Sports Card Investing 101: BEGINNERS START HERE

So you’ve decided you want to invest money into sports cards huh? The first dive in can be intimidating (or a massive waste of money) if you aren’t prepared. Every investor should start with the path of research and educating oneself… but you knew that already, that’s why you are here after all!

Aren’t looking forward to the countless hours to scour the web to figure out the best strategy?! Lucky for you, we are going to summarize, simplify, and narrow down hours of clicking and searching into one concise rabbit hole that will allow you to absorb only the relevant information quickly and easily. This helps you move on to the fun stuff like buying cards and watching your investment grow!

Let’s dive right in!

RULE #1 FOR BEGINNERS: Know The Limits
It’s easy to get sucked into spending a whole paycheck on whatever one person told you is going to make you money immediately… but it’s not a magical get rich quick plan. The people making money in card collecting do so by making calculated decisions using both trending data and real time knowledge of the sport or card market in which they are investing. Make sure all your bills get paid first and start small if needed. The last thing you want to do is spend all your money on a strong prospect and two weeks later short sell because rent is due and lose your money. Set and maintain financial limits from the start!

RULE #2 FOR BEGINNERS: Find Your Specialty And Your Favorite
Look, at the end of the day, if you are jumping in to make a quick buck and decide to buy basketball cards when you hate basketball… the odds are much higher that you make poor investments or simply don’t maximize potential gains. It’s absolutely the best idea to start with a sport you have the most personal knowledge of, then concentrate your card comparison research on that sport. Know vintage football more than modern? Great! Start looking at vintage football and look at the card vales on the years you are most fluent in. You’ll not only be ahead of the game in research, but you’ll enjoy doing it far more (and in the long run that makes for better investing!) Start with what interests you and grow from there!

RULE #3 FOR BEGINNERS: Patience Is Key!
Even in the short game, patience is key when it comes to investing. If you have done the research, stuck to your fundamentals, and stayed in your budget… you aren’t going to lose. Even quick sales come from the buildup of knowledge and knowing exactly when the iron is hot. When you are starting out, stick to the strategy, don’t act to quickly out of fear. Buy right, stay informed, and choose your spot to make the most from your investment.

RULE #4 FOR BEGINNRS: Be Happy With Your Collection At Value $0
What do we mean? Simply this… If the cards were worthless tomorrow, would you be happy to say you own card X, Y, or Z? Would you still want to show off that John Elway Rookie? Would you still enjoy that LeBron or Jordan card in a PSA 10? It’s one thing to buy just to invest and quick flip, but if you are holding cards and building a PC the goal is simply “Are you happy with the cards you have on a personal level?” If you can answer that question with a yes, you are already winning.

Now that the basics are out of the way…


So you have set your limit financially, found the sport you are most knowledgeable about, and you have looked at eBay comparisons for sold cards of said sport within your most knowledgeable time range. Now it’s time to narrow down the search for what card or cards you want to buy!

For this part of the learning experience we will use football as the sport and the player will be Drew Brees. As we go through this example of why we made a specific purchase, take note of timing, the card specifics, and the reasoning:

Erin has decided to buy Drew Brees Rookie cards as an investment. There are lots of his Rookie cards to choose from made in 2001 so he has researched the highest sold cards in recent days and decided on the 2001 Topps Drew Brees Rookie.
He used the following factors to determine why THAT was the card of choice…

1: Erin is an avid Drew Brees fan. He knows a lot about his career, the records he holds and also realizes that the year he is buying may be Brees’ last year. Since he’s a first ballot Hall of Fame candidate, it makes sense to buy now before he officially retires.

2: Drew’s team the New Orleans Saints are playing very well and have a legitimate shot to go deep in the playoffs. Retirement and HOF aside, his cards are sure to increase if they make playoffs (which is typical for most quaterbacks that make playoffs and have Super Bowl potential.)

3: Erin chose the 2001 Topps Base Rookie because in that era for football cards, Topps was the “go to” set for a base rookie card. It has a Chrome variant that is significantly more valuable as well as the Playoff Rookie Ticket variation by Donruss that is also the most valuable. In this case the Topps base cards are still only about $20 each so Erin feels he can buy a solid amount of these at good prices and hold until the time is right. After all, when the most valuable cards go up the “Trickle Effect” begins with other variants.

Now that the reasoning is backed up and the research has been done to find what card, it’s time to find out exactly what price to pay. Here’s how Erin did it:

Type in the exact card you are looking for in eBay and click sold. First, look at the most recent sold prices and slowly creep backwards making note of the price changes as you go. (We suggest writing down dates 7 days apart and writing down an average sold $ amount for that date.) The farther you go back the better your data for incremental growth will be, but in reality about six weeks should be enough to tell you what you need.

With the data trend showing, now you have an idea of the “Going Rate” for the card and an idea of what the average price adjustments will be if the card market stays the same and the player does nothing additional. If the player performs well (even just for one week) or the team secures a spot in the playoffs, you can expect the star players to see an increase in value during and after.

*IMPORTANT NOTE: If you plan to invest in very high value cards, we HIGHLY suggest checking the major auction houses that deal in collectibles. These will have valuations that differ from eBay and are important for your market knowledge. You can also use market tools that do a lot of the research for you such as Market Movers. They help compile a lot of data and price trending on big name players/cards.*


Now it’s time to actually buy the card you want. By this point if you have followed the steps, you know the sport and player, have decided on a card, and know the “Going Rate’ for the card in question. Now it’s time to buy the card(s) for your investment. A few quick things to consider before bidding/buying:

  • Do you know the differences in value on ‘Raw’ (ungraded) vs ‘Graded’ cards? If so, you may be able to determine if the best value is buying Raw and submitting yourself for grading or buying already graded cards because pricing on a specific grade is low in comparison.
  • Have you set your purchase limit? Setting a “I will not buy unless it’s X price or less” is important. Unless you feel like the card will skyrocket in price and you are absolutely sure, it’s best when starting out to stick to your choice prices and let the data speak for itself… You did the research after all. Numbers seldom lie.
  • Be diligent in checking prices and know if they start going up or down. If you are still buying a week or two later but you notice your bids aren’t winning anymore, there is a good chance the value has increased and therefore it’s time to reevaluate pricing and buying.


Congratulations are in order… No matter what happens from this point you have jumped into the card investment arena and your toes are wet. Feels good doesn’t it? Here is where the excitement begins and we hope to see the fruits of our labor begin to pay off! Here’s what happens now:



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