‘Still Open For Business’ Part 2: Memories With Dad Keeps Fans Buying Sports Cards

Card Collector Ray O'Connor: 'Kind of fun to rekindle some of those memories.'

The world saw the first ever trading cards back in 1886. The sporting goods store Peck and Snyder began featuring baseball teams on them for advertising. Shortly after, tobacco companies began doing the same and sports cards were sold along with cracker jacks and gum. Nearly 130 years later, sports cards are still being bought and sold in massive quantities. KDLT’s Jill Johnson visits Triple Play Sports Cards to see how the industry has changed and who is buying.

The world of sports cards really blew up in the 1980’s. That’s when a bunch of companies started producing them. But today there are only a few. Just like those companies, ‘Triple Play’ had to change their game as well.

Dennis Worden opened the doors to Triple Play Sports Cards in Sioux Falls in 2001. Fifteen-years later, he has around 3.5 million cards in his store.

“If we get an order for one, we should be able to find it in 20 seconds, if we did our jobs right,” Worden said as he took us through the back of the store on South Western Avenue.

One room alone yields 11 years of sports history.

Worden pointed to rows of boxes, “Baseball… starting at 2004 through 2015.”

In the another, one by one, an employee sorts through cards.

“We could easily buy 50,000 cards a week and we could easily get more than that if we wanted,” said Worden.

Worden says what people are looking for is always changing. We interviewed him right before the Super Bowl.

Worden said, “This week it’s Cam Newton and Peyton Manning. That answer will change almost every day.”

What has also changed; how people buy them. In the late 90’s, Worden would do well at card shows. Now most of his business is done online.

“We have the third largest eBay store in the sports card market in the world,” said Worden.

But what Worden says what will never change is the memories that come with them. His passion for cards started in college. While looking through a sports magazine, one caught his eye: a George Brett Rookie. Back in 1975, at 8-years-old, his dad took him to a gas station and bought him his first pack of cards. Inside: a George Brett Rookie.

“Every time I see this card, when I buy collections now even, I think of that time with my dad,” Worden said.

Ray O’Connor of Sioux Falls says his love also began with his dad.

“Kind of fun to rekindle some of those memories, I guess,” said O’Connor.

O’Connor says he came into Triple Play for a case for his baseball, but began looking through cards. He says he has more cards than his wife would like.

“The collectors today are getting a little bit older and, you know, you hope that the younger generation will continue to get involved and like anything, you want to see it continue on,” O’Connor said.

And Worden believes it will. He says he can always count on people like O’Connor and hopefully his kids to keep him in business.

O’Connor said, “People are always buying a card to get autographed, to remember a game they went to, to finish a set.”

But what Worden doesn’t know, O’Connor has two girls and another on the way.

“I’m going to have to convert or start collecting softball cards or something,” laughs O’Connor.

Just like most businesses, prices in the card business depend on condition and supply and demand. Triple Play has cards on display as cheap as 10 cents, all the way up to $1,000. Their bread and butter though, is are those $1 to $5.

Worden says the most expensive cards he’s ever held in his hands is the Honus Wagner T206, worth around $1.5 million. The most expensive he has in his collection: a 1993 Goudey Lou Gehrig, worth around $1,000.

Friday in Part Three of our series, we’ll see what keeps Mr. Movies open for business in Brandon.