CHICAGO - While Thursday was Opening Day for the Chicago Cubs, many of us have had baseball fever for the last year.
Fever, not to play the game or go to one, but to collect it.
Baseball card collecting is hitting a fever pitch to the point where you often strike out when simply trying to buy cards at a local retail store.
Eight-year-old Allen Kolodzik and his dad have been collecting baseball cards together for two years now. Last year, Allen decided it was time to step up his game.
Every week, Allen and his dad stop by a Lisle baseball card shop to see what they can add to their collection -- and they are not alone.
"I trade baseball cards, sell, buy. It’s a really fun store to come to every week," Allen said.
Peter Vasquez is the co-owner of World Champs Sports Cards. He gave FOX 32 the "inside baseball scoop" on why cards are so hard to find these days.
"We’re seeing a lot of father and sons coming in and a lot of kids come in," he said. "I’ve had moms come in and buy cards for themselves."
"The business is exploding," Vasquez added. "As a brick and mortar store we get limited quantities from our wholesalers so in turn, we need more product. So they found out that they can go buy the product at Target or Walmart and sell it to us at a markup. So instant money."
Since the pandemic began, business has also been booming at a Schaumburg specialty shop.
"It wasn’t such a sport of a couple months. People got back into and they’re staying in it," said Ryan Frank, owner of Baseline Cards. "I think COVID probably had a lot to do with bringing people back into the hobby. They get so busy with regular life you forget about the fun stuff."
Scott Smith has been an avid baseball card collector for 40 years. In the last year, he and his 9-year-old daughter Maddie have taken up the hobby together. He says the market is competitive.
"You can’t find anything out there, you walk in and the shelves are empty. Everywhere you go, they’re empty," Smith said.
Toynk.com is an online global retailer based in northwest suburban Gilberts, specializing in pop culture collectibles, including baseball cards. They know the battle for these cards is just beginning when you buy them in the store.
"People are getting in line overnight just to buy one or two boxes of cards because they sell out pretty instantly now and then if you buy a box of cards at Target or $20 bucks, it’s probably on eBay for 80 to 100 dollars," said Steven Loney, CEO of Toynk.com.
Believe it or not, the pandemic may only be partly to blame for the huge increase in baseball card collecting, at least in Chicago.
FBI special agent Brian Brusokas specializes in sports memorabilia fraud. He says the last time the industry saw a boom like this was around 1990. Unfortunately, many of those items did not hold their value over time.
"You wanna buy it because you like it, because you’re interested in it, because you love it. Don’t buy it for the dollars signs," Brusokas said.
When consumer interest is high, so is the chance you might get a bad deal. So to help you hold on to your hard earned money, Brusokas offered the following advice.
"If I were a collector, I’d be leery about the authenticity of items that come pre-certified because unfortunately the unscrupulous people in this hobby are falsifying certification documents. You want to know what you are collecting. You want to know the history of the market you’re entering, know the players within the market who are trusted dealers, trusted sellers," he said.
Even though he has only been collecting baseball cards for a few years, Allan had this advice to offer too.
"Learn from your mistakes. Sometimes if you get baseball cards and their fake, that’s fine, you can learn from them," he said.
Experts say baseball cards are not the only hot item when it comes to collecting these days. So are NBA, NFL, Garbage Pail Kids and Pokémon cards.
Basketball cards are so in demand that a 1986 Michael Jordan rookie card increased in value 30 times in the last 18 months, where it recently sold for $738,000.