House of stoush becomes house of cards for a day

Would you pay thousands of dollars for a colourful piece of cardboard? Some of the 1500 people squeezed into Melbourne Pavilion over the weekend would.

The Kensington venue is known for its high-profile boxing tournaments, but on Sunday, fans headed to the space for some intense bouts of card trading for the sold-out event, Hobby Hangout.

‘It’s like art’: Raymond Koura with his $55,000 LeBron James trading card.Credit:Scott McNaughton

Fans queued along Stubbs Street and poured in to snap up basketball, Pokemon, superhero and film cards at 65 stalls.

Raymond Koura has a $300,000 sports card collection. On Sunday, he showed his card depicting Los Angeles Lakers basketball superstar LeBron James that he bought for $55,000. But that was small-time in LeBron card terms.

In April 2021, a 2003-04 James card sold for $7.6 million at PWCC Marketplace auction house in the US. It was limited edition and included a piece of James’ jersey used in a game and his autograph.

Koura’s $55,000 card was not for sale at his stall on Sunday, but he was selling other basketball cards, priced from $200 to $2000.

Family day out: left to right, Tom Antonius, 14, brother Ethan, mum Emma and dad Peter.Credit:Scott McNaughton

Like many of us, the 36-year-old from Doncaster traded sports cards at primary school but lost interest as a teenager.

Four years ago, Koura, a stockmarket trader, was looking for a hobby, noticed sports card shops springing up, saw that the range of cards had increased and rekindled his love of collecting.

He now owns 400 cards, 250 of them of LeBron James.

He keeps some of them in a bank vault.

On for young and old: Melbourne Pavilion in Kensington was packed with trading card fans on Sunday.Credit:Scott McNaughton

“I love collecting. I love the thrill of seeing the different cards. It’s like art to me.”

In July, he will go to Chicago to trade at the National, the world’s biggest sports card convention.

“I’m pretty heavily into it. Yeah, I’m pretty fanatical about it,” he says.

He said the market determined the price. “I think a piece of cardboard is always going to be worth what someone’s willing to pay,” he said.

“Depending on who that player is and the demand of that person, then we don’t really get to choose. It’s an open market.

“People bid on eBay; 50 other people were bidding on this card when I was bidding. It’s very much up to the individual.”

Hobby Hangout organisers said 80 per cent of the punters on Sunday were adults. The average age was 40 and most patrons were male. Prices of cards started at 50 cents.

Emma Antonius, 47, who doesn’t collect, came with husband Peter, who collects Air Jordan sneakers, and card collector sons Thomas, 14, and Ethan, 12. Ethan bought a box of 50 NBA trading cards for $210 at the event.

Thomas has 1000 cards at home and spent more than $300 on Sunday buying 10 cards of sports stars such as US basketballer Tre Jones and American footballer Tua Tagovailoa.

His father said trading cards was a good hobby and could teach his sons business skills.

Event director Andrew Perumalla, who runs Hobby Hangout events in three states, said he started collecting basketball cards during the pandemic when his music promoter work dried up.

He started the events in 2021 as a way to bring the card community together.

“The premise is to bring the online world into the real world,” Perumalla said. “The people here part of Facebook groups but could be the first time they get to meet in person.”

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