Huntington Trading Card Show Provides Insight Into One of The World’s Hottest Hobbies


Tyler Kennett, Sports Editor

An autographed Michael Jordan trading card sat in the Huntington Mall last weekend. 

“You want to take a picture of something with some value?” said one vendor as he pointed a finger across the room. “Somebody over there has a Michael Jordan autograph that’s graded as a ten. It’s worth over 70,000 dollars.” 

The photo was elusive; someone had bought the card or locked it away. Instead, the search led to an older man who sat in a lawn chair behind dozens of his cards. Each of them had prices, ranging from 50 cents to thousands of dollars.  

“This is the best thing I have on me,” he said as he picked up a protected card and handed it to a potential buyer. “Joe Burrow—he could win the Super Bowl this weekend. That could be a good price.” 

While Burrow didn’t win the Super Bowl, the card, which was signed by the Athens, Ohio native and featured him in an Ohio State uniform still has a pricing of over 2,000 dollars on eBay this week. It was produced in his rookie year, giving it even more value. It sat in West Virginia, a place rich with the culture of card collecting and trading. 

“I’ve been doing these shows for 30 years,” said the owner of the Burrow autograph. “COVID hit and it all blew up, I’ve never seen anything like this. There used to only be about five of us.” 

The man who owned that card would remain unnamed as he had a consistent flow of buyers, but at another table sat the example of what he was aiming to say. 

“I lost my job two years ago when the pandemic hit,” said Joel Mullins, an admin of the Facebook page J&J Sports Cards. “This is one of my first times really doing stuff like this in person,” he said as he motioned his arm across the cards in front of him. “I invested 1,000 dollars in cards that I thought would do well in the future. I’ve done so well since then. I do this as a full-time job from home now, making more money than I was when I was working.” 

Aisles of tables throughout the lobby of Huntington Mall were draped with black tablecloths and showcases. Each vendor brought their own style to their setups. One table had dozens of autographed jerseys layered on top of each other. Another had full size Marshall football helmets that sat next to a shelf of rookie cards of Marshall’s NFL alumni: Justin Rohrwasser, Brenden Knox, Chase Litton and Byron Leftwich. It was simply labeled “Marshall Guys.” Specialists in sports, decades, and individual players were all present for the weekend. 

The concept of a single card hauling in more money than a luxury car has become more common since the start of the pandemic. In February 2021, an autographed card of Luka Doncic sold for 4.6 million dollars. It is a “one of one,” meaning that it is the only one of its kind. The card was printed in 2018, a time right before the sports card boom. At the time, it was the largest sale for a single basketball card in history. However, Doncic has not won an MVP, championship, or anything comparable to that Michael Jordan card that was in Huntington this weekend. Instead, the price is based on the speculation that one day, he will. 

“I think that the biggest thing to think about is potential,” said one vendor when asked about how to invest in sports cards. “A retired player can’t get better, so their prices usually stay the same. The thing about a guy like Luka Doncic, though, is that he could potentially be better than anyone. He still has all the time in the world.”  

When thinking about speculation in the sports card market, it is akin to investing in a company’s stocks. A player’s value is defined by what it could be in the future. While most collectors started their collections by opening packs of cards found in Walmart, it eventually snowballs into a risky game where thousands of dollars can be lost in a single moment of injury, poor performance or outside issues. 

“I’ll sell you that card for one dollar,” said a vendor while holding up a rookie card of Alvin Kamara. “I bought it a year ago for a lot of money. You win some and you lose some.” 

Kamara, a Pro Bowl NFL running back, was arrested and booked for battery resulting in substantial bodily harm earlier this month. An item akin to the one that was being sold for one dollar this weekend can be found as a completed sale on eBay for 400 dollars a week prior to his arrest. Prices fluctuate like this every day in the world of sports card stock trading. 

This is where Pokémon cards come in. 

“Charizard can’t get arrested,” said one person as he held a graded Pokémon card in his hand. “It’s your safest bet.” 

Alongside the many sports card traders sat those who sold Pokémon cards, including a young vendor with thousands of dollars’ worth of Charizard cards. 

“He’s our Pokémon guy,” said Nate White, an admin of Elk River Sports Breaks, while he patted his younger partner on the head. “His dad and I sell the sports cards and he gets a chance to make some money for himself.” 

While Pokémon cards typically target a different audience, they tend to draw in a comparable amount to that of sports cards. A Charizard card from the base Pokémon trading card set sold for nearly 10,000 dollars online this weekend. 

No matter what people collect, though, there’s always intrinsic value in what is left to be found. 

“People had nothing to do a couple of years ago when they were sitting at home,” said Scott Melton, a vendor and National Guard member. “Eventually you started breaking out some shoeboxes to see what you have. That’s how you start.”