Are Sports Cards a Good Investment?

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Contributor, Benzinga
July 6, 2023

Investing experts recommend constructing a diverse portfolio that holds many different types of assets. One way to diversify your portfolio is to invest in alternative investments or assets that aren’t on the traditional stock market. Alternatives can include collectibles, such as art, jewelry and sports cards.

But are sports cards a good investment to hold in your portfolio? They certainly can be if you have a thorough understanding of the sports card market and a properly balanced portfolio. These tips and insights can help you start your sports card collection.

What is Sports Card Investment?

Many sports teams produce and sell cards for their players. They are often updated each year, and avid sports fans collect these cards. But sports cards are more than just a fun collection — they can also be a great investment. Sports cards are a billion-dollar industry that is projected to continue growing.

As time passes, many of these cards become rare, especially for popular and successful players. For example, a Mickey Mantle card recently sold for over $10 million. Many savvy collectors and investors buy cards for a relatively low price and hold onto them, hoping they’ll rise in value. 

How to Decide What Sports Cards to Invest in?

Not every sports card is going to become worth millions of dollars, so try to evaluate the possible value of a card before investing. Here are a few factors you may want to consider:

  • Age: Older cards may be more expensive since they are typically rarer, but they may also rise in value more quickly. Newer cards will typically be a cheaper investment, but it may be harder to determine the projection of its value.
  • Rarity: A sports card will be worth more if it’s rarer, meaning there are only a few copies of it in circulation. Its rarity may be due to a limited number of copies produced or because copies have fallen off with time.
  • Grading: Investors often have their collections graded or professionally evaluated on their condition. Cards with a better grade are in better condition and are worth more money.
  • Athlete’s performance: Cards for sports legends are worth more. While you might not get your hands on a Babe Ruth card, you are likely to have success by investing in cards of athletes with impressive performance and widespread popularity.

Types of Sports Cards to Collect

Not all sports cards are the same, and investors should familiarize themselves with the types of sports cards before they begin sports card investing. Here are the main categories:

  1. Base Cards

Base cards are the primary cards in a set and feature individual athletes. They often display the player's photo, name, team logo and basic information. Collecting base cards allows you to assemble a complete set or focus on specific players or teams.

  1. Rookie Cards

Rookie cards are highly sought after in the sports card market. They feature players in their first year of professional competition. These cards can become valuable if the player goes on to have a successful career.

  1. Autograph Cards

Autograph cards are cards that have been signed by the athlete. They are usually limited in number and can be a prized possession for collectors. Autograph cards add a personal touch and increase the value of the card.

  1. Game-Used Memorabilia Cards

Game-used memorabilia cards contain a piece of equipment, jersey or other items that were worn or used by the athlete during a game or event. These cards offer a unique and tangible connection to the sports world and can become very valuable.

  1. Parallel Cards

Parallel cards are variations of base cards that feature different designs, colors or finishes. They are often produced in limited quantities and can be more challenging to find. Their rarity makes them appealing to collectors.

  1. Inserts

Inserts are special cards that are inserted into packs at a lower rate than base cards. They often have unique designs, themes or features. Examples include cards featuring highlights, milestones or special events.

  1. Serial Numbered Cards

Some sports cards are serial numbered, meaning they have a specific number assigned to each card in the set. These cards can indicate a limited production quantity. Lower-numbered cards tend to be more desirable among collectors.

  1. Graded Cards

Graded cards are professionally evaluated and assigned a numerical grade by third-party grading companies based on their condition. These graded cards provide assurance of authenticity and condition, which can impact their value in the market.

  1. Vintage Cards

Vintage cards are older sports cards that are considered collectibles because of their age and rarity. These cards can range from early 20th-century tobacco cards to cards from the 1980s and 1990s.

  1. Complete Sets

Collecting complete sets involves gathering all the cards within a specific set, including base cards, inserts and other subsets. Completing a set can be a satisfying achievement for collectors.

How to Invest in Sports Cards

Sports card investing is a great way for sports fans to pursue their passion and expand their portfolios. Here are a few tips on how to get into sports card investing.

  1. Research and Identify Opportunities

Many sports fans wonder are sports cards a good investment? They can be if you identify the right opportunities. Research the sports card market to identify potential investment opportunities. Look for rookie cards of highly touted players, cards of established legends, limited-edition or rare cards or cards with unique features like autographs or game-used memorabilia. Consider factors such as player performance, popularity, historical significance and market demand.

  1. Authenticate and Grade Cards

Authenticity is crucial when investing in sports cards. Purchase cards from reputable sources, such as authorized dealers, or online platforms, such as sports card investing apps, with authentication processes in place. Consider having valuable cards professionally graded by reputable grading companies. Card grading provides a standardized assessment of the card's condition, which can impact its value in the market.

  1. Buy and Sell Wisely

When purchasing sports cards, consider factors such as condition, scarcity and current market value. Look for opportunities to buy undervalued cards that have the potential for future appreciation. Stay up to date with market trends and news related to the sports and players you're investing in. When selling cards, consider timing, market conditions and potential profits.

  1. Diversify Your Collection

Diversification is essential in sports card investing. Spread your investments across different sports, players, eras and card types. This diversification helps mitigate risks and increases the chances of finding valuable cards.

  1. Storage and Protection

Condition plays an important role in determining a card's value, so make sure you are properly storing and protecting your sports card collection to maintain its condition. Consider using card sleeves, top loaders, binders or storage boxes designed for card protection. Additionally, store them in a suitable environment with temperature and humidity control to prevent damage.

  1. Long-Term Perspective and Network

Sports card investing should generally be approached with a long-term perspective. While some cards may experience quick appreciation, others may take time to gain value. Patience is key when it comes to investing in sports cards. You’ll also want to grow your network in the market by connecting with fellow collectors, attending card shows, joining online forums and participating in discussions. There are also many sports card investing apps to join. Engaging with the sports card community can provide valuable insights, access to resources and opportunities for buying, selling and trading cards.

Hit a Homerun for Your Portfolio

Many people are passionate about sports, and investors can use that passion to expand their portfolios. With a thorough knowledge of the sports world and connections in the market, collectors can invest in their favorite athletes while also working toward their financial goals. If you make informed decisions and identify solid investment opportunities, you may score a win for your portfolio.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q

Are sports cards worth investing in?

A

Sports cards can be a great investment if they are part of a diversified portfolio and the investors have a thorough understanding of the sports and sports card world. 

Q

Can you make money investing in sports cards?

A

If you purchase an undervalued card or a card for an athlete who goes on to have a successful career, that card may appreciate in value. However, sports card investing should be viewed as a long-term investment. 

Q

Which sports cards are best for investment?

A

Sports cards for successful and popular athletes that are in pristine condition and rare are more likely to appreciate in value. 

About Savannah Munholland

Savannah Munholland is an investment writer passionate about helping people learn more about accessible alternative investments. She has more than three years of writing experience, focusing on alternative and traditional investing, technology, and education. Her expertise in writing about art and wine investments is grounded in an MFA with knowledge of and immersion in a wide range of art-related topics. She uses her skills in creative writing to bring an appealing level of interest to her journalistic work, shifting even the most basic financial and investment topics from humdrum to compelling. Her work has been published on Benzinga, FreightWaves, and Study.com.