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Sports Cards Investing – A Rookie Perspective

Week 1. Sports Cards.

What’s good people, glad you landed on our site! This little blog series is going to be me, Rex, documenting my learning experience with sports card investing. I’m a complete novice, and I thought it would be interesting to see what I can learn within the hobby, from an everyman perspective.

As a kid you collected cards. Yes you did and if you say you didn’t you’re lying. I was into all that, Pokemon cards, Yu-Gi-Oh cards, and I was obsessed with the Premier League sticker albums from Panini every single year.

I’ve dug out my collection of sticker albums and football cards and they’re honestly pretty cool to look back through, admiring my 6 year old selfs best attempts at sticking things in straight and collecting shiny’s. My 1999 album is the oldest one I have, so I would have literally been 6 years old. I have very fond memories of leaving football training all muddy on a Saturday morning, going to the local newsagents with my dad and getting 5 packs of stickers, 10 packs of stickers, sometimes 20 if i’d been super good. We’d get in the car, head to my grandads and i’d sit at his table ripping open my packs of stickers and checking all my got got needs.

Now while stickers are a nice memory, it would appear that sports cards, are very very relevant today.

So what’s it all about?

I first noticed this trend when i saw a tweet about a Michael Jordan 1986 fleer rookie card (below), that had sold for around 100,000 dollars. And my brain thought, ‘Fucking what sorry?’ So I had to look further.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve learnt way too much about ‘the hobby’.

I’ve seen bits and pieces from Gary Vee talking about the sports card market, and then I found the ‘Sports Card Investor’ on youtube. Immediately connected with him because he’s a Gator fan so i think it was meant to be. The Sports Card Investor is a guy called Geoff Wilson who has built his wealth investing in tech companies. He knows stocks and the stock market well. On the side he began to apply that knowledge to sports cards, which was his childhood passion like mine.

Check his channel out! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCk9zL0UlZ28uS7tlcguSLQg

Geoff has a wide variety of videos on his channel, all about the Sports Card market, so i’ve been educating myself and going off to investigate his points further on my own.

Now there are two sides to the sports card world, the collector, and the investor. An investor is looking at cards purely from a profitability stand point, and a collector is trying to complete whole collections or picking up various cards from their favourite teams and players. One thing worth noting, it’s okay to do both!

Rookies, Rookies, Rookies!

Now if you remember nothing else, remember this. Rookie cards rookie cards rookie cards. Nothing else. I don’t quite know why the market is this way, but it’s all based around rookie cards. Hence the Jordan 1986 fleer that sold for 90 something thousand dollars. Or the Lebron rookie patch autographed card that sold for 1.8 million dollars (not a typo). Here it is:

So key things to note. First, it’s Lebrons rookie year. Sports cards of value will always be from players rookie year primarily.

Secondly, the card has a ‘patch’ in it. A patch is a piece of the players jersey, which will either be player or game worn. Game worn is worth more than player worn, which means Lebron would have worn it for an event or a photoshoot or something. Game worn holds more value here. Notice on the patch, that it has the white, the gold and the red from his Cleveland Cavaliers rookie season jersey. This also adds value. The patches can sometimes be one plain colour, which would be worth a lot less. The more colours and variance on the patch, the rarer the card. If you get part of the team badge or a nike tick etc, it adds a lot of value to the card because it is unique.

You’ll then notice the autograph. Autographed cards add value naturally because well, it’s the players autograph. However, the autographing process determines the value. Some cards have a sticker autograph on them, which means the player was sent a sheet of stickers, signed them all, and they were then stuck onto the card by the manufacturer be it Panini or Topps or whoever. These are worth less. If the card is autographed directly, it holds a lot more value. Which makes sense because it means at one point in time Lebron held and signed this card.

You’ll then see the silver numbers along the right hand side, where it says 14/23. This means that there is only 23 of this card in existence. This particular one is likely worth more than some of its’ brothers and sisters because the patch will differentiate it, by having three colours.

Finally, the card is cased and graded. The Beckett gold sticker you see at the top, means this card was sent off to be officially graded. PSA and Beckett are two of the primary grading companies, and having a highly graded card is your money maker. A PSA Gem Mint 10, or a Beckett Gem Mint 9.5 is the jackpot. (i think 10s with Beckett are almost impossible). If you have a rare card, and you send it off to one of these companies to be graded, you have to wait MONTHS to get it back. Let’s use PSA because I know a little more about it.

Grading

So a PSA 10 Gem Mint condition card means the card is perfectly sharp on all it’s corners, it’s perfectly centred, which means it wasn’t cut off centre or anything like that, it will also have absolutely zero marks scratches dents or fraying anywhere on the card, and no surface damage. In other words, it’s perfect. People only pay the real premiums for PSA 10s. A PSA 9 would likely still look perfect to the untrained eye, like mine. However when it goes under the microscope, there’ll be an imperfection somewhere. The margin for error with these is so miniscule, that even a scratch the eye cannot see will cost the card it’s PSA 10 grade.

This process is not cheap. It costs a minimum of $20 dollars to have a card graded, which increases heavily as the estimated value of your card increases. So you have to inspect them yourself before you tackle that. If you then believe that the card you possess has a shot at a PSA 10 grade, you sent it off and wait. When they come back, if you get the 10 grade, you’re in business.

A card with a PSA 10 grade will likely sell for way over double the value of a PSA 9. Think about it, if you’re putting your money into a sports card, you don’t want an imperfect one.

So this is why you see when folks open boxes of cards and pull a signature card or a numbered card, they immediately sleeve it to avoid any kind of shot at damaging it in any way. The card goes in a plastic sleeve and stays there to keep it safe and protected.

Something key to note here, the big time investors don’t waste time buying cards that aren’t already graded, they want the guarenteed 10s, so they buy them. Those of us buying packs and boxes etc do the work for them, finding rare cards and sending them off for grades. There’s definitely an opportunity for profit there, because if your card comes back a 10, it is then officially graded and marked perfect, and investors will come calling.

Right I want in.

I am finding all of this fascinating. And the kid in me looked at it as a combination of the hobby i loved as a kid, and the sport i fell in love with as an adult.

You are essentially betting on players you believe will excel in the pro’s and have an excellent career. For example if you’d bet on Mahomes cards in 2017, when nobody knew what he was capable of, you’d be doing incredibly well right now.

So i started looking at NFL cards, boxes, and the entire process around football.

Sports cards collecting is huge in basketball, baseball, & football. A rookie Zion Williamson card in a PSA10 is selling for thousands already, because of the hype around him, and the boxes in which you find those Zion Williamson cards are also selling for a fortune, because people will pay a premium for a shot at pulling one. However if you pull one and it’s off centre or the corners are damaged in any way, i can imagine that would be incredibly frustrating.

Anyway, back to football. Footballs market is quarterbacks, at least if you’re looking at long term investments. For example Patrick Mahomes rookie cards are already starting to sky rocket. This year, Joe Burrow is the card people are chasing. Other players in other positions still have value to them, if you apply all of the above, rookie card, autograph, patch, numbered card etc.

And that’s where I found my in. Obviously, as a Dolphins fan, i am Tua til i die right now. I’ve been a Tua fan for a long time, which is well documented, and still wake up in the middle of the night wondering if the thought of him sporting the Aqua is actually real. But the sports card market hasn’t yet taken off as much with Tua as it has with Burrow.

So here’s what we’re going to do. We are going to grab boxes of sports cards every now and then and rip them for the fun factor. From an investment standpoint, this isn’t advisable, because the chances of you ‘hitting’ something worth more than the box is quite slim. It’s a gamble, but it’s a damn load of fun, so we’ll do that from time to time, and I have two boxes that i’ve opened already, with videos to follow. I have a 2020 Panini Legacy box, which is a nice set, and a 2020 Score blaster box, which is like a basic entry level set of cards, for a cheap thrill.

We will then learn and track the market of sports cards, and involve ourselves on a budget. After all, we are sports for the everyman, and you and I don’t have thousands and thousands of pounds to spend on sports card investments. So here’s what i’ve done this week.

This weeks outcome…

I’m going to work off of a very small budget, so let’s break it down. I bought four cards. One thing to note, you’ll get stung on shipping buying cheap cards. For example, in the UK, if you buy a card for a dollar, to have it shipped will cost you around 15 more dollars. Which was a barrier in my journey.

I asked around and found this: https://shipmycards.com/

This site acts as your US postal address. Essentially you buy a few cards, send them all there, and when you’re ready, they ship them to you all together. So if you’re outside of the US, this is worth looking at.

I had a plan originally to get a rookie jersey of my favourite Gator players, so I could build a collection. Quincy Wilson Colts jersey, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson Saints jersey, CJ Henderson Jags jersey etc. However, after discovering sports cards I think that would be a cooler idea (and cheaper). These two are for my personal collection, known in the biz as a ‘PC’. As the years go on i think it’ll be cool to have a collection of my favourite Gator players who made the league each year.

Before we look at these, be careful to inspect the cards as best you can in the images. If you think you can see scratches or a damaged corner, don’t touch it. Even if you’re collecting, collect cards in good condition.

So i grabbed a Chauncey Gardner rookie ticket. Which cost me $8.99. Signed, and you can see it’s signed on a sticker. This card isn’t numbered or anything, so it doesn’t have a heavy price on it. That being said, if Chauncey went on to have a hall of fame career, this card might fetch a few hundred dollars. MIGHT. I don’t know yet. If the card was numbered say out of 10, the value would be a LOT higher, but also more expensive to buy.

I also grabbed a CJ Henderson, which only cost me $2.75. It’s not numbered or signed or anything so just a sick looking card for keepsakes. It is however in Gator uniform and i’ll look to grab one the same as Chauncey Gardners above when they get released, of CJ in a Jags jersey.

And to wrap up, I grabbed two Tua cards. I think i’ll start collecting a few Tua cards, because I’m expecting big things. Again with Tua, there are no cards yet of him in Dolphins gear, but i’ll be looking for those once they come out. College uniform rookie cards are worth less, it’s the first year cards in their NFL uniforms that you want. But we’ll add these to the collection for now. The first one is Tua’s rated rookie standard card, and the second one is a red chrome version of the same card, hence it costing more. Nice for the collection.

That’ll do us for this week, it’s a lot to take in, and we’re still learning. I need to get hold of a box of the same cards as above, but once Tua is wearing his Dolphins gear. To put into perspective, this Patrick Mahomes card, the same card in comparison, but wearing a Kansas City jersey, sells for over $1000 already. I’ll leave you with that.

Lots to take in, let me know what you think, and if you wanna stick around for the journey of me learning about sports cards, sign up to our newsletter below!

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