Which Players Should You Collect?

Baseball cards have suffered a production glut since the 1980s. So, when you start to buy baseball cards, it’s a legitimate question to ask where to start. Whether you start by buying new cards or vintage cards, you may choose to collect the cards of your favorite players. But which should you collect?

Baseball Cards Basketball Cards and Other SportsWhen considering vintage cards — defined here as baseball cards produced before 1980 — you can go by price guides and auction results. You learn that early rookie cards are the most valuable. When considering modern cards — meaning cards produced after 1980 — rookie cards have given way to special, limited-edition inserts and autographed cards.

Which Sport to Collect

Among the most popular, you can buy baseball cards, basketball cards, football cards, hockey cards, or even cards from other sports such as auto racing. With some exceptions, the most popular collectible cards are baseball cards. If you have a preference for another sport, the same rules apply when choosing a player to collect, but the pay-off may be less, since fewer people collect those cards.

Baseball cards have the longest history, and they started the collecting craze. Certain players have crossover appeal. Regardless of your favorite sport, you’d probably love to have a Babe Ruth card. You could say the same for a Michael Jordan card, a Joe Namath card or a Wayne Gretzky card. And therein lies the answer to the question about which player to collect.

Start with Stars

Obviously, the players you want to collect, whether you buy baseball cards or cards from another sport, should be stars. The bigger, the better. The cards of those players will be the most in demand, meaning their value will likely increase. For vintage cards, the players are all retired, so you know who’s a star and who’s not. It’s riskier — but more exciting — to find young players to follow and collect. Picking a winning prospect isn’t easy, but it can be rewarding.

Budding stars in the modern era present some card-collecting obstacles. You can’t merely find their rookie cards. Those cards are still overproduced and readily collected, meaning they’re worth much less and not likely to increase that much in value, thanks to supply and demand. You can still find value in collecting rarer inserts and autographed cards. For example, the 2015 Topps Dynasty Kris Bryant RC Auto Patch is an autographed insert highly prized.

Don’t Overlook Appeal

Buy baseball cards of players who have that crossover appeal, which will increase their card value by generating greater demand. Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner,  Michael Jordan, Joe Namath and Wayne Gretzky all appeal to fans of all sports. Meanwhile, there are dozens of players who enjoyed a great career who don’t generate the same level of appeal. Ernie Banks, for example, has more appeal than Luis Aparicio, even though both are in the Hall of Fame.

Looking at today’s players and tomorrow’s stars, can you guess who’ll have the most appeal? No one really knows if Mike Trout’s accomplishments on the field will translate to greater value for his collectible cards. Ken Griffey had magnetism. Reggie Jackson lived for the spotlight. We’d recommend buying the cards of those types of players. It’s not always just about their statistics.

Basketball Greats: Jordan vs. James

A Guide to Buy Basketball Cards and Memorabilia

Every time a rising basketball star enjoys several years of success, fans ask the inevitable question: “Is he the next Michael Jordan?” Sometimes, a prospect is called the next MJ before he’s even taken a free throw. Such is the nature of hyperbole.

Lebron James vs Michael Jordan BasketballLaBron James, on the other hand, is no starry-eyed rookie. In fact, he’s played almost as many regular season games (1,040) as Michael Jordan (1,072) — and more playoff games (199 to 179). So it’s no wonder that the two basketball greats are compared to each other, especially in an era where collectors buy basketball cards.

Comparable Careers?

Although their careers span different basketball eras, there are several parallels, at least as of 2017. Both won Rookie of the Year honors. Jordan (5) and James (4) have been named league MVP multiple times. Both have played in many All-Star games (14 to 13, Jordan).

Since James is still playing, he’ll continue to add to his statistics. However, as a snapshot in this point in time, their regular season stats show their similarities and differences:


Points per game

Rebounds per game

Assists per game

Steals per game











Where the Differences Matter

The biggest difference between these two great players is most evident in the playoffs. While Jordan’s teams won six championships to James’ three, there are reasons beyond the quality of their teammates. While Jordan averaged 30 points a game during the season, he upped his game in the playoffs, consistently beating his regular season performance. James managed over 30 PPG in the playoffs only four times, although he did improve his rebounding (8.8 to 7.2 per game).

Beyond the statistics, Michael Jordan defined — or redefined — the game. In a game like basketball, where scoring many points matters, Jordan led the league 10 times to James’ once. Jordan was even once named the game’s Defensive Player of the Year. James has never won that honor. James is a great player, no doubt, but he hasn’t meant as much to the sport as MJ.

When You Buy Basketball Cards

Michael Jordan Rookie CardBoth players’ collectables — including cards, jerseys and autographs — command high prices. The demand is likely to remain high, at least as long as James continues to play. If you want to buy basketball cards of the two players, Jordan’s rookie card now exceeds $100,000. That’s a nice investment if you bought one right out of a pack back in the day (1984).

James also has valuable cards such as the Lebron James Rookie Card, but since he came into the league in the era of inserts, those are the cards that have increased in value the most. For example, one 2003–04 Exquisite Rookie Autographed Patch card sold for $95,000. That’s comparable to Jordan’s cards, and James is still playing.

Beyond Cards

Lebron James Rookie CardSome collectors don’t buy basketball cards. They prefer game-worn memorabilia, autographed basketballs and signed photos. You can guarantee that anything with an authenticated signature by either of these two greats will fetch a pretty price.

The value of Michael Jordan’s memorabilia has held up over time. He’s a Hall of Famer. He’s been a role model. His very name inspires kids to greatness. James has yet to reach that stage of his career. After his playing days have ended, after he’s elected to the Hall (as he surely will be), will he have the force of personality to be that role model for future generations? In other words, will he surpass Jordan as an ambassador for the sport? If he does, his memorabilia — including his basketball cards — will continue to rise in value.