Defining the Difference in Prospecting vs. Investing

Comic Books

Many people in the hobbies of trading card and comic book speculating today are investors by nature. If we look at the meaning of investor as provided by the Oxford Dictionary, we see that an investor is defined as “a person who puts money into something in order to make a profit or get an advantage”.

Everyone wants to buy the items in which the values are known or forecast, and which show a steady history of growth in value. Moreover, most speculators today purchase these items direct from other flippers or dealers, in third-party graded condition (which significantly increases price), much like investing in the stock market, where a security it purchased at a specified value from a broker, with the hope and intention that the value of the security continues to increase. These types of speculators are investors.

Investing in trading cards and comic books can be quite lucrative, and many investors have been able to buy and hold on to items and flip them for a substantial profit. On the flip side, however, are the investments in which the item depreciates in value and the investor ends up losing money – having to sell for less than their original purchase price, or decide to just keep the item in their personal collection.

Due to the volatile nature of investing in trading cards and comics, there is a substantial risk – a rookie player could be predicted to have an amazing season, and their cards could be selling for hundreds of dollars with the expectation that those cards will increase in value with the players’ performance over the season – only to find out that the rookie’s performance is less than expected as the season goes on and their card values tank, dropping below the price originally paid for the card.

Other such events as injuries, trades to other teams and even public opinion from social media can hurt or help the value of a player, author, artist, etc. – all things which are unknown and can be difficult to predict, making investing in trading cards and comics a risky business.

On the other side of the spectrum is the prospector – looking again at the Oxford Dictionary we see that the definition of a prospector is “a person who searches for gold, oil, or other valuable substances on or under the surface of the earth”.

To compare this definition to card and comics speculation, these would be the people that search for key items outside of the standard dealers and flippers, looking in flea markets, garage sales and antique malls. These are also the people who religiously purchase packs or boxes of cards at their local sports card shop or retailer, searching through hundreds of cards to find the key cards which will grade high – the people that purchase groups of raw cards and comics, looking for gem specimens to submit for third-party grading for the purpose of investment.

While the process is more involved than simply searching for and buying the key players or comics directly from the dealer or other investor, the savings can actually be substantial. When a graded card from PSA or BGS is in the thousands of dollars, and a prospector pulls that card after breaking a few cases, the initial investment in that card is now only a few hundred dollars (or less!) – combined with the cost of having the card graded and the prospector has immediately gained substantial value in the card and can immediately flip to investors for a much larger profit.

While prospecting can be less cost prohibitive than straight up investing, the risk remains. In the search for a particular card, a prospector can easily spend hundreds of dollars on packs and boxes looking for it, and the guarantee that the card will be in a gem mint condition is non-existent. Many cards found in packs or purchased in raw condition will be off-center, have printing defects, surface issues or touched corners which can significantly decrease the value of the card once graded by a third-party.

Investors skip all of the hard work and go straight for the purchase of a gem mint card, usually through the work of a prospector, who put in the work to find that card, have it graded and then list it on the market.

Here at Cardboard Prospector we put in the work to find the gold under the dirt – searching packs, buying group lots and searching through uncommon places for those items which will produce the biggest profit. While the journey is surely longer, the rewards, and the experience, is worth every hour. After all, we’re collectors at heart, and the nostalgia of ripping packs brings us back to the excitement of collecting as kids.

*Disclaimer: Investing in trading cards, comic books, memorabilia, and any other item involves substantial risk of loss and is not suitable for everyone. Cardboard Prospector does not provide financial advice, and none of our articles or opinions should be construed as financial or investment advice. We do not guarantee results from your decision making based on our opinions and content. You should always conduct your own research and due diligence prior to making any investment.

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