Sports Cards – The New “Asset Class”

Sports Cards – The New “Asset Class”

“Asset Class.”
No, I’m not referring to stocks, real estate, coins, silver or gold. I’m talking about the cardboard gold you may have sitting in a shoebox in your closet. That’s right, sports cards are now officially (and finally) being treated with the respect they have deserved for decades. After participating in the recent online Industry Summit, a gathering of nearly 300 manufacturers, distributors, shop owners, breakers, and more, this is a term I heard over and over. Why after all these years of being treated like Rodney Dangerfield (“I get no respect”) are sports card collectors and dealers finally being treated on an equal playing field with those who buy and trade stocks and other “accepted” commodities?

There are plenty of reasons but we will hit on just a few of the critical ones.

Reason #1 –  Other industries cannot continue to ignore the outlandish gains in prices for key sports cards in our industry.

This year alone, multiple modern sports cards produced after 2000 have sold for over 7, count ‘em, 7 figures,  with the Mike Trout superfractor nearly reaching 4 million dollars…surpassing even the famed Honus Wagner PSA 8 (once owned by Wayner Gretzky & then Kings owner Bruce McNall). The Wagner card (in any grade) has been one of the two primary benchmarks of our industry for decades when it comes to high-end sales (along with high grade 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle Rookie Cards), and yet now it is modern sports cards that are setting new records.

Reason #2 – Technological advances within the sports card industry have made it easier than ever to buy and “flip” cards instantly, much like stocks. 

Sites like now allow collectors to buy cards and resell them instantly without ever touching the cards and with no actual cash exchanging hands. Though COMC is the leader of these touch free buy and flip transactions within the industry, there are other sites now focused on buying and flipping graded cards exclusively, and plenty more such sites in the works.

Speaking of graded cards….

Reason #3 – The market for grading and authenticated sports cards has never been hotter, building consumer confidence in what they are buying and selling.

As I tell my customers, having your card graded shifts them into becoming more “liquid” assets as once the cards are graded, you can quickly see real-time completed sales for the same cards in the same grade. The graded card market has seen a steady climb over the past 30 years, but the past 3 have seen a record number of submissions. The industry leader in the graded field is PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator), a division of parent company Collector’s Universe (NASDAQ: CLCT). Their stock has also soared this year, going from a low of $13.26 to a recent peak of $73.99 on November 5th. Why the increase in stock price? Record earnings will do that for you, and a backlog of graded cards submissions that will likely keep the company highly profitable for many months, if not years, to come. Customers are clamoring to get their cards graded. I should know, as my own company processes thousands of submissions for PSA every month and even after recent price increases, the demand is not slowing down.

Reason #4 – Millions across our planet have rediscovered (or discovered for the first time) the pure joy of collecting sports cards, and they just can’t get enough of it. 

Some call it the “COVID-BOOM”, as so many were stuck in homes across our planet for extended periods of time this year and many fathers & sons (and even some mothers & daughters) learned the fun of sharing this hobby together again, or for the first time. While some thought this would just cause a temporary spike, more of us (including myself) believed that it was the dawn of a new era in collecting, where suddenly it’s “hip” to collect sports cards. No more closet collectors. They are coming out of the closets with their cards, getting the cards graded, and many are even becoming stay at home entrepreneurs. 

Reason #5 – The legions of sports fans continue to grow worldwide.

Yes, the NBA and MLB had much lower ratings for the finals and the world series this year, but many believe that is due to the oddity of the season, with so few (if any) fans allowed to be there in person, plus the shortened seasons, and contracted playoff schedules. Many things about pro sports have just not felt “right” this year, but do not underestimate the massive following these teams and players have. Even as less people may have watched Lebron win his fourth championship, more and more were loading up on his rookie cards as solid long-term investments. Full disclosure here, I have a few of them put up myself, hoping he gets #5 before he retires.

Reason #6 – The staggering amount of dollars coming into our hobby from overseas has been industry-altering.

Millions of dollars this year have been poured into the basketball and soccer card markets. In January of this year, I sat at a dining table with Dr. Jim Beckett, founder of Beckett magazines, Beckett Media, and now host of his own daily podcast about the industry. I was invited to his home along with some other lifelong collectors, manufacturers, and “movers and shakers” in the hobby. I told those at the table that before 2020 ended, there would no longer be a “big 4” in sports collecting and that soccer would make it a “big 5” from now on. If only I had taken my own advice and loaded up on hundreds of unopened soccer cases for the next few months. I did thankfully buy a few, but wow, has this market ever exploded. Basketball and Soccer by far have been the biggest beneficiaries of the overseas spending spree that our industry has experienced. 

Reason #7 – Sports Card manufacturers do not print nearly enough product to meet demand.

After living through the late 80s and early 90s, it’s such a joy to type those words. The bottom line is that right now, manufacturers could quadruple production on most products, and those products would still sell out, and still sell for well above cost on the secondary market. That’s how much more demand outweighs supply when it comes to sports cards. We as an industry have gone through a whirlwind revolution in the last 3-4 years, and this year alone has taken on a life of its own. It’s not just the high-end products like Topps Dynasty or Panini National Treasures either. It’s regular issue Topps. It’s regular issue Donruss. It’s WNBA Prizm.It’s product after product from Leaf and other manufacturers.  It’s Topps Opening Day, for goodness sakes. There is just not enough product to go around. It’s a beautiful thing to pre-order products and not have to live in fear if I will get my cost back out of them, as I lived through enough of those years (and products) in the past.

Reason #8 – Breakers have put sports cards into everyone’s living room. 

For all the negativity surrounding breakers in our industry, they have expanded our customer base in ways that we as an industry were unable to do previously. Breakers spend hour after hour online talking to, educating, and entertaining consumers. Those consumers love watching breaks and a large percentage of them then want to go to a local card shop and buy sports cards in person, or shop with us on ebay or on our own websites. No, as a 30 year shop owner, I don’t like it when breakers get a bigger allocation than I do from a distributor, but I’m thankful for all the publicity they have generated and continue to generate for our industry.

Well, there are plenty of other reasons out there that our cardboard assets are now an “asset class” of their own, but we’ll save a few of those for next time.  In closing, I just want to say that it’s nice to “feel the love” from outside our industry after all these years. Lifers in the industry like myself have known all along just how great our hobby is, and how solid we believed our investments were, and now the world (from Wall Street to Main Street and everywhere in between) is waking up and taking notice. Mark my words, our industry is not going through a temporary “spike”, and there is not another 1990s “crash” coming. For this industry, I’ve never seen a brighter future, and I truly believe that the best is yet to come.

Joe Davis, president

“Junk Era” Baseball Cards – They’re Back!!

“Junk Era” Baseball Cards – They’re Back!!

For those who have been in the hobby as long as I have, for roughly 30 years you have told people their 80s and 90s baseball cards have little value, including the stars and inserts. For the last several years, I’ve told customers the only baseball cards from the late 80s & early 90s that I was actively buying were primarily the following:

  • Topps Tiffany sets (’84-’92) and singles
  • 1989 Upper Deck Griffey Rookies
  • 1991 Topps Desert Shield Sets & Singles
  • 1992 Bowman Sets, Rivera & Piazza Rookies
  • 1993 Derek Jeter Rookies (primarily SP & Pinnacle)
  • 1993 Finest Refractors

That pretty much sums up the list of what we actually wanted to buy from the mid 80s to mid 90s. And then in the last few weeks we seem to have entered a time warp, traveling back nearly 30 years and all of a sudden, the same cards and products we were chasing back then are suddenly in demand again, only now, collectors are not ordering a card or two for their collections, but investors are picking cards they want from this era and buying up everything in sight.  Our own internal buy list all of a sudden includes long forgotten cards that are suddenly in demand again like the following:

  • Ken Griffey – ALL rookies, ALL early Parallels, ALL early inserts
  • Derek Jeter – See Above

And don’t forget about these guys as many of their early cards have risen from the ashes once again -Frank Thomas, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Don Mattingly, Bo Jackson, Chipper Jones, and the list grows weekly.

I found myself this week actually contemplating breaking down vending cases of 1987 Topps baseball. Why? Because of the incredible demand for high grade 1987 Topps McGwire, Bonds, and Bo Jackson singles.  I actually dug out about 100 old traded and “rookies” sets to break down to pull out rookie cards from these late 80s sets. I have not broken down some of these sets for grading in probably 20 years, yet here we are again. 

They say that time heals all wounds. I guess it could also be said that time (eventually) dries up all products. Many of these 30+ year old products simply are not around any more in pallet-sized quantities like they used to be. Sure, there are still storage units full of them out there, but not like in years past.

Of course it does not hurt that ESPN did a documentary called “The Last Dance” about the Chicago Bulls to take us all back to the 90s and that ESPN has another 30 for 30 special coming up on the great homerun race of 1998 between McGwire & Sosa. All of this focus of superstars of the 1990s has made many of us long for those simpler days…days of youth for many in their 30s and 40s that are reliving their childhoods by going back to buy their favorites of the past and (for now) seeing how affordable many of those cards still are. However, you better get on the bandwagon now if you have cards from that era that you are still chasing. Many of the tougher parallels and inserts are drying up and disappearing from online sellers quickly. We know that our own inventory has taken a huge hit lately from so many orders coming through for 90s stars & inserts.

Don’t be shocked when we roll out our revised buy list soon that includes LOTS of 80s & 90s rookies & inserts. Thankfully, I know that era better than I know current players as I was a baseball card junkie back then. Now I just own a sports card store with a worldwide customer base that stocks millions of singles, but back then I simply lived and breathed every new release. I can still quote the card numbers of many of my favorite players from those sets. Don’t be embarrassed… I know that plenty of you can as well. I’ve waited a long time to say it, but cards from this era are
FINALLY hot once again!

Until next time, keep collecting my friends…

Iconic Card Chase

Iconic Card Chase

Michael Jordan. No, Lebron James. And no, this is not a debate about the GOAT. It is about where did this trend start? 


What trend you might ask? The “Iconic Card Chase”, or at least that’s what I call it. It is an industry-altering trend unlike anything I’ve seen in my over 40 years as a collector and 30+ years as a dealer. This trend has been growing for awhile, but it is now in full bloom. Why has it gone ballistic in the last few weeks? My guess is that millions of collectors are stuck at home and cannot follow new and upcoming athletes as they are not playing, so they are turning to what they know to be safe investments. Iconic cards of current and future hall of famers. Cards from brands that collectors love…some brands that have stood the test of time like Finest and Topps Chrome…some that modern collectors just can’t get enough of like Prizm and Optic, and a few unique ones that seem to have some out of nowhere like 1997 Metal Universe. 


My attempt with this article is to give a “big picture” overview of this trend. If I were to try and provide loads of specific sales data, most of it will be outdated by the time you read it, but I will start with MJ. For years, there has been demand for later year Jordan cards, especially of the PSA 10 variety, but they have gone to an all new level in recent weeks. The most shocking of course the 1997 Metal Universe card #23 which has closed multiples times for well over $1000 in a psa 9. I remember selling raw versions of this card in my $5 box not that long ago.


Then there’s Lebron. I just checked a recent sale of his 2012-13 Panini Prizm PSA 10 that closed for $1698 and many other sales not far behind. Imagine if Jordan had a 2012-13 Prizm card. We can only dream. So of course, who was bound to follow but the football GOAT Tom Brady? I checked the last 2012 Prizm Tom Brady PSA 10 sale… $800. I sold a raw one for $25 less than a week ago. Ouch.


I know, I know… you want to know what’s next? Which cards should I be buying? Which brands are the next ones to hit the “tipping point” and everyone will want to buy up the key cards from those sets? Here are my recommendations based upon what I am seeing. We sell on a number of online portals both in the US, in Canada, and the UK. We are seeing an enormous “trend” that is reshaping the marketplace for modern cards. Here are the sets I am seeing action on, and cards that we are either seeing movement on already or expect to see movement on soon based upon attributes of the player, whether that be Hall of Fame status or iconic status in other ways. This is not an exhaustive list, but should at least give you a better feel for what is developing in the market.


Along with this trend is an additional one that we feel like started with the 18-19 Optic Lebron, that being the “first chrome/optic/prizm” with their new team. We just sold the 18-19 Lebron (First Lakers Card) PSA 10 for over $300 if that helps make our point >>


Note: Only the veterans listed


  • TROUT, JETER, GRIFFEY – All early Finest/Chrome/Prizm Cards
  • 1991 Upper Deck – Jordan SP1 (1st Upper Deck Card)
  • 1992 Bowman (Iconic Brand) – Griffey, Thomas, other HOFers
  • 1993 Finest (1st Year of the Brand) – Griffey, Thomas, Bo Jackson, other HOFers
  • 1993 SP (1st Year of the Brand) – Griffey, Thomas, other HOFers
  • 1994 Finest– Griffey,Thomas
  • 1995-1997 Finest- Jeter, Griffey, Rivera,
  • 2012 Prizm (1st Year of the Brand) – Trout, Jeter, Griffey, Rivera, Bo Jackson, Chipper, HOFers
  • 2013 Prizm- Trout, Jeter, Griffey
  • 2013 Select (1st Year of the brand) -Trout, Jeter, Griffey
  • 2016 Optic (1st Year of the brand) – Trout, base holos of stars

Lebron James – Early Base Cards of Topps, Finest, Topps Chrome, All Prizm, Select, Optic
Michael Jordan – Late 80s/Early to mid 90s Base Cards- Especially Fleer & Skybox Brands
Jordan/Kobe/Pippen/Rodman- Mid to late 90s Finest, Topps Chrome, Bowman Best
Giannis – All early Prizm cards, all 2nd & 3rd year Prizm/Select, 2016-2017 Optic

  • 1993-94 Finest – Jordan, Pippen, Shaq, Bird, Barkley, Rodman, Olajuwon
  • 1997-98 Metal Universe- Jordan, Pippen, all stars & even commons selling
  • 1997-98 Chicago Bulls Base – any brand ( “The Last Dance” Team)
  • 2012-13 Prizm – Lebron, Kobe, Curry, Durant, Westbrook, Harden
  • 2012-13 Select – Lebron, Kobe, Curry, Durant, Westbrook, Harden, AD
  • 2013-14 Prizm – Lebron, Kobe, Curry, AD, Kawhi, Durant, Harden
  • 2016-17 Optic- Lebron, Giannis, AD, Kawhi, Curry, Harden
  • 2018-19 Optic- Lebron (1st Lakers Card)
  • 2019-20 Optic – AD (1st Lakers Card), Kawhi (1st Clippers Card), Lebron


  • 1992 Finest – Emmitt, Sanders, Elway (First Chrome product ever made)
  • 1994 Finest – HOFers
  • 1997 Metal Universe- HOFers, Stars
  • 2012 Prizm-Brady, Brees, P Manning, E Manning, Rodgers,
  • 2013 Prizm- Brady, Brees, P Manning, Rodgers, Wilson
  • 2013 Select – Brady, Brees, P Manning, Rodgers, Wilson
  • 2016 Optic – Brady, Brees, Rodgers, Wilson, all holos of stars


  • 2014 Prizm World Cup (1st Premium Soccer Product)- Messi, Ronaldo
  • 2015 Select – Messi, Ronaldo
  • 2018 Prizm World Cup – Mbappe (considered a rookie)

Again, this is not a complete list… just wanted to highlight a few of the trending cards that we see gaining in popularity over the last couple of week that are part of the Iconic Card Chase.