Sports Cards Are Booming Again, Here's What You Need To Know
It's been a long journey but we're finally back.
Sports Cards are booming right now. Big business. Big Bucks. Long lines. Short supply. The entire thing.
Remember when your dad would say that you are going to retire off their sports cards purchases in the 80's and 90's? Well, turns out they may be correct - depending on the cards.
Below are a few real sales from the last year.
Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps - $5.2 Million
Mike Trout 2009 Bowman Chrome - $3.9 Million
Giannis Antetokounmpo 2013 Panini National Treasures - $1.8 Million
LeBron James 2003 Upper Deck - $1.8 Million
And it's not just the mega hits. You could have had the below Michael Jordan card for a few bucks a year ago. It's not a Rookie Card, it's just a 1990 Fleer base single. Plenty of people have these lying around, or at least they did at one time.
What kind of condition is yours in? Because a PSA 10 just sold for $820 this week . Seriously. We'll get to the grading process later.
What about the infamous Sam Vincent card? You know, the game where Michael Jordan had his jersey stolen and had to wear #12 for the game. It was captured in a card of Sam Vincent. This card could've been had for a dollar a year ago. Or $50 a couple months ago.
A PSA 10 just sold for over $1,300.
And it's not just Michael Jordan, Mike Trout, Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes and LeBron James cards. The second tier and even third tier of players are going for crazy money too. If you are looking to buy modern cards, the young guys filled with potential can also nab you some serious cash.
I'm going to get into a few of the most commonly asked questions and lingo below. You can always hit me up on Twitter or Instagram if you have more questions. I'm also going to be posting some of my purchases and pulls from boxes and packs on there.
And if you want to get involved even further and start building out your collection, I'm going to link some Facebook Groups that I'm a part of within this blog. It can be expensive to buy unopened boxes and even packs right now. These are a solid alternative to start growing your collection while having a shot to pull a big time card.
I loved buying and opening boxes as a kid. My dad would take us to an old department store called ALCO to buy the boxes. Well, usually packs. But when he felt generous, he'd let us get an entire box. We'd also scoop them up at Wal-Mart and other places. It was always a treat to go to the University Park Mall when we visited Indiana as they have a dedicated card shop. It's actually still being run to this day.
Currently, there are two main types of boxes you can buy. There are subsets that we can get into for another blog but for now we'll focus on Hobby Boxes and Retail Boxes.
If you are a big time collector, you'll lean toward Hobby Boxes. They usually contain more cards, always contain more hits (we'll get to these later) and contain the high-end cards you see going for big money. Hobby Boxes are not available at Wal-Mart, Target, etc. They have to be purchased from a dealer or online. When you buy a Hobby Box, you will end up with autographs and game-used jersey cards while usually supporting small business.
Retail Boxes are what you'll find at Wal-Mart, Target and such. You'll end up with less hits or even none. This also includes some of the subsets mentioned such as Blaster Boxes, Hanger Boxes or even individual packs. Although be careful when buying loose packs, a seasoned card collecting veteran can feel for hits and swipe those packs up immediately. While a Hobby Box will cost you at least $100+ and can be up to a $1,000 - you can nab a Retail Box for as low as $20. Currently, it's pretty impossible to find them on the shelves at any retailer. But you can still buy Retail Boxes online at affordable prices. I'll link at the end of this blog.
RIP, BREAK, RAW
Rip means to open. If you are going to rip a box, you are opening that unopened box and/or pack.
Break is similar to Razz, another term you'll see. We'll focus on Break for this blog. A Break is when a box is opened and the cards will be given to users that have reserved a random number, a team, etc. The most desirable teams are usually locked.
For example, if we were breaking a 2019-20 NBA Hobby Box, the Pelicans (Zion) and Grizzlies (Morant) would be locked and randomly assigned right before the break. If you reserved the Knicks, for example, you'd get all the Knicks cards pulled from the box. In this case, RJ Barrett would be ideal. This is a good way to try and land high-end cards at more affordable prices. There are Facebook Groups here and here that are accepting users, are completely free to join and run these fairly often. I'm in these groups myself and it's a blast to see your cards getting pulled.
Raw means ungraded. Speaking of ungraded, we'll get more in depth in the next section.
If you want to check out more lingo, this is a great link. But we've hit the main ones you'll hear.
GRADED VS UNGRADED
We can get the ungraded aspect out of the way quickly. If a card is fresh out of the pack or box or is in a protective case that is not assigned a grade, it's ungraded or raw. These cards will typically hold lower value when on resale as it's not known the condition they are in.
It can get tricky with graded cards. If you want to be safe, go with PSA. Due to high demand, you're going to be waiting a bit. Depending on what service you get, expect a month to six month wait to get your card back graded. Their pricing model is also included on the above PSA link. PSA is the most trusted and reliable grading service and does the most to enhance the value of a card.
BGS and SGC are the other main grading services. There is a pretty solid breakdown of all three of them at this link. Again, PSA does the most for resale. There are also smaller grading services. I have bought GMA graded cards and have sent cards out to GMA for grading, as they are currently guaranteeing a 40 day turnaround at only $8 per card. However, it doesn't look like having a GMA grade is doing a whole lot for the resale value of cards currently. But if time is an issue or you just want your cards in a slick graded holder, it's a solid option.
HITS VS BASE
This is another category that has subsets but to keep it simple, we'll stick with Hits and Base.
Hits are the higher end cards. Hobby Boxes will more or less guarantee a certain amount of hits in each box while Retail Boxes are typically a gamble. Hits can include autographs, inserts, game-used cards and more of that nature.
Base Cards are common cards that will make up most of any kind of box. In the recent past, base cards were basically throw-away material. But with the current market, even base cards are finding value on resale, especially if they are graded. The Michael Jordan card from Fleer referenced earlier is a base card.
I think I'm caught up. But what do I need to start collecting?
It can be daunting to see the prices of cards currently and want to jump back in. But there's no need to spend big money to collect.
The high-end collectors will spend big money, they are looking to flip, etc. If you enjoy sports, collecting, hobbies or whatever - you can start collecting with $20-$50 and build from there. If you happen to land a high-end Hit along the way, all the better.
Growing up, I had a ton of albums of cards. Pages upon pages. I had an entire book of Michael Jordan. Then Randy Moss. Then Allen Iverson. I just loved to collect. It was a great hobby to share with my dad and friends. My friends and I would often get together to trade cards as well. I can't recommend the hobby enough.
My fondest memories are with the Rated Rookie cards. You'll see some older ones below of Ken Griffey Jr and Greg Maddux. My dad sent me those photos the other day going through our old cards. I love these type of cards.
They are making them again and I'm scooping them up as quickly as I can. I'm currently after the Luka, Mahomes and Zion Rated Rookies - but as you can imagine, those are a bit tougher to grab. Below you'll see the last few I've purchased. And you'll notice that they are all graded from different services - PSA for Ja, BGS for Vladdy Jr and GMA for Sexton.
This is a great hobby for me narrowed down to one specific genre of card that doesn't have to completely break the bank. If you start collecting, you can focus on a type of card like this. You can focus on a player, team, draft class - anything.
As for my most prized card currently, it's below. I'm going to get it graded by PSA as the value can shift wildly from Ungraded to PSA 10. I pulled this from a (cheap) pack with my dad shortly after LeBron was drafted in 2003.
Realistically speaking, you won't be able to get cards from stores like Wal-Mart or Target anytime soon. You'll probably need to buy online. But again, you can buy unopened Retail Boxes for as low as $20 on various sites on Google. You can also use eBay or StockX. Here is an example of a Blaster Box that guarantees an autograph on Amazon at a solid price. If you are looking for guaranteed cards with the chance of a huge hit, the Facebook Groups I linked earlier are another great option.
All in, you can get started on your collection immediately for around $50-$100. You may make a little money, no money or a ton of money. But I'm pretty certain you'll get enjoyment out of the hobby.
I'm also doing a giveaway.
You'll see a box below. It's various common cards plus a few hits. There is nothing that's going to sell for hundreds of dollars in this box but there are a lot of big names and some autographs along with game-used jersey cards. Also, this is going to be a pickup only situation that's local to the South Bend area - so there are some Notre Dame cards in there as well.
How do you enter? Just leave a comment on this blog, comment on my Instagram post or tweet me. I'll pick a random winner and let you know where you can pick up the box. This is a great kicking off box for a kid that wants to get into collecting. I think you'll have a blast going through these.
One last topic I wanted to add, NBA Top Shot. Unless you are looking to really get into collecting and/or are a tech nerd, you can stop reading. This gets a little in the weeds.
NBA Top Shot is a blockchain moment collecting platform. The Moments are more or less cards that you own and are limited to a certain number. Jonathan Bales wrote a blog explaining why he spent $35,000(!) on a Ja Morant moment you can find all over the internet for free.
You can buy moments from the Marketplace or pack drops, which are announced ahead of time and you need to join the Waiting Room. You are then randomly assigned a number to claim your pack. I've put a video below showing my opening of the most recent Cool Cats Pack, which was sold for $14. The John Wall Moment is currently selling for around $100.
So yeah, a little in the weeds but a cool concept if you want to dive in on this end.
And there you have it. I hope you are fully caught up on the current market and encouraged to start collecting again. I've been collecting for 25 years now and I can't recommend it enough.