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Jason Masherah, who has been at Upper Deck since 2005, remembers how people used to react when he’d tell them he worked in the trading card industry: “They’d say, Why? ” Some would even follow up: Does anybody collect anymore? “I mean we used to hear that all the time,” Masherah, now the president of Upper Deck, said over Zoom. “‘They still make trading cards ? ’ ” Over the last two years, he’s heard it a lot less. Since 2020, sports cards—and collectibles generally—have caught fire, with individual cards selling for record prices and chain stores pulling products from their shelves for fear that shoppers might duke it out over the last $20 box of cardboard. Collecting has evolved, too. Fresh boxes of wax are opened around the clock on Twitch and Instagram, while new startups make it easier to buy and sell singles or even trade fractional shares of high-dollar cards. “If you only went back like five years ago, people would look at trading cards as this archaic, dusty, kind of crusty, uninnovative sector,” OneTeam Partners VP of business development and licensing Ricky Medina said. “And now it’s cool.” But the future has also brought its own forms of collectibles, like NBA Top Shot’s video highlights and DraftKings’ coming gamified NFTs . It remains to be seen, then, whether the tech advances that have helped fuel the trading card boom could ultimately spell its doom. It wasn’t that long ago that the now-traditional trading card companies were considered the disruptors. Upper Deck debuted in 1989 and fueled that era’s card boom with new designs and memorabilia inserts. More recently, it launched the e-Pack program in 2016, allowing fans to open packs online and have select cards shipped to them. Masherah said that e-Pack and other digital products could make up 50% of Upper Deck’s business in a matter of years. Panini disrupted the market again when it grabbed exclusive NBA licensing rights in 2009. In January 2020, the company launched its blockchain platform , whic

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