how to make money trading sports cards

How to Invest in Sports Cards (2021 Guide)

If you thought collecting sports cards was dead, think again. The recent surge in buying and trading cards has given birth to a whole new dynamic of online money making. And in this post, we’re going to look at exactly how you can make money by investing in sports cards.

What are Sports Cards?

Before we get technical, a little background. There was a time before the digital age when sports enthusiasts used to collect souvenirs containing their favorite player or the team. Sports cards were one of the mainstream forms of collectibles.

The history of sports cards goes back to the 19th century, just when baseball became a professional sport. Needless to say, the initial days of sports cards were all based on baseball references. And it still remains somewhat true to this day. But it has spread across all other major sports as well.

Sports cards are a huge area of nostalgia. Maybe not for the younger generation. But people who used to be die-hard sports fans in the 80s and 90s, know exactly how much value they hold emotionally.

The bottom line is, sports cards are a bridge between the digital era and the analog era. And making money from sports cards? It’s an effective blend between the two.

Why Invest in Sports Cards?

A very good question indeed. From a list of infinite things, why would you choose sports cards as an investment option, right? Well, let us enlighten you.

Do you know about the youngsters flipping sneakers for profit? If you don’t know what it is, it’s the process where you buy an original pair of sneakers that a particular player wears and you sell it for profit. For example, a pair of Adidas X Speedflow. It’s a great sale because Lionel Messi wears it.

Flipping sports cards are somewhat similar to flipping sneakers, but the difference here is availability. The sneakers in question are every exclusive and mostly a limited-time production. So, it will be very hard to get your hands on a pair.

However, with sports cards, you can get as many as you like. As long as you have the budget, you can invest in the trading cards and sell them off for profit.

Another big thing reason would be nostalgia. There are some things that you cannot explain with words. They are also associated with one’s emotions. And you can’t put a price on emotion. That’s why it’s easier to make a profit from flipping sports cards because the number of nostalgic people is higher than you imagine.

Last but not the least, the latest resurrection of the trend. At the time of writing, investing in sports cards is a very big thing. In 2021 alone, sports cards have seen record setting numbers with one transaction in particular going for $4 million!

The coronavirus pandemic has allowed people to get back into old hobbies and get nostalgic about them. And collecting sports cards has risen from the ashes like a phoenix.

According to BBC, the lockdown from March to May in 2020 has seen a 92% rise in eBay trading! Basketball cards were the most popular choice in the majority of the transactions.

You can also get a piece of the pie by starting investing and reselling sports cards now. If you don’t know how cards are valued, let us help you.

How Sports Cards are Valued?

Just because sports cards have gone through an incarnation doesn’t mean all cards are valued equally. There are multiple factors the contribute to the value of the card. The popularity of the figure, the exclusivity of the card, the condition, etc. are some common pointers.

The Brand

Believe it or not, the brand of the card has the biggest impact on how much a sports card is valued. There was a time when many manufacturers had the right to produce sports cards for the fans. But later, it was narrowed down to a few licensed manufacturers who exclusively produced the cards and distributed them.

Topps, Upper Deck, Panini, etc. are some of the biggest names in the industry. And when you finally make the move to buy your first cards, you should definitely look for these brands. The value increases dramatically over time for these brands.

Topps is exclusively licensed for baseball. The MLB Player’s Association made a deal with the manufacturer to print player cards with team logos. The team logos part is unique to Topps and that’s why they have some of the most valuable cards the sports cards collection industry has ever seen.

Panini, on the other hand, prints both basketball and football cards. They also print baseball cards but don’t have the license to add team logos in there. But you will get cards with major team logos from Panini if you’re interested in football and basketball.

If you’re thinking about targeting the hockey fans, cards manufactured by Upper Deck should be your primary choice.s

The Style

The next big thing to look for when collecting cards is style. Numbered out cards hold the most value in general because the numbers often mean that they are limited edition. And the attraction to things that we can’t get is instinctive for humans.

Apart from limited edition cards, you should look for good-looking cards. You may think why does it matter but you’ll be surprised at how human psychology works. People go crazy over flashy looking cards. And you should definitely keep that in mind when you’re in the market trying to make an investment.

Raw Vs Graded

Sports cards are often graded by a grading company to represent their condition. A ‘10’ means the card is in incredible shape. The higher the grade, the more likely it is that it will grow value over the years.

Cards graded by PSA (Professional Sports Authenticators) holds the most value. BGS (Beckett Grading Services) follows closely.

However, there is another thing that you should keep in mind. When you go for a player card, just ensure that the player is good at what he/she does. Because a perfect ‘10’ card won’t get much value if no one wants or likes that player.

On the other hand, you can invest in raw cards. ‘Raw’ means the cards were never graded by any company. As they won’t have any grading on them, you can get them for pretty cheap. But it also means that you won’t make much profit from it. These are great options if you have a limited budget and want to test the industry before nosediving into it.

The Condition

This is an obvious one. And it’s closely related to the grading system. But it also applies to the raw cards as well. The condition of sports cards is determined by their corners, edges, surface, centering, and creases.

The bottom line is, how the cards look on inspection has a direct contribution to the value of the card. A scratched-up card will be sold for less than a smooth surface card of the same nature. Creases are often a deal-breaker for many collectors.

The Supply

The limited the supply, the higher the price. The age-old concept of supply and demand. In sports card trading, the phenomenon is known as population. The best thing is, you can dig up the population reports for individual sets at the grading companies’ websites. The unfortunate part, however, is that there are no credible ways to generate population reports for raw cards.

Performance of the Player

It might sound like a no brainer, but it makes sense for short-term traders. For example, if you have a LeBron James card and he plays spectacularly well in a match, you’ll see a sudden increase in the estimated value of the card. If you have his rookie card or any other cards, you can sell it immediately for a quick profit.

Keeping an eye out for the player’s performance is one of the tried and tested ways to maximize your profit. If you seriously want to make money from investing in sports cards, you must keep this insight in mind.

The Team

Just like the popularity of the player, the popularity of his team also matters. In general, international markets hold more value than the domestic market. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t invest in domestic market cards. Because who knows a player’s luck will shine and he’ll be called to the national team!

The Type of Sports Cards to Invest In

Did you notice that the header changed? Yes, the area for card types is so massive that we had to dedicate an entire section for it. But trust us, it’s going to be worth it because you can use this knowledge later to increase your chances of making a profit.

Rookie Cards

As you’re interested in sports cards, you must’ve done some research on sports cards. And if you did, you certainly came across the phrase ‘rookie card’. A rookie card is the first edition of the sports card printed with the player on it.

For example, Argentine soccer magician Messi’s rookie card would be the first batch of cards ever printed with him on them. From a historical standpoint, the rookie cards hold the most value because as a player gets popular over time, people start to put more value in them. One of the major characteristics of a rookie card is that it cannot be manipulated. New and improved cards may launch, but the rookie card remains the rookie card.

The rookie card for LeBron James is sold at $17,225 on July 23, 2020! And it will keep rising in value as long as LeBron remains the crowd favorite. It only shows how powerful rookie cards can be for an investor. You have to look beyond what others can see.

Complete Sets

If you want to shift your focus from any specific card to complete sets, you’ll be happy to know that they hold great value as well. Especially, if the set is old. It’s partly because getting complete sets of vintage cards is getting harder and harder with time. So, if you can manage a complete set, it will get you a very respectable return in near future.


Also known as chase cards, inserts are ‘inserted’ into packs of cards to spread them out evenly. A set of cards may follow the same design except for the insert. Different packs come with different inserts. Believe it or not, they hold immense value as well.

One of the main reasons behind the collectability of inserts is the limited production. A pack may have a number of the same cards, but only one of the inserts. And inserts usually have a player printed on them. So, if you hold onto the insert and the player turns out to be a star, you can very well make good money by flipping it.


Last but not least, the boxes of the cards also matter. Currently, there are several card box types in circulation that you can get your hands on. To start with, you can get retail boxes of sports cards from your nearest Target Store.

Apart from retail boxes, there are jumbo hobby boxes and regular hobby boxes. You should definitely get excited about them because they often contain signed cards!

To make a profit out of your box, you can go two different ways. The first one is to buy a box and keep it as is. Sealed boxes tend to rise more in value. Especially if it’s a hobby box because you never know what exclusive card might be in there. It creates a sense of thrill from the unknown outcome of your investment!

The 1986 Fleer Basketball is a great example of such hobby boxes. They go for the immense amount of money on the market because people may get lucky and score a Michael Jordan rookie card!

The other way is too obvious. You open the box and see if there’s an autographed card. Depending on what you get, you can either sell the collectible immediately or hold for it to rise in value.

Autographed Cards

Unlike hobby boxes, you’ll be knowingly investing in autographed cards. It’s needless to say that autographs of famous people go for a tremendous amount of money. But it also means you have to pay a tremendous amount to get it as well. The key here is to collect as many autographed cards as you can for a player who isn’t famous yet. And once your luck decides to shine, you can flip them for a lot of money.

Error Cards

They are exactly as they sound like. They have an error on them. Do you know what the interesting thing about errors is? They don’t happen very often! And it means they hold great value on the grounds of exclusivity.

If you’re interested in investing in error cards, vintage ones should be your target. Because most modern cards go through several layers of quality checks so your chances of getting an error card are pretty low.

Jersey Patch

No, this has nothing to do with New Jersey. But this has everything to do with a player’s jersey. Jersey patches are card packs that come with a patch of the player’s jersey, used in the match. There are jersey patches for events as well but they’re not as valuable as match-used ones.

How to Get Started with Sports Cards Investments?

As you’re thinking of making money out of this, you need a solid plan. And as your well-wisher, we can certainly help. There are few boxes that you need to check before you get into trading sports cards. Let’s walk you through step by step.

Make a Budget

In other businesses, budgeting comes later. But when investing in sports cards is concerned, you need to select the budget before anything else. The value of sports cards can vary drastically from sport to sport and player to player. If you don’t have a defined budget in mind, the decision-making process will be significantly hard for you.

To start with, don’t make a budget that you can’t afford to lose. The entire market is based on people’s dedication and passion for sports and their favorite players. It’s a house of cards that can crumble with a slight hint of a storm. We will have a dedication section covering the risks associated with sports card investment. Stay tuned for that.

Get Your Research In

Probably the most important aspect of all. Without research, you’re nothing in the world of sports card trading. You must know everything about all kinds of cards. How they are valued, why they are valued, who values them, etc. are some of the primary questions you need to find the answers to.

In our post, we’ve only managed to scratch the surface of the sports cards industry. Our post is your entry point into the amazing world of trading cards. But you must go a long way before you can make it a sustainable income source.

As your research tool, you can use various sports portals that share news and views of major sports from all over the world. Any development may have an impact on the value of cards. You need to stake the market out before you start buying cards left and right.

eBay is probably the largest market for trading cards. You can find a major collection on Amazon as well. You can read reports on PSA and BGS to understand the population of cards. You can join various Discord, Facebook, and Twitter groups to follow people who are into trading cards.

What we’re trying to say is that your options are limitless as long as you’re willing to put in the hours.

Set Your Goal

The approach for short-term and long-term investments will be totally different for sports cards investment. If you need short-term revenues, then you need to invest in mid-level cards with players who are still playing. Utilizing your expertise for research, you can turn any event into your benefit by increasing the price of the card.

Long-term investments, on the other hand, require more planning and more research. You will have to use your instinct and buy popular cards before they become popular. It will take hours of footage analysis of players to understand the potential they bring to the table.

Platforms to Buy and Sell Sports Cards

It’s very important that you know the platforms where you can effortlessly buy and sell sports cards to make a profit. Virtually, you could use any listing platform but not all of them are equally good. So, we’ve made a small list to get you started.


eBay is undoubtedly the largest market for trading cards. It’s one of the oldest as well. You can hold a plethora of cards and negotiate with prospective buyers to sell your cards at your desired price.

Apart from selling, you can use this platform to source your cards as well. Although you will need to be careful about how much you’re paying. But give it enough time and eBay will become your prime source of collection.


It’s a relatively new name around the block but it has turned a few heads. It started with a goal to flip sneakers but quickly turned into a card trading platform. The interface is easy to use and you can use it for both buying and selling your sports cards.


This platform claims to be the ‘Stock Market for Sports Cards’ and it’s true. The StarStock website is more or less flawless and it gives you an opportunity to create a personalized portfolio for all your needs.


If there is one true competitor to eBay in terms of trading sports cards, it would be Sportslots. You will find any single cards as well as packs to buy and improve your inventory. And when they increase in price, you can jump into the trend and sell your collection. You can think of this platform as your alternative to the local store as well.

Risks Associated with Investing in Sports Cards

No business opportunity is free from risks. The same goes for sports cards. If you’re not careful, you can lose all of your investment in the blink of an eye. Lucky for you, we’re here to warn you in advance. We’re going to look at a few cases when you stand the risk of losing money.

Fake Cards

Needless to say, this is the biggest risk. You buy a pack of exclusive cards for a lot of money only to find that it was fake. And you can’t even trace the seller anymore because you bought from an unsecured platform.

To tackle this, you need an extraordinary understanding of sports cards. You need to master the art of distinguishing a fake card from a real one just by looking at it. It’ll not happen overnight. But when you have a solid grasp of card ratings and conditions, you’ll know when you see a fake one.

Player Injuries

It applies to all major players who still play. For example, LeBron James. If he suddenly falls victim to an injury, the prices of cards bearing him may go down. It can happen to any other players and their rookie cards as well. When you see immense potential in a player and invest in his rookie cards but his career is ended sooner than you expected due to injuries, that’s a real risk of losing money.


It’s very much related to fake cards. When you don’t trade your cards on a reputed platform, you stand a huge risk of getting scammed. The scammers of the modern era have become very smart so it’s hard to spot them.

The only way to stay clear of the scammers is to use reputed platforms and reputed payment services. Opting for a platform that offers both seller and buyer protection is generally the ideal move. In most cases, the platform will hold onto your money until your get your product. Only when you’re satisfied, the seller will receive the money.


Think of it as manipulation. A seller may put outrageously high bids on his cards to manipulate the market. Veteran card traders will see through it immediately but they are not the perpetrators’ targets. Beginners like you are.

So, before you pay a hefty sum to some unknown dealer on the internet, know for yourself that the card is worth that much value. You ask for help from friends or fellow card traders.

Final Words

At the first glance, investing in sports cards may seem like an unconventional choice. But when you consider the recent boom in the industry and look at people spending millions of dollars to collect a 30-year old card, it starts to make sense.

If you’re a huge sports fan, the opportunity is calling you by your name. And if you’re not, it will only take a little time to get prepared. Making money by investing in sports cards has never been easier thanks to the inclusion of various online portals and research materials.

Go find the first cards to flip now!

More in Extra Income, Selling Things Online, Starting a Business
How to Make Money with Pinterest