7 Mistakes To Avoid When Getting Started In Sports Card Collecting

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When you’re just getting into sports card collecting or returning after a long hiatus, it can be very easy to get overwhelmed or dive in head first and start buying every product in sight. While it’s definitely a good thing to be that excited about the hobby, making simple mistakes can end up putting a big dent in your wallet.

This article lists the 7 most common mistakes I have seen and some of which experienced when getting back into the hobby after taking a 20+ year break. Avoiding some of these mistakes may seem like common sense but it’s easier than you would think to become victim to one or more of them.

1. Trying To Collect Everything

The first thing you should consider when you are getting into the hobby is what exactly it is that you want to collect. Panini, Topps, etc all make a huge variety of sets for their respective sports. For football alone there are well over 20-30+ products that Panini puts out over the year, each having 100-200+ cards in a set.

I recommend narrowing your collection to a specific niche. Do you want to collect cards from your favorite team? Cards of your favorite player? Only rookies? Only veterans? Do you want to build sets? The choice is ultimately up to you and there is no wrong answer. You just have to understand that your budget is (most likely) limited and that you can’t go too broad.

2. Assuming You Are Going To Make Money

Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia

This one is growing more and more common with newer collectors entering the hobby. Everyone seems to think that they are going to hop in and start flipping sports cards for huge profits. This is probably largely due to serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk proclaiming that sports card values will explode in the next 2-3 years. Gary has been talking about cards exploding for months now on every platform from twitter to television. Fans of his have even gone as far as to compare sports cards to the stock market.

While sports card flipping is definitely a thing and you can absolutely make money in the sports card community, it’s not as easy as Gary Vee makes it sound. Card pricing takes months to meaningfully fluctuate for the most part. You also have to factor in eBay/PayPal fees if re-selling on eBay as well as the cost of shipping. COMC is an option for flipping too but, again, the process is typically slow and margins are typically low. Flipping cards is fun as a side hustle, but I wouldn’t recommend joining the hobby with the primary goal of making money from card flipping.

3. Buying Only Retail Products

It can be hard to resist the urge to run down to your local Wal-mart or Target and buy a bunch of blaster boxes. The truth is that, for the most part, you get better cards out of hobby boxes. Depending on what you’re looking for, you may want to purchase retail over hobby but in most situations hobby boxes are the way to go. Hobby boxes have more autos, relics, etc. The odds are better. Also, retail is very limited on which sets you can even get.

2018 Optic Retail Mega Box

It’s worth noting that there are retail exclusive cards though. So if you’re adamant about finding specific cards in packs yourself then you may need to buy retail. Personally, I’d recommend just buying the singles you want on eBay though instead of blowing money on blasters with generic swatch card hits.

4. Dealing With Shady Grading Companies

Having cards graded provides many benefits. The two main benefits for me is that a graded card is protected due to being encased (slabbed) and its condition has been documented officially by a 3rd party. I’m more confident buying a graded card on eBay over a raw card because I know what condition it should arrive in.

However, these days card grading companies are popping up everywhere. Companies like GMA Grading that are seemingly one man operations run out of someone’s house are flooding the market with poorly graded cards. They hand out Gem Mint 10 scores to cards that clearly don’t deserve it. So beware when shopping on eBay that a GMA 10 is NOT even close to the same as a PSA or BGS 10 or even 9.5. Stick with PSA and BGS for grading or buying graded cards.

Edge Damage on a GMA Graded 10 Card.

5. Impulse Buying

To be honest, I still fall victim to this every once in a while (even yesterday). Whether its impulse buying a $40 mega box at Target or buying a card on eBay where you didn’t even come to buy that card but got sucked into an ending auction… Impulse buying is bad!

This hobby is an expensive hobby. If you can practice impulse control, you’ll have a much better time completing the collection you really want. But if you get sucked into auctions, blow money on blasters, or buy into breaks/razzes all willy nilly then you’re just going to be slowing your own progress.

6. Not Researching Card Values Before Buying

This ties into impulse buying a little bit. Before you buy a card on eBay, or anywhere else really, you should have already established what a fair price is and what your max bid is going to be. If you go into an auction blind and don’t know what the current market value of a card is then chances are that you will end up over-paying.

eBay filter by “sold” to see recent sales/prices.

The search function on eBay has a great filter that you can use to value cards. If you filter by “sold” auctions then you can search for the card you are interested in and see all of the recent sales for that card. This helps you to establish the market value of the card you are interested in. You can then decide from there what you are willing to spend on it.

7. Not Protecting Your Cards

We all know first hand how expensive cards can be. So why would you not protect them? Still, I see new collectors not protecting their cards. At a bare minimum you should be putting a penny sleeve and a top loader on any card that you care about. You can get toploaders for less than 6 cents each on eBay when buying in bulk. You can get penny sleeves for less than a penny each in bulk on eBay. There’s no excuse to not protect your cards.

Mike Gesicki Card in a One Touch Magnetic Case

For your higher valued cards I recommend investing in some one touch magnetic cases. These cases are thicker hard plastic cases held together by a magnet. They’re probably the closest thing you can get to slabbing a card without grading it. Except one touches also provide UV protection (which to my understanding BGS/PSA slabs do not).

What other common mistakes should new collectors avoid? Leave your tips or experiences in the comments below!

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Dave Johnson
Dave Johnson
4 years ago

Thank you for the tip to look for a specific niche to collect from, because there are so many options. I’ve been looking for a hobby to start because I spend less time at work. I’ll have to look for antique baseball cards.