August 23, 2020

By Ryan Totka | Blog

Most of us grew up collecting baseball cards. We spent all of our money on cards at flea markets, card shows and the corner stores. We couldn’t wait for the day when the new Beckett price guide arrived in our mail box to see if our cards went up…or down  For us 40 year olds, as years went by we entered the “real world “ with college and actual jobs, the sports card market was pretty much a thing of the past as we finally had bills to pay. Other than bringing back cool memories when we look through our collections, they basically just sat in a box or storage unit somewhere…and then fast forward to today where out of nowhere, BOOM, it’s back baby. But this time, real money is being made overnight while still enjoying the thrill of collecting, like when we were kids. On August 22nd, a record breaking $3.9 million was paid for a Mike Trout 1/1 Superfractor in an auction, eclipsing the previous record of $3.1 million paid for the T206 Honus Wagner. The Trout card was originally purchase by Vegas Dave for $400k just two yeas ago. Insane ROI!

What Made the Sports Card Market Come Back and Why Are Prices Going Up?

Just like any business setting their prices, it’s the simple Law of Supply & Demand, in which for Sports Cards, the recent demand has been much greater than the supply. There are a few reasons, in my opinion, why the sports card craze came back stronger than ever and here is why:

1. Collectors From the Past Now Have Kids

The thrill of opening a pack brings back memories and now parents can share that same excitement with their kids.

2. Overseas Investors 

Sports like the NBA has HUGE popularity overseas and many investors are getting in the craze, driving prices up.

3. Social Media Influencers like GaryVee are Heavy in the Market
Those promoting on social media only give more life to the hobby. GaryVee, who collected as a kid, went in heavy as an investor.It’s next level when non sports celebrities start getting into the hobby.

4. Collectors Are Obsessed with Watching Live Breaks 

Almost 24 hours a day, collectors can watch and buy into live box breaks. Essentially you buy the box or a team and hope they pull that winning lottery ticket for you.

5. People Moving Money Into The Card Market From Other Investments 

Investors are diversifying their portfolio from stocks, bonds, real estate, gold, art to sports cards because it’s fun, relatable and also very profitable.

6. Buying a Card is Like Owning a Share of Stock in the Player 

Gotta do your research. Just like buying a stock in a company who does well, you can profit off the On Field success of a player. This makes watching a normal game on a Tuesday night that much more exciting when you have the opportunity to profit from the success of a player.

7. Sports Cards are Today’s Art

The joy of looking at your favorite sports card is more exciting than looking at a Picasso or Van Gogh, in my opinion, because we can relate. Card companies have started to release some pretty amazing colorful designs these days, including the Topps 2020 Project which are artistic re-designs by current pop artists such as Ben Baller, Ermsy and Fucci.

8. Athlete Documentaries Released

The recent Last Dance documentary featuring Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls led collectors to buying more iconic Jordan cards, which then led to the interest of other sports icons we grew up idolizing such as Ken Griffey Jr, Darryl Strawberry, Walter Payton, Dr. J and hundreds of others.

9. Recent Pandemic W/ No Sports Led to People Needing Their Sports Fix

Crazy times we are living in. A huge surge of the market came when there were no sports for months for the first time in our lives. Sports cards gave collectors their fix because we need some form of sport and competition.

Where Are Places That I Can Buy & Sell Sports Cards?

1. Ebay, Comc, StockX

2. Direct from Panini, Topps and Upper Deck’s Website

3. Facebook Groups

4. Dealers Online Who Do Live Breaks

5. Card Shows 

6. Local Card Shops

7. Target / Wal Mart (for buying, but they go fast)

What Sports Cards Should I Invest In?

This is the most common question we all ask. There are so many options for each player. There are also brands at different price ranges under each company like Panini, the leader in the industry. For beginning basketball card investors, I would stick with PRIZM, OPTIC, SELECT and MOSAIC. Panini also produces premium products like NATIONAL TREASURES, NOIR and IMMACULATE for high end investors. Buying sports cards can be like buying a lottery ticket or placing a bet especially when buying boxes or packs, but with less downside. As with any investing opportunity, you gotta do your research. When making purchases for the future, I always like the “Always Think Ahead” method. Who might go to the Finals, who has a documentary coming out next, who might get inducted in the upcoming Hall of Fame, who might be a breakout player waiting for their opportunity? You are making a calculated bet before things get hot!

First, Gotta Do Your Research

As with any investing opportunity, you gotta do your research. YouTube videos like SportsCardInvestorSlabStoxPSA Collector and The Hobby Box are daily videos that provide great insight and provide knowledge for experts and those new to the hobby. To check your collection value, trending card and past sales, is a great tool and you can also use the “SOLD / COMPLETED SALES” feature on eBay to check real time data. Watch live games and SportsCenter highlights to educate yourself on players who get hot, then search eBay and see what deals you can find before others do. You can buy rookie cards, 2nd year cards, inserts, numbered cards, colored cards, basically all different variations, which is why you have to do your research and see which suits your collecting strategy and investing budget. Do you want to own a bunch of one player at a lower cost or buy his best card at a higher cost? Buying your favorite players is fun, but also taking a gamble on some up and comers that might breakout could have the biggest ROI for collectors.

Raw vs Graded Cards

When buying a card raw, you will pay much less, but you have a bigger risk that the card might not be gem mint. On eBay, a seller will list the condition but it still doesn’t guarantee it’s perfect. However, if you get it graded and it comes back a 9 or 10, your upside could be huge. On the other hand, for example, if you bought a “Graded” PSA 10 card, you have the guarantee the card is perfect, and they normally sell for about 5x more the value of a raw card.There are three major grading services you can submit thru: PSA, BSG and SGC, although PSA is a leader and carries the most value.

Sealed Boxes

It might be hard to keep a box unopened, but often times this is a very profitable option. You can’t replace the excitement of opening a pack, but if you are looking to invest long term, it might be a good idea to keep it sealed. Sometimes it takes a few years for players to become super stars. For example, I bought a box of 2018-19 Prizm Basketball for $270. A year later the box is selling for $3,200 because more players emerged from that class two years later (Devonte Graham, Michael Porter Jr, Gary Trent Jr) and the main rookies, Luka Doncic and Trae Young’s went wild in price due to their continued domination. Consider a sealed box like a Mutual Fund, where you have the chance to pull multiple stars instead of investing in just one player.

Legends, Super Stars, The Future of the League or Up & Coming Prospects

It might be good to have a mix of players to invest in. Hall of Famers are less likely to go down in value because their career has already been legendary. For example, basketball greats like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter would be considered iconic legends who see values rise steady over the years. Players like LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Steph Curry and James Harden are super stars who are MVP candidates every year. The Future is bright with guys like Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Donovan Mitchell, Zion Williamson and Giannis Antetokounmpo who are among the hottest in the market right now. The best value play however might be the potential breakout players like Mo Bamba, Gary Trent Jr, Darius Bazley and Bol Bol who you can still buy relatively low. It’s up to you on your risk / reward levels!

Sometimes Patience is Key

The market is so crazy right now that some cards might jump 2-3 times in value overnight based on a player’s one game performance that night. A 50 point game for Damien Lilliard, 3 Home Runs for Mookie Betts or a hat trick for Connor McDavid, the market moves fast these days. However, sometimes you have to be more patient and buy when people lose interest. A guy could be hurt for an entire season like Michael Porter Jr which may be a buying opportunity long term for when he comes back and performs like he was expected. Sometimes a quarterback might be a backup waiting his turn and you have to wait 1-2 years to reap the benefits, but it will definitely be worth the wait when he gets his shot. This is a great opportunity to fish where others aren’t fishing. For the biggest sports card ever sold, Vegas Dave only waiting two years to buy for $400k and sell for $3.9 million. This is why you gotta take risks in life 

My Favorite Player Investments in Each Sport for the Next 5-10 Years

  • Baseball: Fernando Tatis Jr, Luis Robert, Bo Bichette, Wander Franco
  • Basketball: Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Ja Morant, Donovan Mitchell
  • Football: Josh Allen, DK Metcalf, Saquon Barkley, Dak Prescott
  • Hockey: Connor McDavid, Auston Mathews, Elias Pettersson
  • Future Hall of Famers: Derek Jeter, Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter

Here is a great video from GaryVee about sports card investing…

If you have any questions about sports card investing, grading or my favorite cards, email me at