The Hobby Movie Review: What Was Once About Collecting Is Now About Investing

The documentary The Hobby bills itself as “a character-driven, feel-good deep dive into the high-stakes, eccentric world of card collecting.”  The Hobby is character driven and does take a dive into the eccentric world of card collecting, but it could have gone deeper, and I certainly did not feel good after seeing it. This look at the world of trading cards shows that what was once about collecting is now about investing.

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I am willing to admit that my perspective is jaded by my experience of the boom and bomb of the trading card hobby and business of the late ’80s and early ’90s. There were huge card shows every weekend and it was fun, for a while. Eventually everyone was grabbing all the cards they could, and manufacturers were flooding the market. Since I had not been in the world of trading cards in years, I was hoping that The Hobby would show me that things have gotten better. They haven’t

The footage for The Hobby was shot between October 2021 and March 2022. While the world was dealing with the pandemic, the trading card business was booming. People were at home and started getting into their old collections. The ability to buy and sell online fueled the fire.

In The Hobby, we meet Paul Sullivan, “Wealth Matters” columnist at The New York Times. In 2018, the Pre-War Card Collector Auctions (PWCC), which is the premier online collectibles marketplace had created an index on trading cards modeled after the S&P 500. Sullivan was prompted to write about the trading card market when he found that the PWCC index had almost doubled the returns of the S&P 500.

Produced by Kathryn Everett, Justin Lacob, Bryn Mooser, and Ted Speaker, and directed by Morgan Jon Fox, The Hobby excels when it introduces us to the characters in the world of trading cards. Most notable is Dani Sanchez also known as SuperDuper Dani, a full-time Pokemon content creator. Dani clearly has a passion for Pokemon that goes beyond the potential for financial gain. She loves what she does and its refreshing. In the documentary, we meet many people, possibly too many for this 89-minute outing, involved in the world of trading cards.  Few exude the passion of Dani.

Spoiler alert: I am so disconnected from this market that I was not aware that in 2022 global sports retailer, merchandiser, and now sports card and memorabilia giant Fanatics had acquired Topps trading cards after previously cementing a deal with Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association for the exclusive licenses to produce baseball cards, ending Topps’ ability to produce them after roughly 60 years of being one of the sport’s and hobby’s most recognized brands.  This certainly changes everything, but as we see in the closing of The Hobby, since the filming the market for trading cards has taken a significant downturn.  The hobby is now a market far more than when I was a kid chewing the gum and using the cards to make my bike sound cool.

I am giving The Hobby, which is now available on TVOD, a reluctant Ron’s Recommendation. One voice to guide us on this journey would have improved the experience significantly. As much as I want kids to love cards because they love the games and players like I did in my youth, when I see the young boy standing next to his dad outside a card collectors show in The Hobby, and hear him say;  “We came to the card show so we can get some expensive cards,” I am forced to accept that times have truly changed.  Time to sort through my old cards to see how much money is there.

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