The Future is Female

Meet the Women Making Card Collecting More Inclusive and Diverse

Date: Mar 8, 2023
Topics: Collecting, The Hobby, Women in Collecting
Length: 1214 Words
Reading Time: ~7 Minutes

Hanna Chang hears it all the time from fellow collectors: “Hey man, love that card. Whatcha asking for it?”

She doesn’t get offended because she knows they usually don’t mean any harm. She thinks it’s probably more about systematic bias than anything, the same way people say “you guys” to refer to any group of multiple people.

“It’s not a terrible thing,” says Chang, who creates content about collecting under the handle @SheCollectsCards. “But it’s one of the things that makes me realize we still have a lot of work to do.”

Historically, the hobby has been a space for men to collect cards that depict male athletes. It was a thing by dudes, for dudes, and women were often excluded. Sometimes, the hobby can still look like that. But the demographics are changing fast, and more women are involved in collecting than ever before. They’re collecting whatever interests them, from baseball to the WNBA to F1 to Pokémon. And they’re here to stay.

Representation Matters: (L) Rachel Balkovec, manager of the Tampa Tarpons; (R) Sam Mewis, USWNT and NWSL midfielder. Both featured in 2022 Topps Allen & Ginter.

Making Strides …

Cathy Mahan grew up in the Cincinnati area with seven siblings, and all of them loved sports — in fact, she and five of her siblings went on to play a sport in college. Since she followed the pros closely, collecting came naturally, and she dabbled with it during her childhood. 

But it wasn’t until adulthood that she dove in head-first. That was largely because her husband, Jimmy, owns Roadshow Cards, which has four locations across America. Through breaks and other events at the family shop, Mahan found a passion, and now she’s dedicated to opening up the hobby to other women, too.

Mahan has done giveaways of boxes specifically for female followers of her Instagram account @WomenOfSportsCards. And she worked with Women in the Hobby, a group founded by card shop owners Tai Fauci and Sara Layton, at last year’s National Sports Collectors Convention, staffing a booth that offered a dedicated space for female attendees to gather and talk shop. 

(L) Cathy Mahan; (R) Kayla Norsworthy

“As more women have started collecting and attending shows and posting content and doing live breaks, it’s had an exponential effect,” she said.  

While Mahan influences things from the dealer side, Chang is making an impact as a collector first. She first got into card collecting a few years ago as the hobby began experiencing renewed energy and growth. She’s been a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan since she was young, and she got into collecting with a friend because it was another way for them to express their fandom.

“Beyond purchasing jerseys or shoes, I wanted to collect cards because it’s another big stamp that shows I’m committed,” she said. 

In particular, collecting cards made her feel more connected to Kobe Bryant, her favorite player. The first card that got her super excited about collecting was Kobe’s Topps rookie card from 1996, and it kick-started her journey to support other women interested in taking up the hobby.

About two and a half years ago, Chang launched her Instagram and YouTube channels, and she now reaches tens of thousands of collectors between them. She and fellow hobbyist Sam Shuford also co-host the Women of the Hobby podcast, which shines a spotlight on female collectors by showcasing their cards and highlighting a “woman of the week.”

Perhaps a bit daunted by the attention at first — when you’re a woman, “you’re instantly noticed when you walk in the room,” Chang says — she soon channeled her efforts into ensuring that seeing women at card shows became less of an extraordinary sight. 

Chang says she gets chills whenever someone tells her that her content inspired them to embrace collecting, and she cites female pioneers like Fauci as her inspiration to keep going. 

… But a Long Road Ahead

“Not just at a hobby level, but at a macro level, women are disadvantaged in some cases,” Chang noted.

The hobby has come a really long way in promoting female collectors and the cards of female athletes. That shouldn’t be taken for granted. But it would be a mistake to shrug and say, “it’s better than it used to be,” without trying to make the space even more inclusive. 

Last year, Chang posted a video that included a selection of mean comments she’s gotten on her YouTube channel. Julie Develin, a collector from the Baltimore area with over 25 years in the hobby, wrote for The Cardboard Connection about a negative experience she once had at a card show. A dealer who assumed she didn’t know her stuff quoted her $20 for a common card; her male friend could have gotten it a few hours later for $3. 

“Most sellers are honest, and the example above is not the norm, but sexism in the hobby definitely happens,” Develin wrote.

Mahan has seen it all, too — though her husband does his part to put a stop to it, she’s been subjected to sexist comments on live breaks over the years. She also recalled stories from female friends who tell of being ignored by dealers who assume their husbands are the actual collectors. They put up with it because of their love of the game, as well as the hope that women won’t have to accept that kind of treatment in the years to come. 

“Planting seeds for the future generation—for them to be able to grow up and collect whatever they want and feel proud of it, that’s the goal of all this,” Chang said.  

Boys to the Side

But through it all, women like Mahan see hope on the horizon. She is thrilled to see more women in the hobby and is proud that they’re confident enough to make it part of their online identity. 

Rather than hiding behind a username that offers no hints at the person behind it, Mahan is encouraged by the number of people who feel empowered to shout it: “Yes, I’m a woman, and I collect!”

She specifically cited the case of 19-year-old hobbyist Kayla Norsworthy, a collector who used to be known online as “CardCollector8117” but now goes by @Kayla.Collects

“She’s wonderful, and she’s the future of the hobby,” Mahan said.    

Today’s female collectors might not think they’re doing anything special by sharing in a hobby that has hundreds of thousands of active participants. But they’re doing their part to secure the hobby’s long-term viability and get a whole new generation involved. More collectors — especially a more inclusive and diverse group — will keep the hobby healthy and growing.  

“I’m just doing what I love and recording it,” Chang said. “But I’m gonna continue doing this until there are zero people left to be inspired by it.”


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