Sports card collecting has skyrocketed recently, and many people either want to get in the game or figure out how to make money in this hobby.
While the hobby has been around for quite some time now, there are several ways that collectors have changed the game in the last few years. Here are 7 newer trends in card collecting and how you can use them to your advantage.
In the days of online streaming, influencers, and social media, it was only a matter of time before the internet spilled over into card collecting. But what is a live break? Is it worth getting into if you want to make money?
A live break is an event where a business or collector's group will purchase sealed boxes or cases of sports cards, typically in large amounts or more expensive product. They will then "break" or open the boxes or packs while showing the cards to viewers on a live stream through Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram.
How Does It Make Money?
Collectors will pay ahead of time for a particular section of the break. For example, sometimes they will purchase a certain team, like the New York Yankees. This means that all Yankees cards pulled will go to that collector. Other times it a break might have teams given out to all participants via a randomization.
By purchasing these groups of cards beforehand, collectors have a chance to pull a rare or valuable card for significantly less than its cost once it has been revealed. For example, certain autographed Zion Williamson cards might be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, but if you end up with the New Orleans Pelicans in a break for a few hundred dollars, you might be able to pull his card and make a massive profit with just that one card! Not to mention all the other Pelican cards that you might pull of value.
Why Not Buy Boxes Yourself?
Besides the shared thrill of getting cards with other collectors, there are a few reasons people may go with a live break rather than purchasing the entire box themselves.
First, many sports card boxes can be very expensive, sometimes costing thousands of dollars apiece! This is rather daunting for many collectors, and splitting the cost allows people to still collect without sinking quite so much money in one blow.
Second, many people will try to analyze current sports card market trends to predict particular players, teams, or cards that will make money in the following months, or often times, simply the team they like the best and follow. If the Los Angeles Lakers look to be a popular team to collect, a collector can buy only those particular cards. By buying into a live break, they don't have to worry about paying extra for other teams they don't think will do as well, and that might drive their profit down, or pay for cards of players on teams they don’t care about.
How Do You Get Involved?
Many companies advertise their live breaks, so be sure to check their schedules and sign up for social media feeds. When a particular sport and product you enjoy comes along, you can buy in and enjoy the fun!
A graded card is any trading card that has been sent to a professional grading service and given a grade. This grade declares the condition of the card, ranging from 1 (Poor) to 10 (Gem Mint). These cards are typically put in hard protective slabs to preserve their current condition.
Why Does It Matter?
Professionally grading a card often increases its value to astronomical heights. Many high-end cards are graded before sales (which also ensures their authenticity), giving potential buyers more security that not only does a card appear to be in mint condition, it is in mint condition. People like knowing they're not getting fooled, and that extra reassurance is often enough for them to pay more.
Should I Get All My Cards Graded?
No! Getting a card graded costs money and does not always increase a card's value. Many cards are already worth next to nothing, and getting them graded does very little to their value. In addition, almost all of the top grading companies have a huge backlog they are currently working through, so it could be several months before you receive your graded card back, so you need to be aware of possible market fluctuations that may happen while you are waiting to get your card back.
Even with more "middle-grade" valued cards, you may end up losing money if the costs of shipping and grading your cards end up being more than any increase in selling price – especially if you pay to grade a card that has a high population or doesn’t grade as well as you think it will.
If you have a card you're considering getting graded, you should check recent sales of the same or similar cards. Compare ungraded cards with graded ones, and see if there appears to be a big difference. If it seems like a noticeable improvement and you closely inspect your card and believe it will grade well, it may be worth doing!
You should also know that if you only want protection, it is much cheaper to buy a trading card sleeve or slab on your own. Don't pay the extra money for grading if all you need is something to keep the card safe!
Many sports card companies, businesses, and individual sellers offer deals and giveaways. These are always worth keeping an eye out for, as they can be both a way to get some cards for free or to get more for your money.
Also, keep an eye out for giveaways, events, and sports card shows. Subscriber emails and newsletters, as well as social media, are excellent ways to keep track of these. Sometimes a company or website will even give you a free gift if you subscribe, so be sure to search for as many of those deals as you can.
And as a bonus, if you live near a major sports stadium, find out if card companies give away free cards to fans. Sometimes you can get extra cards just by showing up outside an event!
Hits and Parallels
In recent decades, hits and parallel cards have become a big selling point for many cards, and in fact, are often the most valuable cards in modern cards! Many sports card hobby boxes will contain a guaranteed number of hits and parallel cards, increasing the number of cards to hunt for and collect.
What Are Hits?
A hit is typically an autographed and/or memorabilia card that is randomly inserted into packs or boxes. There are also case hits of short print inserts. The odds of getting a particular type of hit vary, but are often printed on the back of card packages. Hit values can range tremendously, but typically these are going to fetch the highest prices of any cards in each product. It’s important to research checklists to see which players have hits in different products, so you can align your purchases with your goals.
What Are Parallels?
A parallel is a particular type of insert card. It will generally look very similar to a base version of that card but may have a different colored border.
For example, pretend you pull a regular Mike Trout card. It shows him in action, with some cool design and a white border on the front, then his stats on the back. But then you find another Mike Trout card with the same photo of him, but the border and design are different. This is a parallel card, and they are often worth a decent amount more than the base sets.
Many rarer hits and parallel cards will feature a serial number, either on the front or the back. These indicate that this particular card was made as a limited print run. For example, you might pull a card with "12/50" on the front. This means it is the 12th out of only 50 of that particular card that was made.
Typically, the smaller the print run, the more valuable the card. Many of the most valuable cards are hits (autographs or memorabilia cards) with a lower serial number/print run.
How to Make Money With Inserts
Many inserts won't be worth much, at least on their own. More "basic" insert cards can be more valuable in sets, however, so if you are purchasing cards in bulk, you may be able to make some money back once you get enough for complete sets.
You'll need to research the trading card industry statistics for pulling particular types of inserts, but the hottest sports cards are typically rookie cards (or 1st Bowman baseball cards), memorabilia, autographs, and their parallels. Try to find some inserts in a particular year that might be worth a nice premium, and figure out which types of boxes give the best chances of pulling those inserts.
With the advent of the internet, opportunities have exploded for picking up a wide variety of trading cards.
You should sleuth around auction sites and sports card retailers, as well as local listings and even garage or estate sales. You will get a good feel for what's selling and what isn't (and for how much), and can get a good idea of what you want to purchase. Especially look for people trying to get rid of their "junk," as they will often undersell in the name of expediency!
Unfortunately, you will have some stiff competition. Many people spend all day looking for the best deals online and will snatch up opportunities as soon as they see them. You can't win every deal, but play smart, and you'll find yourself making some good purchases!
Electronic Sports Card Collecting
A very recent development, virtual trading cards have taken off with many collectors. While they don't offer a physical card to hold, these "moments" are often purchased in the same way as regular cards, with packs, rare inserts, and parallels.
As funny as it may sound, these electronic cards use blockchain technology to ensure a particular card's authenticity, making them much more valuable than simply having pictures online.
Since this phenomenon is so brand new, there is significantly more risk involved in the digital space, as it is very new and unproven how the market will react in the long-term, so it is prudent not to invest too heavily in this space unless you have a huge risk tolerance.
What's the Next Step?
Now that you know a few things about making money with sports card collecting, what should you do now?
You'll want to dig into the research about your particular sport or category and try to find everything about it. Once you think you're ready to start, dive in and start ripping those packs open! You never know what you'll find.
If you have other questions or want to purchase some cards to get started, contact us on our website, and we'll be happy to help you get started, no matter what your budget is!