SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Last week, Triple Play Sports Cards celebrated 20 years in Sioux Falls. 

Owner Dennis Worden remembers tough years with the trading card business, pointing to 2015 and 2016. But he’s enjoyed a resurgence of business the last few years, including a pandemic-induced spike. 

“Since 2017, it’s been really strong. We started seeing growth with strong rookie classes. Then COVID hit and everything accelerated,” Worden told KELOLAND News. “Sales of trading cards really spiked in the last year.” 

Triple Play Sports Cards owner Dennis Worden.

Worden said his business started picking back up with Patrick Mahomes’ rookie season with the Kansas City Chiefs. Interest in limited rookie cards of first-round quarterbacks and standout NBA players continued to build. Then once the COVID-19 pandemic, older collectors started recollecting and kids started to become drawn back into trading cards. 

“Sports weren’t happening, so cards became people’s sports,” Worden said. “Gambling wasn’t happening, so there’s a gambling aspect to opening packs.” 

One recent customer landed a 2020 rookie card in a pack of trading cards and flipped the rare card for $900. In late April,  PWCC Marketplace, an online auction service, reported a LeBron James rookie card sold for more than five million dollars. 

While there’s money in some high-end cards Worden said first-time collectors should look to get involved in what they like. 

“Don’t chase what’s hot because that’s going to change quickly and then you end up with stuff you don’t care about,” Worden said. “If you are collecting what you like, you’re always going to enjoy it.” 

He said that could be a single player collection, a team collection or completing a set. Worden said many of the younger customers are looking for cards of star players they see on TV. 

“We are seeing new customers every day or people who haven’t collected in 20 years and are now getting back into it,” Worden said. “They are reliving their childhood with their kids. It’s very nostalgic.”

Father and son making memories with sports cards 

Miles Heinert had to miss a few of his basketball games this winter, but that’s when his dad, Paul, showed up with a few packs of NBA and NFL sports cards. That’s when a new interest was sparked for 8-year-old Miles and an old hobby restarted for Paul. 

Miles Heinert with three trading cards. Photo from Paul Heinert.

“It’s really fun, even though we have a little bit of budget,” Miles said. 

“It’s a lot more expensive than when I was collecting,” Paul said. “To see his reaction when he pulls a good card, it just makes your day.” 

How does Miles react when he gets his favorite player, Justin Jefferson’s card? 

“If it’s a really good Jefferson, I would freak out. If it was just normal, I’d be very happy,” Miles said. 

Opening packs of the trading cards has grown into a family affair for the Heinert’s house. Paul, a manager with Sanford Health Media Relations, posts videos of Miles and himself opening the packs on his personal Facebook page along with the Instagram hashtag #heinerthuddle. 

“We have to open them up together,” said Paul, adding that many of his relatives will see and connect with the videos. “He just got a big kick out of them.”

Some of the top value cards include a Zion Williamson rookie card and a Justin Fields rookie card. Paul said he’ll sell some of the cards they have multiples of, or any cards they don’t like but are valuable. He estimated the process is 25% collecting, 5% selling and the final 70% is “father and son” time. 

Not just sports cards 

The pandemic trading card boom isn’t solely sports cards. Trading cards like Pokémon and other memorabilia are experiencing highs. 

“Pokémon is really hot right now,” said Worden, who started offering the Japan-based entertainment cards two months ago. “We finally gave in and we’re carrying some Pokémon. I’m trying to learn names, it’s a lot.” 

Worden said it has been a good start to the summer season for his business. He noted his website has more than a million different items. The ebay website for Triple Play Sports shows nearly 30,000 items with four basketball cards listed at $700 or more. 

Worden offers kids who show his or her report card a chance to pick five free trading cards. 

And while big box stores like Target and Walmart have stopped or limited card sales, Worden said he continues to have hundreds of thousands of cards in stock. 

“We stay pretty well stocked,” Worden said. “We can find most things. I don’t always like the price I have to pay to carry ‘em. But we have ‘em, then it’s up to you, if you want to buy them at that price or not.”