Buying vintage, high-grade baseball cards is a fairly straightforward and stable investment strategy. Card issues of Hall of Famers, like Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth have shown to provide consistent appreciation in value over long periods of time. This is especially true with very high-graded cards and those that are scarce.
While consistent, investment returns are nothing to take for granted, especially in today’s economy, sports card investors should allocate a portion of their baseball card portfolio toward more speculative investments. Doing so provides additional upside potential. Investing in modern era baseball cards can be tricky, but the return is sometimes swift and often based on what a player does in competition, which adds some excitement similar to that of the stock market.
It's best to focus on high grade cards that were issued in limited quantities (less than 100, but the fewer the better). Autographed rookie relic cards often attract the most buyers now and that's not likely to change.
Investing in currently active stars and prospects, regardless of sport, has its own dynamics. Unlike retired stars, the value of current stars and prospects are dictated by the performance of the players. If a player is having an excellent season, the value of his cards is rewarded. If the player gets injured or doesn't progress as expected, his card values can plummet.
When adding such cards to a portfolio, look for players that have one of more of the following characteristics:
- Potential for Induction into Hall of Fame – This includes baseball players with 3,000+ hit or 500+ home run potential
- Card Issues That Are Graded 10 by PSA or 9.5 by Beckett – Focus on mainstream card issues
There are many baseball players that are well on their way towards achieving Hall of Fame status. Established players like Mike Trout (baseball), Tom Brady (football), and Kevin Durant (basketball) have seen much of their potential appreciation already realized in their cards’ values.
Upcoming Prospects and Young Players
Players who are just breaking into their sport have the most potential for appreciation. However, it is these same players that pose the most investment risk and volatility. They have not yet built up a track record of sustained success. Their every action (both on and off the field) will be closely scrutinized.
Collectors and investors have typically gravitated toward Topps' Bowman brand to put their money on young players. Those who bought in when Trout appeared on some 2010 issues and then in the 2011 Topps Update set are doing very well. On the other hand, Bryce Harper was a teen sensation whose much anticipated big league arrival resulted in skyrocketing values when he did well out of the gate. However, Harper hasn't found the big league road quite as smooth.
The various serial numbered parallel cards produced by the manufacturers are where the market takes shape. Generally, the lower the serial numbered parallel, preferably an autographed version, the higher the value.
Jeff Hwang wrote what is, so far, the definitive book on investing in modern era cards. Using statistical analysis, strategy and years of market observation, Hwang explains why those who invest in baseball cards would be wise not to dismiss modern era cards As long as they are willing to accept some element of risk, the payoff can be large in a relatively short time. Hwang's The Modern Baseball Card Investor is available via Amazon.com.
To see all BGS and PSA graded rookie cards on eBay right now, click here.