Just as a warning, I’m going to give the reader (yes, that’s you) an intro into how I personally started collecting, then after that I’ll get into the real stuff and the FAQs about card collecting. Sounds good? Okay here we go!
If you are anything like me, as a kid you enjoyed cards. It didn’t even matter what kind of cards — it could have been Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon, Baseball, Football, Garbage Pail Kids — it didn’t matter. As long as it looked cool, I was interested. Then like most kids I “grew up” and was more interested in video games, girls, and actually playing sports. It wasn’t until many years later that I actually even thought about buying cards again. It was 2018, I was visiting my girlfriend, and completely out of left field, I picked up a $5 pack of cards while waiting in line at Walmart. I bought it just to see what it was about. I didn’t know what to expect. Opening the pack and flipping through the cards, checking the stats on the back gave me a wonderful feeling as a huge basketball fan. I was seeing cards of big name guys, role players, and the big rookies. And then, I came across an autographed Lauri Markkanen card. I figured it was rare, but it wasn’t until I researched further, I discovered the autographs were in 1 in every 20 packs. That’s a 5% chance and it became even better when I realized I could have done a lot worse in terms of players. Ever since that moment, I’ve been hooked into this hobby of card collecting, and I have loved every second of it.
Now that we’ve gotten that sappy origins story out of the way, we can start with the reason why most of you came here. You have a bit of interest in getting started with card collecting, but don’t know where to start, what to buy, or what you shouldn’t buy. Well good thing I’m here, the savvy veteran of one year who provides a great locker room presence. As the vet, I’m here to let you know there are two types of people in the card collecting hobby: Collectors and Flippers.
Collectors are people who collect cards of their favorite team or favorite players. For example, as a Celtics fan, I have a lot of Celtics cards, and as a fan of the University of Texas, I also have a lot of cards of players who went to UT. The beauty is, you can collect whoever and whatever you want. It’s entirely up to you. If you want to collect players with odd names (like my guy Popeye Jones) or players with bad autographs like Moe Wagner, then do it, nobody can stop you.
Flippers are not only forelimbs that evolved for movement through water found on penguins, they’re also the term used to describe someone who buys cards with the sole intention of selling them at a higher price then when they bought them. If you follow Gary V, he recently went on CJ McCollum’s podcast not too long ago and stated how basketball cards can be some of the most profitable short term “investments” around. Some people who have been collecting for a while like to play gatekeeper and shun these types of people, but in my opinion, they’re interested in the same thing you are, so who cares? Just let people live. So let’s take a recent example of what a flipper might do. They might get a hold of as many rookie cards as they can, big names aside (Zion, Ja, RJ etc), and stockpile on everything else. When a rookie like Eric Paschall, Kendrick Nunn or PJ Washington goes on a hot streak, they sell the cards they have of that player immediately because now that they’re hot, everyone is going to want their cards. So that you can get an idea of what kind of figures we might be talking about, a very high-end Eric Paschall card with an autograph and piece of his college jersey was selling for around $36-$70 between the dates of 11-3-19 & 11-4-19. On 11-7-19, one of that same type of card sold on eBay for $1,026. The card market is crazy to say the least.
Okay, so now you’re interested and want to get some skin in the game. What do you do? Where do you start? Well you can go a couple different routes. First, there’s prospecting. What that means is to start buying or “investing” in a rookie who you think is going to do big things. Maybe that player is Jordan Poole, or maybe it’s Carsen Edwards. Regardless, go on eBay and type in that player’s name and then “auto” after it and see what fits your price range. The bigger the name of the player, the higher the price you should be prepared to pay (Zion vs Tremont Waters). And don’t forget to check periodically throughout the year to see what new cards become available.
The next option would be to buy a box of cards and see what happens. You never know what you can pull when you buy a box. For example, the picture of the Luka autograph card above came from a box around $55. I ended up selling it to a Mavs fan for about $130. Now, you aren’t always going to hit the biggest name rookies, so be mindful of that. You may end up getting a 2nd round rookie whom you may have never heard of. It’s all a game of chance; it’s a gamble and that’s all part of the fun. Some boxes can be as low as $40 and as high as $1,500. Yes,I’m aware how crazy that sounds, $1,500 for a box of cards. It’s nuts. So to summarize, you can either go straight for the cards or players you want on eBay, or you can gamble a bit and see what you can pull from a box of cards.
Alright so to end this, let’s get into 5 FAQs that I get from my friends and family who are interested in collecting:
Q: What product or box of cards should I start off with?
A: The good starters are Hoops, Donruss, and Certified. But if you have trouble picking between those, look up videos on YouTube of people opening them and see which cards you prefer. If you have a larger budget for cards, maybe Court Kings, or Revolution to start off with.
Q: How much are these cards worth?
A: I get this one most of the time. Someone will show me their cards from the 90s. If it’s from the 90s, it is more than likely way overproduced, so look up the card on eBay and check the sold listings, that’s how almost every card’s value is determined. Even the current cards.
Q: Are basketball cards a good investment?
A: My answer is always no to this question. Yes, it’s extremely likely you will make a profit on some cards, but most will likely not yield you the profit you want. The reason for this is because you never know what will happen in the future. Let’s say it’s the 2013-14 season and you see Michael Carter-Williams leading the charge as a rookie. You buy a ton of his cards and spend a whole bunch of money. Fast forward to now and you likely can’t sell them for 50% of what you bought them for. Injuries can happen like D-Rose, you just never know what’s going to happen.
Q: If I have a gambling problem, is this only going to further my problem if I really enjoy it?
A: Speaking from experience, yes for sure. It’s fun to think a certain rookie is going to do well and then selling their cards for more once they have a couple good games.
Q: What kind of cards should I collect? Jersey cards? Autographs?
A: Collect whatever you think is cool. It is YOUR collection, make it what you want. Collect whoever you want.
Q: Where would I buy a box of cards?
A: If you don’t have an LCS (local card shop), then online is definitely the place to go. Definitely do your Googles to see if you have one in your area first. Websites like blowoutcards and steelcitycollectibles should have whatever product you’re looking for. But also you can find some smaller lower end products at Walmart and Target. But try not to get addicted to opening those.