PHOENIX – Rip Valley, a sports card and collectibles shop, recently opened for business in the downtown Arts District on Roosevelt Row, but the shop’s owners envision a space that is much more than another sports card store.
The plan is to offer collectors a unique experience that includes an assortment of collectibles that will appeal to sports card aficionados, sneakerheads, apparel collectors and art enthusiasts.
In short, they’re aiming for a shop that celebrates sports culture as well as collecting. Of course, it all starts with cards.
The sports card industry boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic with demand and interest in the industry skyrocketing as people stuck at home pulled out their old shoe boxes of cards, surfed the internet and rediscovered their passion for collecting.
The online auction website eBay reported that $2 million worth of trading cards were sold on their site in 2020 alone.
Rip Valley partner Brandon Dixon never lost his passion for collectibles. He has collected sports cards since he was a kid and started his own digital shop in 2012, listing cards on online marketplaces such as eBay.
In 2021, Dixon and his wife, Krystal, partnered with others to create the concept for Rip Valley in an effort to reimagine the sports card experience.
“The mom-and-pop card shops from the past are very cluttered and disorganized … that’s good for some people but we wanted … more of a sports culture shop, not just a card shop with cards and rubbish everywhere,” Dixon said.
Typical sports card shops include shelves filled with plain white boxes of sports cards. Some shops may also have a glass display at the front filled with some of the store’s more valuable items.
However, Rip Valley offers spaces for customers to open packs, including a lounge area and a conference table behind a wall of opened card boxes. The store also features a wall of memorabilia, sneakers and apparel that customers can browse.
Rip Valley partner Krystal Dixon said the shop also aims to be inviting to the next generation of collectors.
“We’ll have packs for kids … getting them into the hobby, that’s a big part of what we want to do is to transition this to the future generation,” she said.
Collectors who entered the hobby as children in the 1980s and 1990s are now introducing collecting to their kids. Even card manufacturers, like Panini, are starting to create and promote products that kids are interested in collecting.
RIP Valley focuses on getting everyone involved in the hobby, and many past collectors were reintroduced to the hobby during the pandemic.
Joe Arsenault, another Rip Valley partner, got back into collecting sports cards during the outbreak when, like many others, he found that cards helped him pass time and connect with friends in a different way.
“It was something I could do at home, something I could get on my phone or my computer with my friends and open cards,” Arsenault said.
Arsenault believes that Rip Valley’s location on Roosevelt Row, combined with the shop’s emphasis on wider sports culture and memorabilia, will provide shoppers a unique experience as card collecting and trading enters a new age.
One aspect of the hobby that has boomed in recent years is “breaking.” It is, essentially, breaking open a box of cards from which several collectors have bought a share. The collectors can be there in person for the break or, more often, the event can be live-streamed so that hobbyists in any location can be part of it and others can watch.
Card breaking gained popularity during the rise of YouTube, and it is a cheaper alternative to purchasing an entire box of cards, with spots for teams or players costing as little as a few dollars.
With the rise of live streaming and videos during the pandemic, card breaking helped fuel the industry’s boom.
However, breaking events are just one aspect of the Rip Valley plan to appeal to the growing sports collectibles community.
The shop will carry items from local artists, and customers can enjoy First Friday, an arts event on Roosevelt Row during the first Friday of each month, when they can peruse sports cards or browse the pieces of work on display in the area.
The shop also expects to have athlete appearances and card signings, and there are multiple big-screen television monitors to watch live sports.
“If you’re into sports, if you want to watch a game, if you want to break … it’s not a place where you just come (and) buy the cards,” Arsenault said. “You can hang out here and be a part of the whole experience.”