The sports cards and memorabilia industry is a world foreign to many, but those who have been captivated by the hobby understand how much excitement and enjoyment it can bring. Since the late 19th century, cards have been manufactured and produced, but the industry is constantly evolving. The hobby will always be dominated and driven by collectors, but those who devote a lot of time and energy to it will learn it can be a profitable endeavor as well.
The way I like to describe the investment side of modern-day sports cards is simple. Purchasing a highly desirable card of a specific active athlete is like buying a stock of a specific company. When the company performs well, their stock’s value typically rises, and if a player performs well, their card’s value does the same. In the modern world, this is how many people invest in their favorite athletes.
Personally, I’m a 23-year-old entrepreneur who took interest in the industry at a very young age. 13-year-old me would have never believed it, but now I travel to multiple card shows a month buying, selling, and trading for a living.
This past weekend of April 15-16, I attended the Long Island National located at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. It’s a two-day show that includes 400+ tables of sports cards and memorabilia as well as “autograph guests” who people can pay to sign items of their choice.
Over the course of this article, I will explain my mindset going into the show, the “best” investments I chose to make, and the logic behind those deals.
I received: Jordan Love and Trey Lance Contenders Rookie Autos
I paid: $600
Whenever I attend a show, I like to spend as long as I can walking the floor from dealer to dealer looking for cards I may want to purchase. Within the first hour on Saturday morning, I came across these two in a showcase. The dealer had a wide variety of cards, but these two caught my eye in particular. The reasoning is simple: a lot of people like to take risks in this industry, and these two are certainly a gamble right now. These are also both rookie autographs, which are always a premium in the card industry.
Love is “technically” the backup quarterback for one of the biggest franchises in football at the writing of this article. However, with Aaron Rodgers on his way to the New York Jets at any moment, Love is primed to step in as the leader of a new era in Packers football. That being said, it’s not a guarantee that he’ll succeed in this position. Lance was drafted third overall a couple years ago, but due to injuries it’s uncertain if he will be able to win the starting quarterback job next year. That being said, collectors and investors alike love what he brings to the table and are a fan of the system San Francisco has built. In their eyes, that’s all they need to know to invest in him.
The dealer and I went back and forth negotiating, and we ultimately agreed to a deal of $600 for the pair. I felt like this price left me plenty of room to make a profit.
After doing some more research on the cards, I put a price tag of $650 on the Jordan Love and $350 on the Trey Lance. If we flash forward to the end of the show Sunday, both cards have actually already been sold from my showcase. Love went for $600, and Lance went for $285, resulting in a profit of $285 on the pair. Not too shabby for some current “backup” quarterbacks.
IMMEDIATE PROFIT: $285
I received: Justin Jefferson Flawless Shield 1/1
I paid: $1,450
Another move I made was acquiring this Justin Jefferson NFL shield patch card from Flawless. Jefferson is widely considered the most talented and exciting receiver in the game right now. He has a very strong following from collectors of all ages and his cards are always highly desirable.
This card was in a showcase of a highly reputable dealer of vintage baseball cards which seemed a bit strange at first. I made the assumption he likely received the card in trade and that he may not have the correct network of buyers to sell it at its maximum potential. I deal with high-end football cards often, especially cards from the Flawless product, and felt as though I could do well with it.
The ever-glaring hurdle with buying this card is that it’s a one-of-one (1/1).
1/1 means that the card is the only one in existence, so if it has never been sold publicly, it’s difficult to give it a fully accurate value. Some see this as an issue, but I see it as an opportunity. Cards like this are worth whatever someone is willing to pay, and I happen to have a strong network of people who enjoy owning these types of collectibles.
When I approached the dealer, he told me the asking price was $1,700. After some back-and-forth and a little contemplation on my end, I talked him down to a price of $1,450. After purchasing the card, I immediately took a picture and sent it to a few potential buyers. One of these guys happened to be at the show and was very interested. We met up and negotiated for a bit. I ultimately agreed to sell him the card for $1,850.
This gave me a profit of $400 in a matter of a few hours on just a single card. In terms of real-life costs to attend the show, flipping this one card paid for my hotel, gas, and food for the weekend. Any other money I’d make would be pure profit.
IMMEDIATE PROFIT: $400
I received: Deion Sanders Spectra Gold Auto 1/1
I paid: $100 (No, really)
This purchase is what one would call a no-brainer.
The above is a 2015 Panini Spectra Football gold vinyl Deion Sanders autograph numbered one-of-one. I was approached at my table by a father-son collector duo who were looking to sell a few cards they owned together. They pulled out an assortment of great-looking and highly desirable football pieces which included players such as Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen, accompanied by the above Deion Sanders.
After getting to know them, they asked for my honest opinion on their collection. I felt that they would likely fetch more for the active quarterbacks during the upcoming season compared to the offseason. They agreed, and I proceeded to inquire about the Sanders card.
To my surprise, the duo didn’t seem very invested in the card, and they casually informed me that they would sell it for $100.
That was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made.
I happily told them that I would pay their price and we agreed to the deal. Having dealt with Sanders collectibles in the past, I knew I was getting a great deal. While he no longer plays, Sanders is highly collectible and is now arguably the most popular coach in college football. I chose to stash the card away and not put it out for sale at the show, but I am very confident I will at least triple my investment.
Long Island National Review
Overall, the Long Island National was a fantastic two-day show full of constant foot traffic and reputable dealers. During my time there, I made a total of 30 deals in which I bought, sold, or traded cards.
The next multi-day event I will be attending is Rich Altman’s Boston Show on April 28-30. For any experienced dealers or newbies looking to get in on the action, I look forward to seeing you there!