How To Invest In Trading Cards Without Going Broke

Investing in the right trading cards is an investment for the future; much like stocks, picking the correct cards can end up resulting in incredible profits down the road. You can’t always expect to make a quick buck; rather, you need to be prepared for slow and steady growth over many years. It’s no glamourous way to make money, but if you’re the type who likes to invest their hard-earned cash in something tangible that they can hold onto, then trading cards might just be your ticket!

Do your homework!

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To make sure you’re buying the right card, it’s important to do your homework. As with any purchase, knowing as much as possible about the product at hand is critical. Researching what the card is worth and who you’re buying it from will help ensure you don’t get ripped off. Just like a stock investor looks at profit and loss, company growth, quarterly earnings and the like of a company they are interested in investing in, you too need to perform your research on cards you are considering investing in. Sales trends, player performance, card condition and variety – these are all things that you must consider before purchasing a card as an investment.

  • Research the market: How much are other similar cards going for?
  • Research the card itself: Has it been professionally graded by experts? We advise sticking to the top names in grading for sports cards, PSA, BGS, SGC and CSG. Trading card games (TCG’s) and comic cards, stick to PSA and CGC (part of the CSG family).
  • Research the seller: Is this someone reputable in the trading card community? Do they have a good reputation among other collectors or traders? Are there any complaints against them on forums like eBay or Reddit? Buying from a reputable seller will help increase your chances of receiving legitimate cards, as well as cards which have been properly stored and handled.
  • Look for feedback: Does this seller have positive reviews and comments from previous customers on their eBay profile page (or wherever else they sell)? If so, how long has he/she been selling stuff online? A long history of selling combined with a high feedback rating generally indicates a trustworthy seller.
  • Check return policy details: How does this seller handle refunds if something goes wrong with delivery of your order or if there’s something wrong with your newly purchased item once it arrives at your doorstep—and do they accept returns under any circumstances whatsoever (or only within certain timeframes). Most sellers in the trading card world are only going to accept returns for damaged items, and this is a good thing. You shouldn’t be the type of buyer that sticks it to the seller because you developed buyer’s remorse! Another reason to do your homework!

Another thing to consider is the rarity of the card itself. In recent years sports cards especially have been so mass produced that I personally feel like we are borderline with the junk wax era of the early ’90’s. A star player rookie card will have more value if it is a limited print run insert or parallel than the base card. Even parallels have ramped up in production, with companies like Panini producing so many parallels for players that you would have 20+ cards of one player just to have all the cards in the set. Many parallels and inserts are not limited in production either, so even if you pull an amazing looking refractor or Prizm card, if it isn’t serial numbered stating the total amount of the cards produced, then you are likely to receive less capital gain on the card than one that is limited in print to only 99 copies.

Set a budget, and stick to it.

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Investing in trading cards should be considered a long term investment, and you need to set your budget appropriate to the long term investment mindset. Realize that with long term investments the capital tied up in the investment will be unavailable to you for an extended period of time. Additionally, trading cards are not always a liquid asset, meaning they can’t always be quickly converted to cash, you might spend a decent amount of time finding a buyer. Determine your necessity and discretionary budgets first, never spend money on trading card investments that has already been earmarked for your necessities, you will quickly find yourself in debt! Once you’ve created your personal budget covering your necessary and discretionary needs you will have identified how much you have remaining to create your investing budget.

When you’re setting up your investing budget, be sure to include the costs to ship and any buyer’s fees that might be associated with the transactions as well. This can be a real eye-opener, especially if you’ve been buying cards already without considering how much each one actually costs in total; all those shipping and PayPal fees add up quickly! When you take the fundamentals of budget creation and apply it to your investing, you’ll be able to spend less while investing more.

Don’t fall for the hype.

This is the most important part of investing in trading cards: don’t fall for the hype. If you’ve been around long enough to remember the Pokémon craze that swept through American culture in the late ’90s, then you know how quickly hype can come and go. Granted, Pokémon has made a significant comeback, and there are some amazing Pokémon cards on the market, but the craze that gripped the collector community when it was first released quickly diminished and with it card values as well; now if you have original Pokémon in mint condition you’re sitting on a gold mine, but several years back you had a hard time giving them away! My point is that when a new set comes out, or a new prospect player gets drafted, a lot of people will buy into it based on what they think others are going to do rather than what they themselves want or need. They buy these cards because other people are buying them and because they think they’re going to be worth more money later on, usually without doing their homework! That’s not investing; it’s gambling!

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A great example of this is the Topps Chrome Platinum Anniversary Edition Baseball set that released on June 29th, 2022. The product was available in two formats, the hobby box priced at $199.99 and the lite hobby box priced at $99.99. Within the first week of release the product fell in market price to only $149.99 per hobby box and and $59.99 per lite hobby box; that is an astounding 25% drop in hobby box pricing and an unbelievable 40% drop in lite hobby pricing in less than a week of release! If you were a sealed product investor, you would have already taken a significant loss on your investment likely before you had even received shipment of it! Some people even got roped into “pre-sale” purchases on the hobby boxes, spending as much as $362.99 per box!

I always, always, always suggest avoiding pre-sale purchasing on sealed products simply because the day after the official release, the boxes are generally at regular retail. I have seen this time and again across sports cards and TCG’s, so avoid loosing money on your investment boxes and wait to source them once they are made generally available on the retail market!

Another thing to consider is the popularity of the card, player, or product. It doesn’t matter if your card has “rare” written on it with glittery gold letters and it emits rainbow sparkles when you move it—if nobody wants it, nobody will pay anything for it regardless of how many times someone says “rare!”, “eBay 1 of 1!”, “invest now!”, etc. Don’t buy an investment card just because other people say you should, buy it because you’ve done your homework, understand the market history for the card or product, and are confident that given the data, the card has the potential to appreciate in value.

Diversify your portfolio.

One of the most important things to remember when investing in trading cards is not to invest too much money in just one thing. This could cause you to lose a lot if that card or product doesn’t work out, so it’s best to diversify your portfolio by spreading out your investments across different types of cards, sports and manufactures. This is especially true in sports cards as players are subject to injury and one bad game could cause a card or players value to tank overnight. If you had all your investment capital tied up in that one player, you’d be bust and have to wait to see if the player recovered and ever regained their preinjury value.

If you are only a baseball fan, there is no problem with sticking just to baseball, but make sure that you research and invest in more than just your favorite player. I suggest looking at all sports, researching the best players, look at their available cards and pay attention to their sales history – then you can start diversifying into other sports and increase your odds at increasing your investment value over time.

Investing in trading cards can be lucrative, but it’s important that you don’t go broke in the process.

If you’ve purchased sports cards in the last few years then you know that prices and availability of sports cards has been insane! The rapid increase in popularity of sports card collecting and investing caused a huge increase in prices and really brought out the greed in a lot of people that started mass purchasing retail product before anyone else could buy some. This resulted in inflated prices on sealed product because you couldn’t find it in retail and had to buy in the aftermarket, paying a 30% or greater premium on eBay or buying into sports card breaks where the breakers are making a 300% profit over retail. Talk about a bunch of bullshit!

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We have no love for retail card piggies here at Cardboard Prospector, and falling victim to these schemes will quickly deplete your investing budget and make you go broke! Trust me, when I first got back into sports cards back in 2019 I fell victim to the card breaks scheme and quickly lost thousands of dollars and had almost nothing to show for it! I got away from the breaks and started focusing on sourcing product myself, spent a lot less and increased my potential to pull amazing hits when prospecting. If you’re strictly investing in trading cards then the box breaks shouldn’t be your target anyway – confused on the difference between investing and prospecting? Check out how we define trading card prospecting versus investing.

Pay attention to market prices! It has been my experience that purchasing sports cards in the off season gives me the ability to spend less and end up gaining more once the season starts again. Buying a players card in the middle of the season when they are on a streak is a bad investment decision that could end up making you loose money. Just like they say in the stock market, buy the dip! Investing in a tool like the Market Movers app or doing manual research on eBay, 130Point or Sell the Peak will help save you money and make those investment purchases at the best possible price.

Buy raw cards and have them graded yourself to save tons of money on buying already graded cards. Granted, buying graded cards is the safest way to invest in trading cards because you are getting an item that has already been verified as authentic and its condition has been reviewed and graded by experts in the field. However, many times you can purchase cards raw at a fraction of the price of graded, and if you educate yourself on the grading process and review the grading tiers specifications from the top grading companies, you can source raw cards and have them graded yourself. Even after you’ve spent the money on grading, if the card is valuable you will still have saved potentially hundreds of dollars by investing in raw cards.


Investing in trading cards can be a profitable and fun venture, but it’s important to do your homework and stick to a budget. Don’t fall for hype, diversify your portfolio and be smart about your purchases! You never know, you might invest in the next million+ dollar card!

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