What Cards To Invest in? A Guide on Sports Card Investment
(this is in no way investment advice. We only provide this for informational purposes – use accordingly and invest wisely)
There are so many options and different sports available in the collectible game, it can be overwhelming. What to buy depends on your budget and your reasons for collecting. Collecting typically falls into two categories: collectors and investors. In this blog, we’ll go over what the best options are for making some $$ and what to avoid if you’re looking to make a quick buck.
There’s 2 Categories of Card Sets to collect and invest in
Collector Sets- these are the cards you’d buy for your kids if they’re interested in collecting base cards. They don’t have a ton of value and you wouldn’t be super upset if your kids damaged the cards. Typically heavy in base cards, short on autographs, memorabilia and low numbered cards. You will generally find these sitting in Walmart or Target.
Investor Sets- high cost and extremely difficult to find in retail. I’m definitely not buying these for my kids! Will have a higher number of autos, memorabilia, and numbered cards
Investing in Hockey Cards
Hockey cards are almost exclusively collector sets. Generally, hockey cards are not worth investing in with one exception; when a franchise-level talent rookie card is available, such as Connor McDavid or Austin Matthews.
2021 hockey cards are not special. Alexis Lafreniere, the number 1 pick had an ok rookie season, but doesn’t project to be a franchise player like McDavid. For me, 2022 hockey cards are a hard pass for investment; the 2021 draft was a weak one, and had a defenceman as the first pick, who do not generate the value of forwards. The 2022 and 2023 drafts have some generational talents, so those sets would be more attractive.
The other thing to consider when purchasing Upper Deck hockey cards in search of Young Guns is the reduced odds. From Series 1, Alexis Lafreniere’s Young Guns is the most valuable. A blaster box typically yields 3 to 4 Young Guns, and there are upwards of 50 Young Guns in Series 1. Do you like your odds of landing the coveted card in the set?
Lastly, in terms of investment, Upper Deck cards are the only ones worth purchasing. O-Pee-Chee and Parkhurst sets have little to no value- for the price, I’m not sure why they’re being made, considering Upper Deck is marginally more expensive and considerably more valuable.
Investing in Football and Basketball Cards
These are being lumped together because Panini produces them, and typically has similar sets (Prizm, Mosaic, Playbook, Absolute, Contenders, etc.)
Collector Sets- Hoops Basketball, Score Football, Absolute, Donruss and Contenders to a lesser extent
Investor Sets- Prizm, Mosaic, Spectra, Obsidian, Optic
There are ample opportunities to make $$ in football and especially basketball. It is becoming more and more difficult to find even collector sets for retail prices. If you’re purchasing these at your local card stores, you need some huge hits to turn profit. My general rule of thumb is, if you see any of these investor sets of cards for retail, buy them. The unopened packs and blasters can be flipped easily or opened and the contents are easy to sell. Collector sets, due to ease of getting, typically do not retain much value.
My favourite investment for basketball and football cards is Panini Chronicles, which is a product I’ve been able to find on occasion at retail. Unopened packs can be flipped for 3 to 5 times the purchase price. Opening the packs leads to a nice amount of rookies. It wasn’t uncommon for me to open a cello of Basketball Chronicles and hit 3 or 4 Zion and Ja’s, which can be easily flipped. Likewise for Football Chronicles, which usually had several Joe Burrow and Justin Herberts.
My 2nd favourite investment is Hoops, but you have to move fast. Hoops has the first rookie cards in NBA uniforms, but only really hold their value until the higher-end cards start being released. Hoops also did a great job with the Slam inserts, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them bring them back. Score Football falls into the same category, as it’s the first rookie card available, but due to quantity, don’t keep much value.
Investing in Baseball Cards
I’d rank baseball cards above hockey, but below football and basketball. Regular Topps baseball cards would fall into the collector series, although it is worth keeping an eye on which rookies are in the set; Series 2 typically provides better investment opportunities. Tatis Jr, Ohtani, Vladimir Guerrero base rookies have had great ROI recently.
Topps Chrome, would be considered the investment set, but again, keep track of which rookies are available in the set. I also like Bowman Chrome, as their sets usually have early rookie cards, which can hold their value well, and tend to have more rookies than some of the other sets.
It should be noted, Topps exclusive baseball deal ends in 2025. Their final set may hold some sentimental value and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some interesting inserts, throwback cards and other cool relics. It’s a set that may hold its value for a long time and one that I’m interested in collecting.
Panini’s baseball cards are nice (Donruss, Prizm etc.), but the lack of an agreement with MLB hurts their value a little. Again, look for Chronicles if you can find it and keep track of rookies worth collecting
Everything else seems to be booming these days- think soccer, F1, UFC and so on. These sets make great investments if you can find them. These sets are all high-end and relatively expensive and hard to find. I’ve had some luck finding Topps soccer cards; they have an agreement with UEFA Champions League, so you can get some great cards of star players, especially Erling Haaland, who is a great investment. They also have a deal with the German Bundesliga, where Haaland plays for Borussia Dortmund for the time being. I’d skip their MLS cards. Panini has similar offerings; again, for investment purposes, if you find it, buy it. Soccer is easy to flip.
I’ll refrain from commenting on F1 and UFC cards, as I have yet to see them in person, but they appear to present good investment opportunities.
Some Final Advice on collectibles investment
Remember, if money is no object, if you find high-end, buy it. Either get the good cards graded, open and flip or flip the unopened packages. You can’t really lose if you find high-end products at retail. It becomes more of a gamble if you’re paying reseller prices. It’s worth a quick glance at eBay to determine what kind of values the cards have before buying at a local card store or entering a break.
One other piece of advice that has served me well is, despite the temptation to save a few bucks and buy cellos or fat packs, avoid them, as they almost never seem to have anything of value in them. Yeah, you get 30 cards for anywhere between 7 to 10 bucks, but many of them have nothing rare. Upper Deck hockey cards fat packs usually give you 29 base cards and one insert. You have to hope that the one card is a Young Guns. Needle in a haystack if you ask me. Buying blasters, which are more expensive, have better yields. You have a much better chance of hitting an auto, memorabilia or something else good. Got to pay to play!
It’s worth deciding what kind of collector you are? Are you a completionist, trying to finish sets to hold for the future, or are you an investor, looking for a quick flip?
Basketball remains the king for the time being, and it’s not really close. Football lags behind, with baseball and hockey bringing up the rear. Soccer is on fire, and is pushing up on soccer, and may have even exceeded football card values by the time you read this blog.