The doors open right at 10:30 a.m. and the store begins to quickly fill. Fathers come in with their sons, MLB TV plays quietly in the back corner, and the soft glow of florescent lights wash over everything. This is what you will see, and this is what you will feel, when you walk into Next Level Sports Cards in Temecula, Calif.
Next Level Sports Cards in Temecula opened in December of 2018. It is a place that offers somewhere for collectors to grab the newest card releases, find rare or vintage cards to add to their collection, find memorabilia to celebrate their favorite team or player or even just pick up supplies to protect your collection.
The shop is owned and operated by Chad Thyzel, a Murrieta, Calif. native. Thyzel also has help in the shop from his employee, Rick McGehee.
“Two and a half years ago, I just remember sitting here at home with my wife and we were like ‘You know what, there [are] no shops anywhere around,’” said Thyzel.
If you live in Temecula or Murrieta and look for stores that specialize in sports cards, you will not come across many, if any, between Riverside and San Diego besides Next Level Sports Cards.
Thyzel and McGehee are always there to help. They take the time to answer questions, help people find what exactly they are looking for and provide services for a long-standing hobby that has begun growing more.
Record-Breaking Sales in a Pandemic
Collecting cards has been a pastime for many people across generations. From the ’50s through the ’80s of collecting baseball and football cards to the ’90s and early 2000s of collecting Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. Both children and adults can find the thrill of opening packs looking for that rare hit or finding that last card needed to complete their set.
Within the last year, there has been a boom in the card market, record-breaking sales and people gaining an interest in collecting. ESPN did a report highlighting the growth of sales and the record-breaking sales in the last year.
For basketball fans, last year a rookie card of LeBron James with his autograph and a patch from one of his game-worn jerseys, sold for a record $1.8 million. Not much later, a record was set again for a Giannis Antekounmpo rookie card that sold for $1.8 million.
Now when it comes to an overall record of the most expensive sports card to sell, that goes to a baseball card. A Mike Trout prospect card sold for $3.9 million. The card features the Angel’s outfielder with his autograph and is one of a kind.
The best analogy to card collecting for value is that of stocks. With stocks, you can buy a stock, watch it climb or fall and decide when to sell, whether for a profit or a loss. The same can be said about cards. You can buy packs and boxes of cards and hunt out rookies for any sport. Then, as the season goes on, you can track the player and their performance.
They could have a breakout game that puts them on the map, and you would immediately see their prices jump up in value. You can also see that player get hurt or just not produce that season and their card prices will drop as well.
Of course, seeing all those numbers has brought more attention to card collecting. This has brought in more people interested in collecting into card shops like Next Level Sports Cards.
McGehee has been collecting cards for six years and has been working for Thyzel for about eight months.
“It’s really cool seeing all the new people in the industry and how it’s like mainstream,” McGehee said about about the card market’s recent rise.
More eyes are drawn to the card collecting hobby now, and as interest grows, so does the understanding of collecting.
“Before it’d be like ‘oh I collect cards’ and they’re like ‘Oh that’s a little kid thing.’ But now it’s like they see the value in it, they see how cool it is, all the worth in it,” McGehee said.
Open for Business
The pandemic caused Next Level Sports Cards to close for about three months. A few private appointments for long-time customers were done with strict protocols, and eventually the store was able to open again with new safety guidelines.
Once the store was able to open again, business was booming. When asked about sales, Thyzel exclaimed, “They went up!”
With the card market booming during the pandemic, people were itching to go to a card store and purchase products in person. Thyzel recalled how when the shop was able to open back up, sales skyrocketed and people lined up to shop.
Anthony Celio has been collecting since he was a kid and has frequented the shop for the last couple years. The variety is what he enjoys the most. “There’s always new stuff,” he said. With his children, Celio enjoys being able to have access to old stuff for his kids to open.
Finding the Card and Making the Guide
“I mean we do everything. We do custom framing, buying or selling, appraisals, I don’t know, a little bit of everything,” Thyzel said with a chuckle. “Whatever is related to cards and memorabilia, I can get that done.”
Next Level Sports Cards not only has a collection of cards, but also sports memorabilia for sale. You can find signed jerseys, pictures, baseballs, basketballs, bats and more. You can find stuff from your favorite team, or even your favorite player.
When it comes to the cards, the selection is abundant. Near the front door is where you will find boxes and binders full of vintage wax packs and cards. Behind the counter are wall shelves full of new products such as packs and boxes of all sports plus Pokemon cards.
Three glass cases in an L shape are full of the more valuable individual cards. There are old cards from players of the past and modern cards of players of the present and future. Many of these cards are high value because they are rookie cards, autographed, contain a piece of memorabilia from a jersey or accessories or sometimes all three.
What can also make cards go up in value is having them graded. There are many grading companies, but Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) is considered the best and most reputable grading company among the card collecting community. PSA is based in Santa Ana, Calif., and once a week Thyzel drives there to drop off and pick up cards so customers can go through the shop to have theirs graded, which simplifies the process for collectors.
Thyzel walks through the grading process, explaining that the process is as simple as: bringing in the cards you want graded, select the service level and leave the rest to Thyzel. He marks down the name and value of the cards, delivers them to PSA, picks them up when they are done and has them ready for the customer to pick up and pay their bill.
Breaking in the New Stuff
Another service offered that is growing in popularity among the card collecting community is card breaks. A break is when someone opens card packs or boxes on camera and people can buy into the break and get cards from it.
People who buy into breaks can be assigned a random team or serial number depending on what kind of break it is. When a card is pulled from a pack or box, whoever has that team or number on the card gets that card.
Breaks are a way for people who want to try to get great or high-value cards without having to pay the high prices that the boxes can be. It is a gamble, as there is always the chance that the team or number you have randomly assigned to you does not get any cards. Though somewhat rare depending on the product, just because someone pays, it does not guarantee they will get any cards.
Next Level does card breaks on its YouTube channel on Fridays and customers can buy a spot into the break. Whatever sport you are into, you can go to Next Level Card Shop to start your own collection. With plenty of cards, from new to old, single, packs or boxes and even supplies to protect your collection, Next Level Card Shop has you covered.