Wilson: Why Now Is the Time to Collect Sports Cards
When I got back into sports cards in 2018, I saw what I thought was incredible investment potential. I loved sports card collecting as a kid, and when I reentered the hobby as an adult, I saw a bunch of reasons why I thought sports cards were going to become incredibly popular again.
So I started buying a lot of cards as investments. And in the summer of 2019, I started this YouTube channel with my very first video titled “Why Now is the Time to Invest in Sports Cards.”
And invest I did. I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on cards in 2019 and 2020, most of which turned out to be great investments — except for a few, like Will Grier. And Anthony Davis and Lonzo Ball, and some others as well. But thankfully, I bought enough big name players and emerging stars in 2019 and 2020 that I did very well overall. I continued to buy cards in 2021, including some at the very peak of the market, and most of those cards are worth a lot less today than what I paid for them. And I’ve continued to buy cards this year, and I will continue to buy cards next year, and the year after, and the year after that – no matter what the sports card market does.
But my reason for buying cards has changed quite a bit through this journey. In 2019, I was buying cards mainly for their investment potential. And the videos I put out on this channel were mainly about how I was investing and what card prices were doing.
But during 2020, as the pandemic kept us all at home, cards became much more than an investment for me. My cards became something I cherished. I got bit by the collecting bug big time, and suddenly I was buying all types of cards, not just investment cards. For example, I built a massive collection of Tim Tebow cards and other Florida Gator legends, simply because I loved collecting them. And today, more than ever before, I buy cards first and foremost that I love, and the investment potential is secondary. Making smart investing decisions in cards is still important to me, because if I’m spending a lot of money on a card, I do want to feel that it will increase in value in the long-term. But, first and foremost, I want it to be a card that I can be proud to have in my collection and enjoy.
Which brings me to the topic of today’s video. If you are approaching the sports card hobby strictly from an investing standpoint, like I used to in 2018 and 2019, then the last 18 months has probably been pretty frustrating for you as prices have dropped considerably. But if you also enjoy collecting, and you place value in your passion for the cards you are buying, then the sports card hobby today is actually a really incredible place for you. We are entering a golden age of card collecting. The hobby belongs to the collector once again. And here are some of the reasons why:
First, and most obviously, with card prices coming down significantly, cards are now more affordable. And the big grail cards that you’d love to someday buy may no longer be as out of reach. This summer I picked up a few huge cards — like a 1951 Bowman Mantle Mantle, a 1998 Skybox Molten Metal Fusion Titanium Kobe Bryant, and a 2003 Topps Chrome Black Refractor LeBron James. These are all cards that would have been much more of a stretch for me in 2021. But as prices dropped, it became more attainable for me to pick up these grails. Also, some “ghost” grail cards that weren’t seen at all on the market for several years are now showing up for sale, giving collectors the chance to buy a card they’ve always wanted.
Wax boxes are starting to become more affordable as well. As I noted in my video last Sunday, we’re seeing declines in a lot of wax prices for the first time in a while. Many hobby boxes are falling in pricing soon after they are released and the initial buzz wears off, and some retail product is even going on clearance. Hopefully we will get to the point where you can buy new boxes and rip them for fun without feeling guilty for what you spent.
It’s also possible to find wax boxes on retail shelves now. As flipping became less profitable and retail flippers exited the market over the last year, you can now actually walk into your local Walmart or Target and find some pretty good products on the shelf most of the time. This is a big win for collectors, as being able to buy and rip blasters and cello packs has always been a fun part of the card collecting experience. It’s how I got started back in 2018.
The boom in the hobby the last few years has brought us many, many more card shows than ever before – including several large, high quality shows that are happening regularly. Four or five years ago, there weren’t very many card shows worth traveling to. Now there are a bunch. And even if you aren’t going to spend much money, card shows are still a ton of fun. They’re like a museum for collectors with eye candy everywhere you look. And they often have a great spirit and community feel with the collectors to attend, including awesome trade nights.
We’ve also seen a bunch of new card shops open across the country, many of them with cool store designs and inviting environments. As a collector, it’s great to have options for where to buy cards. And card shops provide a place where you can experience the hobby any day of the week. Having healthy card shops across the nation is a priority for Fanatics, so I think you’ll see continued growth in this area, and that’s great news for collectors.
Grading is suddenly affordable and fast again. Gone are the year-long backlogs and the massive grading fees. Just last week we saw further price drops from PSA, SGC and BGS. And turnaround times are faster than they’ve been in a very long time. SGC is getting most grading orders turned around within a couple weeks or less. And PSA has greatly improved its speed as well. Now is a great time to grade cards again. Even if not for investment purposes, simply slabbing your personal collection to protect it is now reasonably affordable.
There are many new options now for how you can display your collection. One of the most fun parts of having a cool collection is being able to show it off to friends. A few years ago there were very few ways to do that. But now, thanks to innovative companies like Show Your Slabs, which creates beautiful wall displays for cards, and Stand Up Displays, which creates customizable card stands for bookshelves and desks, there are many different ways for collectors to showcase the collection they’ve worked hard to build.
The heat of the hobby over the last few years has created a lot of competition amongst marketplaces, and this is causing some price competition with fees. MySlabs changed the game when they came online and introduced a 1% fee. In the last year, PWCC changed their fee structure, Probstein consignments lowered their fees, and now eBay is offering 0% seller fees for cards that you keep in their vault. In addition to price competition, some marketplaces are getting better at featuring high-resolution photos and video of cards to showcase them. Competition is a really good thing for the collector, and hopefully we’ll continue to see the selling of cards become more and more affordable.
Vaulting wasn’t really a thing several years ago, but now there are several vault services to protect and insure your cards if you don’t wish to store them yourself. PWCC, Collectors, eBay and others offer highly-secure, fully-insured vault services at very low prices — in fact, often free, as long as you are a customer of their marketplace.
Collectors also have many more choices for spots card content than ever before. A number of good podcasts have popped up over the last couple of years, along with other YouTube shows covering the hobby. When I started Sports Card Investor in 2019, there were just a few podcasts, and very little card content on YouTube other than breakers. Today, there is a wide variety of content appealing to all tastes, which is great for collectors.
Technology advances over the last few years have been awesome for collectors. Pricing data is much more available and accessible than it was a few years ago, which creates better transparency in the market. Artificial intelligence is being introduced into the grading process and, over time as the technology is perfected, it will make grading more uniform and fair. Live-streaming selling apps like Whatnot have been introduced to the hobby, adding a new dimension of fun for those who enjoy live auctions and breaks. Tracking your collection is also now easier than ever before. When we recently created the new version of Market Movers, Market Movers X, we placed a lot of emphasis on making the collection tracking feature really great, because it’s a feature that both collectors and investors love.
The hobby community is stronger today than ever before. Even though prices have dropped, interest in sports cards has not dropped. There is a very healthy, growing, active community of collectors who love the experience of sports cards. Our Sports Card Investor Discord now has almost 30,000 collectors and investors who login and chat every day about cards and collecting. And that’s just one of the many, many places that you can interact with other collectors — both virtually and in person — which is a testament to the strength of the collecting community today.
And there are far more kids in the hobby than there were a few years ago. This is one of the biggest things that I’ve seen change since I reentered the hobby in 2018. It’s awesome to see tons of kids at every card show I go to. And if you’ve ever done a trade deal with a kid, you know how sharp and savvy they can be. I have always believed that sports cards are the ultimate mechanism for kids to learn entrepreneurship, finance and investing. I learned a ton from my days of buying, selling and trading cards as a kid, and it’s incredible to see my own sons share that experience today.
These are a lot of reasons why the card collecting experience is better today than ever before. And looking forward into the future, I think it’s going to get even better for collectors, as I believe that Fanatics will clean up a lot of the quality control issues, redemption issues and other problems that have plagued card manufacturers over the past few years.
With the Sports Card Investor app, you can profit from the hobby you love by keeping up with trending cards, tracking real-time prices with Market Movers and buying items on eBay. Download the industry-leading app here for Apple or Android
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