💪 Meet the women breaking through the male-dominated sports card industry
It all started with Pokemon cards. That’s how Jess Mineo (the founder of community Breaks with Jess and general manager at NYC’s #1 trading card store Bleecker Trading) and Stephanie Garcia (founder of online community Mama Breaks) both got their introductions to the trading card industry.
“That’s where my love for actual cardboard cards started, you know, it was always about the shiny stuff, the Charizards, the Dragonites,” Garcia joked.
Neither could imagine just how much they’d, ahem, evolve in the hobby.
Fast forward to the present day, Mineo and Garcia have quite literally broken their way into the male-dominated sports trading card industry. Both women are breakers, which entails opening packs of cards for others who have “bought in” to that specific set.
- Those purchasers typically receive all of the cards in the pack that feature a specific team. Mineo and Garcia film themselves opening the cards, and often stream the thrilling process live.
“I’m smiling right now,” Mineo said when asked to describe her emotions while breaking. “Just because that’s how you feel when you’re opening cards…It’s a rush of adrenaline. A rush of enjoyment…It’s literally like winning the lottery.”
Unlike the lottery, the hobby industry isn’t as competitive as it might seem from the outside. “It’s everybody rooting for each other,” Mineo added. “It doesn’t matter who’s winning, it’s that somebody is winning.”
Both Mineo and Garcia also spoke to the unmatched hobby community they’ve been a part of and even helped to foster.
“I was always welcomed and treated just like a collector,” Mineo said while reflecting on when she first joined hobby Facebook groups. But when she first joined, of the approximately 5k people active in the group, just four were women.
Things have drastically improved in the years since, with over 500 collectors in the Women in the Hobby Facebook group alone. “It’s definitely been a journey and amazing to see it going from a small population to continuously growing,” Mineo noted.
That said, like so many women experience in sports (and life in general), Mineo and Garcia did unfortunately face some doubters along the way, including those who questioned their fandom and industry knowledge. *eye roll*
When asked how she dealt with those nay-sayers, Mineo said, “Just keep going because this is something you love. So there’s nobody who can really get in the way of that.”
Garcia echoed that sentiment. “I’ve always kind of just brushed it off and laughed about it because I know that it’s what I love and it’s what makes me happy. So you can’t let somebody taint that for you.” Preach.
As for the future of the hobby, Mineo and Garcia see it as undoubtedly female and ever-changing.
“Right now, the face of the hobby looks very different, it does not look like me…but I see how it’s growing…The face is going to change and 10 years from now, we’re going to have so many more women and so many more kids collecting cards of the players that they love,” Garcia said.
“This is not just a fad. This is here to stay,” Mineo said while speaking to the continued growth in the space. “The hobby is just going to keep expanding…The sky’s the limit. There’s no ceilings.” Count us in.
The best way to get involved? Start off by collecting something you love. For Mineo, a longtime NY Yankees fan, that’s Derek Jeter cards. For Garcia, who fell in love with sports attending LA Dodgers games with her stepdad, she’s always after cards featuring pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
Garcia added, “That’s why we do what we do, we collect these cards to feel closer to those players that we look up to who have helped us get through tough times.” The power of sports.
Whatever your rooting interest (including pop culture touch point — Mineo noted she’s collected Katy Perry cards in the past while Garcia is an avid Star Wars collector), Topps has plenty of options to help you collect what you’re passionate about.
And if you need more advice, or just want to bond with other sports fans, both Mineo and Garcia were quick to note that their DMs are always open.
“I see more women want to come in, I do my best to go above and beyond because we need that. It makes me happy,” Garcia said.
“I love to just help people and get them excited as I am about sports cards,” Mineo concluded. “Everybody’s friendly and we won’t steer you wrong. Because if you collect what you love, you can’t go wrong.”