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The Honus Wagner 1909 T206 — the world's most valuable card. Photo: Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Collecting sports cards, a hobby and business that has spent the past few decades in a tailspin, has recovered much of its old glory in recent years. Still, even as revenues have skyrocketed back to the heights of its golden age, the big question remains — can it last?

The big picture: In the past five years, thanks to smarter licensing agreements between leagues and companies that help put a cap on production, the industry has begun booming once again. In fact, on Wednesday a Mike Trout rookie card sold at auction for a modern-record-tying $900,000.

  • Beyond licensing, though, kids who grew up collecting in the '80s and '90s are now adults with disposable income, and nostalgia is an incredibly powerful driver.
  • Taking it one step further, the pandemic has funneled a lot of 30-somethings back to their childhood homes, where boredom and curiosity have led to the unearthing of old collections, and the reawakening of a long-dormant hobby.

The backdrop: What began in the early 20th century as a way to boost sales of tobacco and bubblegum matured over the years into a business of its own, dominated by Topps, which introduced the first full set in 1952.

  • But through the latter half of the century, popularity gave way to overproduction, which eventually torpedoed demand. By the mid-to-late '90s, the billion dollar industry had become a shell of its former self.

What they're saying: "In the last decade there has been a shift toward exclusive relationships. All the major leagues have exclusive deals. That was a pretty seismic shift," Topps executive David Leiner told The Athletic.

Between the lines: Even if millennials have enough money now to make this a viable business again, what about their kids? Video games and technology have a pretty tight grip on kids' free time these days, and nostalgia can only go so many generations deep.

The bottom line: If this is the last stand for a wonderful hobby whose time has come, then so be it. We'll always have the memories of ripping open packs of cards, crossing our fingers for a rare find and thumbing through Beckett hoping we just hit it rich.

Go deeper: Baseball card collecting world rocked by scandal

Go deeper

11 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden plan expected to include at least $500B for climate

Photo: Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The White House is privately telling lawmakers the climate portion of President Biden's roughly $2 trillion social spending plan is "mostly settled" and will likely cost more than $500 billion, two sources familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: A pricetag of $500-555 billion is a huge number and, if it holds, would likely be the single biggest component of the sweeping package. It also isn't far off from the roughly $600 billion proposed when the bill was expected to cost $3.5 trillion.

18 mins ago - World

U.S. presses Gulf countries to help resolve Sudan coup crisis

Jake Sullivan briefs the press. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The Biden administration has asked its partners in the Gulf and elsewhere to press the Sudanese generals who carried out a coup on Monday to release captives including Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and to reinstate the civilian government, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The U.S. has limited influence over coup leader Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Burhan and other military leaders, many of whom have close ties to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Higher prices are the new norm, with no end in sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Companies are making money at record rates thanks in part to customers who are willing to pay higher prices.

Why it matters: In order to keeping that corporate profitability streak going, shoppers should expect sticker prices to stay high or become more expensive well into 2022. Fewer promotions and shallower discounts will also become the norm as inventory levels remain low.