Investing in Baseball Cards 101: How To Collect Baseball Cards

An Alternative Investment Strategy?

Do you remember trading cards as a kid? Back then it was an exciting hobby and a decent deck of ‘swaps’ and ‘rares’ in your back pocket was a currency of its own in the schoolyard.

Growing up, collecting and trading cards weren’t to be taken all too seriously, it was more of a fun way to pass time, but for hardcore collectors, the baseball card market provides an exciting and alternative platform for investment.

Like with all markets, the value of baseball cards is always in flux with the values of certain cards skyrocketing into six-figure sums and the potential for profit makes collecting cards much more than just a hobby – in fact, it’s a solid and worthwhile investment.

Take, for example, the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle which sold for just under $2.9 million in 2018. 

Now, I’m not suggesting that by trading baseball cards you’re going to become a millionaire overnight, that would be ridiculous.

However, a solid investment strategy and a well-built portfolio could undoubtedly boost your bank account. 

Year by Year: The Most Valuable Baseball Cards On The Market

(Click the Images)

Most Valuable Baseball Cards From 2000-2020
Most Valuable Baseball Cards From 1990-2000
Most Valuable Baseball Cards From 1980-1990

Baseball Card Valuations To The Moon? 🚀

Not all cards reach such astronomical values but the market is currently on an upturn resulting in the increasing prices of certain collectibles with some doubling, some even tripling in value in the last few years, and this growth isn’t expected to stop any time soon.

This alone is a great reason to start collecting cards again.

Maybe you’ve even got some old ones stashed away in a garage or an attic somewhere.

If so, you should definitely get searching, blow off the cobwebs and see if you’ve been sitting on a small fortune.

Why You Should Invest in Baseball Cards

If you’re new to investing, then baseball cards could be the perfect start to building your portfolio.

Experienced investors can also get involved and, if you’re a baseball fan it’s a superb way to inject a bit of fun into your strategy.

Before you commit though, it’s important to understand the benefits and why now is the prime time to buy baseball cards. 

Let’s take a look at the main advantages of investing in baseball cards.

  • Market growth

As I mentioned before, the value placed upon baseball cards has grown significantly in recent years. This growth isn’t unique to baseball cards either – basketball cards and Pokemon cards have seen similar spikes in value. This is down to a number of factors:

      • Card Grading: A number of scales such as the PSA, SGC, and Beckett’s BGS provides a standardized method of grading the condition and authenticity of cards so values are realistic and the market has an added degree of security.

      • Easy to Buy/Sell: The market isn’t as niche as it once was and collectors don’t have to spend hours trawling through yard sales in hope of discovering a bargain. In fact, there are thousands of sellers and auctions online contributing to the rise in popularity of collecting and trading. A direct result of this is market growth.

      • Cards are Limited: Unlike with actual money, there’s no print press churning out more baseball cards. There’s a finite number of cards available and the fewer there are, the more valuable they will potentially become.
  • Nostalgia

Not everybody out there investing in baseball cards are doing so to flip them for a profit.

For a lot of serious investors, collecting is a hobby and a link to the past and they will always be on the lookout for cards to add value to their inventory.

It’s the same across all collections – people who have dedicated their lives to collecting stamps, autographs, or sports memorabilia are unlikely to stop collecting all of a sudden, so you’ll always have a buyer.

  • Sports Betting Growth

In the last decade, the popularity of sports betting has increased massively thanks to the rise of online bookmakers and an increased number of sports betting markets. Ok great, but what’s this got to do with card collecting?

Well, imagine you buy a standard pack of baseball cards.

You could end up with a standard selection of cards, or maybe even a duplicate of a card you’ve already collected.

Now imagine in a normal pack of cards you could score a limited edition which one day could be the equivalent of a 1952 Mickey Mantle and sell for an insane amount of money.

Essentially, this is in line with gambling as every time somebody puts money into a pack of cards, they’re hoping to hit a jackpot, as with a sports bet or a lottery ticket.

The similarities between sports betting and card collecting has the potential to draw more people into the game and increase market values.

Baseball Card Valuation

Will Baseball Cards Go Up In Value?

The value of baseball cards is in many ways similar to that of stocks or real estate or even art in the sense that there’s a time to buy and a time to sell and understanding this is crucial to making a profit.

It’s all about supply and demand.

The availability of a certain card is going to affect its value.

Take for example the most expensive baseball card ever sold, the 1909 T206 Honus Wagner which sold for a record $3.12 million.

In 1909, the card wasn’t likely to be considered at all valuable as they came free with a pack of cigarettes, but a hundred years down the line there were only fifty or so cards left and few of them in mint condition, so it became widely regarded as the ‘Mona Lisa’ of baseball cards. 

That brings us nicely to the condition of the card.

If a card remains pristine then it’s value is going to increase. There are thousands of certain cards from the 80s and 90s in existence but the majority of them have been bent, ripped or damaged in other ways causing them to lose value. 

So, in a nutshell, yes, the value of cards is and will continue to go up due to availability and condition.

Older cards are less likely to be in good condition, so age is also a factor – older cards in mint condition are the equivalent of gold bullion within the baseball card space. 

Where to Start Collecting & Investing in Baseball cards?

If you’re convinced and believe that investing in baseball cards is the way forward, then you need to make sure you’re prepared.

After all, you wouldn’t buy a house without getting it surveyed and you wouldn’t buy a used car without having a mechanic look it over first.

Similarly, you shouldn’t blindly buy baseball cards without first doing your research. Here are our top tips for would-be investors.

  • Know the basics

It really does sound basic but you’re going to know where to go to buy and sell your cards. eBay is a great place to start.

If you don’t already own an account, you’ll need to set one up because typically that’s where the vast volume of baseball card trades take place.

As a newbie, you might struggle with buying values.

There’s no shame in that but to avoid getting ripped off it’s a good idea to have a tool that keeps on top of the market.

Card Ladder does just that, and it’s a superb aid when working out exactly when to buy and when to sell for the best profit.

  • Understand the different types of baseball cards 

Yes, there are different types of baseball cards and you’ll need to understand the difference between a rookie card and a relic card.

Learn the market

It’s definitely worth including other types of card collecting in your research.

If you want to collect baseball cards that’s great, but don’t neglect the wider market when you’re starting out.

A keen understanding of the whole card collecting market will hold you in good stead for your first investments.

It will also put you in a strong position should you ever want to broaden your portfolio into other areas.

  • Know where to buy baseball cards

We already mentioned eBay as a great place to start out buying cards and while it’s where a lot of deals tend to go down, it’s not the only place to buy and sell cards so don’t limit yourself.

Be sure to check out the Beckett Marketplace for great deals.

Best baseball cards

Which Baseball Cards Are Good Investments?

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned investor, you don’t want to rush into your first investments.

It takes time and patience to find cards that are going to have a good resale value further down the line.

Luckily for you, we’ve picked out some great cards to get you started.

Ronald Acuna Jr. – Bowman Chrome 2017
This would be a superb choice for a first investment. Acuna Jr. has an insane amount of potential to become a real legend and the number of Bowman Chrome cards have from 2016 have doubled in value in the last year, so one or two years down the line this one could sell at a big profit.

Yoan Moncada Topps 2017

Yoan Moncada is on the up and part of an excellent Chicago White Sox side. He could really be the breakout player of this Sox team in 2021 so it’s worth buying his cards at a fair price now and watching the value soar.

Jasson Dominguez Bowman Paper Yankees Top Rookie Card 2020

The hype machine has been close to overdrive whenever Jasson Dominguez’s name gets mentioned.

He came in at number 32 on the MLB’s list of the top 100 baseball prospects and the teenager hasn’t played a professional game since joining the Yankees. However, if he’s to live up to expectations, who knows what a lint condition rookie card could be worth someday?

Investing in Baseball Cards: The Collector’s 7 Survival Tips

Survival Tip #1 – Learn to select the right cards

Finding the next baseball card deal of the century isn’t going to be an easy feat.

There’s a lot of factors to take into account when selecting the right card to buy. Be sure to consider the grading of the card as this is key to understanding its potential value. You can also buy raw (ungraded) cards, but you’ll have to develop an eye for what’s good quality and what isn’t.

Similarly, you should consider the background of the player on the card.

No, we don’t mean where they grew up and went to school. Think about the talent of the player, their potential to improve, their potential to win trophies, the standard and reputation of their team, and their life off the field.

Why is their life off the field important? Well think about it, any player has the potential to become a figure of cultural importance and every sport has its icons. If you chance upon a legend in the making you can really make some big bucks in the future.

Survival tip #2 – Investing requires patience

Your money is important and the last thing you want to do is throw it away on a baseball card that goes on to be worth squat.

Take your time, be realistic, and don’t buy for buying’s sake. Make sure you do your market research to avoid getting ripped off.

Buying today doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to sell at a profit tomorrow. You’re likely to be sitting on cards for a couple of years, maybe even longer. It’s all about building a portfolio and selling at the right time.

Survival tip #3 – Try not to follow the crowd

Prices fluctuate all the time. Certain cards go in demand because of a bad tip and turn out to be worthless in the long run. If everyone’s going for a certain card at a certain time ask yourself if it’s really worth it.

Investing in baseball cards is all about finding opportunities and exploiting niches.

The real gems are the cards that you find off the back of your own initiative, not the ones that every collector in the game are buying and selling. 

Survival tip #4 – Baseball cards can get pretty expensive

Unless you’re sitting on wads of fifties like Scrooge McDuck, you’re not likely to be able to chase the most expensive cards on the market. As with any investment strategy, you’ll need to spend wisely and remain within your means.

Starting out, you’ll want to find good deals to flip at a profit and then, as your investment starts to come to fruition, you’ll be able to think about investing slightly more until one day who knows? Your initial investment and patience could see you sitting at the high rollers table. 

Survival tip #5 – The new way isn’t always the best way

Sports card trading has become a massive multi-million-dollar industry thanks to online sales and online marketplaces and yes, the majority of your business is going to be done on the internet.

That’s not to say that it’s always going to be the best way to find prospective investments.

Don’t be afraid to embrace the older methods of finding cards. Card shops and card swap meets are great places to find good deals and it’s good to step outside every once in a while and connect with the real world.

Yard sales and auctions are also a good place to look. Some of the best buys are found like this.

Survival tip #6 – Don’t quit your day job just yet

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but the chances are that you probably won’t be able to retire early from selling baseball cards.

That’s not to say that you can’t make a tidy profit over time, but remember to stay grounded. Invest what you can afford, play the long game and you’ll see results.

Survival tip #7 – Enjoy yourself

Getting back into card trading isn’t all about the profits.

Yes, it’s nice when you make a buck or two but don’t let the financial side of it overtake the pleasure you gain from it otherwise it will become a chore and we’ve got enough of those in our lives already.

Enjoy investing as a hobby and embrace the feeling you got back in the day in the playground trading cards.

The Future of Baseball Card Investing

It’s not easy to predict the future especially in a world where things advance at such a rate and the future of baseball card investing is no different.

One thing we do know is that baseball card trading is growing in popularity and the market for buying and selling is enlarging all the time.

Trading is becoming easier and converting cards to cash has never been simpler thanks to online sales platforms.

Traveling cross-country to card swaps and collector’s meets is a thing of the past and baseball card trading is only going to become more accessible to a larger audience.

What was once quite a niche and even ‘nerdy’ pastime has become a huge game and the volume of cards out there is ever increasing.

Think of all the cards that people are sitting on without even knowing their value. As the popularity of baseball cards grows, the more it will enter the mainstream and grasp more sellers and more investors.

Looking forward, the future for baseball card investing is bright and there’s never been a better time to get started so what are you waiting for? 

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