The sports trading card world has evolved so much since the first card was printed. Here we are in 2021 and the whole industry is seeing record growth. If you really dig in and go down the rabbit hole you will see the progression of the hobby.
This is a quick story of my involvement in the sports card world. Although I could go into greater detail, I will try not to bore you. The good news is the hobby is stronger than ever, but it does carry an uneasy feeling, which I will talk about later.
How Did I Get Involved in Trading Cards?
When I was around 8 years old my brother and I were introduced to trading cards by our grandfather. He was a big baseball fan and decided to start buying us packs and boxes of TOPPS trading cards. Fast forward over a five-year stretch, my brother and I spent all of our money on packs and boxes each week. Every chance we had we would go get a $.25 pack. It was like opening birthday presents all of the time.
We would sort them, trade them, play with them and even throw them like ninja stars. In the back of our heads, we knew they could have value one day, but we were kids and didn’t care. We did what we wanted to until we stopped buying packs and boxes. We had both grown out of the hobby and the countless shoeboxes of cards were placed in my parent’s basement where they would sit for over 40 years.
Fast forward to the present. After 50 years of living in this house, my parents decided it was time to settle in a new place. The only house I knew of growing up was to be put up for sale. Turns out, the only way to sell their house was to get it ready to show.
I drove back to their house to help out and knew the cards would need to be dealt with. Although neither my brother nor I wanted to deal with the 15,000 cards we accumulated, we had no choice.
I decided to take on the task and brought all of the cards back to my house in PA. Just like that, I was back in the game and fully interested once again.
I then started going down the rabbit hole to learn about what is happening in the industry. Little did I know that COVID had not only brought back so many old collectors, but it brought in so many new ones as well. The industry was seeing record card transactions and sales.
Five Trading Card Factors We Didn’t Know or Care About as Kids
- The value of the cards would go up significantly over time.
- Keeping the card in the best condition was more important than playing with them.
- Keeping sealed packs could be worth more than the cards themselves.
- Trading for the best players was more important than your favorite team at the time.
- Keep Collecting – By stopping you miss out on some rookie cards and other featured cards over the years.
For the past few weeks leading up to writing this, I did a ton of research and discovered we had some really good cards. Our excitement was real knowing that some of the cards we own were selling for over $3 million. The one big issue was why it was selling for that much. This is where a whole new level of knowledge was required.
I get into this in more detail below, but the quality of the card is everything. It turns out that our cards are good, but they aren’t at the level we need them to be to make the big bucks.
The Investment of Time and Money
I was pretty excited to dig in and see what kind of treasure we had. I completely forgot how long it takes to go through every card one by one. I condensed 20 shoeboxes of cards into three 5000 a-piece cardholders. I sorted them by Sport, team, and year. I have a significant amount of baseball cards followed by a strong showing of football cards and a couple of years worth of basketball and hockey.
As I was digging, I would set aside players I thought had value. This means anything from a rookie card, Hall of Famer, or anything that made people want the card. It did bring back some memories and it’s been enjoyable, but now it is time to see if our investment of 40 years ago can pay us off.
Some of My Rippers
Here are my favorite cards in the collection. If you think back in sports history you will understand why. Monetarily, these cards have the most value in my collection as well.
My favorite football player wasn’t on my favorite team. One of the factors listed above is still critical to the hobby. I was fairly young watching Payton play, but I can remember so many great moments. The one thing I do remember is his humbleness when he scored. He did some minor celebrations at the time, but for the most part, he would score, give a high five or two and go back to the bench. He wasn’t a showboating type of player. It inspired me to be a good sport at all times, which I try to instill in my kids today.
Our hockey card collection was the smallest of the four sports. It was easy for me to crank through these and see what we had. After doing a little bit of research I found out the 1979 TOPPS Wayne Gretzky card was included in the year we had collected. When I was at my parent’s house my son and I did a strong digging into the one shoebox of hockey cards. We did not find the Gretzky card and we were kind of bummed. After a few days back in PA, I decided to go through the hockey box again. I kept hearing stories about how Wayne Gretzky cards were selling for crazy amounts. I had FOMO. Turns out, the last grouping of cards in the box carried “The Great One”. I was so pumped and felt like a little kid again.
Being a Washington Redskins fan, liking Joe Montana wasn’t the best of ideas. No matter who you rooted for, there was something about Joe that made you love the game of football. It actually got old watching him win over and over again. Many years later, you see why his rookie card is one of the most sought out cards in the hobby.
I’ve had my ups and downs when it comes to baseball. I still like going to games, but you won’t find me watching a game on tv unless it’s the World Series. With so much history surrounding the game, there is always something to be intrigued about. Rickey was a one-man show. He would not only hit dingers, but he would steal almost every chance he could. He made the game super exciting.
Here is the homer pick of the group. Out of the five years of collecting, Eddie had the closest connection to me. Sometimes when your favorite team has the star rookie, it makes things a lot more fun.
The honorable mentions in my collection include Lawerence Taylor, Ronnie Lott, Steve Largent, Jerry Rice, Earl Campbell, and many more.
The Unfortunate Part of the Hobby
The world of trading cards was all about the kids. Me, my brother and all other kids were the major consumers of these cards. Yes, there were plenty of adults carrying the hobby forward, but over the past decade the hobby has priced out the youth from participating.
It is too expensive for kids to go to the corner store and buy a pack or a box of cards. In fact, this past weekend I was in a trading card store and asked the price of certain boxes. The owner says to me, that one is $265. If you want this other box, it is $550. My jaw dropped.
I do agree that the cards are way better than they used to be. Some are almost like nice pieces of art. They are definitely worth more than what I paid for as a kid. I still can’t wrap my head around dropping that kind of money on trading cards, however.
How many kids can walk into a store and say can I buy that box of cards? It’s pretty sad.
There are still ways to get involved in the hobby, but the investment side has definitely taken over, which leads me to my future plans.
Plans Going Forward
Now that I’ve gone through all of my cards and sorted the rookies, the ones that may have value and the commons, it’s time to take it to the next level.
The five cards above and possibly a couple more will be sent off to PSA for some grading. I’m not expecting great scores, but with the grading, I should be able to get a lot more value on the sale. You can get more information about the grading process by searching or watching YouTube videos. It is amazing what goes into the grading of cards.
Currently. the grading process can take up to a year based on all the backorders. This is where I need to be patient. Meanwhile, I will take lower-value cards and load them up to COMC.com and eBay. I don’t think I’ll make a lot of money, but there should be some return within the 15,000 cards.
Once I get a taste of the process and feel like I may be getting something out of it, I plan to start collecting once again. I’m hoping to buy collections from estate sales or through friends. All it takes is a few cards to make a collection worthwhile.
Some Good Resources I’ve Found
COMC.com – This is a great resource to buy and sell cards of all values. Be sure to read all pricing before you submit your cards.
eBay.com – An auction site for everything, but you can find some great cards and place a bid. You can also use eBay to sell your cards.
Baseball Card Collector Investor Dealer – I learned about this channel randomly, but Chris is spot on and I appreciate his input. The funny thing is, he is from where I grew up.
I hope this story gave you some entertainment and possibly an itch to run out and grab a pack of cards. The hobby will continue to grow and hopefully not get too out of hand that kids won’t be able to participate. We shall see where card values go each year.
At any point, if you or you know someone getting rid of their collections, I’m here and willing to buy. Send me an email using my about page.
Also, check out my eBay store if you would like to purchase any of the cards I’m looking to sell. Link coming soon.
By the way, trading cards is a lot easier than day trading.