A passion that first started with collecting Pokemon cards has since evolved into a brick-and-mortar store on Jericho Turnpike in Mineola, where Anthony Perna is now helping introduce the hobby to the next generation.
“It’s the chase,” Perna, 33, owner of Major Sports Cards & Memorabilia at 466 Jericho Turnpike said in an interview with Blank Slate Media. “The chance of opening a pack and hitting a $1 million card”
Collecting trading cards has long been seen as a way for fans to feel more connected to their favorite athletes. Cards can include a piece of a game-worn jersey, a 1-of-1 autograph or a graphic that can drive up the rarity, and price.
The trading card market, which expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic, is estimated to be a $13 billion industry while the sports memorabilia market was estimated at $12.2 billion in 2021, according to research from Market Decipher.
The sports card market has bounced back completely after oversaturation in the 1990s caused it to crash.
As new stars take the field and, in some cases, the wrestling ring, hobbyists look forward to opening up a pack and “pulling” a card that might fluctuate in value based on a number of characteristics associated with it.
In 2021, a 2009 rookie card of Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout was sold at auction for $3.83 million, making it one of the most expensive cards sold. The current record belongs to a 1952 rookie card of Yankees great Mickey Mantle, which was sold at auction in 2022 for $12.6 million.
Decades after fans would seek out cards of the legendary Honus Wagner or Mantle, Perna says some of the most sought-out cards are young players like Anthony Volpe of the Yankees or players who haven’t stepped foot in the big leagues, like last year’s No. 1 overall pick Druw Jones.
Hobbyists can now find cards for video games such as Fortnite, which had 400 registered accounts on the free-to-play game in 2021, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney said.
Perna said customers may come in to make a flip and then vendors can offer “bounties” for unclaimed cards that can reach millions, but most do it for the love of the hobby.
“It’s the collecting,” Perna said. “We love the hobby and there’s a rush when getting a big card.”
A longtime collector of trading cards and memorabilia, Perna would go on weekly trips to card stores to pick up more boxes, but only if his grades were good, his father, Richard, said. After establishing his own collection, Perna would sell from it on online marketplaces before the store came to be.
Perna, 33, recently moved into the Mineola storefront late last year. After graduating from college and working in the construction industry for about a decade, he returned to the North Shore in Mineola after growing up in East Williston.
“He would save his cards and display them throughout the house in plastic folders,” his father said.
When asked about his personal collection and items that he considers untouchable, Perna said he has a few Joe Burrow cards, the 26-year-old quarterback for the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals who took the team to a Super Bowl appearance last year.
“A lot of these prices have so much baked into them,” Perna said. “His cards are priced as if he already won a Super Bowl.”
Aside from the packs of cards that line the store’s walls, patrons are first met with large displays of football helmets and jerseys. Perna says he goes to a lot of signings to get them done by the players themselves and if not, will get them online.
Some of the many memorabilia options include helmets signed by quarterbacks Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes and Drew Brees, a Washington Wizards Jersey signed by Michael Jordan or a warm-up jacket signed by the late Kobe Bryant.
More local options include a helmet signed by New York Jets great Curtis Martin or pictures and mini helmets from New York Giants wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins, who stopped by the store this summer to do a signing for fans.
Aside from staying on top of websites such as Topps, Upper Deck and Panini–card manufacturers that drop new items weekly, Perna also tells patrons who come in how much their collectibles may be worth and if they should get them authenticated.
It’s a part of the job Perna may not enjoy doing all the time, but he has to.
“A lot of people can come in and say they have a $10,000 card and I have to tell them that isn’t the case,” Perna said. “I hate doing it, but people need to know the truth.”
Moving forward, Perna said he plans on having trade nights, where customers can come in and trade with each other or with the store.
“The community has been great, everyone has been very welcoming,” Perna said.