top of page
  • Writer's pictureDan Keane


Updated: Sep 4, 2022

Here are some things I personally, wish I knew before diving into the spots cards investing world!

Research, Research, Research

Great decisions are never guesses.

If you want to invest in players who are currently playing, you need to do a great deal of research.

Injuries, off-field incidents, and bad form can all affect player prices. You can suffer devastating consequences if you don't do your research before buying.

The set from which you wish to purchase a card should also be researched. There is an astronomical difference between a 'Match Attax' card and a 'National Treasures' card. It is important to know which sets are good buys and which are ones to avoid.

Further down the article, we will discuss this specific topic in more detail.

Base cards are not the way to go

2019-20 saw the Boom of base card grading.

It was easier than ever before to make a quick buck on graded base cards due to the pandemic and a high

grading rate.

Markets have evolved and become smarter since then. The most sought-after cards include low numbered cards, autos, short prints, and redemptions, just to name a few.

Graded base cards of new rookies in 2019/20 such as Zion and Ja Morant were relatively scarce, which contributed to their high prices.

In response to the increase in demand for PSA cards, people sent in all the cards they had, but the wait times were longer than ever.

The rest of the story is well known. There was a glut of base cards on the market. In the end, the laws of supply and demand brought about a decrease in price. There has been a major fall in the market price of graded base cards in recent years, which is one of the biggest drops I have seen in any study of the market.

Parallels may look cool but be careful with high numbers

As a general rule, parallel cards have some distinguishing features over base cards. A few examples would be colour changes, numbered cards, refractors, and autographed cards.

My definition does not include image variations, and although some describe them as parallels, I believe they are best described as short print variations.

In most sets, parallel cards have the same numbering and subject matter as regular cards. The production of these cards is smaller than that of base cards.

Now we have discussed what a parallels are, I want to talk specifically about numbered variations.

There are numbered parallels that start at 1/1s and even end at the year they were manufactured.

As far as baseball cards are concerned, I have seen parallels with numbers of the year end such as 2022. Even though these cards are cool, they are unlikely to produce big returns on investment as investments and would be more of a collector's piece than a wise investment.

Be careful not to overpay for good players just because the card is numbered. The purchase of a numbered parallel is desirable and usually warrants a price increase, however just because a card is numbered to 200 doesn't mean you should pay a lot for it.

It's important to research and think before buying numbered cards since sellers will add substantial premiums. There are many buyers caught out buying parallels of sets collectors wouldn't describe as flagships, such as Topps Steve Aoki festival sets, Topps Curated Sets, Panini Score, Panini Playoff, Panini Absolute, etc.

Research the set you're buying, the player, eBay sold listings for comps, and think about the card's future value. The price of your subset parallel numbered to 200 will likely be driven down if more flagship parallels are released.

Rookie cards are always a safe bet but carefully select which set you opt for

Investors and collectors often place a high value on flagship sets such as Panini Prizm and Topps Chrome.

You should be aware of which sets typically hold their value over time.

An easy way to do this is to examine the history of prices of cards from a particular set over time. Rookie cards are usually at a high price when a new set is released, but as soon as a new set, such as the Topps Sapphire set is released, those prices plummet.

Have a good idea of what sets are the ones to buy the rookie cards from.

Topps Living Set Rookies, for example, (as pictured here) rarely see an increase in value,

Except for cards with a lower print run.

A rookie card chase can turn dangerous if you are chasing current prospects.

Not everyone loves sticker autos

In contrast to on-card autos, sticker autos are unlikely to be well-liked by everyone, at least, not in comparison with those on cards.

It's pretty self-explanatory what a sticker auto is. At a player signing, autographs are signed on stickers, which are then applied to cards.

As the name implies, on-card autos are the exact opposite: the athlete signs them directly on the card. For the collector, it's much more rewarding.

Athletes don't like signing their name thousands of times on repeat, so stickers are more convenient and simple for them.

The value of stickers versus on-card autographs can't be compared equally. Generally, on-card autos appear in more expensive sets or in smaller print runs, so they are more expensive.

Sticker autos can be snobbishly regarded by some collectors, and they might prefer not to collect them at all. I've always adhered to the mantra, collect what you love and don't follow the crowd, as you are the one parting with your money.

Collecting is a personal choice, and only you can decide what you like. Don't let the market value become your sole motivation for collecting.

On-card vs. sticker autographs are not an issue you need to worry about. If it's stickers, on-cards, or anything else that inspires you, chase it.

Only invest what you can afford to loose

A great quote from Benjamin Graham reads, "“Losing some money is an inevitable part of investing, and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it. But to be an intelligent investor, you must take responsibility for ensuring that you never lose most or all of your money.”

Card markets work much like stock markets in that they are subject to ebbs and flows. As I type this article we are experiencing a down market in cards.

In addition to international tournaments and player/team documentaries, various events can increase the value of players' cards, but at the same time, off-seasons, new hobbies, and less interest from the general public can decrease the value of the whole market.

In the unlikely event cards go to zero, you haven't invested your life savings. Diversifying an investment portfolio is always a good idea.

Not every rookie is guaranteed to be a superstar

I am sure if you are a football fan you've all heard the story of Ravel Morrison. Sir Alex Ferguson once told Jamie Redknapp, Morrison ‘the most talented player he’d ever worked with’. Despite his immense potential, Morrison lacked the professionalism and work ethic required. A player like Morrison is an example of someone who was predicted to be the next big thing, but didn't deliver. If he had been issued a rookie card at that time, I am sure many people would have lost a great deal of money.

Current rookie card prices can be influenced by a variety of factors. Poor performances, injuries, off-field incidents, and more can all affect the price of a rookie card. Fernando Tatis Jr.'s price has dropped dramatically since getting caught taking PEDs, after being once described as the new face of baseball. Subsequently he was banned for 80 games and is unlikely to ever be voted into the hall of fame, card prices for Tatis fell dramatically. It is possible that his cards will return to where they were in the future, but no one expected it.

Many seasoned card enthusiasts will tell you that retired players and GOATs (greatest of all time) are always safe bets. It reduces the risk of many factors that can harm a current player's career by investing in past players.

The investment of current rookies is great fun and is an integral part of the hobby. However, managing risk is important in order to avoid losing too much money. If you divide your investments between legends and current players, you will be able to manage risk better.

Value your cards on market value and not what the cards means to you

Many times I have fallen into this trap, and it's always good to keep yourself in check. Don't be offended if buyers compare your card to recent comps.

In case of overvalued cards because you bought high or feel that the card will become more valuable in the future, hold onto it instead of selling it. Your high on the card can be explained politely to buyers if you do put it up for sale.

For ease of purchase or because they believe they can still make profits in the future, some buyers may even be willing to pay close to your premium.

It is always crucial to have a sense of what your cards are worth when listing them or adding them to your showcase.

Don't chase after everything, FOMO is a killer!

Short-term sports card sales are driven by FOMO (fear of missing out).

Whenever a new sports card product is released, we experience FOMO. For example, think about Topps NOW rookie cards, which are relatively unknown. How many times have you thought to yourself, what if this card explodes and I didn't buy?!

The best bet is to wait to buy cards from the latest box release. The cards from the latest release will likely be at their highest near the release date, so wait a few weeks or even until the next product is released to invest in those single cards or boxes.

The FOMO effect is great for circulation in the card market, but not so great for buyers caught holding the bag.

Take your time, making money isn't easy, you won't be a millionaire overnight

"Sports cards investing isn't easy. You won't be a millionaire over night. Taking your time, not overspending, diversifying, researching and using common sense will propel you much further than the average investor.

Every investor in sports cards looses money, don't be discouraged. If your spending what you can afford to loose, you aren't loosing everything. Mistakes are just lessons, the more lessons you learn, the better investor you'll be!"

Be very wary of listening to tips or investment advice

Always be wary of influencers and investment advice.

Think about why someone might be telling their audience to invest in a certain player. Are they looking to sell their card just as card increases in value as more people get in?

Pump and dump schemes are all too common with the current crypto landscape we find ourselves in.

Take your time and don't feel rushed into buying a player just because someone tells you too, rely on your own analysis.

Buy singles or sealed wax, buying boxes to open is a sure way to loose money

Buying boxes to open in the hope of getting a good player is a big gamble. Speaking from experience, I have

opened up many boxes for content on YouTube and seldom hit anything worth writing home about!

Save your money and keep the box sealed for a long-term investment or buy singles.

Opening up boxes and joining breaks over the long-term will loose you money. Probability beats luck every time.

Don't overpay for ungraded cards, eBay sellers aren't professional graders

Don't take an eBay seller's opinion on how mint a card is as fact. Few and poor quality pictures of cards make it very difficult to predict how a card will grade.

This tip is especially more important the more expensive the cards get. Typically for ultra-modern cards, anything below a PSA 9 can be worth less than the card is worth raw!

If you are buying raw, it's best to buy at card shows or ask the seller for pictures where you able to get a good view of the card to pre grade before purchasing.

Grading population reports are your friend but don't get hung up on them

Grading population reports can be misleading if you decide to buy a card purely based off the low population. Even more so with recent backlogs of grading companies such as PSA.

It's important to think about, how many cards have already been sent to PSA and are yet to be added to the population report. It may look low now, but in a couple of months, the reports may show x10 the amount of PSA 10s in population.

Population reports are helpful for vintage especially, as it's important to know how many cards are out there that have been graded as high as the card you have in your hand.

Pre grade your cards before submitting or have a middle man help you

You'll save both money and disappointment by pre-grading your cards before submitting them. Manufacturers sometimes make mistakes, it happens. Although print lines and miscuts are not your fault, grading companies will still mark them down.

Generally, graded cards are rated on Edges, Corners, Surface and Centering. If you are unsure how to judge a card using these four factors, you can use a middleman service that pre-grades cards for you. They'll save you money and disappointment by confirming a defect that you hadn't noticed and can give you advice on what they feel would be a good thing to do based off their own experience.


It is my hope that these tips will prove useful to you as a reader of this blog post. Feel free to share any tips you have of your own; I would love to hear them. Of course, any feedback on blog posts is always appreciated.

Written By:

Dan Keane

42 views0 comments


bottom of page