If you follow The Pop Collectors Alliance Podcast you know I collect sports cards (That’s Sports Ball if you follow Piper Speak). Collecting cards and comics have been part of my life as long as I can remember. As an avid collector of all things Funko over the last decade, I never thought these two passions would ever cross.
The collectibles industry is witnessing a modern day Gold Rush in sports cards, triggering larger Funko retailers to even add a sports card inventory. Panini and Topps are smiling as I type this article, but it’s true, sports cards are making a HUGE comeback. From hedge fund managers to the mouth breathers living in their mothers basement, everyone is buying/flipping sports cards.
It all began with one simple Tweet from Gary Vaynerchuck in 2019:
I’ve been studying the sports card market quietly since August and intensely for the last 4 weeks. Im@so excited to enjoy it. Vintage classics graded are wonderful long term.
The wild ride will be bowman baseball speculation and prizm base rookies psa10 if young talent
— Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) April 21, 2019
GaryVee Has a Few Things to Say
Gary is relentless in his efforts to push products. Whether it’s online wine sales, self-motivation, marketing in general, or even rumbling through yard sales to flip something on eBay, there’s a GaryVee video for it. His first tweet on sports cards investing back in April of 2019 triggered interest and he has continued to push this strategy tirelessly through 2020. “Buy cards, Buy TONS of them, and BUY THEM NOW!” The public took action and the sports card industry exploded over the last 13 months. Self-fulfilling prophecy? Proper use of leverage maybe? Who cares, it worked. How much you ask? Here are a couple of examples:
eBay sales of a Michael Jordan Rookie Cards increased dramatically over the past 3 months. A Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) 8 Near Mint Rookie sold for $2,500 on 3/30/2020, then for $8,100 on 5/16/2020. The Last Dance had to influence those sales right? Yes, popular news stories, shows, and even tragedies can impact the market, but Michael’s cards were trending positively before the show aired.
eBay sales of Lebron James Topps Chrome Rookie PSA 10 Gem Mint from a year ago were in the $1,000 – $3,000 range, now they are selling for over $6,000. If you include the Chrome Refractor version, we’re talking around $20,000 for a PSA 10.
You’re thinking “Well those guys are legends, those cards should be worth more,” and you would be correct. However, the increase is not limited to legacy cards but recent NBA releases have ballooned to unheard of levels as well. Hobby boxes, retail blaster boxes, and hanger packs have at least doubled per box on an average this year and holding their values even through a global pandemic.
Panini is Fueling The Flames
Panini recently announced the release of First Off The Line (FOTL) National Treasures Basketball Hobby Box, their premier level NBA product line. This is a product that normally retails at around $800 – $1,000 per box. However, in this year’s Dutch Auction format prices begin at a whopping $30,000!!!!!!! With a minimum sale value of $7,500. That’s 10 Cards of what could cost $30,000, with a potential of containing less than $300 worth of cards. These numbers are so out of control Panini has eliminated an entire social economic class of customers.
2019-2020 was a perfect storm for inflating the value of cards. Limited releases due to COVID-19, scalpers looking for quick flips to earn extra money (COVID-19), a strong NBA rookie class, and investors looking to diversify their portfolios. Card manufactures LOVE IT.
Unlike Funko, the card industry prices fluctuate based on demand for specific product lines. Pure speculation here, but in my opinion Panini is watching eBay sales more than resellers to develop the product’s price floor. Box prices are derived directly from the payoff of hitting rare cards and with rare Zion Williamson cards selling for tens of thousands of dollars, the price ceiling is hard to determine. Here are some examples of how inflated the current hobby box market is for the NBA this year:
A Hobby box of 2019-20 NBA Prizm sold for $650 December of last year and is now selling consistently over $1,000-$1,100.
NBA Noir Hobby boxes typically retails at around $600-$800, $1,300 this year and quickly increased to $1,500 within 2 DAYS!!!
With all sports cards on the rise, the sport card manufacturers will continue to take advantage of fans everywhere. At least Funko has a consistent release strategy with a fixed price for their product. Panini is content with raising the price as they see fit. I don’t completely blame them because people are willing to pay those prices. Plus it doesn’t hurt that they hold a monopoly on the Football and Basketball card markets.
Things Are Troublesome for Average Collectors
As Piper and I have always said on the Podcast: “the secondary market can rapidly become troublesome for average collectors,” but sports cards have an added layer to this equation. Hobby boxes are collectibles packaged in a mystery box that include limited ratios, parallels, autographs and memorabilia cards. With the rapid rise in popularity for live breakers, where collectors can purchase a “Spot” in a group break, this means cards are packaged in mystery box, within a raffle (a deadly combination). This resulted in a significant rise in pricing across all product lines on the secondary market. Remember, THE SPORTS CARD MANUFACTURES RAISE THEIR PRICES BASED ON THESE RESULTS AS WELL. So, Let’s review the formula:
Value of individual hits of rare cards + The mystery box price tax (so you’re saying there’s a chance) + The raffle format tax (so you’re saying there’s a chance within a chance) + The Manufacturers raising prices for everyone = Your empty wallets and all sellers laughing all the way to the bank.
There’s still one question constantly plaguing me: Why do people throw money away for chance, the odds are completely against you and yet thousands of dollars are spent on chance. Some people win, but in most cases those wins do not erase the losses, yet people continue. Meanwhile the sports card industry, flippers and wafflers are marking up prices daily. At least Funko won’t place their next LE release in a Dutch auction…. Don’t get any ideas FUNKO!
One prediction before I go……. Waffle groups on IG and Facebook will begin raffling cards, SOON! What are they going to lose, even the Funko Retailers are now selling them. Get that Panini Authorized Retail License now HUSTLERS!!!!