Patrick Tolentino collected basketball cards in the 90s and went back to it because of a kumpare during the ECQ.
Culture Spotlight

Back in the Habit: This marketing exec rediscovered his love for basketball cards during the ECQ

Patrick Tolentino was just looking for something to pass the time during the quarantine, and found an old passion, new friends, and a potential to earn. By FRANCES SALES
ANCX | Jun 18 2020

With more time spent indoors, men are given a chance to go back to long forgotten hobbies and crafts. In this series called "Back in the Habit," ANCX will share these passion projects, bonding activities, and little pockets of joy that these have rediscovered within the comforts of their home.

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Filipinos are passionate about many things—adobo, K-dramas, love teams, karaoke—but nothing comes close to the absolute fandom that follows basketball. Patrick Tolentino is one such fan and during the pandemic, he discovered that he can turn his passion into profit.

The marketing and communications consultant went back to collecting sports cards—NBA basketball cards to be more specific. Busy with work and fatherhood, he hadn’t had the time to enjoy his hobby until the community quarantine meant everyone didn’t have to battle hours of traffic anymore. Tolentino finally had time on his hands to rediscover a beloved pastime from his childhood.

“I started back in the 90s and stopped before the 2000s. Being a young collector back then, I had a lot of hang-ups and what ifs that I now have the opportunity to fulfill,” Tolentino shares. “I've always wondered through the years what has happened to the hobby. I'm happy to have rediscovered it alive and well.”

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Players like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant fueled the interest in collecting basketball cards, starting from the 90s and lasting until today.

Players like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant fueled the interest in collecting basketball cards, starting from the 90s and lasting until today. 

Players like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant fueled the interest in collecting basketball cards, starting from the 90s and lasting until today.

Players like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant fueled the interest in collecting basketball cards, starting from the 90s and lasting until today. 

The 90s was the golden age of the basketball cards hobby because of Michael Jordan and his gravity-defying feats on the court. Other NBA superstars like Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and more sustained interest in the hobby, and kids and teens flocked to stores to buy precious cards to add to their collection.

Tolentino was one of those kids who tried to build their card collection, but, because he had no income, he wasn’t able to enjoy his hobby to the fullest. As a grown-up, however, he derives utmost satisfaction from being able to finally afford the most valuable cards. An unexpected pleasure he discovered from his renewed passion is “box breaks.” Think of it as an unboxing video, collectors’ party, and online marketplace rolled into one.

“A box break is an event where collectors purchase a spot in the break in exchange for receiving cards from a particular NBA team that will come out from the boxes," Tolentino says. "No one knows what cards are inside these boxes. These box break events are live streamed so that all those who've joined, and even those that are there to watch, can share in the excitement of seeing the opening of the packs of cards and discovering what special cards are in them." Box breaks, he shares, have become a popular and practical way for collectors to get potentially higher-value or rarer cards without having to buy whole boxes themselves.

Tolentino joined box breaks a few times and enjoyed it. “I liked the feeling of being able to get really valuable and rare cards for other collectors. I also liked the thought of being able to bring some form of entertainment for those that need time out from their stresses,” he says. “We're practically having box breaks every other night. These serve as another form of quarantine entertainment for co-hobbyists and helps me deal with the stress brought about by this pandemic. Win-win.”

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What started out as a renewed interest in collecting NBA cards has become more than just a source of fun for Tolentino. “Going back to an old hobby gave me some form of balance. I needed something that would help take my mind off the anxiety and the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic. As a father of three young kids, a gazillion thoughts run through my mind and it keeps me up late at night. This hobby gave me something to do during those late nights. And the best part? It allowed me to use the spare time I had to help others cope with the quarantine and being stuck at home, too.”

Tolentino makes his hobby sound like a meaningful pursuit but perhaps what will impress most people is the fact that he actually makes good money from it. In a world that values cold hard cash, the card collecting hobby should pique massive interest because it makes serious change. “It's not only a thrilling hobby, it's also a good investment. Believe it or not, the return on sports cards investment can be way, way, way higher than any time deposit out there. If you're open-minded, I can tell you more about it over coffee over Zoom,” Tolentino laughs.

“There's a huge market for it worldwide, especially here in the Philippines. There are dozens of Facebook groups for the hobby. They’re like toy collectors and shoe collectors.”

"Believe it or not, the return on sports cards investment can be way, way, way higher than any time deposit out there," says Tolentino.

He says he and some of his friends are planning projects to expand interest in the hobby. “The goal really is to be able to share it with more people. At the same time, to try and help upgrade the local hobby standards to make the hobby community truly legit.”

Tolentino truly has got big plans for the NBA cards hobby business—and it all started from looking for ways to pass the time the quarantine suddenly gave him. The passion he feels for this hobby goes beyond entertainment and profit. “I'm also very much in it because I found some form of advocacy in it. Filipinos love basketball. Filipinos love the NBA. To be a conduit or catalyst for new collectors to get into the hobby and to be able to bring fun and excitement to others just keeps me going.”

Tolentino is dreaming up a big industry for his hobby but the little 90s kid in him says all he really wants is to get certain valuable cards. “I hope to get more Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant memorabilia cards even after the quarantine. They are the two greatest basketball players that ever played. You don't agree? Fight me.”