Collectible Sports Cards Are New Hot Item in China During World Cup

Collectible Sports Cards Are New Hot Item in China During World Cup

Since this year’s FIFA World Cup might be the last for Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, both of whom have millions of followers in China, Chinese fans are coveting collectible sports cards more than ever before

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Hayley Zhao
4:47 PM HKT, Wed November 23, 2022 1 mins read

When Chinese Canadian pop star and designer Edison Chen finally joined the Chinese lifestyle platform Xiaohongshu in July 2022, his first unboxing video surprised scores of fans. Instead of showcasing apparel or sneakers, which the fashionista is usually associated with, the star opened a mystery box to reveal a new hobby he had picked up over the past year: collecting sports trading cards.

While card collecting might come across as childish or geeky to some, the prices of some cards released in collaboration with major sports associations like the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Football League (NFL) or Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) aren’t laughable.

Edison Chen opening an NBA National Treasures Basketball box by Panini during a livestream

Edison Chen opening an NBA National Treasures card box by Panini during a livestream. Screengrab via Xiaohongshu

To prove the point, the box Chen opened in his video was from the NBA National Treasures series produced by Panini, an Italian publisher and manufacturer of collectibles, and is priced at 5,000 USD. Each box only contains 10 random cards, and cards featuring popular basketball players can be resold for 10 times their original price.

In related news, American rapper Snoop Dogg famously traded his 30,000 USD car for a Kobe Bryant card last year.

The sports card collecting craze has officially spread to China, where three Lionel Messi cards from the 2016 Panini Flawless series were auctioned off for 320,000-350,000 RMB (about 47,000-49,000 USD) each this year.

Chinese netizens compared the Panini cards to luxury goods, calling them “Hermès for men.” Plus, eBay, the most popular trading platform for collectible cards worldwide, named China the second fastest-growing market in 2021.

soccer trading card

A Lionel Messi collectible card that was auctioned off for 47,000 USD. Screengrab via Weibo

Since the World Cup’s kick-off on November 20, Panini, the only FIFA-authorized company to produce soccer collectible cards this year, has been racking up big bucks again.

During the Russia World Cup in 2018, the company generated 1.4 billion USD — double the previous year’s revenue. Given that this year’s FIFA World Cup is probably the last one for soccer superstars like Portuguese player Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentine athlete Lionel Messi, both of whom have millions of followers in China, Panini’s collectible cards will undoubtedly cost more than ever.

According to Huxiu, an online tech and business publication in China, the most popular FIFA Prizm collection now sells for 4,500 RMB (around 630 USD) per box of 12 cards in Beijing. Eight years ago, a similar FIFA collection only cost 1,000 RMB (about 140 RMB) per box.

FIFA Taobao

A Taobao listing for the Panini FIFA box, which is priced at 4,500 RMB. Screengrab via Taobao

The soaring prices of collectible sports cards have started to attract attention to the still niche industry in China. However, for many true collectors, this isn’t necessarily a good thing, as many of them frown upon buying cards just to turn a profit.

With others driving up the prices of sports cards, many genuine collectors are sad to see their fun hobby and love of sports culture turning into shallow investment opportunities.

Cover image via Twitter

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