Wayne Wagner was four years old when he received his first set of hand-me-down hockey cards from his dad. From that moment, he was hooked.
Wagner lived a traditional Canadian life – he played hockey and collected cards. Then, he discovered he had an entrepreneurial spirit. He knew he wanted to start his own business and he had a hobby he was passionate about. It only made sense to combine the two.
“We opened up in a boom time and the timing was perfect,” says Wagner. “It was the early ’90s and everybody was into cards.”
Wayne’s Sports Cards opened in 1991. Wagner says that card collecting was more of a hobby in the ’80s, but, as time went on and more stores began to open, the industry became about collecting and investing.
Cards were printed on thicker materials and included more statistics, which increased their collectibility. Rare cards were inserted into packs, making it harder to complete a whole set, and making it more addictive for collectors. The card collecting community is still going strong decades later, and some would even say it has grown stronger in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic has given people time to look for things to do since there’s a lot of things you can’t do,” says Wagner. “People rehashed their interests — whether it’s comics, coins, stamps, cards — and people renewed their enthusiasm for these collections, and they’ve had time to do it. And for a lot of those people, they reinvigorated their passion.”
Wayne Wagner Courtesy Wayne’s Sports Cards & Collectibles
Don’t be discouraged if you find the door to the store locked or a line around the building – business is booming and inside you’ll find more than just sports cards. Wayne’s Sports Cards underwent a transformation about 15 years ago to diversify and expand its selection. The store now sells licensed NHL merchandise, framed autographed photos, games and Lego alongside its best-selling sports cards.
It was important to stay up to date with merchandise, says Wagner, especially since the store is starting to span generations. Wagner watched customers he’s known since the store opened grow up into adults and now they bring their kids to the store.
“Over time, like any business, you create quite the following,” says Wagner. “The amount of people that we’ve seen come and go, and friends we’ve created in families we’ve seen come through, is absolutely amazing.”
For Wagner, family is at the centre of business. His wife, sister and parents offer their help at the store on a regular basis.
“Having a friendly family atmosphere makes it really simple to treat people like they are family when they walk in,” says Wagner. “We often don’t look at customers as customers, we look at them as friends.”
Visit Wayne’s Sports Cards at 17020 90 Ave. Tuesdays through Saturdays (but be sure to confirm hours and capacity restrictions).