8 Survival Tips for Collectors Returning to the World of Sports Cards

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By Ryan Cracknell | Hobby Editor

For a lot of people, collecting sports cards isn’t something we do our entire lives. We might start as kids then stop in the pursuit of a car, college degree, family or any combination of the above. Some may collect for a while and simply move on for whatever reason. And that’s perfectly okay.

Actually, it’s normal.

But there’s a solid chance that when you returned to collecting sports cards, the hobby landscape looked a lot different, good and bad.

Depending on when you last collected, navigating this new world can be fun, exciting, disheartening, scary and a little bit overwhelming.

Here are some tips to get you thinking and help you through some of those changes and back into the world of collecting.

1. Don’t Chase Everything

Taken as a whole, there are a lot of new products out there. No matter what you collect, don’t even try to collect it all. Even with Powerball millions, the rabbit hole will never end.

Up until about the mid-1990s, you could realistically chase everything of your favorite team or player. For that matter, you could probably piece together every major set including inserts.

Cards cost a lot less per box back then, too.

And there weren’t long lists of parallels.

And autographs were kept to a minimum.

And print runs were bigger.

See where I’m going here? The hobby has changed. Even though there are a limited number of companies making them, each release is intended to cater to a different type of collector. If you try to chase it all, you’re probably going to get frustrated fast. It’s simply not possible. There are too many rare cards now and too many pricey ones to realistically accomplish it.

A good goal should be attainable so be realistic. Look at what you enjoy most about collecting. A specific player? Rookie cards? Autographs? Building sets? Start here. Then further find your niche by looking at the styles of cards that are out there. Basically, you’re looking to find your niche within a niche. And for everyone, that will probably be a little bit different.

When you see a long list of products on the horizon, you don’t need to get them all. Even getting one box of everything can add up and leave you with stacks of cards you probably didn’t really want in the first place. Sampling is good, to a certain extent. Life gets boring if you order a Big Mac every time you go to McDonald’s. But don’t feel the need to go all-in on every product.

Even still, you might not want to bust any packs. Opting for the singles route might not have the same kind of magic, but it does help you focus your collection. Even if you don’t have a local shop or shows, there are plenty of places online to find just about any of the cards you’re looking for. The Beckett Marketplace and eBay are just a couple of them.

Today, sets are designed with niches in mind. Most are aimed at fairly specific audiences. Some products target nostalgia with big base sets, old-time card stock and familiar designs. Others are aimed at those who only want autographs. A few opt for wild designs and modern printing technology. Everything is different. So even when there’s a long list of new releases virtually every week, take a look at them and question what the product’s target is and if it’s in line with how you want to collect.

2. Yes, Some Cards Are Very Expensive

Other than a couple of outliers, new sports cards aren’t a dollar a pack anymore. But that’s to be expected. What might be harder to fathom is how high some products have soared. It started with 1989 Upper Deck Baseball breaking the dollar barrier. From there packs hit $5. Then we got the promise of an autograph per pack and other thresholds were broken.

2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite LeBron James RC

In the last decade or so, things have really started to escalate. 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Basketball made headlines for costing upwards $500 per box back when they first came out. Then came 2012-13 Panini Flawless Basketball being the first to hit $1,000. Recently, 2014-15 Panini Eminence Basketball arrived costing around $6,000 per box. A 2016 Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection set cost about $15,000. And it’s not likely to stop.

Yes, prices have risen. But before you start writing the entire hobby off because of these types of products, remember that not every product is meant for everyone. There are collectors out there with the means to drop thousands of dollars on cards without much of a thought. We can choose to resent these products or we can focus on the things that we enjoy. It is a choice. Personally, I have a hard time spending $100 on a box of cards. I accept the fact that the top-level products are out of my range and move on. I find spending my time, energy and money on the things I like to be much more enjoyable.

These expensive products are like every set that’s put out. They’re not for everyone. That $15,000 set — only 200 were made. With so much variety out there, look to the things you like. If it’s a $500 box of cards, great. If it’s a clearance box from last year (bonus tip: patience often pays off), there’s nothing wrong with that either.

3. You’re Probably Not Going to Retire Off of That Stash of ’80s Cards

The 1980s and early 1990s produced some fantastic sets. They also produced a lot of cards. If you’ve been hoarding a stash of cards away for the past 30 years as part of your retirement fund, you’re likely going to be disappointed. Exceptions exist, but for the most part cards from this era are tough to sell for any real amount of money.

The reason is basic supply and demand. Most everyone who wants 1991 Pro Set Football has it. On top of that are cases and cases sitting unopened in closets, basements, storage lockers and warehouses. Simply put, there’s tons of it out there and nobody’s buying.

Perhaps the best thing you can do with most of these cards is to pull them out and look through them. Get a sense of what made you excited to collect. Enjoying those cards covers everything except that pesky money-making part.

4. Making Money Isn’t Easy

Some people jump into sports cards with visions of easy money in mind. While you can make money, you’ll probably find out very quickly that it’s not as easy as ripping open a box, selling what’s inside, moving onto the next box and pocketing the profits. Making money off of sports cards isn’t easy — at least any significant amount.

Like any industry, those that are most successful at making money look for opportunities. They fill gaps that others aren’t covering. That’s the key here as well. If you’re focusing on local collectors, what are their needs? If you’re looking online, what can you offer that’s different?

Even if selling is a casual part of your collecting (it is for most of us in some form), take the time to figure out where the best place is and way to do it.

One other thing to remember is that this can be an expensive hobby now. If you’re buying a box purely speculating on a return, you’re likely to lose out quickly. And losing a significant amount of money a couple of times will quickly lead to burnout. So if it’s a business you’re looking for, research the market first. If you’re here primarily for a hobby, stick with what you enjoy and what’s in your budget. That way, the worst case scenario of getting a scrub player doesn’t seem so bad.

5. Take Your Time

Patience

If you stopped collecting 25 years ago, cards are going to look a lot different. You might have tried to “Find the Reggie” in 1990 Upper Deck Baseball, but back then autographs were definitely the exception compared to now. And they’ve also started putting pieces of memorabilia inside of cards as well.

Those aren’t the only changes. Checklists have gotten more complicated. Distribution has changed. People’s collecting habits have evolved. We haven’t even gotten into the role of the Internet in the modern hobby.

There’s a lot to digest. Be sure to take your time and look around. See what kinds of cards there are and where to find them. Make a plan for how you want to collect. Connect with other collectors on message boards, Twitter or many of the ever-evolving forms of social media. There’s a large network of blogs out there as well. And if you have a local card shop, they can be great too.

It’s easy to get consumed and overwhelmed trying to take everything in at once. You’ve been gone for a while. Taking it slow at first probably isn’t going to make much of a difference other than helping you get focused and more comfortable.

6. Where Did All the Card Companies Go?

Back in the boom times, there were several manufacturers making products for all sports. Today, all five of the major North American sports leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL and MLS) have exclusive deals. Topps is baseball. Panini has basketball and football (starting with 2016 products). Upper Deck covers hockey. These exclusives carry over to other leagues and bodies as well. It should be noted that Panini has an MLBPA license but that only allows them to use Major League players, not MLB logos or trademarks.

Fleer, SkyBox, Pacific, Press Pass, Pro Set, Playoff and others are either gone or have been folded into other companies.

The hobby world isn’t as big as it once was. Good or bad, exclusives are the new reality.

7. Beyond the Box

The Internet has changed the hobby in so many ways. Over the past few years, the biggest is probably the rise of group breaking. If you’re not familiar, the basic premise is that cards are opened by a dealer offsite and mailed to you. They come in many forms but one of the most common is when you buy into a case break and you get all the cards for a particular team.

These breaks serve a few purposes, many of which can help you focus your collection. If you’re a fan of a specific team, you don’t have to worry about getting a lot of cards you don’t want. Maybe you want to check out a product that’s out of your budget otherwise. Perhaps there’s a rookie that you’re chasing. Maybe you just want to hang out and take a chance on a cheap team from the leftovers. All work.

Another great thing about online breaks is the sense of community they can bring. Many sites have chat rooms where collectors talk during the break. Sports, collecting, celebrating a nice pull, ragging on a bad box are all fair game. At the same time, it’s helping collectors connect no matter where they live in the world.

A couple things to think about if you’re looking at group breaks. Do your research first. Watch them online either live or recordings on YouTube and see if their style works for you. See what other people think of them. Some breakers have been established for several years and have lots of experience and knowledge.

Also, be sure to know what kind of break you’re buying into. They can all be very different, each with their own pros and cons. There are no guarantees that you’re going to get a major card out of a break. Sometimes you might not land a card at all. Some have more risk than others. Just make sure you know what the terms are before you commit to buying. If you have questions, ask them. If you don’t get the answers you want, it’s probably for the best and you can find another breaker to help you.

8. Some Things Never Change

Despite all the changes in the world of sports cards, some things remain the same. If you’ve got a card shop nearby, hopefully it’s a destination where you can go and chat about the things you love (and the players you don’t). Card shows are still great places to find deals and meet people as well.

The excitement of getting a new card of your favorite player is still there. Even if they haven’t played in decades, there’s a good chance they’re in today’s products.

If you’re getting back into collecting, there must be a reason for it. Remember that and hold onto it. And most of all, welcome!

Are you a returning collector? What brought you back? If you’re a hobby veteran, what piece of helpful advice would you give?

Comments? Questions? Contact Ryan Cracknell on Twitter @tradercracks.

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44 comments

  1. Greg 19 January, 2016 at 19:00

    Thank you for this article. I’m sure it could have been even longer and more in-depth. I just returned to the hobby after a long hiatus. I last collected back in ’95 as a teenager. My wife and in-laws essentially got me back into the hobby. It all started when my father in-law told me about a friend of his who was wanting to downsize his collection. I could go on about what I’ve learned over the last year being back, but it would become its own article…

    • Ryan Cracknell 19 January, 2016 at 21:11

      Thanks, Greg! If you have any questions or areas you want explored more (or have other questions), feel free to let me know. Perhaps I can work it into another piece (or several).

  2. Supersitz 19 January, 2016 at 19:52

    Make sure you can afford it first and foremost.This isn’t your fathers cards.This hobby can be and is very expensive.Start VERY slow.Don’t buy hobby boxes with the hope to hit it big in every box.Id suggest buying singles to start( ei: You’re favorite player) and go from there.Good luck.

  3. Larry 19 January, 2016 at 21:11

    I would say stick to singles of your favorite players. You can buy a case of cards for say $500 or you can probably get the one card you want for a quarter of that price without the risk of opening 12 boxes and not getting it. You can buy singles of high end cards for about the same price as a pack of that product if you don’t buy it within the first 2 months that product comes out. Prices most always drop within the first few months so let someone else spend the money so you can save some. When a product is first released is usually when the prices for those cards are outrageous so wait a little bit and the prices usually fall.

  4. Larry 19 January, 2016 at 21:25

    Also buying graded cards have the benefit that you know the card is authentic and not altered. I personally only buy Beckett graded cards graded 9.5 or 10, or PSA 10’s. These are the best examples of the respective cards out there, watch out for fakes if you buy older cards, I’ve been burned a few times with vintage cards. Plus graded cards hold better value in most instances over their respective ungraded cards.

  5. Jeorge hibz 20 January, 2016 at 06:31

    I dabble here n there at a couple of stores n my town,, what I get is what I get,, buy singles at the Fleamarket n a few online, collecting is for for everyone , whether ur pockets r deep or shallow,,,, n if a player has 10+ yr career,,wow,,, Put on display , I can sit n remember certain ball games from that year, or strike up conversations with my own kids or friends, stories from my youth, as I started collecting by 71,

  6. Kerry 20 January, 2016 at 09:27

    Over the past 30 years the thrill of the chase is what I enjoy most from the hobby, whether it be opening a box, finding a trader willing to give it up, or searching online for a reasonable price. As a wise man once said, ‘Keep it simple, stupid!’ Like any hobby I am not in it for the money, but seeing my collection grow in value over the years is also a thrill that I hope to keep up for the next 20+ years.

  7. Charlie DiPietro 20 January, 2016 at 09:45

    Great post. I am going to link to this post for everyone who is new or returning to the hobby.

    I especially like #8 SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE but wish you would have expanded. The “Brick and Mortar” Card Shop is truly the right place for new collectors and collectors returning to the hobby after 20 years. Once they get over the fact that their late 80’s and early 90’s cards won’t send their kids through college, the Card Shop is a place for them to see, touch and learn about the great cards of today.

    Yesterday, I had a visitor from the Dallas area come in saying he was, “Just looking.” We had three veteran collectors in the store at the time who got all the help they needed from my son. I was able to spend about an hour getting the visitor caught up with the state of the hobby and how it has changed since 1995. He also spent a few minutes watching the veteran collectors bust boxes and get excited with their “Big Hits.” He decided to “stick his foot in the water” and bought two boxes. He busted them at “the table” with the veterans talking-up his pulls and he decided to buy two more boxes.

    The Card Shop is the best place for novice to ask questions and meet other collectors who love this hobby. The new collector may be cautious and skeptical when they first come into a store thinking the owner is “just trying to sell me something.” We have at least two veteran collectors busting boxes and hanging-out at all times. When a novice hears a product’s glowing review from another collector, the new collector is sold.

    A good card shop provides the true collector community setting. All our customers know each other and text, twitter or call their group as soon as they “pull the big one.” They text each other to arrange group visits for busting and trading in real time. They share in each other’s excitement when their collecting friend pulls a big one. They often hand me cards they don’t need and ask me to give them to one of their collecting friends.

  8. IamNotARobot 20 January, 2016 at 11:22

    Very good article. #4 is a lesson that even seasoned collector’s need to be reminded of from time to time. You don’t always hit it big; sometimes you may not break even, so purchase products wisely (item #1 applies here too.) Having a local card shop cannot be understated. Connecting with a reputable dealer and other collector’s is what makes this hobby great. Most importantly, have fun.

  9. IamNotARobot 20 January, 2016 at 11:27

    William,
    Distribution changed because the hobby changed. Company mergers, licenses and exclusive deals have altered the landscape of the hobby significantly. Also, collector’s want different things, and companies try to meet those goals. That’s why there are many different products with varying price points. Scarcity can also drive demand, so companies create limited production sets. There are many factors for distribution changes.

  10. William 20 January, 2016 at 11:57

    So with distribution, are we taking about retail vs hobby or why you can’t find Topps cards at a gas station?

  11. phillies_joe 20 January, 2016 at 12:41

    Great Advice!!! This article will be printed and hung above my breaking/collating area to remind me everyday not to get caught up in the crazy-ness. Thanks……….

  12. Trey 20 January, 2016 at 16:56

    Ryan,
    Any chance your bosses at Beckett can segregate the canned content (press releases) from manufacturers on new releases from original articles (most of which come from you) on the news feed. The original content is why I keep coming back to Beckett.com and mixing it in with all the press releases is a disservice to the effort you put in writing the article.

    • Ryan Cracknell 20 January, 2016 at 19:01

      Thanks, Trey! Our aim is to provide a variety of articles covering lots of different angles including collecting tips, product information and other things we think readers would find interesting (and we’re also open to suggestions). I’m not sure if things can be organized into how you phrase them but I’m always hoping that we can integrate better navigation into the overall layout. I do try to keep the intros short, so scrolling can be done quickly. There’s also the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/beckettmediallc) that should have all new pieces posted to as well, which can also be scrolled through quickly to find the sorts of things you’re looking for most.

  13. Lou 22 January, 2016 at 10:51

    Great article. Wish I would have handled getting back into the hobby this way myself. I jumped right back in and started buying box after box and ended up with very little PC stuff. Should have saved my money from boxes and bought singles I would have appreciated more. Instead of that I have boxes and binders filled with cards I rarely even look at. I am on my way back out of the hobby but if (when) I come back it will be with a plan that will work for me and my budget.

  14. Scott 11 March, 2016 at 18:12

    This was a great piece and helpful comments, thank you! I used to collect in late 80’s early 90’s, probably the worst era in general. Every once and a while I dabble, but lately I’ve been looking more and more. I have a general question for anyone who cares to follow up. Regarding NBA/NFL, I really enjoy the player auto and patch cards. Recently I was looking at some online sales and noticing differences in prices with limited runs in a Cracked Ice and Black Gold. The Cracked Ice seemed to be a bit more costly for comparable items, versus Black Gold. I personally liked the contract of the Black Gold and thought it to be more unique for same numbered runs. Is the cost difference more of a preference to most collectors, enjoying a type like Ice over the Black Gold? Or am I maybe missing something else?

    Thank you.

  15. David 8 July, 2016 at 22:35

    I am 49 and got back into collecting football cards last year. I no longer buy the expensive $100+ boxes. I buy single autograph and jersey cards on eBay. I have acquired a nice collection again.

  16. Silvio Civitarese 24 October, 2016 at 10:00

    It was a great article and very helpful advice. I just got back into collecting after a 45 year hiatus and boy has it changed. I found a lot of the 80’s and 90’s stuff to be cheap but I so loved some of the card designs. Truly great players during that time but then PED’S happened and tarnished some careers. I still like just putting together the base
    sets and I am a happy camper, The inserts and all that other stuff though possibly valuable too overwhelming and too expensive for my taste. Knowing I have a set of the players that played in that year suits me just fine. Happy collecting to all

  17. Jasper Whiteside 26 October, 2016 at 12:46

    I think that it’s hard to get a return on any kind of investing. That’s why I like what this article is saying about the amount of effort it takes to make money off of basketball cards. I would think that a big part of the investment is waiting for the card to gain value with age. I can see myself getting burned out quickly unless I was collecting as a hobby like the article says.

  18. Richard 6 December, 2016 at 16:03

    I collected from the late 80’s through the mid 90’s. My dad encouraged me to collect by using the incentive of baseball cards as a reward for good grades in school, working in the yard, and generally having good behavior. I joined the military after high school in the late 90’s and all my cards were stored in my dads attic. I lived far away from my hometown for 18 years and I never had an opportunity (or the storage space) to obtain my cards and/or display them. My cards sat in my dad’s attic for nearly 20 years. He brought them by my house about 8 months ago. Initially I was excited but too busy to look through them. One day I got “the bug” to look through them and 3 weeks later after spending more than 150 man-hours sifting through this massive collection, I was able to determine what had value and what didn’t. I used Beckett and PSA to guide me but I was also very aware that just because PSA said a card was worth $100 as a PSA 10, that didn’t mean my card was worth that much. The first few boxes I went through were a bummer (1989 Score, crappy Fleer commons, a bazillion Randy Johnson 1989 Topps cards followed up by 60 Len Dykstra’s, Donruss 4th year Fred McGriff x 30, a hard plastic card case with 50 Greg Olson rookies because I remember I thought his cards would be worth a fortune one day, you get the point) However, shortly into the process I struck gold and I started finding cards that I had forgotten I even had. 2 Eddie Matthews I got for Christmas when I was 10, dozens of Clemente cards, various Pete Rose cards, Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, some nice 1948 Bowman’s, and the list gets pretty lengthy. The next box had nearly the entire set of 1971 Topps football. Terry Bradshaw’s rookie was sitting near the top of the stack and OJ Simpson, Unitas, Namath, Joe Greene, Sayers, Jurgenson, and several others were sandwiched in there as well. Realistically most of the cards are between a PSA 4-6 but there are a few 7’s and 8’s in there. Practically speaking there were very very few 9’s and 10’s in the 71 Topps football collection, but some of the better cards have bold color, sharp corners, and the only thing wrong is a slight diamond cut, that’s virtually it. All the cards were stored neatly in cardboard storage containers designed to hold cards. I was surprised to see how well they had withstood time. Once I had organized this collection of well over 200,000 cards (possibly more) I built a pretty large display cabinet in my basement and ultimately converted my entire basement into a man cave. It’s 800 square feet dedicated to sports memorabilia. It’s starting to get out of hand and my once passion for cards has evolved into a bit of an obsession. I’m finding I have to pull the reins in on myself of late because I like EVERYTHING that is vintage baseball. My goal of obtaining every good rookie that ever played baseball is just simply not realistic at all, but in the past month I’ve purchased hundreds of cards off eBay – T206’s, Yaz rookie PSA7, all the rookies from the 70’s and 80’s. I took a gamble and bought the Yount and Brett rookies ungraded but they appear to be in amazing condition with high gloss, no chips on any corners, clean edges, and 55/45 centering. Most PSA 8’s look worse than the Yount and Brett I bought and I paid virtually nothing for them. Like the old saying goes, “if something is too good to be true it probably is”. I’ve taken a gamble on some of these ungraded cards I’ve bought. I haven’t sent any of them in to PSA yet. I was hoping that the fact that the people I bought them from on eBay had 1000’s of comments with perfect feedback ratings would hold some weight. I figured if I get them graded and they come back as trimmed or altered in any way I could reach out to who I bought it from. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if turns out they were altered because I’d still have a genuine rookie card from the 70’s that has great eye appeal for a bargain price, but if you are looking solely to make money off cards it may not be recommended to do this as there is risk involved. The way I see it, I’m paying for a piece of history that doubles as a conversation piece and an awesome piece of decor. I’d much rather have a shelf with some nice cards on display than a framed poster or something of that nature. To each their own. Sorry for the length of this post and happy collecting to everyone.

  19. George Padugan 9 December, 2016 at 15:30

    what do you do if the biggest thrill of collecting cards as a kid in the 90’s……… WAS the prospect of making money? That has been the biggest let down for me with the hobby. Even back then, the better players should have been worth more, but instead were out priced by errors and inserts that often made no sense.

    The amount of cards flooding the market may have decreased, and some may see this as a good thing. I don’t. The amount of cards wasn’t the problem, it was the random arbitrary way value was placed on useless dumb cards.

    kids are not involved in collecting anymore unless they are being heavily influenced by their dads. in the 90’s you couldn’t leave your house without running into a pack of baseball cards, they were everywhere, and they were affordable. Now they are nowhere, and they are largely unaffordable. $20 for a blaster pack of 8 packs with 8 cards? only to find out it’s “retail”…. um yeah, I used to buy 50 card packs for $0.50

    Then the high ends packs, as mentioned in the article. what an total waste. the 40-60 year olds dropping thousands on these products are not advancing, supporting, or growing the hobby. Quite the opposite. they will die, their uninterested kids will dump their collections for a quick buck, and a generation from now baseball cards will be like corded wall phones.

    Go back to the old ways and put the emphasis where it belongs, on the players, not the inserts. The only autographs should be of established all stars. not the garbage autos of guys that will be gone in a season or two. open up the licensing. Upper deck was awesome in the 90’s because of the photography, Donruss because of the art. now we have one company trying to emulate that and it comes off as flat and fake. All they had to do was limit the production runs to add value. not throw the whole thing out and replace it with something equally as bad.

  20. Jeff 5 February, 2017 at 20:24

    I collected cards when I was a kid back in the 70s, but I sold them early in the 80s to buy some record albums. It was my biggest regret. Then, someone bought me a 1991 Topps team set of the 1991 Minnesota Twins, my hometown team, to commemorate them winning the World Series. I have been collecting ever since. Since money has always been an issue for me, I’ve learned to put limits on my collection. I am a goal orientated person and the limits has actually made it more fun for me. It is not about getting the best cards or buying and selling to making money. It is all about the fun of collecting just when I was a kid. I basically have 6 separate collections. My Twins Card collection which consists of all the players from the Twins three World Series Teams as well as Twins all-stars, hall of famers, all stars and rookies of the year. I have a small Timberwolves collection of T-Wolves all stars and rookies of the year. I also have a Vikings card collection that consists of one card from every Vikings player that has ever been issued a card. Aside from my hometown teams, I have a football card and baseball card collection of specific players. For those collections, I combined my fondness of lists as well as sports cards. My football card collection is players with 20000 or more yards passing, 5000 or more yards rushing, 500 or more receptions, 100 or more sacks and 50 or more interceptions. My baseball card collection is players with 3000 or more strikeouts and players with 300 or more home runs. After 25 years of collecting, I have only spent about $2000 so far on the collection and I am real close to fulfilling my collections. Of coarse the last few cards are probably going to be more than what I have spent so far but it will be fun trying to complete and maintain my collection.

  21. David 2 April, 2017 at 20:11

    Does anyone share the concern that mid-level “stars” like, Eddie Mathews, Ted Kluszewski, and even Roberto Clemente will no longer have any name recognition when baby-boomers pass away. The super heros like Mantle, Ruth, Gehrig and Jackie Robinson will always demand a good price but I fear the cards of others could drop sharply.

  22. Michael 6 July, 2017 at 11:41

    I just recently got back into collecting about 4 years ago. I found out that all my 1980-1991 cards that I kept in binder’s are all worth garbage. I then realized how crutial grading is, and my cards could be worth something had I sent them out to get graded. I learned about becket, Psa, Gma, Bccg etc. I then went on ebay and was introduced to serial #erd, autographed, graded cards. Dam these cards are expensive I thought. I started to take note, that cards fluctuated daily, based on player performance, whether they are in season or it is the off season. I started to create my own market statagy, as if these rare graded cards were individual stocks. I learned that certain positions do not create as much value as others. Example> Jimmy Graham might be one of the greatest tight ends in the league, but Drew Brees will go down as one of the top Qb’s ever when his career is over. I learned that the focus is always on the QB. This is a QB driven league. I noticed that a rookie QB autograph card for a second string QB, such as Jimmy Garappolo graded a psa 10 was selling for more than an established great WR such as AJ green. All the hype around Garappolo is created around the “What if factor”. What if he is the next Brady. What if Brady retires, and he becomes the starting QB. Deflate gate for example, Garappolo’s cards went up 60%, just because he was scheduled to start 4 games. That baffeled me. Here is a guy that has done nothing, and I see everyone bidding on his cards like crazy, WTF?That’s why I believe that graded autographed sport’s card’s are in there own market. You have to pay attention to what a player is doing and what is going on in the league. Make good judgement’s about rookies and try not to get too exited about a 1 game performance. Be aware that a mediocre 2 year player with a high grade, that is serial #red, can rise in value more than a star that has been in the league for 10 years, for the pure fact that there is hype built up, and the “what if” factor. Also, because there is less of that card. It doesn’t matter if the ten year future hall of famer is a much better player. What I’m saying is that, # of production, type of grade and what grading company was used exceeds the players talent. Now, if you can find a player that all of these aspects in one card, that is what I call a “Whale”. Rookie hype, delivers on that hype, becomes star of the league, long career, breaks records, has star appeal, high grade, serial #erd, and last, has his autograph. I could go on forever, but here is a hint. Most teams run a 2-3 running back set nowadays. What chance does a RB of today have of breaking records. Answer: Not much, he’s not on the field enough. No one care’s about DB’s, and Tight ends are a dime a dozen. Everyone is focusing on the QB. That’s why you cant get a psa 9 Aaron Rodger’s rookie auto for under $200 bucks. He’s a whale!!! My next post will be about the baseball market.

  23. Mike 9 July, 2017 at 23:31

    I started collecting in the early 80’s in middle school. My parents would get me a complete set upon graduation as a gift. Topps mostly but sometimes Fleer or Donrus. One thing that always bummed me out was that my parents never had any cards to pass down to me like a lot of my friends. I have plenty to pass down to my boys now but they are toddlers. I’d like to start getting them some as a gift…say a complete set every year for their birthday. Someday if/when they discover baseball cards I could then breakout the sets I’d been getting them. A friend in the business when I was a kid told my folks that every year they should get the Topps complete set as well as the “Traded” set. Is that still sound advice given the huge diversity in cards these days?

  24. Bob 16 July, 2017 at 11:50

    I’ve been collecting since early 70’s..seen many changes over the years, some good some not so good..but one thing that hasn’t changed is my passion for our wonderful hobby..I’ve taken breaks from time to time for life reasons..over the past few years i’ve had to de-clutter & downsize my collection..again life happens..Over recent years i mainly focus on collecting favorite teams & players..I’m always been loyal to Topps..these days i enjoy retro brands like Archives, Heritage, A&G & GQ..i like the greats of game & HOF’ers..these are affordable for me..i like good ol’ cardboard..Not into high end stuff..So in closing i’d like to say to veteran collectors like myself welcome back & welcome to all the newcomers to our awesome hobby..i hope you find that passion & get the same enjoyment i do from collecting!

  25. Rob 27 July, 2017 at 12:54

    I started collecting when I was 7 years old, back in 1976. I grew up in Canada and so my collection consisted of Opeehee hockey and baseball. Most of those cards I still have today, although as you can imagine all the cards are pretty rough. They never made it to the spokes of my tires, but my friends and I did play “closest to the wall” and “topsies”. I collected all the way until I left home in 1989 for missionary service, and then college. I still remember taking a trip to Williamsport PA in the late 80s and hitting a card shop there and buying a lot of 1987 Donruss baseball thinking how cool the design was, and I loved the Rated Rookie cards. My friends werealll into basketball and they bought a bunch of boxes of 86/87 Fleer. I thought they were crazy….boy was I wrong. My buddy still has his 2 Jordan rookies.

    I got back into the hobby after I graduated from college and started working in 1997, so I missed most of the crazy collecting boom of the 90s, though I did watch it. When I got back in, like Ryan mentioned in his post, I had to figure out what to collect. I eliminated basketball, because I just wasnt a fan any more. I couldnt imagine not collecting rookies, so that was a staple in my collecting. I loved building sets, so I picked a couple of sets each year to put together (would you believe I have dozens and dozens of uncompleted sets still from back then). The only team I collected was my home town Toronto Maple Leafs and the only player I have ever collected was Gretzky.
    Nowadays for me my collecting has changed and evolved and is about 2 things…graded cards and serial numbered cards. I love graded cards and love how they are slabbed, graded, and in their final resting place. And its not even so much about the grade for me but its about them being encased. I have a bunch of 80s rookie cards like Young and Elway that are only graded at a 5 or 6, but the fact they are graded and encased is what I love. The other thing I love is serial numbered cards, and they have to have the number stamp on the front. Not sure why I decided that was something I wanted to collect….maybe its the idea of the limited quantity.

    I am sure some day in the future my collecting habits will change again. But thats the beauty of collecting….there are so many options.

  26. Chris 27 August, 2017 at 23:59

    I’ve been thinking alot lately about getting back into card collecting. Like millions of others, I got into the hobby in the late 80s and collected through to the mid 90’s. I spent my money on thousands and thousands of cards thinking one day years down the road I’d have a gold mine on my hands only to end up 25 years later with boxes upon boxes of garbage. I look at modern sports cards and feel absolutley nothing. No interest whatsoever in all of these super exclusive cards with autographs, hunks of game work paraphernalia. What Im interested in is what I dreamt about when I was a kid. I would look through my price guides for hours looking at all these fantastic rookie cards from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s that I had no way of affording. Now that Im older, I all of a sudden realized that, hey, I CAN afford those cards now. All those rookies like Brett, Schmidt, Ripken, Fisk, Henderson, Yount? I still want them, and those price tags don’t look nearly as monstrous as they did when I was 14 and working with a $30 weekly allowance. Nothing else interest me about the hobby. Complete sets, autographs, super-rare 1of 100 game worn jersey cards. I don’t want to break packs. I don’t want a huge collection of thousands of cards, 99% of which are worthless. I want those cards that I used to dream about, and now I have the means to make it happen. If they appreciate in value, fantastic. If they don’t, Ive still fulfilled a childhood dream. Now I just need to figure out which rookies I want to start with. Decisions decisions!

  27. Ken 2 September, 2017 at 22:25

    I got back into collecting in 1981 and probably have a few hundred thousand cards in my basement until I quit collecting around 1992. As I have read, these cards are mostly worthless due to the large amount of volume produced. My question is that I do have quite a few stars and rookies that I have seen generate a good deal of money if they are professionally graded. Can anyone give me some advice and this? Is there one professional grader that most collectors use. What are their prices and is the cost of getting cards graded worth the return? Would appreciate any help anyone can give me in this area.

  28. Terry 14 September, 2017 at 14:07

    I started collecting when my first son was born. I have 2 sons now. A friend of mine told me about a guy that was going to start auctioning off sports cards. There was only a handful of us at the onset of these auctions, but within 7or 8 months there were 2-3 hundred people bidding on these cards. By that time I had roughly a large suitcase full of cards. I was picking up cards 5-10 cents on a dollar. I was buying up all the old Mantles, Mays, Aaron’s, Clementes, and other HOFs I could get. Now I’m collecting again still interested in the older HOFers. Also been collecting Griffey Jr’s U.D. Rookies are fine. I prefer his older pre rookie cards. Bellingham and San Bernardino Best. I also like his glossy topps 1990 (89 rookies), and 1989 Score young superstars. These cards will be for the boys. I started collecting so it would keep me and my sons close and also give them something to focus on keeping them out of trouble as a lot of kids get reeled into taking the wrong road in life they’re great kids and hopefully this post will help some other parent focus on something wether it be sports cards or some other avenue enjoyment.

  29. Tom 1 October, 2017 at 04:03

    Thank you for that article it’s like you were inside my head. I found the grouping old teams idea very helpful in organizing my collection/making sense of it. I’m glad there are other’s like me, I thought it was a mid life crisis. No car, just cards!
    Thanks for your time.

  30. Stephen 5 January, 2018 at 15:20

    Thank you for the article. I got back into collecting about 4 years ago, after a 20 year break because the 80s and 90s put a bad taste in my mouth when the floor fell out. At first, I started doing just what you said not to in the article above; buying a bit of everything and ending up with a bunch of what I don’t need. I also started bulk buying collections to the point I ended up with about a million cards to find a way to sell in bulk. Then I sat down and thought to myself, “What do you really want?” What I realized is that it wasn’t bringing me joy because I wasn’t focused on one thing. So I started putting together lots of starts, players, refractors, autograph cards, sets, etc, and sold them locally and online. I took the profits I made from the sales and put them into my new passion. Instead of having closets full of card boxes, I wanted something I could appreciate and display. After my first $500 in profit from bulk selling, I purchased a Joe Montana Autographed and PSA/DNA authenticated mini-helmet. A bit later I purchased a 1981 Joe Montana RC PSA 9 Graded. Both were displayed on new shelves in my den. Then as profits continued, I purchased a Jerry Rice Helmet and Graded RC, Dwight Clark…and so on. Now I have a very manageable amount of cards to sell, and I have memorabilia that means something to me that I can display with pride and pass on to future generations. So that is my recommendation for anyone who feels they are drowning and aren’t passionate about collecting. Choose one thing that you really want, and go for just that. Sell everything that has no true meaning to you and replace all of that with stuff that means a lot to you. The result is well worth the effort.

  31. Cardboard Picasso 28 January, 2018 at 18:17

    Great article. I hear people say, ” I have over 4,000 baseball cards,” or ” I have everything good-Ken Griffey, Jr. , Mark McGwire, Barry Larkin, etc..” It’s definitely not HOW MANY you have but WHAT you have and in what condition. It’s tough to sell cards unless they are graded and many of the newer cards are worth less than what it would cost to get them graded. The introduction of the grading companies was definitely a surprise to me when I got back into collecting after years of taking a hiatus.

  32. Chianne mccoy 26 March, 2018 at 00:24

    I have over 700 cards with out the copyright. One card that would show you the I have some very nice cards. The one I like best is Ernie banks. The case has never been opened. I would like to talk about selling and learning about cards.
    Thanks
    Chianne

    • Ryan Cracknell 26 March, 2018 at 01:17

      @Chianne — Your best bet would be to start with your nearest card shop or find a local show and speak with dealers there.

  33. Clark 21 April, 2018 at 16:20

    I used to collect baseball cards in the 70s and 80s. I gave my cards to my nephew. I know thing are quite different. I am trying to help a friend whose son no longer wants his collection and my friend is trying to get rid of his collection of 80 and 90 full sets and and others. There’s are about 15 binder with cards in sleeves. Then there are many cards that are just in the boxes they came in or put together from individual packs. I live in Michiganand would like if any one can give me some advice on how to proceed. Thanks

  34. Dave 19 June, 2018 at 06:54

    I grew up collecting in the 80’s (before the boom) and into the early 90’s (when the industry boomed and then crashed). Baseball cards were fun until I realized each one held a value and then that’s all I thought about them and it was never the same. Back in the early 80’s, you tried to complete the set and didn’t worry about Rookie Cards, as you would traded duplicates for another card you needed. That all changed by the mid/late 80’s when the industry changed and then it was all about getting a rookie card and playing it like the Stock Market. It was a good lesson about supply and demand, and how the stock market works as 95% of my cards were worthless by 1991. I tried to collect after that without thinking of them as an investment, but it was never the same as I couldn’t separated the two. Once they started to produce a zillion sets a year for each company, it just became too much and I sold my collection. Every once in a while, I get the itch to get back and collect, but you can’t go home again. The cards are so expensive these days and even the older cards command a good sum after the grading system (PSA 10 Rookies are outrageous in price). I get cold feet everytime because the Card Industry is similar to Boxing in that they had too many belts and no uniform champion.

  35. John 24 July, 2018 at 00:27

    I recently got back into collecting with the birth of my son. I bought 2 Panini Hobby Boxes and a Topps Series 1 Hobby Box. Sadly I didn’t do any research. The reason I bought the boxes was the search for Ronald Acuna Rookies (not in those sets). I was born in April of 1989. About this time, at the complete opposite end of the country “The Kid” was making his debut. I was all about Griffey growing up. I want my son to have that growing up and Acuna seems to be the one that fits that mold. I’ve since bought probably 4 half case breaks of the Braves (and other teams no one was interested in) and bought a few jumbo hobby boxes (series 2 this time). I realized how much I loved just opening packs as a kid and the thrill of hitting one card. If I find the big one one day, so be it, but if not I just hope it’s just one of the many things that bring me and my little guy together.

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