Strategies for Hobbyists and Investors, Part 2: Beginner's Guide to Sports Card Collecting and Investing

Posted on 4/25/2024

The second topic in our guide to help maximize your goals within the hobby is all about getting started on a path to collecting or investing.

The popularity of "ripping" sports card packs and boxes has been on the rise in recent years, whether you're looking to add to your personal collection (PC) or to pull rare cards to resell for a possible profit. There are numerous ways to go about buying sports cards, but there are certain strategies that both collectors and investors can follow to maximize their goals within the hobby. This helpful guide will take a look at each, as we take a deep dive into how to begin a sports card collection and how to start investing as a hobby.

Although sports card collecting and sports card investing can each be fun endeavors for hobbyists and investors alike, they require different strategies for success. This part of our three-part guide will explore some of the strategies that beginners can utilize when first entering the hobby as a collector or investor.

Beginner's Guide to Becoming a Sports Card Collector

Some will decide to focus on their PC, not worrying about market trends and only acquiring cards with top values. Instead, these buyers are focused on adding cards that feature players from their favorite teams to their collection, regardless of a card's value. Hobbyists may collect every player from their favorite team that is in a particular sports card set or they may collect as many cards as possible from different sets of their favorite player. There's no wrong way to go about your PC, but hobbyists tend to follow their heart and collect what and whom they love to follow as sports fans.

Tips on Starting a Personal Collection (PC)

Identifying What Types of Cards to Collect

At first, you'll want to identify what types of cards you might be interested in collecting. This could start with your favorite sport, teams or players, but it may also begin with whether or not you prefer to go the vintage or modern card route.

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Vintage cards, usually identified as being printed before 1980, can often represent iconic players of the past. These are frequently rare due to their age and low supply, so they can command higher prices. Meanwhile, modern cards, issued from 1980 to the present, represent modern superstars and future Hall of Famers. Modern cards utilize advanced printing technology and come in numerous different sets, with various designs for collectors to choose from. While base sets are plentiful, modern cards feature exciting inserts like rare serial-numbered cards and autographs.

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Maybe vintage cards catch your eye due to their simplicity and old school look. Or maybe modern cards, with their shiny chromium card stock and futuristic designs, speak to you more. Taking a look online and searching through various card sets of past and present will help you identify what types of cards you're most drawn to. Once you home in on what fits your collecting style the best, you can start the hunt and begin adding cards to your PC.

Setting a Budget

As with any other hobby, it is crucial to set a budget for your newfound collecting habits. When you first catch the collecting bug early on, it can be easy to get carried away since you're starting from scratch. Instead, try to plan ahead by assessing your finances and determining a realistic dollar amount that can be spent either each week, month or year.

As a collector, your goal isn't to buy and sell for profit. Since your main focus will simply be to keep adding cards and growing your PC, money will be going out but not coming back in like it does with investing. Therefore, collectors must be aware of how much they're spending compared to what they are making. Setting an affordable budget is key, and sticking to that budget ensures your new hobby doesn't negatively impact your finances in the short or long term.

Defining Your Collecting Goals

Once you've identified what types of cards you're interested in and you've set a budget for yourself, what are your goals as a collector? There are numerous options to pick from, such as completing a full set or team set within a series. Base sets of certain sports card series can consist of hundreds of cards and can take a lot of time and money to complete. Alternatively, one can focus on finding every player within a set from their favorite team, which takes less time and money.

A collector can also choose to focus on acquiring cards of their favorite players. This narrows down your hunt significantly but when looking for specific individual cards, they can sometimes be harder to track down. At this point, you have to decide whether you'll keep buying boxes and packs or if you want to just buy the individual cards at card shops or online auctions.

While ripping open packs is the cornerstone of the hobby, collectors can't control what cards they pull out of unopened packs. However, if you're willing to forgo the experience of opening packs, you can pinpoint the exact cards you want and buy them directly to complete your personal collection. This might mean you've opened dozens of packs and are still missing one or two players in a team set, so you track down the final cards online or in-person at shops or trade shows.

In addition, a collector may desire a rare insert that they still haven't found in packs, so they save the money allotted to buy sports cards each month until they can afford that one special card that might be the centerpiece of their collection. Each collector's goal will be different and there's no right or wrong way to go about accomplishing your collecting goals.

Becoming Part of the Sports Card Collecting Community

If you want to fully dive into collecting, consider joining a community with likeminded sports card interests. Collectors have several options online and may even have some local in-person options as well, according to where they live.

There are countless online sports card forums you can join, which will be a hub of information, with chats revolving around various cards, sets and other sports card news. You can join in on the conversation yourself, ask questions and browse through other related topics. The CGC Cards Chat Boards are a great place to start.

Collectors also have tons of sports card accounts on social media they can follow. From major sports card brands like Topps and Panini to individual sports card collectors ripping packs live online, social media has plenty of content to take in and learn from when you're just starting out. Be sure you’re following @CGCcards for the latest sales, cool cards graded, collector giveaways and more.

Once you’ve started grading your PC, show it off in the CGC Cards Registry for sports cards. The CGC Cards Registry makes it easy to categorize your CGC-certified sports cards using popular and diverse categories. You’ll also see how your set ranks among other collectors, get inspiration for new sets and learn from other sports card collectors who love the hobby as much as you do.

For an even more personal experience, it's hard to beat visiting your local sports card shop or a local trade show that's in town. A true community of sports card collectors will always be found at shops and trade shows, buying, selling and trading all different kinds of sports cards and exchanging information about the hobby while they're at it.

Veteran card collectors who visit shops and attend shows will have a wealth of knowledge to pass on in a fun environment showcasing the hobby. If you want to go all in on sports card collecting, these are the perfect places for you to engage, seek advice and show off your own PC.

Protecting Your Collection Through Grading

Third-party grading can offer a substantial benefit to your sports card collection, as it protects your cards in high-quality holders, while also authenticating your collectibles and assessing their condition. Plus, state-of-the-art holders like CGC Cards' provide an excellent option for displaying and showing off your favorite cards.

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Third-party grading services like CGC Cards use a universally recognized grading scale that ranges from 1 to 10, with Pristine 10 being the highest and most desirable grade. The higher the grade, the higher the value. For further information on CGC Cards’ 10-point Grading Scale and to find out more about our industry-leading services, visit

Beginner's Guide to Becoming a Sports Card Investor

On the other hand, sports card investing requires a different mindset altogether, focusing heavily on cards with value that could turn a profit in the immediate or distant future. Their goals are based on the financial returns of the sports card market, and the buyer often must be patient if they are to see a profit. Research is required, along with following market trends, to attempt to maximize their purchasing power's full potential. Examples include identifying what players' cards are in demand, from each sport's most elite players to promising rookies who could be the next superstar. However, in many cases, investors may have to wait years to maximize potential profits.

Tips on Becoming a Sports Card Investor

Identifying Cards for Investment

Compared to collectors who rely more on their heart to navigate the hobby, sports card investors must use cold hard facts to ensure a return on their investments. There are still numerous ways to go about investing in sports cards, but the end product is about turning a profit above all else.

Whether an investor focuses on vintage cards, modern cards or both, they'll need to know the market and trending values well, especially since prices can change daily. The sports card market has ebbs and flows similar to the stock market, which is ever-changing. Investors must stay in the know about what teams and players in each sport are popular and who is performing at an elite level, which often drives the value of cards simply by an athlete's caliber of play.

Some of the most popular ways to go about identifying potential investments are focusing on rookie cards, autographed cards and other rare serial-numbered cards. A star player's cards from their debut season can be extremely valuable and can retain their value for years to come. Also, buying rookie cards upon an athlete entering the league can be a solid long-term investment if they have a Hall of Fame career.

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Other scarce inserts in sports card sets can be extremely valuable due to their limited print runs. Cards can range from only hundreds made to only dozens to the always coveted one-of-one gems that collectors and investors alike seek in every set.

All different types of cards should be considered when investing, but extensive knowledge about a particular area is helpful. Stay up to date on what cards are trending and educate yourself on the cards you plan on buying. Make sure to do your research and to check price-tracking sites like SportsCardsPro, Sports Card Investor and more.

Importance of Research and Market Trends

The importance of investors putting in the research when it comes to sports cards and current trends cannot be understated. With plenty of information about cards on official sports card makers' websites, social media, online forums and at card shops and trade shows across the nation, there's no excuse to not stay on top of trends within the hobby.

Investors who are buying, selling and trading on a regular basis should pinpoint their goals and strategies for success. Whether to focus on short-term or long-term investments can depend on the level of risk. For instance, those looking for quick returns on their investment might choose to flip cards of trending players who are peaking in popularity and have gained national attention. While they may not maximize long-term value, their money won't be held up in any particular card for months or even years to come.

Alternatively, some rookie cards or other rare inserts may gain maximum value after a player retires or joins the Hall of Fame. It's just according to how patient an investor plans to be. Regardless of your investment preferences, the sports card industry is thriving and has welcomed many newcomers in recent years. With widespread interest in the cards comes more buyers and more opportunities to sell at competitive prices, which will hopefully turn a profit.

Setting a Budget

While there are numerous differences in collecting and investing, both collectors and investors need to set a budget to be successful in their endeavors. When it comes to investing, dollars and cents are the bottom line. So, to start, plan ahead by assessing your finances and determining a realistic dollar amount that can be spent either each week, month or year on investing in sports cards.

As an investor, your goal is to buy and sell for a profit, but that also means investors take on much greater financial risks. Knowing what you can afford to spend helps minimize the investment risks that come with an unpredictable sports card market. Try to stay away from impulsive purchases. In a perfect world, buy low and sell high! Make sure to track your purchases and ensure you're not taking a loss when selling, if possible. Make informed decisions by doing your research and staying up-to-date on trending topics, players and cards.

Defining Your Investment Goals

Every investor must decide what their goals are past simply wanting to make money on investments. Whether short or long term, investors will need to decide if they're looking for quick returns or if they'll wait to maximize their cards' full profit potential.

If the investor needs to flip cards quickly to keep money coming in, they may want to take advantage of current stars and trending rookies. Selling when a player is peaking in popularity early in their career will pay off as a short-term investment, but the seller may not see a card's full profit potential. However, if those same young players have a dip in form through the years, their cards will plummet in value. So, in some cases, this short-term strategy may actually be the smarter investment.

It may be wise to go ahead and sell while a player is hot. On the other hand, rookies who go on to have a Hall of Fame career may see their collectibles continue to rise through the years. Therefore, if you sell early, you won't reach your full long-term earnings potential, but those are the risks and rewards inherent in investing in sports cards.

Patience is vital for the long-term play and requires meticulous market analysis. It may take years, but eventually a player's career will peak, often upon their retirement or when they join the Hall of Fame. This is when you finally sell those cards, and your patience might just pay off tenfold.

Learning What to Look for When Evaluating Cards for Investment

A player's talent and potential will always drive the values of their collectibles, but there are other factors that contribute to that value as well. Factors like a sport's popularity in society, a player's marketability and even a player's position or age can impact a card's rise and fall in terms of value.

A card's overall condition will also have an enormous impact on its value. Investors must learn what to look for as they assess a card's condition. Any creases, edge wear, discoloration, surface scratches or any other imperfections can significantly reduce a card's value and a seller's profits.

Another factor often considered in short-term and long-term investments is whether to diversify your sports card portfolio, which can help protect your cards from a volatile market, as certain sports, teams and players rise and fall in popularity. Plus, it gives buyers a wider range of options to choose from when they're browsing your offerings.

Knowing the scarcity of a card is vital as well. While most base cards aren't going to have huge valuations, limited parallels and numbered inserts are much rarer and are often worth much more. Finding cards that are rare and in great condition, and selling them at the right time, is a recipe for success. Knowing what cards to buy, how to track their trending values, diversifying your portfolio and pinpointing the correct time to offload cards will put you in a solid position to profit on your sports card investments.

Protecting Your Investment Through Grading

When it comes to sports card investing, third-party grading has become an essential counterpart to the hobby. As already mentioned, it can be a huge benefit to your collection but also to your sports card investments, as it authenticates your collectibles and assesses their condition, giving buyers and sellers an accurate picture of a particular card's condition and, therefore, value. Buyers and sellers each benefit since they know exactly what to expect from a graded collectible, which makes transactions accurate, transparent and safe, knowing that the cards are guaranteed authentic.

Third-party grading services like CGC Cards utilize a universally recognized grading scale that ranges from 1 to 10, with Pristine 10 being the highest and most desirable grade. The higher the grade, the higher the value. For further information on CGC Cards’ 10-point Grading Scale and to find out more about our industry-leading services, visit

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Part 3 of the Sports Card Collecting vs. Investing guide will focus on navigating challenges and risks as a sports card collector or investor. It will address potential financial losses and market volatility, while sharing tips for adapting strategies under changing market conditions, along with some final thoughts on balancing passion with practicality in sports card collecting and investing.

*Any mention of "investment potential" is for entertainment only and should not be construed as investment advice. The Certified Collectibles Group does not provide investment advice and is not liable for any buy, sell or trade decisions made by any parties.

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