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With many collectors returning to the hobby they first left as a child, so is the hope of making a profit when investing in sports cards.
But the landscape has changed significantly as many will quickly realize from the junk wax era of the 1980s and 1990s – the vast majority of those cards being worthless.
Long gone are the days of simply collecting the rookie cards of the games biggest stars from the perennial sets released at the start of each pro sport season.
Today, that’s just the starting point.
For instance, there are prospect cards available for those hoping to speculate on a future hall of famer.
There are autograph cards (whether on-card or on a sticker) already inserted in packs from rookies to veterans.
There are parallels and refractors of each card, which may or may not be numbered, creating some scarcity (and therefore more value).
In many ways, the hobby has learned from its past as to not create another bubble environment from a few decades ago.
So it’s understandably exciting that collectors who as kids saw zero ROI in their Todd Van Poppel rookie cards to now return with disposable income and real potential to make money flipping.
But with so much choice out there on the sports card market, the question we get a lot is, “What should I start investing in?”
The answer is, it depends.
Consider this a general guide rather than specific rules to follow, but below we offer what we think can help you choose on what to start collecting.
Here’s the thing about everyone coming back to the hobby – the demand is high for product, and so prices are increasing rapidly.
It’s simple supply and demand. The high-end hobby boxes can set you back hundreds, if not thousands per box currently.
So if you’re returning to the hobby thinking you just want to spend a few bucks, then that will limit what you can collect.
There are retail boxes you can find at your local Walmart or Target, but the hits (ie. the cards worth something whether it’s a limited autograph card or relic patch card) are much harder to come by.
It’s like playing the lotto.
Buying whole hobby boxes, which you can get online or in-person from your local sports card store, will at least guarantee one hit.
But again, you will need to spend money for those. And the “hit” that you get from each box may or may not be worth much. Think of this like playing a more expensive lottery.
Boxes or Singles?
Now you don’t have to play the lotto game, especially if you’re on a limited budget.
Those who can readily afford to rip high-end packs, boxes, and even cases open, most will eventually list their singles or hits to sell online.
And the biggest online marketplace to buy singles is on eBay.
Narrow Your Search
Again, your budget will determine what you can spend on singles. But to make things easier to collect (and more fun frankly), we recommend narrowing your search on factors that matter to you the most.
Because the alternative is to try to collect everything, which will quickly burn a hole in your wallet. And there will always be more cards that you want to collect. Trust us.
So, for example, a couple factors that we use in determining which sports cards to go after is that we focus on rookie cards with on-card autographs on them, and preferably numbered.
Now the factors chosen will be personal to you.
Maybe you’re into a specific parallel card like the Silver Panini Prizms for basketball. Then that’s what you should go after.
Perhaps you’re into just PSA Graded vintage baseball cards. That will certainly narrow your search and help build a good collection you are generally happy with.
Of course, we can deviate now and then from the rules we set for ourselves, but we found it definitely helps keep us within our budget.
Research Current Market Value
Another question we get a lot is, “How much is this worth?” or said another way, “What should I pay for it?”
We always suggest doing your research and one of the best places to find current market value is to take advantage of the data provided by eBay, which we previously noted is currently the largest online marketplace for sports cards.
Don’t get fooled by the listed prices currently for sale, because sellers can list for whatever they want. Some are unrealistic on the value of certain cards.
A better indicator can be found in the “Sold Listings” section for each card (watch our YouTube video to see how you can easily find the Sold Listings info).
And auctions usually give you an indication of current market value vs. those who list their sports cards at a fixed price.
On that note, we curate daily some of the best high-end auctions on our popular Daily Auctions page with sports cards auctions closing each day on eBay and PWCC.
And the last piece of advice is to have fun with it.
Sure we try to pick players who have upside, play for big market teams, can contribute right away, and a multitude of other smaller factors that can potentially impact the value of a card.
But we like to choose a player we ultimately want to root for and truly believe in their talent.
Collecting as a fan and investing as a collector don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Yes, it’s fun to flip for a profit. But for us it’s even more fun to reinvest any profit for either a better, more rare card of the same player or more new cards of new players we want to see succeed.
Check us out on our YouTube channel for video presentations on popular card sets and about the hobby!