Why Autographs of Young Players Make Horrible Long-Term Investments & What To Buy Instead
October 16, 20216 min read
Every week I get asked by someone “what players should I be investing in?” While I tend to stay away from giving specific player investment advice, there is a general plan I like to follow, and that doesn’t involve buying any current players for the most part.
Yes, obviously you can make some good money selling current players in the short term, such as Patrick Mahomes, Mike Trout, and Luka Doncic. However, their markets can be up one week and down the next week depending on how they or their team play.
If you are looking for a long-term strategy to follow when buying your autographs or cards to minimize risk and have slow consistent profit, then today’s video is for you.
As with anything in the life, nothing but death and taxes are guaranteed. Please always do your own research and follow a plan that works for you. This is a strategy that fits my investing style, but everyone is different.
My strategy is not an overly complicated one and nor should it be. It simply consists of buying retired or deceased players (or players who have their careers cemented in stone, for example Tom Brady or LeBron James), as opposed to current players. Let’s take a look at 5 reasons why I prefer to invest in retired and deceased players over current ones.
#1 Retired and deceased players can’t get traded.
How many times have we seen a player who fits really well into a playing system or a team that ends up getting traded or signing with another team only to have their careers derailed shortly after that? Take Albert Pujols for example.
Great player, going to be a Hall of Famer, but if you were buying him right after he signed with the Angels, you probably paid too much.
Also, would you say interest in Albert Pujols as an investment is higher or lower right now than when he was with the Cardinals? I would argue lower. That’s not good for investing.
#2 There is a difference between speculating and investing.
Every time you buy that rookies autograph or card, you are speculating that they will at some point become a great player. LaMelo Ball, Jasson Dominguez, and Joe Burrow come to mind. Sometimes the bet pays off, but 99% of the time, that prospect never pans out.
Take Ryan Leaf, Brien Taylor, Greg Oden, and the list goes on and on. Take a moment and think of all the young guys you bought that ended up doing nothing with their careers. Probably a lot of guys, right? Imagine if you had taken that money and put it into proven Hall of Famers? How much better would your investments have done?
Luka Doncic currently averages 25 points a game for his 3-year career. LeBron James has averaged 27 a game over his 18-year career. That means Luka Doncic will have to continue his streak for another 15 years and still wouldn’t catch LeBron James in total points.
Yes, I know total points isn’t a barometer of how collectible a player ultimately becomes. My point is that is a tall task to even get close to an all-time great. Luka is just one injury away from having that pace slowed or ended all together. What if the Mavericks have some terrible teams in the near future? That will all affect how well of an investment he becomes.
I get it, investing in Hall of Famers isn’t nearly as fun and sexy as the young guys. But if you are looking for long-term, slow, consistent growth, young rookies aren’t the way to go.
#3 You have a general idea what items are worth.
When it comes to retired and deceased players, you have a pretty good idea of what their stuff is going for. They have a long track record of what their autograph or rookie card has sold for. You can immediately see if there is an upward or downward trend in pricing.
For current players, their pricing looks more like an EKG machine. All over the place, up one week, down the next, then back up again.
We have a pretty good idea of what a Mickey Mantle signed baseball currently sells for. We know what a good and bad price looks like.
Can’t really say that for a Zion Williamson signed item just yet. Pricing right now would be considered extremely cheap if he turns into the next LeBron James. Or it could be drastically over priced if he becomes a Joe Johnson type player. Multi year all star that never wins a title.
#4 We have a pretty good idea of how much product is available for retired and deceased players.
This is a big plus for investors because the quantity of items available is decently known and not growing exponentially like current players items are.
We know that there are no more signed jerseys of Mickey Mantle being signed. We know that Babe Ruth isn’t signing anymore baseballs. Yes, new autographs are being authenticated each year, but the demand far outweighs the supply.
Mickey Mantle signed a ton of baseballs in his lifetime, but nowhere near the amount some of these current superstars have.
We have no idea how many jerseys Luka Doncic is going to sign in his career. Could be 50,000. Could be 500,000. Makes it hard to invest when you don’t know what the final supply will look like.
As with anything that is collected, rarity is important. The harder the item is to find of these sought-after athletes, the more demand there will be. The farther away we get from an athlete’s passing, less and less items are available.
Yes, retired players such as Joe Montana and Jerry Rice sign all time, so this doesn’t apply to every retired athlete.
#5 We know what their stats are.
We know that Karl Malone never won a championship. We know that Michael Jordan won 6 of them. How would that affect your investing strategy had you known that before they started their careers? A ton, right?
What if Mike Trout never wins a World Series? How will that affect his pricing? Negatively I am assuming.
The more info we have on a player and the number of items in the marketplace, the more informed investments we can make. This is why retired or deceased players are safer and better long-term investments than current players.
So, what players and types of items make the best investments? Here are a few criteria I like to look for.
#1 Find limited edition or items with inscriptions.
Michael Jordan UDA #d items are golden. The most sought-after autograph in the industry. Mickey Mantle baseballs with his 536 HR inscription or a full name signed baseball. These types of items. Highly sought after because of their limited supply.
#2 Ask yourself, when I hear this player’s name do I instantly want to collect him?
Players like Babe Ruth, Jordan, Mantle, Gretzky. When you hear names like this you know there is a wide range of collectors wanting their stuff. These are the types of guys to be picking up.
#3 Does this player have a unique record, play or story behind them?
Stories and records sell. Jackie Robinson for example, I don’t have to tell you who he is. We all know what Jackie accomplished and the type of player he was. That instantly makes him very collectible and a solid investment.
#4 How likely is it that this player will do another autograph signing or have more cards made of them?
Take Willie Mays for example. I’ve talked about him a ton on the show. Willie is 90 years old. What are the odds that he does another autograph signing? 0%.
How popular is Willie Mays among collectors? Very. When you hear his name, you want to collect him. Easily a top 5 baseball player of all-time.
Does he have unique items with special inscriptions on them? Yes, I’ve bought and sold a few over the years.
Did Willie have an outstanding career and belong to any unique record clubs? Yes, he’s part of the illustrious 500 Home Run Club. Collectors love buying autographs of players in that club.
Does he have a unique story or play behind him? Yes, the Catch at the Polo Grounds.
As you can see, Willie Mays checks all the boxes of a solid long-term investment.
Of course, buying the right item at the right price are all very important aspects you don’t want to overlook.
While buying and selling the young guys is super fun. You get to watch their careers unfold right before your eyes. They are very risky purchases. 99% don’t become the players they were expected to be.
If you are looking for long-term and stable investments, consider taking a look at some retired or deceased players.
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