Avid sports card collector and longtime seller Joe Davis turned his childhood hobby into a flourishing business on eBay.
Editor’s note: In celebration of eBay’s 25th anniversary, we’re spotlighting a seller every week from our global community in our Mini Stories column through 2020.
Sports aren’t just about scores and final tallies. As any fan knows, baseball, football, basketball — they’re all about cheering favorite players, rising in the stands with the crowd at key moments, feeling that rush for your favorite team. Joe Davis, a longtime eBay seller, has made a career out of his passion for collecting cards, building on that team spirit and overall camaraderie. His ultimate goal is to bring others his joy in finding the perfect card. “The dollars are great, but the reward that comes from serving others by meeting their collecting needs means so much more to us,” Joe said.
Joe spends his days poring over card packs and listings with family and colleagues, searching for that one special card that will light up a fan’s face and make their day — or decade. Currently, Joe has more than 600,000 items listed in his eBay store, gotbaseballcards, and splits his time between his successful online store and his brick-and-mortar shop in Loganville, Georgia.
For those who have been in the hobby as long as I have, for roughly 30 years you have told people their 80s and 90s baseball cards have little value, including the stars and inserts. For the last several years, I’ve told customers the only baseball cards from the late 80s & early 90s that I was actively buying were primarily the following:
That pretty much sums up the list of what we actually wanted to buy from the mid 80s to mid 90s. And then in the last few weeks we seem to have entered a time warp, traveling back nearly 30 years and all of a sudden, the same cards and products we were chasing back then are suddenly in demand again, only now, collectors are not ordering a card or two for their collections, but investors are picking cards they want from this era and buying up everything in sight. Our own internal buy list all of a sudden includes long forgotten cards that are suddenly in demand again like the following:
Ken Griffey – ALL rookies, ALL early Parallels, ALL early inserts
Derek Jeter – See Above
And don’t forget about these guys as many of their early cards have risen from the ashes once again -Frank Thomas, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Don Mattingly, Bo Jackson, Chipper Jones, and the list grows weekly.
I found myself this week actually contemplating breaking down vending cases of 1987 Topps baseball. Why? Because of the incredible demand for high grade 1987 Topps McGwire, Bonds, and Bo Jackson singles. I actually dug out about 100 old traded and “rookies” sets to break down to pull out rookie cards from these late 80s sets. I have not broken down some of these sets for grading in probably 20 years, yet here we are again.
They say that time heals all wounds. I guess it could also be said that time (eventually) dries up all products. Many of these 30+ year old products simply are not around any more in pallet-sized quantities like they used to be. Sure, there are still storage units full of them out there, but not like in years past.
Of course it does not hurt that ESPN did a documentary called “The Last Dance” about the Chicago Bulls to take us all back to the 90s and that ESPN has another 30 for 30 special coming up on the great homerun race of 1998 between McGwire & Sosa. All of this focus of superstars of the 1990s has made many of us long for those simpler days…days of youth for many in their 30s and 40s that are reliving their childhoods by going back to buy their favorites of the past and (for now) seeing how affordable many of those cards still are. However, you better get on the bandwagon now if you have cards from that era that you are still chasing. Many of the tougher parallels and inserts are drying up and disappearing from online sellers quickly. We know that our own inventory has taken a huge hit lately from so many orders coming through for 90s stars & inserts.
Don’t be shocked when we roll out our revised buy list soon that includes LOTS of 80s & 90s rookies & inserts. Thankfully, I know that era better than I know current players as I was a baseball card junkie back then. Now I just own a sports card store with a worldwide customer base that stocks millions of singles, but back then I simply lived and breathed every new release. I can still quote the card numbers of many of my favorite players from those sets. Don’t be embarrassed… I know that plenty of you can as well. I’ve waited a long time to say it, but cards from this era are
FINALLY hot once again!
Michael Jordan. No, Lebron James. And no, this is not a debate about the GOAT. It is about where did this trend start?
What trend you might ask? The “Iconic Card Chase”, or at least that’s what I call it. It is an industry-altering trend unlike anything I’ve seen in my over 40 years as a collector and 30+ years as a dealer. This trend has been growing for awhile, but it is now in full bloom. Why has it gone ballistic in the last few weeks? My guess is that millions of collectors are stuck at home and cannot follow new and upcoming athletes as they are not playing, so they are turning to what they know to be safe investments. Iconic cards of current and future hall of famers. Cards from brands that collectors love…some brands that have stood the test of time like Finest and Topps Chrome…some that modern collectors just can’t get enough of like Prizm and Optic, and a few unique ones that seem to have some out of nowhere like 1997 Metal Universe.
My attempt with this article is to give a “big picture” overview of this trend. If I were to try and provide loads of specific sales data, most of it will be outdated by the time you read it, but I will start with MJ. For years, there has been demand for later year Jordan cards, especially of the PSA 10 variety, but they have gone to an all new level in recent weeks. The most shocking of course the 1997 Metal Universe card #23 which has closed multiples times for well over $1000 in a psa 9. I remember selling raw versions of this card in my $5 box not that long ago.
Then there’s Lebron. I just checked a recent sale of his 2012-13 Panini Prizm PSA 10 that closed for $1698 and many other sales not far behind. Imagine if Jordan had a 2012-13 Prizm card. We can only dream. So of course, who was bound to follow but the football GOAT Tom Brady? I checked the last 2012 Prizm Tom Brady PSA 10 sale… $800. I sold a raw one for $25 less than a week ago. Ouch.
I know, I know… you want to know what’s next? Which cards should I be buying? Which brands are the next ones to hit the “tipping point” and everyone will want to buy up the key cards from those sets? Here are my recommendations based upon what I am seeing. We sell on a number of online portals both in the US, in Canada, and the UK. We are seeing an enormous “trend” that is reshaping the marketplace for modern cards. Here are the sets I am seeing action on, and cards that we are either seeing movement on already or expect to see movement on soon based upon attributes of the player, whether that be Hall of Fame status or iconic status in other ways. This is not an exhaustive list, but should at least give you a better feel for what is developing in the market.
Along with this trend is an additional one that we feel like started with the 18-19 Optic Lebron, that being the “first chrome/optic/prizm” with their new team. We just sold the 18-19 Lebron (First Lakers Card) PSA 10 for over $300 if that helps make our point >>
“ICONIC” BRAND LIST & SOME KEY CARDS WE ARE SEEING/EXPECT MOVEMENT ON >> Note: Only the veterans listed
TROUT, JETER, GRIFFEY – All early Finest/Chrome/Prizm Cards
1991 Upper Deck – Jordan SP1 (1st Upper Deck Card)
1992 Bowman (Iconic Brand) – Griffey, Thomas, other HOFers
1993 Finest (1st Year of the Brand) – Griffey, Thomas, Bo Jackson, other HOFers
1993 SP (1st Year of the Brand) – Griffey, Thomas, other HOFers
1994 Finest– Griffey,Thomas
1995-1997 Finest- Jeter, Griffey, Rivera,
2012 Prizm (1st Year of the Brand) – Trout, Jeter, Griffey, Rivera, Bo Jackson, Chipper, HOFers
2013 Prizm- Trout, Jeter, Griffey
2013 Select (1st Year of the brand) -Trout, Jeter, Griffey
2016 Optic (1st Year of the brand) – Trout, base holos of stars
BASKETBALL> Lebron James – Early Base Cards of Topps, Finest, Topps Chrome, All Prizm, Select, Optic Michael Jordan – Late 80s/Early to mid 90s Base Cards- Especially Fleer & Skybox Brands Jordan/Kobe/Pippen/Rodman- Mid to late 90s Finest, Topps Chrome, Bowman Best Giannis – All early Prizm cards, all 2nd & 3rd year Prizm/Select, 2016-2017 Optic