The Daily Helmet: The Declining Sports Card Market

Investment, waste of money or something else?

Since I started to casually get back into card collecting, I have been checking out the new cards that Target and other stores stock in their collectors corner. The other day I came across box of 10 packs of AAF cards. Obviously these cards are a bit of a collectable, as far as they won’t be making anymore, but would it be worth the $15 investment to buy the box and hope you can turn it around for a profit? Probably not. Maybe if you leave it unopened and try to turn it around quickly, but as a long term investment, I don’t think there is much hope for this particular box of cards funding your retirement. In fact that is pretty much the case for almost all cards at this point. Sure, there are plenty of auctions where you will see a card or a set going for a pretty penny, but as the years pass by this will get rarer and rarer.

The peak of sports Card trading

In the late 80s and early 90s there was a boom in sports card trading. The people who collected cards in their youth in the 50s and 60s were now adults and cards from that era and earlier were fetching lots of money. It was around this time that people started to consider sports cards as an investment. Many people, like my father, swore they owned millions of dollars worth of cards as a child, only to have their entire collection tossed away their Mom wishing to get rid of the clutter. The truth was, not many back then even saw the cards as anything, but a fun collectable, using the cards to make their bicycles sound like a motorcycle or just trading them amongst friends with no real attempt to keep their cards in “mint condition”. Because of this, that era had quite a few cards worth a lot if they were in good condition. This was somewhat rare and scarcity plus demand equaled a lot of money for sports cards. The sports card companies were not dumb, though, and by the mid-eighties started taking advantage of the demand for cards and people hoping to buy the current sets to sell for big bucks at a later date. To keep up with this demand, the card companies flooded the market with cards, including complete sets, which took the fun out of buying a pack and seeing what you could get. This meant that most of the cards produced from 1986 and forward had and have very little value. In fact, if you look at the old Beckett price guides from the early 90s you will see that the cards are worth pretty much the same now as they were then, and that is not even accounting for inflation. Case in point the below 1989 Topps set. My mom bought my brother and I both the complete set for Christmas in 1990. I managed to keep it all of these years later and I would probably have a hard time selling it for 20 bucks.

The card companies flooded the market and overall the market for sports cards has at best plateaued ever since. This is not to say that there are not cards that are worth money. There are plenty that can fetch good money on eBay or at card shows, but at the same time many of these cards are rated artificially high, by market that is still being somewhat unreasonably optimistic about the future of the card market. Most experts, from what i have read, agree that the market for sports card has been shrinking. While back in the 80s it peaked, with adults and kids alike all looking for and buying cards, the interest in cards by kids today is nearly non-existent. Go to any sports or card show and other than a few kids that were dragged by their parents, most of the people attending these shows are between 35-60 years old. This is bad news for the industry. The market is literally dying out. In the relatively near future, there will be a whole lot of cards and few people looking to buy. Most card experts have been saying that if you are hanging on to cards for some future dream of cashing out, you are taking a risk, because the future of the market is murky at best. I personally have started getting back into card collecting cards as an exercise in pure nostalgia. I am not buying cards as a future investment, but as a fun activity that brings back memories of my youth. I would never pay a premium on any card, because who really knows if it will ever be sold for a profit in the future. other than super high end stuff, the days of sports cards as an investment is essentially over.

Cards are still fun

while it all seems bleak, I don’t really care. I am having a ton of fun looking through my old cards that I meticulously sorted by team and seeing all of the old players and classic uniforms. Buying and opening old wax packs is super fun, especially when you can buy 20 or 30 packs for a few bucks. This has even sparked my interest in new cards. while the new cards don’t have the same nostalgic connection, I really like the quality of the new chrome and super glossy cards. Aesthetically, cards might have never been better. I also like the uniform swatch cards, which are super cool keepsakes and add a tactile element that the old cards didn’t have. I even bought this hobby pck which included an autograph card and a uniform card and I will admit I was hoping for a star player that I might have been able to quickly turn around for a few bucks, but this time at least that was not the case.

The other cool thing card companies are doing, knowing their market, is releasing modern player cards with old card set designs. Topps has a 2019 baseball set modeled after its 1970 set and it looks really cool. I’m a big fan of faux-vintage. In my hobby pack, one of my favorites was this Devin Smith Rookie card that was modeled after the 1989 set.

The pack also came with some other packs, that had some really cool metallic designs.

Junk Food

There is this brand of clothing that sells a lot of cool retro designs. They can be a bit pricey for a t-shirt, but if you get them at the right places you can find them for cheaper. I bought this Bills T-shirt, that I have been eyring for a while. I love that the design has the blue facemask. I really wish they would go back to the blue facemask.

Helmet Of The Day: 1961-1973 Chargers

The Chargers announce that they were doing what everyone said they should do for years. Going to Powder blue, full time. I was a fan of the navy when they wore the yellow pants and had yellow masks, but once they ditched most of the yellow, I hated their uniforms. The only beacon of light being their powder blue alternates. These uniforms are good, but nothing compared to the 1960s Chargers uniforms which were perfect.