Investing in sports cards can be a fun, lucrative hobby

Photo by Darien Funk

Ever since the beginning of the pandemic, the sports card industry has seen a massive boom in popularity. With everyone inside and bored out of their minds, it’s no surprise the hobby has gained so many new participants.

However, the hobby isn’t only for sports enthusiasts. Investors have recently taken advantage of the growing industry as well, buying and selling cards with massive profits to show for it.

For those of you who’ve recently taken interest in the popular GameStop stock, sports cards might be your next avenue of profit—as menial as those profits may be.

The premise is similar: buy low, sell high. The only difference is that you’re buying a career, not a portion of a company. 

The most popular and often considered the most lucrative route to take is to invest in rookie cards. When an athlete is in their rookie season, cards can be relatively cheap, but once a player has established themselves within the sport, their rookie cards can be worth a shocking amount. 

But, it’s unreliable. You’re investing in a career, one that has a relative probability of failure. Don’t be like all the people who bought heaps of Markelle Fultz’ rookie cards before he forgot how to shoot the ball.

Of course, there’s no guarantee your investment will pan out. It’s a guessing game. For a lot of people, it’s an innocent hobby that really doesn’t eat up much of your expendable income—which, as university students, we don’t tend to have a lot of.

At the end of the day, collect what you enjoy. Sure, it’s a little dorky but I’m not judging. I spent my entire Thursday piecing together the entire set of Topps 2021 Series One only to realize I was short one base card.

It’s a fun alternative to stocks. Worst-case scenario: your investment doesn’t pan out and you’ve got a badass card to show for it. But it can be risky, so be careful with your budget. Unless you have the funds to shell out $10,000 for a Mike Trout rookie card, don’t risk the house.

If you’re really interested in the hobby, do some research of your own. For the love of God, don’t take my word for it. I don’t flip or invest;, I’m simply intrigued by the opportunity set out for those with the time and dedication to make some money.

If big money purchases are your forte, you’re wasting your time here. Everything on this list is dirt cheap. If you’re really looking to make a profit here, get ready to sit on these cards for the coming decade.

Here’s a few cheap cards with some potential to pan out—with patience.

Alec Bohm, Rookie Card, 2021 Topps Series One

Philadelphia Phillies third-baseman Alec Bohm has the true potential to be a superstar. His rookie card goes for about $8 on eBay and COMC—an online outlet for buying single cards. 

It’s recent, having just been released a few months ago, and in my opinion, has the best potential for appreciation out of this year’s entire rookie class. Buy low and sit on this card. Who knows, right?

Gary Sanchez, Rookie Card, 2016 Topps Series Two

Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez has all the potential to win an MVP. Sure, he’s the worst defensive catcher in the league, but his power at the plate is unquestionable.

His rookie cards go for around $2.40 raw and, provided Sanchez has that bounce back season everyone is predicting, there’s some potential to make a sizable profit here.

Payton Pritchard, Rookie Card, 2020-2021 Panini Hoops

Pritchard has shown shocking potential as a threat off the bench for the Boston Celtics this season, and his rookie card goes for about $3.00 on COMC.

The Celtics have been atrocious this season so buying low on all their rookies might not be a terrible idea. As the team’s stock goes down, so does the price of their cards—likely—so buy in while you can.

Budda Baker, Rookie Card, 2017 Donruss Optic

Alright, I’m a little biased on this one. As an Arizona Cardinals fan, it’s hard not to see emerging defensive star Budda Baker as a future Hall of Famer.

His Donruss Optic rookie card sells for about $0.80 on COMC and if Baker keeps playing like Arizona fans have come to expect, who knows how much this card will be worth in 15 years?

Unfortunately for those of you looking to break the bank in your first year collecting, it’s unlikely. Unless you have the funds to invest big early, it’s hard to profit off anything without sitting back and waiting.

The reality is you’re going to be sitting on these cards for years, but that’s part of the fun! You get to enjoy the careers of these young, exciting athletes, knowing you have a small, tiny stake in their success.

So, ignore my list! Pick a player you enjoy watching, sit on their rookie card until you’re 40 and relish in their success. It’s not about finding the next Lebron James; for average fans and investors, it’s really just about having fun.

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