Sports Card Market is Heating Up


Along with many other markets lately, the sports card market is getting hot after gaining a steady amount of interest over the last few years.

You might be thinking, “of course, every market is going bonkers right now, so why wouldn’t sports cards?” Not so fast. There are markets out there right now, not doing so well relative to others. If public stock markets are your thing, you know what’s going on there. All-time highs, tech stocks, Tesla, Apple, Amazon, you know the drill. Yes, public equity markets are hot. Residential housing is seeing significant demand currently, hell, just invest in lumber and forget about it, right? ( check out this chart for wood! )

Yes, I know you went all-in on lumber a few months ago, you were right again! – Image credit – Nasdaq.com

You could argue that so many asset classes and investments are doing well right now, why wouldn’t sports cards? They’re just getting swept up in the rising tide with massive amounts of cash flooding into every asset class. It’s important to look at things that aren’t performing so well lately, such as super high-end collector cars, to be reminded that discretion is still important in collecting and investing.

I would argue that sports cards have been doing well for longer than you may realize, and it could be possible sports cards enjoy an extended, and overdue time in the sun, after decades of neglect.

Be Like Mike

You may remember a few months ago when the Michael Jordan rookie card started to create some buzz. ESPN was rolling their series, “The Last Dance,” featuring the career of Air Jordan and his tenacious will-to-win-at-all-costs attitude and never seen before footage of the GOAT. Ebay reported price gains of 150% for the Jordan Fleer rookie card in the month of April alone.

Around that same time, Fractional Ownership company Rally offered the same card on its platform for investment, and the value soared. For anyone who was lucky – and quick – enough to get into the Rally Michael Jordan rookie card, you pocketed a nearly 80% return when the card was eventually sold to a private buyer for $72,000.

Michael Jordan Rookie
The Fleer Michael Jordan Rookie Card featured on Rally, returning almost 80% before a sale to a private buyer – Image credit Rally App. If you don’t know what Rally is yet, stop reading this and go check them out.

It wasn’t just the hype over an ESPN Michael Jordan documentary that caused the price rise in one single card. Prices have been on the rise, and interest has been perking up for over a year, if not longer. This is evidence of numerous new podcasts and websites devoted strictly to sportscard collecting. Not only that, but social media has been buzzing about sports cards featuring young players making their rookie debuts recently.

A Great Call

You may or may not be familiar with Gary Vaynerchuk, but he’s an interesting personality and successful entrepreneur who made a great call on sports cards a few years ago. Like him or not, Gary has a massive following, and he’s been big on sports cards for a while now. I know there were many others who also predicted a sports card comeback, but let’s just relax and give Gary V. a little credit, please.

Looking at popular search terms using the Google Trends tool, it would be fair to say Gary V. and other influential entrepreneurs are having a significant impact on the popularity of the sports card market lately.

Sports card popularity
With Google Trends, you can see popularity in certain search terms over time. Here you can see the rise and fall of the search term, “Sports Cards” since 2004. Image credit – Google Trends.

Gary V. also laid out a few reasons he likes sports cards for the long term, which I thought was pretty insightful. One factor he cited was nostalgia from people who grew up in the 1980s and collected cards as kids. He says this demographic may be more likely to view sports cards much the same way older generations viewed fine art. Why spend thousands of dollars for an old painting to hang on the wall when you can have a Nolan Ryan card on display. Discussing that time The Ryan Express put Robin Ventura in a headlock and pummeled him makes a better conversation piece than a Picasso to many Generation X’ers.

sports card culture
Some argue the cultural significance of sports cards will drive demand for the long term as Gen X’ers have more disposable income to spend and are feeling nostalgic.

New Platforms

I’ve already mentioned Rally, the fractional ownership company doing great things and blazing a trail through the new frontier of alternative asset investing. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again if you haven’t heard of them yet, stop reading this and go download their app. If you’re an active sports card collector or just someone who traded a few Kirby Pucketts when you were a kid, what you will find on Rally is pretty mind-blowing.

Rally, along with other platforms coming online in the near future, allow legitimate and legally binding fractional share ownership of world-class, one-of-a-kind sports cards, among other things. Remember that Honus Wagner card worth millions? You can own a piece of it. The famous ’52 Mickey Mantle rookie card? That too. How about a 1910 Ty Cobb card valued at over $50,000? Rally has it. The ability to own a piece of the most coveted sports cards in the world was not possible until maybe a year ago? This has absolutely changed the game and has been one of the many factors why the sports card market has been reinvigorated, imho.

What To Do?

So what to do as a collector interested in recent trends or an investor looking for a return on your cash? The answer always depends. If you’re plotting to get rich quick and quintuple your money in the next three weeks, I should remind you that risks abound. If that’s really your goal, then I would recommend you first go research the 400-year-old quote by Thomas Tusser. He said something about a fool and his money soon parting.

It’s interesting to watch individual segments of alternative assets perform better than others during a given period. Debates about the many different factors moving markets and industries can be fun and thought-provoking. Especially when it comes to memorabilia and collectibles, which can spur fond memories of your younger years and a simpler time. It might merely be a fun activity to enjoy among parents and their kids. Although profits are a possibility in the sports cards market, I would encourage participants to enjoy the ride; you never know when the party might be over.