Collecting trading cards is an age-old hobby that has been passed down through generations. The first collectible cards date back to the 1860s, when baseball first became a professional sport. Individual cards were sold in packets of gum or tobacco products and evolved over time to packs of cards featuring an era’s star athletes, their bios, records, and other statistics. Every passionate sports fan has memories of specific players or momentous games these cards help them relive, which is part of the draw of becoming a collector.
My own passion for collecting trading cards began when I was a child. The Yankees have always been my favorite team, and I’d spend my allowance on every card I could get my hands on, searching for Hall of Famers like Mickey Mantle and Roger Berra. I can still remember the excitement of opening those packs and trading cards with my friends. I also remember buying packs for my children and how they’d get excited opening their own cards, which is something we still enjoy together today.
At one point in my collecting journey, I had started buying rare, graded, unsearched, and sealed sports packs, many of which remained unopened as I saved them for a rainy day. My sons came to learn whenever I had extra money to burn, I’d add more unopened packs to my collection.
Occasionally, my sons and I would open a pack together, screaming and laughing with excitement when we pulled a great card. Trading cards appreciate over time, and most of the packs I collected were vintage and rare – from the ‘50s to the ‘80s – so it was especially exciting to discover what was in the packs we opened. It was an experience we knew we had to share with others.
And, one day, we had our eureka moment – we’d give other sports fans a chance to access these hard-to-find packs by selling individual cards in each pack. Just like my sons and I didn’t know what to expect when we opened packs of cards together, customers wouldn’t know what card they had purchased the pack was opened during a live online broadcast. They could choose to buy a spot in a pack break based on the year, trading card manufacturer and sport, and try their luck. The idea for JRI Cards was born.
Family Launches Kickstarter Card Game in Light of Pandemic(Opens in a new browser tab)
The Pandemic Boom
Our first customers were mainly family and friends who helped spread the word about our unique and entertaining way of selling cards hobbyists could add to their collections. But our business really exploded during the pandemic when people were stuck in their homes seeking entertainment.
With professional sports shut down and no live games on TV, fans resorted to replaying old ones, reliving rivalries, and seeing long-retired heroes in their heyday once again. Michael Jordan’s “The Last Dance” was also released early in the pandemic, gluing viewers to their screens.
As people grew restless, many revisited old hobbies to help pass the time. Watching former athletes who were now top-of-mind again sparked a renewed interest in trading cards. (It didn’t hurt that Jordan has one of the most sought-after rookie cards of all time.)
Lockdown isolation made people long to connect with others outside their bubbles. Online communities began to emerge as people forged relationships through video games and other platforms.
JRI Cards provided an outlet where sports fans, trading card hobbyists, and those seeking social interaction could unite in one place. As word of mouth spread about our live streams, we started getting orders because we were fulfilling a need people were searching for.
We watched the flurry of activity in the chat during our live streams and saw fans engaging, congratulating each other on great pulls, telling inside jokes, and building friendships. Our platform became something they could count on each week – anytime they wanted to connect with other hobbyists and new-found friends, they knew could join a live stream, even if they hadn’t purchased anything.
Building the JRI Community
The JRI Community currently includes 14,000 followers on Facebook, more than 4,000 on Instagram, and more than 4,000 YouTube subscribers, and it keeps growing.
When we first started out, we initially targeted the big grading companies PSA, Beckett, and SGC to help grow our customer base. We also marketed to collectors and hobbyists worldwide via advertising and media spotlights. This built-in fanbase helped lay the foundation of our community.
JRI Cards attracts new fans by making collecting fun and entertaining. We provide the experience of watching historic, rare cards pulled online. We inject personality into collecting, making it exciting, educational, and appealing to anyone, regardless of age. It’s also different from everything else out there. In addition to my color commentary about the cards I open, I engage with the fans, and we have a soundtrack of music clips and sound bites that keeps the audience energized. Additionally, our rare and vintage packs pique curiosity as viewers can see cards they’ve never seen before.
The show’s uniqueness has brought people back to the hobby and even created new collectors. Offering a wide selection of packs to choose from – both sports and non-sports – keeps people tuning in to see what we’ll open and unveil next.
Why Collect Trading Cards?
Hobbies have psychological and health benefits for people of all ages. They can play an important role in child development and can lower the risk of developing some health problems in older adults. Part of the appeal of collecting trading cards – as was exemplified during the pandemic – is the sense of community it creates as people come together to share an experience.
For the past several decades, trading cards have been a fantastic investment and a hedge against inflation. The hobby is good clean, fun, and also evokes nostalgic feelings. Most collectors, with patience, will accumulate an array of cards to put away for possible future gains. More importantly,
collecting them as a family can create shared memories, and the cards can become keepsakes to pass down to the next generation.
I’ve witnessed first-hand how trading cards can unite a community and build lasting friendships. I’ve also experienced the strength of the bond created when fathers connect with their children through the joys of this hobby. It’s why I started this business with my sons, which has allowed us to build more memories we’ll share for a lifetime. And we’re grateful we get to share this experience with others so they can create their own memories.
About JRI Cards
JRI Cards is a unique way to enhance your hobby and collecting experience. We offer cards of various unopened sealed vintage/modern hobby packs/boxes. Every card you buy in the randomized packs gives you the right to own a random spot in the pack before we rip it open!
To learn more, visit www.jricards.com
About the Author
Charlie Parrino is the CEO and Co-Founder of JRI Cards, the leader of live-streamed graded sports pack breaks and a unique way for trading card enthusiasts to add to their collections. A longtime collector turned show host, he uses his vast knowledge of sports history and the trading card industry to entertain and educate hobbyists and collectors.