How To Make Money in The Sports Card Industry

After many years of slow growth, the sports card industry regained its footing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Past collectors with extra time on their hands rejoined the hobby alongside those who dipped their toes in the water for the first time.

With the sports card market reaching new heights, collectors and investors alike have taken their passion for the hobby to the next level. They’ve found that it’s possible to make money — and in some cases, a lot of it — in the sports card industry.

If you’re interested in taking a similar path to earn money, here are some of the many ways to get started.

1. Buy and Sell

This is the most common way to make money in the sports card industry, especially among beginners. With this strategy, your objective is clear: buy low and sell high.

Take for example a basketball card that typically sells for $20 on eBay. If you’re able to purchase that card for $10 at a local sports card store, there’s an opportunity to quickly flip it for a profit.

Here are some tips for achieving success with this approach:

  • Keep a pulse on the market with tools such as Card Ladder and Market Movers.
  • Be patient; quick flips aren’t always possible.
  • Build a list of buyers and sellers that you trust.

If you want to make money in the sports card industry without a large initial outlay of cash, this is the best place to start.

2. Buy, Hold, and Then Sell

This is similar to the strategy above, with the difference being that you hold onto your investments to (hopefully) give them time to appreciate.

There are two distinct ways to win with this strategy.

  • Purchase cards that are known to appreciate over time: Use Card Ladder, Market Movers, or eBay sales history data to chart appreciation over a predetermined number of years.
  • Speculate on young players with star potential: Did you know Luka Doncic was a star before he ever stepped on the court? What about Patrick Mahomes? You’re likely to make mistakes when speculating, but it only takes one or two picks for this practice to pay off.

Let’s look at the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311. It’s arguably the most iconic card in the world, with an SGC 9.5 selling via Heritage Auctions for $12.6 million. This is the most anyone has ever paid for a sports item, card, or piece of memorabilia.

Now, consider this: it was originally purchased in the 1980s for $125,000 — alongside 5,500 other sports cards.

This is a rare example, but it shows the power of the buy, hold, and sell strategy.

3. Buy, Grade, and Sell

Buy, grade, and sell is the same as buy and sell but with one big difference. Rather than buy and sell as quickly as possible for a profit, you have the card professionally graded before putting it back on the market.

Graded cards generally demand a higher price, so you position yourself for greater profit. The primary risk is that the card could come back with a lower-than-expected grade, which reduces your profit potential and could even put you in the red.

Here are three things you need to know about grading:

  • The primary players are PSA, BGS, and SGC.
  • PSA-graded cards fetch the highest prices.
  • Behind PSA, BGS grades the largest volume of cards.
  • SGC has the most competitive prices and highest turnaround time in the industry.

Don’t go all-in with this strategy from the start. Start small. Grade a few cards to learn how the process works and what return on investment (ROI) you can expect. Expand only when you’re comfortable with the results.

4. Become a Breaker

This is different from the three strategies detailed above. It takes more money upfront, but there’s also a greater chance of a high ROI.

Card breaking, also known as “case breaking,” is a strategy of buying boxes or cases and then opening the packs from within with the goal of finding high-value cards. From there, you can implement any of the aforementioned strategies.

Before becoming a breaker, consider the risk vs. reward. You’ll invest a lot of money upfront with the hope of finding a “gem” that’s worth more than your total investment. Sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes you’re not.

Without a big “hit,” you’re left to sell less valuable cards with the hopes of breaking even or turning a small profit.

Just the same as buy, grade, and sell, it’s best to start small. There’s a lot to learn, so you don’t want to get in over your head.

5. Become an Industry Influencer

This is a unique way to make money in the sports card industry. As an influencer, you don’t generate all of your income through buying and selling. Instead, it’s the content that you share with the sports card community that generates revenue.

Success as an influencer is dependent largely on your ability to build a following on social media, primarily Instagram and YouTube. This is where you’ll share content with your audience, engage with them, and earn money through sponsorship deals and card sales.

For inspiration, visit five influencers on Instagram to see the type of content they create, the format they use to share it, and how they engage with others.

You won’t become an industry influencer overnight, but anything is possible with the power of social media. Put yourself out there and grind your way to a strong and loyal following.

Final Thoughts

Just the same as any investment, there’s no guarantee of riches in the sports card industry. But don’t let that stop you from chasing your dream. There are various ways to make money with sports cards. Experiment with each one, track your results, and tweak your approach as necessary.

It doesn’t matter if you’re chasing a side income or a full-time gig, the opportunity is staring you in the face. Determine the best path forward and take action.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.