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Buying sports cards is one of the most fun ways to invest your hobby money. As a sports fan, there is something joyous about owning a rare card from a player you admire and watching its value increase as that player enjoys success on the field.
However, it is this emotional investment that also makes investing financially in sports cards so difficult. When choosing a card to make an investment in, you have to be able to lay aside emotional biases and have a clear strategy so that you can see the value of your collection increase over time.
The first question that you should ask yourself is this: When do I want to sell this card? Is this a card you want to sell in 1-2 years from now, 5 years, or 20 years? Based on how long you want to hold onto the card there are different factors worth considering. For this article, let’s focus on the long-term investments.
Players to target: Projected to be remembered by fans and the public long after they retire. Should be on track, or have a realistic path to the Hall of Fame (HOF) of their respective sport.
The rule of thumb is if you’re planning to sell a card you just purchased in 20 years, potential buyers need to recognize the name on the card.
There are a lot of ways a player can be memorable such as playoff heroics or dazzling highlights but probably the simplest for beginners is their likelihood of being enshrined into the hall of fame of their sport.
By definition hall of fames exist to separate out who is worth remembering from everyone else who played the game. Here are some quick things to consider:
- If the player’s career ended today would they still have a high chance of making the hall of fame based on their longevity and/or peak performance.
- Examples: Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols
- Risk: Low
- Has the player already played at a high peak (MVP candidate) for a few years and is on track to be a HOF candidate as long as they do not get injured or suffer a surprising decrease in output.
- Examples: Max Scherzer, Robinson Cano
- Risk: Low-Medium
- Has the player reached the peak, or is near the peak of their sport, but because they are early in their career they still have a lot of to prove before falling into category one or two.
- Example: Kris Bryant, Bryce Harper
- Risk: Medium
- Does the player have a chance at being an all-time great? Will they be remembered as the player who defined the generation, or as a top 5 or 10 player at their position of all-time? History tells us that for players who are considered all-time greats, their sports cards value will hold up long after they retire. Even collectors who never saw Mickey Mantle play would be ecstatic to own one of his cards.
- Examples: Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw
- Risk: Very Low
What you will notice above is that prospects do not fit into any of the above categories. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider buying cards belonging to top prospects or rookies as a long-term investments at all.
Just understand that the risks are higher and that it may be wise to sell earlier if needed.
Want a more short-term investment strategy? Take a look here for some advice.