Collecting anything as an investment is always going to be risky to some degree. It’s possible that the market for Cabbage Patch Dolls, for example, dries up when the generation that started the craze passes on (or grows up). Coin collecting, on the other hand, retains value because the value of the metal in the coin always has value. That gives the hobby a foundation on which to build.
Baseball card collecting, on the other hand, straddles both of the above examples. The cards themselves, being made primarily of paper, have no inherent value. Unlike Cabbage Patch Doll collectors, though, the sport these cards represent — baseball — isn’t likely to die out. As a result, the sport creates new generations of fans every decade. And fans buy baseball cards.
Baseball Card Investing
Baseball cards have been around for more than 100 years. The most valuable baseball card ever, the T206 Honus Wagner card, was first printed in 1909. That card continues to appreciate in value — one owner bought one in 2013 for $2.1 million and sold it three years later for $3.12 million. That’s a pretty solid return for any investment.
It’s also a bit out of reach for most card collectors. Fortunately, you can buy baseball cards for a lot less money than that. Collecting baseball cards is a hobby that takes some talent, making it a challenge even for established collectors and a learning curve for new collectors. That’s just part of the fun of the hobby. If everyone could jump in and be successful, collecting baseball cards as an investment wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable and fulfilling.
If you can’t afford to buy a T206 Honus Wagner, you need a strategy. You can take some risks, as long as you balance that risk with safe investments when you buy baseball cards. You also can hedge your bets by making sound investments you know you can count on. Follow these five tips for making safe investments:
- Old stars keep rising. Pre-WWII stars — like Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Joe Dimaggio and Ty Cobb — are always in demand because of the scarcity. Of course, these cards have been through six-plus decades of growth, so they aren’t inexpensive. But they’re still cheaper than the T206.
- Buy good quality cards. This doesn’t mean you should only buy baseball cards that have been professionally graded. Grading doesn’t always matter unless the card is very old or very valuable. But don’t buy a beat-up Nolan Ryan rookie card and expect to get top dollar for it.
- Look for post-war deals. They’re still out there, and some of the most valuable cards ever made are from the post-war era. Ever heard of Mickey Mantle? Roberto Clemente? Hank Aaron? The 1950s and 60s were an era ripe with stars and the cards are still rare enough to hold their value.
- Don’t forget modern cards. But do forget about modern rookies. Instead, go for inserts, signed cards and patch cards. By far, the most expensive cards made today are those signed and authenticated or have uniform patches embedded in the cards. If you pull a rising star, you could hit it big. While these are a little riskier, if you find a good deal, take it.
- Store your cards properly. To save your investments when you buy baseball cards, keep them safe. Store your cards in plastic in a cool, dry place, like a closet in the main part of your house. Don’t’ put them in your attic, garage or basement, where humidity or temperature changes can damage them.
Also see our article about protecting your investments: