Sports cards are experiencing a never-before-seen boom with card prices skyrocketing and more and more collectors from various genres entering the industry. Another group of individuals who are benefiting from the trading card boom is artists.

Two of the main avenues for collectors to buy cards are ebay and Instagram. And it’s the latter where artists are showcasing their work – and many actually making a living off it.

Among the artist creating trading cards and presenting them on Instagram are @thirddanart, @donnybcollectibles, @cousscards, @modernbaseballart, @phantomcardboard, @ken_karl_sports_art, @popartsportscards, @1nbvisual and @bsportscards. They range in forms with some making drawings, some using pictures and putting them in different card styles and artists cutting up existing cards and creating new ones.

Bill Cormalis Jr. has been in the sports art business actually for quite some time, making baseball art for about 11 years and working as a professional artist since 2005. He also has won awards for his illustrations and baseball artwork, including the Tattooed Steels Limited Design Competition in 2009 and first place at the Jerry Malloy Annual Negro League Conference Art Competition in the Professional Division in 2011. Cormalis, who displays and sells his artwork on Instagram as modernbaseballart and on his own website, has made a lot of baseball card art in the last two years and he has definitely seen the industry rise.

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“I absolutely see it as a boom, but hopefully it sticks around a bit,” he said.

One of the factors has been the trading cards company Topps’ Project 2020, a year-long collection on Topps’ website with 20 artists from around the globe each offering their re-imagination of 20 baseball cards that defined generations. It was a project that inspired Cormalis to make baseball card-sized art and package it in one touch cases.

“As someone who has been doing this a while, it’s always nice to see people inspired to make art, whatever the inspiration,” he said.

Another major factor in the boom has been the Covid-19 pandemic, which kept people at home and led many to look through their old card collections and think about different ways of dealing with their cards.

“Many card collectors/artists started taking what we had at home and started drawing, making with old cards, card art of our own. All the different size artworks one can make, each size presents its own set of challenges. The experiment has been fun, and if you are anything like me, you will want to progress rather than make the same art over and over.”

Baseball cards have been the biggest “market” among the sports in card art – though basketball and football have their share of artists coming up with cards as well.

And Nick Bernard – or 1nbvisual as he’s known on Instagram – was one of those artists who really took advantage of the big interest in the Topps Project 2020.

“It’s absolutely amazing! I’m playing in the best interleague game between the hobby, and the art worlds. To see how Topps Project 2020 opened the door for artists like myself and so many others is truly a blessing in disguise,” said Bernard, who will soon have his own website up – SportsCardArt.com . “I’m grateful for any and every opportunity to share my sports card art with the world.”

Brian Dodson does not create his art – baseball cards under the Instagram moniker bsportscards – as really a business enterprise, with his works serving entirely as a hobby. He recognizes that other artists are at a different level than him, and they deserve a lot of praise for what they have done for the hobby.

“They deserve the credit and recognition for making this art card trend a thing. There’s a lot of us who are having fun with the hobby – a combined love for sports and art and putting the two together – and there’s certainly a whole community around it. A lot of these folks are finding ways to use the hobby to benefit very deserving causes and organizations. It’s a really cool thing, honestly,” said Dodson, who just wanted to return to making art again – something he hadn’t done in years.

“I had a bunch of cards that were mostly worthless but I loved and have always wanted to do something artistic with them. So I painted on a few and threw them up online, and a number of people really loved them and were happy to buy them. It was awesome knowing that people wanted my art in their collections. Really, I was blown away. I’ve contributed to a number of amazing collections – I’m talking super-collections; mostly individual player based, and I’m really honored by that.”

Dodson is a big fan of what other artists are doing and is shipping many of his cards to other artists – and getting other custom creations in return.

“What I love most is the support by fellow card artists. I’m amassing a pretty good art collection of custom cards by other card artists, and it’s so cool. I’m happy to trade a custom to another artist. I really am inspired by their creativity. It’s a small, very niche group (so far), but I love the inclusiveness. You want to hack up some cards, or deface them, we’re happy to support it,” Dodson said.

Basketball cards are also getting more and more in the mix, and things are starting to get taken to another level, Dodson insists.

“The act of defacing something that we ascribe value to – or at least once did – in the name of art – and regularly creating great art – is part of the process. Just wait, we’re getting there – you will start to see the stakes being raised. @KardKiller is a great example. @thegriffeylegacyproject is another. We’re starting to redefine what these cards are, and what they should be – in our eyes. I can tell you that interesting – blasphemous – things are about to happen,” Dodson said.

Ken Karl – known on Instagram as ken_karl_sports_art – draws his cards, something he has been dreaming of doing as a career for a long time.

“I’ve loved sports art since I was a kid. Always dreamed of doing it as a career. Life got in the way and sent me on several detours. I stumbled onto a baseball card group on Facebook where I saw a fellow artist advertising his 1/1 custom sketch cards. I decided to try drawing and posting some myself. I sold 30 in an hour and I’ve been drawing them ever since,” Karl said.

He is not quite sure what to think about the boom in the industry.

“I want to believe it will never go away, but that probably isn’t realistic. I believe the boom came about from a perfect storm of growing interest in cards, cards as investments, shutdown of all sports, Covid quarantine and the explosion of Project 2020 and how well artists line Blake Jamieson have not only handled the success but have helped to promote sports card art in general. I hope it is here to stay and I’m just trying to create the best art I can in the middle of it,” he said.

Karl, whose card creations include various sports including football, soccer, rugby and wrestling as well, did say the boom in sports card has been a “huge driving force” in the push in sports card art. And many are also creating cross-over sports cards.

“Collectors tend to collect. The more they collect … the more they want to collect. Every collector is in search of their next treasure. Getting that treasure in hand only encourages the pursuit of another. The sports card industry boom offers something for everyone. Every collector can find something within their budget. Everyone can carve out their own niche in the sports card world. I think the industry has discovered that and continues to evolve to offer even more options for collectors,” Karl said.

Joe Rubens, meanwhile, specializes in making cards of musicians, putting the stars of various musical genres on a variety of past sports card designs – under the moniker popartsportscards on Instagram.

“I really fell into this by chance. I woke up one day about a year ago (July 2019) and decided that Todd Rundgren needed a baseball card, so I spent about 6 hours figuring out how to make it happen. I wasn’t really aware of the interest, I just thought it would be fun to do for myself,” Rubens said.

“Last year at the holiday season was the first time I made actual cards. Once I saw that they looked really good, I wanted to make more and by March/April, I was making some of my favorites and by June, I was doing it full time.”

Rubens said the trading cards boom has been a help for him and his business: “I think the boom certainly has helped, if more people are out there searching for trading cards, there is a better chance they’ll find my cards.”

The legendary card collector Kiki Breslic, who calls himself a “Trading Card Ambassador”, famously said “There’s a card out there for everyone” and that is also the case for movies as card artists have also come up with movie-themed trading cards.

The artist @phantomcardboard is especially prolific in creating movie cards while @thirddanart has come up with a very creative series of cards paying homage to the cult film “The Big Lebowski”.

Returning to the veteran artist Cormalis to close, and the modernbaseballart creator says he is happy to see so many new people coming into the hobby.

“As someone who has been doing this a while, it’s always nice to see people inspired to make art, whatever the inspiration. The fact that there are so many people taking hacks at making card art, makes for a good time to try and separate yourself stylistically as a lot of card art makers have the same approach,” he said.

One thing is certain, the on-going trading boom has been great for the card art boom and the creativity on display by so many of them has been fantastic.

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