eBay looks to cash in on trading cards boom in China

October 3, 2022 0 Comments

As sports card trade surges, eBay is looking to get a bigger slice of China’s trading card market.

According to eBay’s “State of Trading Cards” report, China is one of the fastest-growing markets for card collection. Trading card sales in the country increased a whopping 205 percent in 2020, and Australia is the only country in the world that booked a faster growth rate than China when the uplift came following Covid-19.

“The majority of our trading cards growth in China came from sports cards particularly basketball and soccer, Tao Pang, general manager-sales & category management at eBay China, also added that there also has been a notable boom in demand and price for mixed martial arts (MMA) and tennis, sales in these categories registered fastest growth rate.

Although it is experiencing a pandemic-era boom, eBay has been doing card business in China for years and, more recently, expanded operations to meet demand.

To tap into the recent frenzy around card collections in China, eBay has unveiled a new incentive policy for trading card enthusiasts in China, making it easier for sellers to list their cards for sales on eBay and streamlining the whole process for collectors to open new online stores.

“We are also looking to explore Chinese consumer’s potential for purchasing rare cards from sellers worldwide, helping merchants to reach giant base of Chinese collectors,” said Tao Pang at the eBay trading card conference held in Beijing on Tuesday. 

Buying and selling trading cards is a big business for eBay, growing dramatically. Gross merchandise volume topped the $2 billion mark for the first six months of 2021, which was more than the entire sales of 2020, and represented a 175% increase from the first six months of 2020.

Sports card collecting in China began around the late 1990s, but it wasn’t until the early 2000s that some hobby stores emerged in China, and these merchants imported foreign products for trading card enthusiasts, thanks to eBay.

Passion for sports culture is the force driving fandom. As international leagues have grown in popularity in China, the most prominent athletes in the world regularly visit China as brand and league ambassadors. For example, Kobe Bryant visited China for 16 consecutive years before passing away in February 2020. 

Like the massive sneakerhead market that sells and resells shoes on e-commerce platforms, the card market relies on e-commerce platforms to buy, sell and trade their card online. eBay is still the most popular choice for Chinese collectors to buy rapidly appreciating cards for an easy buck, while new stores seek a safe and convenient channel to flood their scarce cards into the market. 

Like the sneaker market with sizeable influencers showing off their collection through social media, live e-commerce streams are a popular marketing channel where Chinese collectors can learn about and purchase limited edition and rare cards. Some hobby stores and card influencers constantly livestream to showcase different card series they sell to viewers. As these streamers gain more popularity, their reach and influence on the sports community will continue to expand.

It is a therapeutic experience for card collectors to watch card influencers opening a pack and finding a rare card during a livestream. Canadian-born Hong Kong actor and fashion mogul Edison Chen recently posted a short video on Douyin about his excitement to unpack a box of 2020-21 Panini National Treasures Basketball Cards. He has nearly 30 million followers on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo, and his interest in trading cards will soon influence his fans to follow the booming hobby.

“Sports card collecting in China begun in the 90s, I started collecting basketball cards with a bit of soccer cards in 1996. In early 2000s, with eBay and different social media platforms, cards became more popular again with some old collector opening hobby stores and a new breed of collectors entered the sector. I opened my eBay store in 2004, it is so much easier to collect from card collectors worldwide and resell with eBay’s payment system and sophisticated shipping service,” a Douyin influencer and sports card retailer dubbed “digital believer” (数字信徒) shared his journey of card collections at the eBay trading card conference held in Beijing on Tuesday. 

Collecting and Trading cards are not only a hobby. It’s also an investment choice attracting investors worldwide who are speculating on a six-figure investment or even more. Cards constantly go up and down in value based on a player’s performance during a season. The price of a card is volatile, like the price of a share fluctuating in the stock market. 

Sports cards have become increasingly popular in China over the past few years, and brands have set up their own direct-to-consumer channels to explore potential market shares. Panini, the leading multi-national publisher of trading cards, launched its official online store on Alibaba’s Tmall and fan communities on WeChat. As the trading card market grows, collectors in China want to get their cards graded by professional grading companies. 

CSG, one of four big grading companies for cards, has partnered with FansMall, the most prominent sports card business in China, to streamline the process for card grading in China. Another grading company PSA has also shown interest in the Chinese market.

Image: eBay

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