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Amid pandemic card and coin sales crazy

By Greg Bates

ASHWAUBENON – On a typical August afternoon during a typical year, Mike Worachek has 50 to 75 customers stop into his business and buy Green Bay Packers cards, photos, mini helmets and more.

This year, the Packers weren’t able to hold their typical training camp where thousands of fans converge.

Card & Coin/Packer City Antiques in Ashwaubenon felt the aftershock as foot traffic drastically decreased in the store.

“I haven’t had any of my regulars that come for training camp,” said Worachek, who has owned the business since 1992. “Some people spend a week in Green Bay, stay at a hotel and come in three or four times.”

Not this season, but Worachek has diversified.

Where the stream of traffic from training camp was nonexistent, gold and silver prices have been rapidly climbing and collectible coins are as hot as ever.

Also, the sports card hobby has gone through the roof nationwide, and Worachek is feeling a trickle-down effect.

This year has been anything but typical for Worachek’s business, which moved to a new location at 2208 S. Ridge Road in July 2019.

Card & Coin/Packer City Antiques was shut down from March 27 until the end of May.

With the doors closed, Worachek relied on curbside pickup for customers and eBay – his handle is @steinboy1956 – sales on coins, gold and silver.

When he was able to open back up, Worachek said people were leery to come in, and in turn, the shop wasn’t getting many items to resell.

“It took a good month to get that going again and then things really started picking up,” Worachek said. “Then last month it hit really hard again because silver and gold climbed up again and people decided to take their profit, because they can. It may go higher. A lot of people are speculating it’s going to go quite a bit higher, but nobody knows.”

Two-thirds of Worachek’s business is buying and selling gold, silver and coins.

“I ship more than I sell in the store,” Worachek said. “Let’s say someone sells us 20 oz. of gold, I just turn around and ship it and make sure I make my margin.”

Gold hit an all-time high price of more than $2,000 per ounce in August.

Its price has increased by more than 20 percent this year alone.

Silver is also making a resurgence.

Down to $12 an ounce in March, the precious metal is currently around $27.

“Twice in my life there’s been good runs on silver and gold,” said Mark Pietras, Worachek’s lone employee for the last 15 years. “Back when the Hunt brothers tried to capture the market, I was in college in the late ‘70s. Then in 2011-12, it had another run. But that time span was 30 years apart, now it’s only 10 years apart.”

Card market is hot

Worachek didn’t get big into selling basketball cards until a few years ago, but it’s a good thing he did.

He said the card prices for that sport are insane, and he is trying to keep up with demand.

When 2019-20 Panini Prizm was released last December, hobby boxes, which consist of 24 packs with guaranteed two autographs, were selling for about $500.

In early September, prices escalated to nearly $2,700.

Retail boxes, which contain one autograph, are currently selling for $999 at Worachek’s shop.

“I have a bunch of it, but the prices are silly,” said Worachek, who said most people buying the high-end boxes don’t open them because they are more valuable if they are left sealed.

The big reason for the inflated prices is the rookie class in that product is stacked, he said, including the likes of young stars Zion Williamson and Ja Morant.

“There’s something about the Prizm cards, any card, even a (Stephen) Curry,” Worachek said. “His first Prizm card from like three, four, five years ago goes for like $100 for a base card, and they’re selling.”

Basketball cards aren’t just flying off the shelves at Worachek’s shop, but throughout the world.

Since the pandemic hit, record-setting prices are being met on a regular basis.

For example, in July a LeBron James 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Patch Parallel sold at auction for $1.8 million, a then record price for a basketball card.

That record price was broken Sept. 21, when a Giannis Antetokounmpo 2013-14 Panini Logoman card sold at auction for $1.812 million.

Also, on Aug. 6, an unopened case – which contains 12 boxes and might be the only one to still exist – of 1986-87 Fleer Basketball cards sold for a record $1.789 million through Collect Auctions in Waupaca.

One big reason for the astronomical price was because it contains Michael Jordan’s rookie card, along with another stacked rookie class.

Baseball cards have also been hot sellers.

Any new released products that hit the retail stores such as Target and Walmart don’t stay on the shelves long.

In fact, Worachek sells out of his baseball hobby boxes and blaster boxes and has to buy some retail boxes from customers.

He said it’s common for people to buy items such as 2020 Topps Chrome Baseball blaster boxes at the Target in Ashwaubenon and walk into his store to resell them.

Blasters run $19.99 at Target, and Worachek generally pays around $30-33 for each box.

He will then put them on his shelves for $40.

Worachek, who uses three suppliers to acquire his unopened hobby boxes, recently tried to get his hands on some 2020 Score Football, but he didn’t have much luck.

“One supplier gave me three boxes, my other two suppliers gave me one,” Worachek said. “They’re giving it all to the breakers.”

Breaking has become part of the hobby over the last six to seven years.

Also referred to as a “case break” or “group break,” breaking is the division of a box or case of cards amongst multiple collectors in a way that all of the collectors have agreed to split the box or case before it’s opened.

With people being stuck at home during the pandemic, card collectors have had a lot of time, and possibly expendable income, to use on breaks and buy cards on eBay.

“I think it’s people being at home and not going out and spending any money,” Worachek said. “Me and my wife love to go out to dinner. We’ve saved thousands of dollars now. I’ve been in a restaurant once and a couple times for carryout.”

Whatever the reason, it has helped Worachek’s card business.

“It’s a crazy year,” Worachek said. “It’s probably a one-year thing, like Pokémon was. It might be one, maybe two years, depending upon if football plays out the whole year. If football plays out and then the bettors are going to get back to betting. I think gamblers and bettors were getting into cards. Someone said all the graded coins might be next.”

Worachek said he is going to ride the wave as long as he can.

“I’m just happy I’m open and happy that we’re doing as good as we are,” Worachek said. “I thought the worst after we got shut down. I thought this year, no one’s going to come out – no one’s going to bring anything in. The only thing I’m really missing is people bringing in some good Packers stuff.”

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