How to Invest in Sports Cards: A Beginner’s Guide

How to Invest in Sports Cards

Growing up as a kid in America, I remember the days when kids went crazy over trading such as Pokemon, Magic the Gathering, and Sports Cards.

It was the 1990’s and everything was different back then. Nowadays, the sports card hobby looks vastly different from how I remember it.

Brick and mortar cards shops are going out of business and have been replaced by online auction houses. Kids have been replaced by savvy older investors who seek outsized returns from their sports card investments.

My Local Sports Card Hobby Shop
My local card shop. They relocated but are still in business!

While researching key points for this article, I realized just how little most people know about sports card investing. The top ranked articles on Google are clearly written by “experts” who have little to no experience investing in sports cards.

So my goal is to change that with this article to give you all of the information I’ve learned over the years.

This will be a long no-fluff article that gives you the honest truth about investing in sports card if you want to dive into the industry.

It’s very different from investing in stocks, real estate, or ETFs. The sports card industry is full of whales and sharks who prey on beginners to pad their pockets and sometimes take ownership of extremely valuable sports cards for pennies on the dollar.

My goal is to get you up to speed quickly so you can hit the sports card marketplace, make some investments, and hopefully grow your portfolio over time.

If you have children, you can pass down your investment collection and keep the wealth in your family for generations to come. I’m extremely bullish on sports cards in the long run because they are printed at a fixed supply and people from all over the world love and cherish their favorite teams and players.

Why Invest in Sports Cards?

Interest rates are rising and investors are worried about the risk of holding assets such as stocks & ETFs over the next few years. Even cryptocurrencies are crashing along with the stock market, making it harder to grow your wealth during a recessionary environment.

You could turn to bonds & high yield savings accounts to preserve your capital but you are losing around 5 to 6% due to inflation.

That’s why investors are turning to sports cards as an alternative investment class in 2022. Here are some interesting reasons to consider investing in sports cards

Predictable Seasonal Investment Trends

Sports cards do well when professional athletes begin their seasons and fans are watching the games. For example, football cards become popular during the NFL season and basketball cards become popular during the NBA season. That makes investing in sports cards extremely predictable because you can predict when interest will increase or fall off.

Low Investment Minimums

Big tech stocks such as Amazon or Tesla could cost you upwards of $100+ just to purchase a single share. In the crypto markets, Bitcoin and Ethereum prices are both $1,000 and $19,000 respectively. Real estate prices have soared ever since the global pandemic and will cost you around $350,000 to purchase a house in the United States. Investing in traditional asset classes are getting more expensive these days.

On the other hand, you can start investing in sports cards with an extremely low initial budget. Many ungraded modern sports cards can be purchased as singles for under $100 or you can pull high investment grade cards in packs for around $5 to $20 each.

The cost of entry into the sports card investment industry is much lower and caters more to the average Joe than Wall Street does.

High CAGR on Premium Graded Sports Cards

Most investors look for high returns in the stock market by purchasing shares in companies such as Tesla, Amazon, and Apple. These are all wonderful companies with wonderful products and extraordinary management teams.

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Historically, the stock market returns around 10% on average annually. Using the rule of 70, it will take around 7 years to double your money in the stock market.

Bonds and real estate have lower CAGR than stocks and are considered safe haven assets. You will preserve your capital but won’t achieved outsized returns.

Professionally authenticated sports cards, on the other hand, can provide eye popping annual returns that far outpace stocks, crypto, bonds, or real estate.

A 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card sold for $12.6 million in August 2022.

Baseball card investor Anthony Giordano purchased the card in 1991 for $50,000. He earned over $12.5 million in pure profit and didn’t have to keep up with quarterly reports or earnings estimates. All he had to do was keep the card safe and HODL.

What’s even more impressive is that the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle SGC 9.5 grew at a 20% CAGR over the last 3 years. That’s higher than the NASDAQ, S&P 500, or Dow Jones.

Certain tech stocks such as Tesla have solid CAGR over the last 10 years but many factors may affect the company’s stock price moving forward. There’s also the risk of share dilution, which robs investors of shareholder value.

CAGR by Asset Class over Last 30 Years

Asset TypeCAGR
1952 Topps Mickey Mantle SGC 9.520%
S&P 5009%
NASDAQ10%
Real Estate6%
Bonds2%

High Liquidity

It’s easier than ever to buy and sell sports cards whenever you want. Online auction sites such as eBay, COMC, and Amazon list millions of sports cards on a daily basis that you can buy or sell.

Private auction houses such as Goldin and Heritage Auctions host quarterly sports card auctions that sell tons of different vintage and modern day high value cards.

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While crypto is the most liquid asset class, you can sell your sports cards much quicker than real estate or privately held businesses.

350,000+ PSA 10 graded cards sold on eBay over the past few months

When I was a kid, you were forced to sell to your local card shop at low ball prices.

The internet changed the sports card industry forever and leveled the paying field for both investors and collectors.

Over 11,000 PSA 10 sold for at least $1,000 over last few months on eBay

To sum things up, investing in sports cards is an alternative way to earn consistent returns without the extra risk of holding equities.

Types of Sports Cards

Now let’s discuss the different types of sports card available to investors. Each sport has a company or several companies that produce and sell sports cards.

  • Baseball Cards: Made up of former and current MLB players
  • Basketball Cards: made up of former and current NBA players
  • Football Cards: Made up of former and current NFL players
  • Hockey Cards: Made up of former and current NHL players
  • Tennis Cards: made up of former and current ATP players
  • Golf Cards: Made up of former and current PGA tour players
  • Soccer Cards: Made up of former and current MLS & European footballers.
  • Boxing Cards: Made up of professional boxers.

You will find some other lessen known players on sites like eBay but I prefer focusing on American & European based athletes due to the higher resale values.

Baseball Cards

Baseball cards carry the higher overall resale value (as evidenced by the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle mentioned previously) and attract a lot of high net worth investors. This is a good place for beginners to start, especially the vintage (Pre-1980) baseball cards.

Basketball Cards

Basketball cards are the 2nd best sports card market thanks to legends such as Michael Jordan, Lebron James, and Kobe Bryant. Basketball is a global sport and has a wider reach than most of the other sports on the list.

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Different Sports Cards Eras

Sports cards are dividend into 2 main eras: vintage and modern. Vintage cards are rare and hard to find in 8 or better graded condition. They sell for extremely high prices and many investors focus on older vintage cards exclusively.

Modern cards were produced with better technology and at a high supply, which can affect their value somewhat. However, modern cards were often produced in limited print runs, adding to their scarcity.

Where to Buy Sports Cards

Want to start investing in sports cards? Here is a list of places to buy them from.

  • eBay: The #1 marketplace in the world for low, mid, and high end sports cards. Ultra high end cards (such as the 1952 Topps Mantle SGC 9.5 sell at private auction houses)
  • Amazon: A good place for buying low to mid end cards. Doesn’t have the same selection as eBay but millions of people trust Amazon.
  • COMC: A great place for investing in raw ungraded cards then sending them in to PSA and BGS grading
  • Goldin Auctions: A private auction house that frequently sells high end vintage and modern sports cards.
  • Heritage Auctions: The private auction house that sold the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle.
  • 4 Sharp Corners: The #1 PSA graded reseller in the world. My favorite place to buy PSA graded cards.
  • PWCC: A unique blend of auction house and online marketplace. You can find lots of high end cards here.
  • Huggins & Scott: My local sports card private auction house. They host a quarterly private auction with lots of high end vintage items.

I’ve personally bought from all of these online marketplaces and private auction houses in the past.

Best Sports Card Investment Portfolio Tools

Investing in sports cards requires organization and management tools to keep track of everything. Your portfolio will rise and fall in value over time so use the following tools to organize your cards.

  • Sports Card Investor
  • TCDB
  • PSA Set Registry

Many older millennials collected sports cards when they were a kid and got interested in the hobby again due to last year’s forced lockdowns.

Sports Card Investing Tips for Beginners

I wrote this guide for complete beginners who want to invest in sports cards for the first time.

  1. Start with a Reasonable Budget – You need at least $100 to get started as a sports card investor but a recommend a minimum budget of at least $500. $500 is enough to pick up some decent cards and flip them for a nice profit.
  2. Create an eBay Account – eBay is the the world’s largest online sports card marketplace and I do most of my shopping on their website. You can easily buy sports cards from sellers throught the United States and they have amazing deals if you spent time looking through the site.
  3. Create a COMC Account – COMC is my 2nd favorite sports card trading marketplace and I use it to buy ungraded cards in bulk for grading purposes. You won’t need COMC when you first start out but it will come in handy as you learn more about the industry. COMC also offers secure vault storage for your collection so you may consider sending some of your collection there for safe keeping. I keep a good amount of cards there just in case I want to flip them quickly.
  4. Start with PSA & BGS Graded Cards – Beginners should start with profesionally graded PSA & BGS cards until you get to know the industry better. Buying ungraded cards is a really hit or miss but I have found some amazing deals by educating myself about each player and carefully assessing the potential PSA/BGS graded value. If you’re just starting out then start with PSA/BGS 8, 9’s, and 10’s. You won’t get scammed and you have a good chance to resell for decent profits.
  5. Target Hall of Fame Rookies, Vintage Pre-80’s, and Current Rookies for Max Profits – Hall of Fame rookies is my bread and butter but these cards will trade at the high values. Vintage Pre-80’s cards are worth a ton if you can find them in decent condition. For beginners, I would start with the current rookie class or Future Hall of Fame players if you’re looking for quick flips. First year rookies get a lot of hype but their prices will cool off when next year’s draft class enters the league.

Summary

I’ve wirtten over 1,700+ words and plan to update this article more frequently in the future. There is a lot of cover so I’ll add more information as time goes on.

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