley. 

Bradley says he buys cards locally, across Texas and even as far away as Japan and Australia. Sites like Ebay and social media outlets have made this a global market, but how long the boom will last is kind of the ultimate question. 

“This is an up and down roller coaster hobby,” says Case. “Always has been and always will be, there’s going to have to be an adjustment at some point.” 

How drastic that adjustment is, we’ll have to wait and see. Bradley does not see a big dip anytime soon. In fact he’s so invested into the market that he wants to open his own store in the future. 

“I’ve always wanted to figure out what I love, work for myself and maybe even work with the kids,” says Bradley. 

His kids have played a big role in his push to chase this dream. The Bradley family recently went through some tough times when Kevin’s daughter, Kaitlyn was diagnosed with cancer in 2019. Kaitlyn, a volleyball player at Round Rock High School, is now cancer free, but it’s given Kevin a new perspective. 

“To say that changed our family is a massive understatement,” Bradley says. “What that changed for me is what really matters. What really matters to me is time and memories. When I was a kid I collected I said I blinked my eyes and I’m 44 now. I don’t want to blink my eyes and be 64 and not have taken a chances to do something I think could be really special.”