Slam Dunk- A Beginners Guide to Collecting Basketball Cards

 If you've been to a local card shop or closely followed the news over the past several months, you might have noticed the recent spike in trading card sales. Now is a great time to start a new card collection hobby, and collecting basketball cards can be a lot of fun and a great investment.

If you're new to collecting sports cards, don't worry! Read this beginner's guide to find out how to get started collecting basketball cards! Whether you're collecting cards for fun or to make money, we'll go over the tips and tricks you need to know to kick-start your collection.

Planning and Motivation

The first step to starting off your basketball card collection is to understand your goals. Why do you want to collect cards? If you're collecting for fun, or just to have a collection, then you'll have a different start than if you are trying to resell cards later at a higher value.

If you're collecting cards to sell later for a profit, it's important to understand the laws of supply and demand. When there are fewer cards of a certain type, and those cards are more desirable, that will drive up the price.

We'll go over some guidelines for how to know if a card is likely going to be valuable. Please note that there are risks involved with any investment, so you should be careful when investing. Don't pay anything for a card that you're not willing to risk losing.

Another important tip is to make sure you are buying and selling cards from reliable sources. This can be through a reputable online card shop or a local card shop. Before investing in a card, you should check the price it has sold for across several platforms to make sure you have an accurate value. 130 Point is a great site you can use for reference to check recent sale prices.

This is not always the same as the listed price, since sometimes sellers list the card for much higher than its actual value.

Another thing to consider is whether you would like to make long-term investments or short-term flips. Watch the value for a particular card over a longer period of time and try to identify trends in the player's career to determine when would be a good time to sell the card. 

Planning and doing some research can help you to know what cards make a good investment, and which ones would be fun to keep for your own collection. If your plan is to invest in basketball cards, it is important that you keep a close eye on the market each day/week, as it can be very volatile based on how a player has recently performed and the time of year, amongst other things.

What Kinds of Cards Should You Collect?

As you start your collection, you should know what kinds of cards you'd like to get. The first distinction is between vintage and modern basketball cards.

Topps, Fleer, and Upper Deck are the most common brands for vintage basketball trading cards. Since Panini has been the official partner of the NBA since 2008, they're the only licensed brand for new modern cards.

Rare vintage cards can be worth a lot more than certain base modern cards, depending on the rarity of the card and the legacy of the player. However, modern cards have a higher demand and market nowadays, so you're more likely to find more buyers. Some inserts and parallels of modern cards can fetch tremendous value. If you're collecting cards to keep for yourself, you should choose the sets, designs and players that you enjoy the most, whether they are vintage or more modern, or a mix of both.

Rookie cards, which are cards that are made during the player's first season, are another great starting point. Each player only gets one rookie season, so these cards are rarer than cards of that player from other years and are always the most sought after. Check the labels and do your research when you buy rookie cards, and be extra careful to watch out for fakes in this category if you are purchasing something that is higher end.

Rookie cards be very valuable, and a great investment if you have a good feeling about the player and his future, or if it's a vintage card from a player who became great and will have a lasting legacy. 

Buying new rookie cards can be risky, since you don't know how their career will go. If they wind up winning the championships and being one of the greats, the value of their rookie card will skyrocket. If something happens to them and they underperform or get injured, their cards can lose considerable value.

Types of Basketball Cards

Some basketball cards have value for nostalgia, while others are rare and valuable for their features. Let's look at a few different types of cards that you can get to start your collection.

Base Cards

Base or normal cards are the standard card in that set for that player. These are your "vanilla" or regular cards that are the most common and cheap to collect. If want to have a certain player or a certain set for your personal collection, the good news is that it's pretty easy to collect full sets of common cards, or to find all the common cards for a certain player unless it’s vintage from before the 1980’s.

Parallel Cards

These cards look like the base cards, and they're from the same set, but they have special details added, such as alternate patterns or colors. These are printed in limited numbers, so they're rarer than base cards.

When collecting parallel cards, make sure you can find the serial number to know how many of those cards were made. For example, you should be able to see 48/100 or some number on the card, so you would know that you had card #48 out of the 100 that were printed.

Subsets and Inserts

Subsets are a different set of cards from the normal set from that card pack, and inserts are a card from that set being 'inserted' randomly into the packs with the standard set. Some of these can also (but not always) be rare, and you should also be able to identify a serial number on some of these.

Some inserts have extra special memorabilia attached, such as autographs or even pieces of the player's game worn jersey. These are rarer than basic inserts, and thus can be very expensive or valuable.

Three Strategies for Starting Your Collection

Once you've decided what kind of cards you want to collect, and set a budget, it's time to start your collection. Let's look at three different strategies you can use to get started collecting cards

1. Get a Complete Set

The first strategy you can use to start your collection is to buy a complete set. If you're looking for a few cards that come from the same set, it can sometimes be cheaper to buy the complete set from someone who already has it, rather than buying rare individual cards. You can use a set checklist to make sure you have the complete set, or to help you find any cards that are missing.

If you want to keep your cards for your collection, having a full set to display is a great place to start. You can find common cards from most sets for pretty cheap compared to the holo or parallel versions, so you can also put the set together yourself. This is a great way to kick-start your collection and find new places to buy your rarer cards in the future. It can also be fun and rewarding trying to complete a set by yourself, vs buying one that is already complete.

2. Buy Factory Sealed Packs and Boxes

Unopened packs and basketball card boxes give you the best chance to get a rare card. Certain new and sealed basketball card cases can get expensive, especially if the print runs are small and they offer a large amount of hits (autographs and/or memorabilia cards). This can be risky but rewarding investment, since these unopened boxes have the potential to hold an extra-valuable card inside. 

If you're looking to get a variety of cards in bulk for your own personal collection, you can look for cheap basketball card boxes from less popular sets so you can get more cards of the players or sets you love. 

Another option is to simply buy factory sealed basketball card boxes or cases and sit on them for a while. Historically, factory sealed basketball cases have appreciated very nicely and greatly outpaced the returns of the stock market. Once again though, there is always risk involved in any investment so do not invest more than you are willing to lose.

3. Choose a Player

If you're not looking to get a lot of cards all at once, you could start small and focus on a few key players. Remember, supply and demand is the name of the game. The more famous the player, the more desirable the card, and the more the card will be worth.

If you have a good feeling about a new rookie player, consider investing in their rookie card, and buying any other of their cards you can afford. If your hunch is correct, and they go on to win the championships, you'll have a more valuable card later on.

You could also play it safe and choose players who are already famous. These cards may already be expensive, but their value can still change a lot over time, especially if they're still playing. Typically a player’s base rookie card will always be the most valuable, with his second year being worth the second most. There can be drastic differences in values of the same player’s card, depending on how many years they had played when the card was printed.

Which Cards are Rare and Valuable?

There are a lot of factors that determine the value of a particular card. If the card is from a limited set, and only a small number of them were made, that will increase the value of the card. If card is of a famous player, even the base cards can be worth more than the parallel cards of lesser-known players.

Some details to watch out for are if the card uses any special printing techniques. Holo and foil cards are rare compared to standard cards. Some have different versions of foil cards with the players in unique photo variations, or have other special card effects such as die cuts. If you have a card like this of a player no one cares about, it still won't be worth much, but if you have one that's of a famous player, you can expect it to be worth quite a bit more.

Extra rare cards include ones from “Flawless” and "National Treasures" sets, amongst others that include special memorabilia and autographs with very low print runs. All of the cards in those sets either contain jersey pieces worn by the players, and/or their autographs.

Card Condition and Grading

One of the most important factors in determining the value of a card is the condition it is in. If you have a rare card you believe to be in good shape, you should get it graded from an official grading organization to confirm the condition so other buyers can be sure.

Aside from checking to see that the card hasn't been damaged, a grading organization will also check the printing conditions of the card. Some cards are printed slightly off center, have scratches on the face of the card, or rough edges, amongst other things. These defects will usually detract from grade, and subsequently, the value of the card.

A few rare exceptions do exist, such as when cards have misprints or other such errors. Certain faulty cards are actually coveted by some collectors who will pay a high price for the misprinted card.

Companies grade cards on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being a flawless card. The grader will also determine the condition of the card, on a scale from "poor" to "gem mint" condition. Gem mint 10 cards are the most valuable version of any given card.

How to Care For Your Basketball Card Collection

Keeping in mind that you want your cards to be in gem mint 10 condition whenever possible. So, it's important to protect your cards and store them safely to keep their value. Nothing is more tragic than paying full price for a gem mint card only for it to become damaged and lose its value over time.

Consider where you will store your cards. You should keep them in a safe place to prevent their exposure to sunlight, humidity, or other harsh conditions. Some collectors keep their personal collection in a a safety-deposit box, or even at a third-party auction house. You can also keep your cards in your home or in storage, as long as they're protected.

You should invest in some top loaders and card sleeves to protect your cards. Binders and folders work well for your bulk common cards, but you'll want the top loaders and one touch bags to keep your rare cards from becoming damaged. It’s recommended to put your card in a penny sleeve first, and then into a toploader afterwards, to avoid any damage to the face of the card. High value cards can also be put in a magnetic one touch holder, which is essentially a thicker toploader that encases the card around all sides.

Start Your Collection Today

With that, you should have everything you need to get started trading and collecting basketball cards! Collecting cards can be a great hobby and often even a great investment. Take care to use reliable sources and check all your information to avoid scams and have some fun with it.

If you're ready to get started, head on over to our shop to see our wholesale factory sealed basketball card boxes and cases! Happy collecting!