Investing in Sports Cards
Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, collecting and investing in sports cards was a way of life. Sports card binders filled to the max lined the shelves of many bedrooms. Old shoe boxes stuffed to the brim. If you were smart enough, you invested in some hard cases to protect your most expensive cards. Unfortunately even if you did all of those things, most of the cards back then were over-produced. So aside from a few outliers, their upside is minimal.
Back then trends were as much of a factor as they are today. Growing up a huge baseball fan, I remember when the Iron Man, Cal Ripken Jr., broke the consecutive games record. Or in the late 90’s steroid era, when McGwire and Sosa were battling it out for the home run crown. There are many factors to consider, but exceptional talent, record breaking seasons and huge fan bases continue to be key indicators.
Investing in Sports Cards
In the past five years we’ve seen some astronomical auction sales that would case any eager investor to do a double take. Sports card investing has finally caught up with the digital age. And just like the remakes of our favorite 80’s and 90’s movies and tv shows, the sports card industry is now hitting full stride.
One of my favorite entrepreneurs, Gary Vaynerchuk has been ranting about investing in sports cards for years now. If you know anything about Gary, you know that he has a unique ability to detect trends early on. And he has made a fortune doing so. He stated in an article he wrote over 2 years ago:
“In the short term, an investment opportunity might look like buying cards for say, $40 each and flipping them for $80 a few months later. In the long term, I think the best investments will be icons. These are the ones that will see growth over time. Too many people will take this next 2-3 year period and invest in young stars who, in 7 to 15 years won’t matter culturally. They’d be better off selling those cards in 24 months instead of holding them for a decade.”
For many years the Honus Wagner T206 tobacco card was the “Holy Grail” of sports cards, selling at a whopping $2.8 million. It wasn’t until last year, that a Mike Trout rookie card sold at auction for $3.9 million, make it the highest selling sports card of all time.
Mike Trout rookie card sells for $3.9 million, per @GoldinAuctions.
The seller of the card originally purchased it for $400,000. He just netted over $3 million.
It’s the highest-selling sports card of all-time. 🐐 pic.twitter.com/DVf0Cw0n3K
— Danny Vietti (@DannyVietti) August 23, 2020
Sports Investing Trends to Watch
The Sports betting industry continues to crush revenue numbers month over month with no signs of stopping. This bodes extremely well for investors in sports cards as these two industries attract very similar audiences.
Not big on investing in sports cards or gambling? Consider purchasing shares of DraftKings (NASDAQ:DKNG), Boyd Gaming (NYSE:BYD) or ESports Entertainment (NASDAQ:GMBL). That way you can get in on the action through your familiar friend…the stock market.
Speaking of gambling…anyone who watched ESPN’s wildly popular documentary The Last Dance got and up close and personal look at Michael Jordan’s amazing career and yes, his affinity for gambling.
Our very own investment expert and Chicago native Bryan Bottarelli highlighted the impact The Last Dance has had on Michael Jordan cards. Around the time of airing, Bottarelli recommended investing in quite a few Jordan rookie cards. Since then, the cards he recommended not only doubled, but in some cases quadrupled in price.
Based on that success, Bryan’s latest video on investing in sports cards profiles another familiar name in Magic Johnson. That’s correct…the NBA star and former Laker and NBA President has his own documentary coming out. There is no release date set as of today. But if you’re a sports fan like Bryan, you’re extremely excited to see all of these amazing stories and potential investment opportunities coming to light. Bryan calls it a “Slam Dunk” in his latest Trade Talk Tuesdays video below.
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How Do I Know Which Cards to Buy?
As with any investment, the more promising the future is, the more likely it is you will turn a profit. If you’re looking to invest in the sports stars of the future, there is certainly a good deal of risk involved. Rookie cards tend to sell for a lot more, and they are also a great way to get your sports card feet wet. However, what if that top athlete suffers an injury? What if they never win a championship? There are many risks to consider with younger stars. That is why vintage cards are typically seen as the better investment by long term sports card enthusiasts.
If you have an interest in modern era player cards, you might look to invest in retired athletes that have already proven themselves. Is the athlete in line for induction into the Hall of Fame for their respective sport? Are they a cultural icon like Colin Kaepernick? Is there something else unique about them that makes their card more valuable? These are all important questions to consider.
What Else You Should Know
When evaluating individual cards…surface, centering, corners, creases, scratches and edges are what appraisers look for. Grading companies use highly trained staff to evaluate these elements and assess the card(s) condition. Keep this in mind when submitting any of your cards for appraisal. Cards that are not submitted for grading are called “raw” and generally sell for a much lower price. Raw cards may be your best bet if you are still learning the ropes.
When investing in sports cards, there are some other things to account for. For example, the company that makes the card. Certain brands hold the licenses for specific sports. This can influence distribution and ultimately value.
The number of cards that has been produced is one of the most important factors to consider. The fewer cards in production, the more sought after those cards are likely to be. Supply and demand at its finest. You can track this with the PSA population report here.
Buying complete sets or boxes was also a huge part of card collecting when I grew up and it still is. In some cases, selling a complete set can net a pretty penny. But for the best returns, investors in sports cards may be better suited by selling individual cards. Cards with autographs, printing errors, or unique patches and symbols can also signify rarity and influence price.
Where to Buy and Sell
Believe it or not there are still quite a few baseball card shops around…many in your area! Others like to get up close and personal at trade shows, where investors have found some of the best deals around. Fanatics, eBay, Walmart, Target, StarStock, COMC and other online retailers are additional alternatives for those looking to cash in on this American past time.
Investing In Sports Cards – Summarized
Many new parents are passing down their love of sports cards to their children which could explain the recent uptick in interest. The average age of investors also continues to trend younger, which could offer another explanation. Whatever the case may be, the opportunity to hit a home run investing in sports cards is here to stay.
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