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10 MISTAKES New Sports Card Collectors Should AVOID

May 24, 2021 12 min read 2 Comments

10 MISTAKES New Sports Card Collectors Should AVOID

Well I've been back in the card market here for about a year and I have learned a lot. It's been super fun and I've enjoyed the successes and also the all the failures. The card market can be very confusing especially for someone new. If you feel like you're overwhelmed you're not alone. I've had a ton of success but I've also made a lot of mistakes, and that's what I'm going to be sharing with you today. I'm going to be giving you my Top 10 Mistakes That You Want To Avoid As A New Sports Card Investor.

So without any further ado let's go ahead and jump on into this list with.

#1: Not understanding all the different cards and sets from the beginning

There are so many different cards that Panini and Topps and all these guys put out. It is absolutely overwhelming. I have no idea how many sets there are out there that you could possibly buy. It's got to be thousands.

I wish I would have taken a little more time to understand which ones were the more popular sets, which ones I should be focusing on, which ones were undervalued, which ones are overvalued. To make it simple and just kind of give you a real quick version of this, in basketball and football Panini Prizm is king! That's kind of the most sought-after brand. Other popular sets in those sports are Select, Optic, and Mosaic. Of course baseball has Topps and Bowmen. Of course there are different particular sets within those cards that you can check out but those are kind of the most popular ones to kind of stick with. Again do some research, take a little bit of time, understand which cards are the most popular in particular brands.

#2: No game plan

I had no game plan when I started this. I was just seeing what other cards people were talking about, and I was just buying those cards. For example Zion Williamson 2019 Prizm, card number 248. That was the first card I started buying. I would just jump on eBay and I would look and I would think “okay that card's fairly centered.” I would just buy it for $200. PSA 10s are selling for about $500 - $700, all the way up to a $1,000. So they've been a decent amount of money if you can get a PSA 10, but I had no idea what I was doing.

I had no idea if this was the best card. I ended up being lucky, it actually turned out to be a fairly decent investment there. I wish I would have made a list of particular players and sets that I was going to be going off of, and just followed that rather than just buying what some Instagram guy says or what some YouTube guy says, or if the player is hot he scores 30 points and buying that card. I was just all over the place and I had no consistent game plan to follow. So I would pick a couple of players you want to go after and particular cards that you want to go after, and have that be your game plan, but if your game plan is completely different that's fine too but just make sure that you have some sort of game plan.

There is a program out there called market movers from Sports Card Investor and this program essentially can give you data up until about the last 90 days on particular cards. What they've sold for. You can also search which players in particular sports are popular, which particular sets are popular as far as the amount of volumes and sales, so it is actually fairly useful in that aspect. Again it's not the end-all be-all on whether you should buy a specific card, but it is some data that you can factor in the equation on which cards that you do want to buy. So definitely I would recommend their program. It's like $49 a month or so and you get access to all this data which they pull from eBay.

#3: Buying boxes instead of cards

So boxes are super fun to open, don't get me wrong. When I get a new box of something in that hasn't been opened yet, oh my gosh it's like Christmas right? Because you're thinking “wow what am I going to get, am I going to get a big card?”  And yes I have had cards that I've pulled and my eight-year-old has pulled that have been fantastic cards and boxes that we've absolutely crushed right, and she's done really well, it's super fun opening up boxes with her, but there's also been boxes that have been average and there's boxes that have been duds to say the least.

When you open these boxes up you get obviously random cards. You don't know what you're getting. Some boxes are going to be great and others are going to be duds. Plus you get all these extra cards and you're just kind of not sure what to do with them. Should I get these cards graded? Should I sell them as is? I mean these are cards that you typically wouldn't have gone out and purchased so you just got a plethora of extra stuff that you're just like not really sure what to do with. Should I get them graded? Are these going to sell? Who is this player? So it kind of gets a little confusing. You got so many extra cards you're just not sure what to do with.

When buying individual cards of specific players, I think you maximize your financial resources by doing that. Going after the individual cards of specific players that you were looking for. Let's say you buy the 2020 football Panini Prizm hobby box right. You get 144 cards.  It's a $1,050 or somewhere around there. You're going to get a bunch of players that you don't want. But let's say Justin Herbert's your guy and you want to go out and buy his Prizm football card and they're right about $130 - $150. I mean you can buy six of them right now if you do your research on it make sure they're centered, make sure they don't have any issues. You can buy six of those for that same exact price. Maybe you get three PSA 10s out of there. Those are going to be selling for $500 at least. I mean I think you have more of a shotgun approach to that as opposed to just a machine gun where you're just spraying and hoping you get a bunch, that's the hobby box way.

I like the individual approach of just going after the individual cards. Also when you do a submission when you're buying individual cards you get that submission back, you feel pretty good about that one knowing that “Hey these are cards that I went after, I looked after, I sought after. All of these are the ones I wanted to get graded, and those are the ones I sent in as opposed to just sending in all these cards.” Just because you open this box up and you're “Well I might as well get them graded now.”

#4: Overpaying for ungraded cards

This one I made a ton of mistakes on, specifically on the LeBron James rookie card number 221. I overpaid like those were running out of style for raw cards. I would look at them and they would look perfectly centered the corners would look great, but getting a PSA 10 on that card is rather difficult and boy did I get hammered. I never got a PSA 10 on any of those. In fact I got a couple nines. I got lucky there. Mostly eights and I think I got a six on those. On the ones that I was buying I way overpaid on them. I thought that the price of a PSA 9 was going to increase along with that PSA 10 and it just kind of quite hasn't happened. So I got absolutely hammered and obliterated on that one. So I always think that I'm probably going to be getting a PSA 9 on a card.

I've done my research on it, the card looks great, if I get a PSA 9 then hey maybe I can break even. Maybe make a little bit of money if I get a 10, but I don't want to be losing money on buying cards and getting them graded. That's the last thing we want to do.

#5: Buying color parallels that aren’t the team color

Panini will come out with obviously their base card and then they will come out with a color parallel of that exact same card. The border of the card will be different, or the background of the color card will be different, and it'll be different colors depending on what set it is. So you can have like a green Prizm, you can have a red Prizm, you can have a blue Prizm, orange Prizm, etc. But I was just buying color parallels of really any color of any particular player.

What I would suggest doing, and these are the ones that are the most valuable, and that I came to find out later of course is to buy the color parallel that matches the team colors. So if you are buying a Trae Young, buying a red Prizm makes sense because the Atlanta Hawks have red team colors. Those hold the most value so those are the ones that I would stick with. When you're buying color parallels, not to say the other ones don't sell, but if you're looking to maximize your dollars I would stick with the team colors of that particular player.

#6: Getting caught in the hype

It's so easy to do. It's just so easy because you don't want to miss out on the boat right. You think you're missing out. You hear all these guys buying LeBron James. They talk about Talen Horton-Tucker saying he was a great player, boom everybody's buying this guy, and it's just you don't want to feel like you're missing out. I never bought any of that guy's cards, thank gosh, but you don't want to buy into the hype because your favorite Instagram guy or your favorite YouTube guy says to buy this particular card. Especially with current players because one big game can kind of send their cards up and then let's say they get hurt or they have five or six bad games and then all of a sudden their pricing comes crashing back down.

This goes back to having a game plan and following that particular player that you like for either your collection or you're buying as an investment. Whatever it is, buy particular players that you are going after so you're maximizing your financial resources, not wasting them on all these Talen Horton-Tucker guys that may pay off. It’s great if they do, hey props to people, they took the risk and they get the payoff, but I would like to have more of a specific approach to players that I think are going to be going up in value and really limit that scope rather than having a whole bunch of guys that I'm going after. Again always do your own research and make decisions off of data that feels best for you. Do what's best for your collection, best for your financial resources, and stick to your gut. Follow your game plan!

#7: Not having grading equipment

I didn't have a magnifying light when I was first sending in cards to get graded. You got to have a magnifying light. What is this thing? You can put your cards underneath it and it magnifies the card so you can see the print lines and scratches that you may not be able to see with the naked eye. Kind of helps look at corners a little closer too. This has been a game changer. I just got the report back from one PSA submission I just made. 21 for 21 on PSA 10s. Yeah, I've never done that before. Not to say that's all the light, but it's a big help. You can reject some cards that maybe you're going to miss with.  They're like 30 bucks, super cheap, I definitely would suggest buying one of those. On a side note, when you start getting really deep into the hobby, having a nice scanner is really nice. That way when you scan your cards and you're selling them, you've got a nice image on there you can clearly see the label it looks sharp. That's a couple hundred dollar investment there, but that's something you can do down the road.

#8: Not using a PSA submission group with a database

Typically how you submit to PSA, is you go through a PSA submission group. So there's a guy or a team that runs that group and they submit the cards to PSA on your behalf. That way you get better pricing, you get someone you can talk to directly about where's the cards that went up, but I was just using somebody that I've never met and didn't have an online database. I couldn't track exactly what step the cards were at, at PSA, did PSA receive them, or why not. So you had to constantly follow up with people like “Hey where are where are these cards?” and it's just a big waste of time.

So the company I use now is gemmint.com. They have an online database where I can see exactly what step of the process and the grading my cards are in. You get a report sent back to you right away as soon as you pay for your grading. It says here's all the grades that you got. It's super easy. You don't have to talk to anybody at all. What's great about having a submission group too is if you have a problem with something you can reach out directly to the person that runs that group and they can reach out to their rep at PSA, because if you ever try calling PSA on the phone you're probably not getting through. You're going to have a hard time. So definitely, I would suggest using someone with an online database. PC Sports Cards is another group that I've heard has an online database as well. They're a great submission group you can check them out on the website and also on Instagram.

#9: Not sending unwanted raw cards to COMC

I talked about getting all these raw cards after opening up all these boxes here, but not sending these cards to COMC could be a mistake. COMC stands for checkoutmycards.com and what they do is they're a service where you send them all your raw cards, they scan them, and they sell them on their website and on eBay. It's super cheap, you're talking 35 cents to 50 cents to scan the front and back of it. What I was doing is, I was having my guys taking them over to the UPS store and they were scanning them and then we were selling them and doing it on eBay. It was just a nightmare. It was way too much work. I was so glad I found them. So for all the cards you don't want to get graded, pack them all up, put them in penny sleeves. Don't put them in top loaders, they'll charge you for that because they’ve got to take them out, and I just put them in penny sleeves and send them off to COMC. Let them deal with it.

They've got a nice little portal there. All you have to do is go in and tell them what you want to sell for. It's so easy. Don't waste your time selling raw cards, it's a big hassle unless it's a big-time card that you can get some good money for. If there's cards that are a dollar, send them off to COMC. So you let them deal with it.

#10: Not using PSA population reports

The PSA population report is a report of all the cards that PSA has ever graded and what grade those cards got. So you can type in any card into the PSA population report, let's take the Michael Jordan 1986 Fleer card number 57 is a popular rookie card, and you can see how many tens there have been, nines, eights, seven, et cetera. This is helpful in a couple different ways.

Number one, if you're looking to get an ungraded card and getting it graded. You can see what the percentage of that submitted card get graded at a PSA 10. Take that Jordan card for example. It's a five percent chance at PSA 10. So buying that card raw, ungraded, and getting it graded a PSA 10 is very difficult. So it's helpful in that aspect.

It's also helpful in the sense of when you're looking to buy cards that are already graded. So let's say you are looking at a particular card and the PSA 10s on those cards. Of the thousands that have been graded only let's say a hundred are PSA 10s, but there are let's say a hundred PSA 9s, and then the rest are all eights and whatnot. So buying that card it’s helpful to then say “If I can only afford a PSA 9 I know that there's only a hundred cards that are graded above mine that are better than mine.” So it's helpful in determining which cards to buy also as far as what grade goes, and it's very helpful to know exactly how many of a particular grade are in that particular card so you can determine which one is the best purchase for you.

So hopefully this helps you guys kind of get through this card world. It is absolutely crazy and insane. My biggest tip is, yes these 10 tips are going to really help you out, but take your time. If you don't understand something don't buy it. Ask questions. Don't feel like a dummy. Again, you're not the only one that feels confused sometimes and there's a lot of cards out there, so take your time do your own research and buy what's best for you.

2 Responses

Kelly michaud
Kelly michaud

May 02, 2023

Thanks for putting that out there ! I am less than one year into the hobby and you answered a lot of my … wondering? . I am moderately into collecting coins and there are a few similarities in regards to grading so that kind of helped me.

The degen gambler in me loves buying into breaks, hoping to score a major card with a smallish purchase price , & I realize it’s not the smart move.
I didn’t know about scanners and COMC .. I think I’ll do a test run on COMC because I am not very up to date on NFL & NBA these days, there sure seems to be a lot of players named Jalen, & Tray !!


May 02, 2023

Not new to the hobby from a collectors perspective but recently decided to bridge over to the investment aspect of it. Really really great info here. Glad I took the time to read this. This will end up saving me time and money in the future. Thanks for offering this free of charge because it’s definitely a wealth of information. I believe it will come right back to you x10. GL in collecting and life

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