Steve Palmer of Cape Coral calls his late grandmother the “Card Queen.”
In the 1980s and ’90s, Marge Honkanen organized shows and expos for baseball, basketball, football and hockey trading cards. Usually, they happened at the Edison Mall.
Now, a generation later, Palmer, 35, has taken her legacy to another level.
From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at JetBlue Park, spring training home of the Boston Red Sox, Palmer will hold the Southwest Florida Sports Mega Card Show. Admission will cost $3, and children 13 and under can get in for free.
“This is the biggest leap I’m taking for the card show industry, especially here in Southwest Florida,” Palmer said. “I’m doing the best I can. I’m doing everything I can, to make this show the most successful show that’s ever happened in Southwest Florida.”
Almost 100 vendors are expected to be on hand. Boston Red Sox prospect Blaze Jordan will be available to sign autographs. Thousands of dollars will be changing hands.
A few years ago, Palmer bought a LeBron James rookie card for $2,100. PSA, a card authentication and evaluation service, gave it a perfect 10 grade.
At the time, Palmer operated a baseball card shop in Cape Coral. During that time, Palmer saw the hobby continually escalating. He just didn’t fathom by how much.
“Everybody around me, including myself, said, ‘I’m never going to sell this,’” Palmer said of that rookie card. “That was the card that left with me. I put it under my pillow every night. I knew it was going to be the one. Eventually, when it got to $6,800, I said, ‘Oh my gosh, this might be the peak.’ And I sold it. I sold it on eBay for $6,800. That was late 2018, maybe January 2019.”
But then the COVID-19 global pandemic arrived in March 2020. The pandemic put the sports world on hold.
“COVID was like the perfect storm,” Palmer said. “It took everybody’s attics down. Everybody was going, ‘I’m going to go through my cards. I’m bored. I’m quarantined. I’m going into my attic, and I’m going to find some cards.’”
That same LeBron James card now sells for $230,000. For Palmer, it’s the one that got away. But for Palmer, the hobby’s heightened state allowed him to leave his brick-and-mortar store behind him and follow his passion in a new way.
“I thought to myself, ‘why am I not doing shows like my grandmother?’” Palmer said. “And then boom. February was the first one. This is my 11th show now. I’m bringing the entire community together of collectors through the shows.”