Five Questions with Hanna Chang
Though she’s a newer presence in collecting, Hanna Chang fell for the Hobby fast, and it didn’t take long for her to dive in headfirst.
The Los Angeles-based collector creates content on YouTube and Instagram as She Collects Cards, and she’s got tens of thousands of followers between the two channels. Rather than shying away from or minimizing her identity, she embraces the fact that she’s one of the few non-white women in the space. She’s active in breaks and posts frequently about the cards she’s after. Last summer, Chang even parlayed her passion into a full-time job.
Chang left a comfortable role in product strategy at Google to join Collectors, whose family of companies includes PSA, Goldin Auctions, and CardLadder. Today, she is its director of strategy and business operations.
We chatted with Hanna to hear her origin story in the Hobby, learn about her favorite cards, and get her prediction on the future of the space. Get to know Hanna a little better here with the inaugural edition of Topps 5.
How did you get into collecting?
I first got into collecting after an incident that we all remember from 2020: when Kobe Bryant suddenly passed away. At that point, I’d been calling myself a Kobe fan for years, and when I looked at my closet, I realized the only pieces I could use to remember him were jerseys. I immediately tried to get a pair of his shoes, but unfortunately, at that moment, the shoes were flying off the rack well over $2 thousand apiece.
While contemplating what else I could get to remember Kobe and his incredible life, a good friend of mine sent me an eBay link to a 1996 Topps Kobe Bryant, PSA 9. I got three of them that day for about $200 each. Two weeks later, they were worth about five times as much. Shortly after, the pandemic occurred, and everything is history from there.
What type of collector are you, and why do you gravitate toward that style?
Because of how I began my collecting journey, I am more geared toward a player-specific collecting style. I look for cards of players and teams that resonate with me, and from there, I consider expanding the collection to different parallels and refractors of that same card. All that is to say that I need to have a specific tie to the player or the card to continue collecting it, but once it’s in my collection, it’s very hard for these cards to leave my hands.
What’s your biggest hit of all time?
My biggest hit of all time has to be the 2020 Topps Chrome Formula 1 Max Verstappen orange auto, numbered to 25. I hit that in a break, and when I hit that card, I couldn’t believe what I had seen, but I was very happy. This was still when the product was in its infancy, and few people knew what was in the box. I was thrilled to own another copy of the Max Verstappen auto from the first-year product. I purchased one at The National from a really good friend back in the summer of 2021 — shoutout to Tai! — but pulling one gave me an incredible feeling of its own.
What are you chasing right now?
I am currently chasing 1996 Pokémon, the first-year Japanese product set from TCG. I’m going after the entire set of it. It’s quite an extensive list of cards, but they’re not as expensive as the 1999 base Pokémon set because those were printed in English. I’m specifically focused on building out the Japanese version from 1996. I can’t wait to have all these cards in one place and call it an entirely completed set (and maybe even pass it on to my children!)
What does the future of the Hobby look like?
To me, the future of the Hobby is more exciting and entertaining than ever. There are so many smart and talented individuals getting involved in the Hobby in a full-time manner. Think about it: For a while, it was just a bunch of us geeking out over cards, but there wasn’t a great infrastructure to buy, sell, or trade. You’d get scammed; things would get lost in the mail; even just two years ago, there were a lot of basic things that weren’t taken care of in the Hobby. But with very talented individuals and businesses putting themselves in a collector’s shoes and really thinking about how to improve the ecosystem, bring the best marketplace experience, expand the pie, and make this Hobby that we love more accessible to new collectors. The future of the Hobby is in great hands, and in the future, it will be more impactful, entertaining, discussed, and shareable on mainstream news and media.
And this isn’t just going to be focused in the United States. This is going to be a culture-driven hobby that many across the world will share. Although there may be language barriers, we’re all so passionate about sports, Pokémon, Magic, and Disney — whatever it is that we love, that we can translate that into card collecting. That’s the most beautiful thing I’m excited about in the Hobby.
Bonus Question: You’ve spent some time in shops in Seoul and Tokyo. Have you noticed any differences in collecting across countries?
Collecting outside the United States can have many challenges that we, as U.S.-based collectors, aren’t always aware of. First, they don’t get two-day or three-day priority shipping on items that just got released; they have to wait a few weeks for the product to get to them, and it costs more, too. There are import taxes, additional insurance fees, and handling fees.
Let’s say a box costs an American collector $100. For a collector in Japan, that same box might end up costing $150 out-of-pocket, and they receive the box a month later than the American collector. It makes it a little bit tough, but because of those challenges, every card is treated as special. Because there aren’t many products overseas, they can’t just walk into Target or Walmart and see these cards. Even my local Barnes & Noble has amazing TCG products now! That luxury doesn’t exist for sports card collectors in Japan and many other countries worldwide; you can’t get your hands on products as easily. And you do end up paying more than an American collector would pay.
However, I think the passion and the desire to open boxes is greater in countries outside the United States. Even though single-card trading and purchasing make up a smaller share of activity in the U.S. (compared to wax opening), it still seems more popular in America than abroad. Outside of the U.S., I would say single-card purchasing is not as common. Folks tend to buy more wax, more boxes, and open them themselves.
There’s a lot of potential for the growth of the Hobby outside of the U.S. I hope we can work together with local collecting communities to improve the Hobby and grow it together.