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With Record-setting Erling Haaland Sale, Soccer Trading Cards Are No Longer a Sleeping Giant

A “rookie” card for the Borussia Dortmund and Norway superstar just went for nearly $125,000. And it’s a sign of far bigger things to come.

Soccer is hands-down the world’s most popular sport, with over 4 billion avowed fans across the globe. However, despite its rabid fandom, soccer represented only a microcosm of the sports card market. Plus, support for a sport, does not always translate to trading card value.

In a year of record-breaking action across the hobby, it’s only fitting that soccer is finally catching up.

In early March, a purchase of Norwegian striker Erling Haaland’s autographed Topps Chrome Orange Refractor “rookie” card may be the best evidence yet of a market that’s finally ready to skyrocket. The sale, which went final at Goldin Auctions earlier in March, notched the biggest get for a modern era (post-1980) soccer trading card at $124,320.

Keen observers anticipate that the Haaland card is only the tip of the iceberg. In 2020–amidst a year in which all trading card sales jumped by 162% across the globe–soccer outpaced all sports across eBay, growing by more than 1,586%, dwarfing basketball in the No. 2 spot at 373%.

Similar to what we are seeing in other sports, speculation is a catalyst for cards featuring the 20-year-old Haaland. The big Norwegian is already a superstar, scoring 20 Champions League goals in a mere 14 matches for Bundesliga powerhouse Borussia Dortmund, and piquing eager speculation where he will end up when the transfer window opens on July 1st. His latest card values reflect that of a legend who will be in the same conversation as one of the all-time greats.

“There are so many things he can do in his career. I think the euphoria I’ve seen here is similar to what we saw with LeBron James 20 years ago in basketball,” Topps general manager for global sports and entertainment David Leiner told ESPN.

“I remember back in 2003, 2004, 2005 thinking, ‘Oh my! These LeBron cards are going for crazy money.’ And now you look back and think, ‘Actually, they were cheap.’ With this Haaland card, we could be talking in five years and that card could be worth a million dollars,” he said.

With all this in mind, card investors are increasingly shifting their focus to other up-and-coming stars — especially those that may not currently command quite the same price tag like Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood, Barcelona’s Ansu Fati, or Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies, all of whom are under 21 and on the doorstep of stardom.

As the trading card market reaches milestones that would have been unfathomable just a year or two ago, it’s only natural that the sport whose market consists of more than half the global population would eventually factor profoundly into the equation in a serious way.

Well, what was once a sleeping giant is now a certified behemoth. And before too long, the $124,320 sum paid for this autographed Haaland card might end up looking like the deal of a lifetime.