This isn’t necessarily advice that will shock anyone but it bears repeating anyway: Anyone who’s looking to make a profit off of sports cards will want to buy low and sell high. That’s not advanced economic theory that requires a Ph.D. It’s the very basis of investments and finances.
There’s a few different ways to accomplish this. It might mean buying up cards before a player is about to become very popular. The well-worn example of late is that Michael Jordan’s cards skyrocketed in value again alongside the airing of ESPN’s Chicago Bulls documentary “The Last Dance.” Or, a player who’s due to go into the Hall of Fame soon usually sees an increase in public interest prior to their inauguration. When more people are thinking about a player, that player’s cards are worth more.
However, the most traditional example is the path that takes the longest to pay off: Buying rookie cards when there’s uncertainty as to how their careers will shake out. It’s a long-term investment. Here’s where we think you can get the most bang for your buck in each of the four leagues.
The NBA might be the toughest call right now because there are two clear-cut choices above everyone else. It’s Zion and Ja, we all know it. But here’s the thing. They’re so hyped up that their card values are already super-inflated. If you’re deadset on investing in either of these guys, maybe wait for their second year in the league. There’s a chance a temporary sophomore slump will push their card prices down a bit and you can get a bargain.
As far as the 2019-2020 class goes, the Miami Heat’s Tyler Herro seems like a good under-the-radar bet. Herro would’ve been a Rookie of the Year candidate if he didn’t miss five weeks with an ankle injury. He’s a shooting guard who’s capable of getting streaky enough to shoot other teams out of the arena. Herro’s also playing a prominent role on an Eastern Conference contender, and he’s only going to get better as he matures.
Alternate picks: Kendrick Nunn (Herro’s teammate who’s actually outshining him despite being undrafted); Coby White (who really found his scoring touch after the All-Star break and broke 20 points in 8 of 9 games), and RJ Barrett (if he can lead the Knicks back to relevancy, New York is a giant market and that will turbo-boost the value of this cards).
Sometimes the obvious pick is the right pick. Joe Burrow is the NFL prospect who stands the best chance of seeing his card value grow.
As we previously wrote, popularity dictates price and the most popular players tend to be the ones who put up gaudy offensive stats. The Quarterback position is built for that. It’s the reason a QB wins the NFL MVP nearly every year. Running backs are replaceable and wide receivers split targets. QBs are the ones who reliably end up as franchise guys.
Burrow, fresh off leading LSU to an NCAA championship, was the first pick in the NFL draft. He was the top-rated QB by a mile. Really, in investing in Burrow, you’re basically just betting that the Bengals don’t screw him up.
Alternate picks: Tua Tagovailoa (there are injury concerns, but he draws comparisons to Drew Brees and that’s fantastic company to be among, and CeeDee Lamb (stands a chance to make an immediate impact in Dallas’ high-gunning offense with Dak throwing to him).
If you look at a ranking of MLB prospects, you won’t find our next guy anywhere near the top. Yet, he has people buying up boxes of Bowman Chrome hoping to find his cards.
The hottest MLB prospect is the New York Yankees’ Jasson Dominguez. I could tell you how Dominguez is a true five-tool outfielder who some scout call “the best [they’ve] ever seen.” Or, I could mention that he’s nicknamed “The Martian” because of how out-of-this-world his skills are. But here’s the tidbit that should erase any doubt in your mind: He’s widely considered to be the next potential Mike Trout.
The reason Dominguez isn’t highly ranked among all prospects is because he’s only 17 years old and hasn’t yet played in the Yankees’ minor league system. Still, his rarer autographed parallels are easily fetching $10,000 on eBay.
Alternate picks: Spencer Torkelson (the overall first pick in the recent 2020 MLB draft, Detroit’s third baseman of the future who can absolutely mash), Wander Franco (a well-known prospect who might have a cheap-ish card because he plays in Tampa before he inevitably gets lured away for huge free agent money), and Gavin Lux (the reigning Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year and probably a staple of Dodger blue in the very near future.)
We’re going to cheat a little bit here because it’d be disingenuous to promote one of these guys as clearly superior to the other. The best young NHL player to invest in is Cale Makar and/or Quinn Hughes.
These guys are neck-and-neck for the NHL’s Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year, and they’re extremely similar players. The both represent a new age of defenseman: agile, fast, not all that big, and ready to contribute on offense. Hockey is changing and these guys were tailor-made to be superstars the way the sport is played now.
I’ll give the edge to Makar though. Is that because I’m an Avs fan? Yes, yes it is.
Alternate picks: Kirill Kaprizov (the two-time Russian goal-scoring champ is going to make a huge splash in the NHL, but it’s uncertain when he’s going to sign his entry-level contract and join the Minnesota Wild), Alexis Lafreniere (he’s the presumptive first pick in the upcoming NHL draft, with Quebec junior hockey stats that can only be topped by Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Drouin.