By: Liam Hauck
I started with the green stuff.
No, it wasn’t money. It was a 2014 Panini Prizm Green parallel Giannis Antetokounmpo basketball card.
I purchased it several years ago from my local sports card store for $4. It sat on my shelf at home in my bedroom for years as a part of my Giannis card collection but it was never my favorite. To my surprise, I was able to sell the card during the COVID lockdowns for $250 which was a whopping 6000% return! As a high schooler at the time I purchased the card, had I put the $1000 I had saved up in my bank account and put it into Green Prizm Giannis cards. I’d currently be sitting on roughly $63,000, but hindsight is 20/20…much to my chagrin.
Recently, a rare LeBron James autographed rookie card sold for an insane $1.8 million. At this point, you may be wondering what makes these pieces of cardboard so valuable? Until recently, sports cards were worth a small fraction of what they’re currently worth and I’ll explain why.
Zion All Around the World
Zion Williamson, the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft and a player who is likely the most highly anticipated athlete since the introduction of social media. Meanwhile, Zion was just as highly anticipated in the hobby of sportscard collecting.
Throughout 2019 and 2020 new basketball card products were released, each selling for 3-4 times what the standard retail price (SRP) advertised. Retail specific products, which sell in stores such as Target and Walmart, sell out instantly whereas they used to sit on retail store shelves for months. These products are often-times completely bought out by a single buyer and resold on the secondary market, once again for 3-4 times the SRP. The worldwide increase in popularity of the NBA has led there to be country exclusive basketball card products released in China and Australia.
In addition to the natural excitement surrounding sports cards. Youtube channels such as 502Frank and Sports Card Investor give insight into the value of cards and the first look at individual cards/products. Even celebrities such as DJ Steve Aoki have taken up collecting sports cards. Social media hype, the elusiveness of stocked products, and international popularity have led the sports card hobby to be a multi-million dollar industry.
Know Your Stuff
There is easy money to made in sports cards right now.
Yet, just like any investment, to make a smart investment you need to know your stuff. In this case, the “stuff” is players and products. If you’re buying sealed products as an investment you’ll want to know which are the most sought after products. While this year literally every product released was “on fire”, typically Panini Prizm and Optic are the most sought after releases.
In terms of players, Giannis Antetokoumpo, Lebron James, Luka Doncic, Kawhi Leonard, among other superstar players are the most “chased” cards which are what drives the value of product.
Sports cards are a very lucrative investment as of now. But one must remember that it is a hobby of collectibles. Eventually, the bubble will burst and the value of individual cards will decline. Typically, within the hobby, there is a cycle of about 20 years between the height of sports card popularity. This cycle is a result of people who collected sports cards as kids having children of their own and re-entering the hobby.
Personally, while I have made money investing in sports cards over this past year. My vested interest has always been growing my personal collection and the excitement of the hobby.
Recently, I pulled a Mosaic Joe Burrow autograph (pictured left) from a box I purchased from my local card store here in Missoula, Montana (Zootown Sports Cards). This autographed card, worth over $1000, is the best card I’ve ever owned. However, it won’t be going into my personal collection, it will definitely be considered an investment!