A Handy Baseball Card Investment Primer

Do you want to know which baseball cards are worth investing in, but you don’t have a huge budget or any knowledge of rookies, teams, eBay past sales history, etc.?

If you’re simply a fan of the sport and like sitting down to watch a game and have ever thought to yourself, Is there any money in baseball cards anymore? – this post is for you.

My background is in entrepreneurship and finance, so I look at the baseball/sports card industry from a return-on-investment (ROI) perspective rather than as a hobby. I like hard numbers, making predictions based on data, and taking some risks. That is the part of the card industry that gets me excited, and I hope you’ll share in some of that by reading this.

There are dozens of experts who will tell you which new packs to buy, in hopes you’ll pull the “right” card.

There are hundreds more who will tell you which vintage cards to buy, because typically those cards retain their value through time and might possibly appreciate in value like a piece of real estate.

I’m going to help you buy several different “types” of cards so you can hedge your bets and come out ahead no matter what.

Certain Player’s Rookie Cards

There are some rookie cards that will always have value, no matter if they’re raw or graded. Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr., Deion Sanders, and Chipper Jones are the more common top rookie cards from the 80’s and 90’s.

In the modern era, Mike Trout is basically the only really valuable rookie card you can count on.

Graded Cards

In the trading card world (which includes baseball, football, hockey, soccer, basketball, Pokemon, etc.), you can buy two types of cards: graded or raw.

Raw cards are what you would pull out of a brand new pack at the card store, or from a seller on eBay. These cards aren’t authenticated, and they can come in any number of conditions which are nearly impossible to predict. I stay away from these, personally.

Graded cards, on the other hand, are authenticated and are placed in a hard plastic protective “slab” to preserve their condition forever. A grade of 1 is the worst possible condition a card can be in (think crinkled, cut, smudged, etc.). A grade of 10 is the best possible condition, and these cards have no flaws whatsoever. Their edges and corners are razor sharp. Their front and back face are free from any blemishes, smudges, stains, scratches, or printing errors. And the centering of the image on the front and back is perfect side to side and up and down.

Typically, raw cards will cost much less than their graded counterparts.

Error Cards

An error card is one that has a misprinted word, a missing name, wrong stats, that sort of thing. There are a few error cards that are somewhat famous and generally retain their value. The Frank Thomas rookie missing his first name on the front is the most rare and famous.

The Billy Ripken card with the words “F*** Face” on the bottom of his bat is another top error card.

There are others as well, most of which were misprinted in the 1980s and ’90s for the most part.

Combining the Three

Given the three types of cards I mentioned above, if you can find a group of cards that fit all three conditions, I suggest buying them. Spending $200 on any one card or group of cards is about as much as you’d want to go for if this is your first time investing.

About the Author

David Houle is a Hall of Fame coach and avid baseball fan and card collector. He operates an eBay store, along with a card appraisal business in Utah.

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