The booming sports card market has a lot going for it. The cards you own are worth more. The cards you part with sell for more. You sell more of them.
Then there’s the other fun stuff.
I’d love to buy more cards, but I can ‘t afford everything. I wish I hadn’t bought that. Why didn’t I buy that instead? Why did I sell that card six months ago? Look what it’s worth now!
I saw a post on Instagram this week from a seller who had pulled a 2018-19 Luka Doncic card from National Treasures last year and immediately sold it for a little under $20,000. Now, it’s on eBay where it’s already been bid up past six figures. Well, that is some cause for a serious dose of regret, but as he pointed out, who knew what would happen?
Why didn’t I buy YouTube stock after flying home from the 2006 National and reading an article about how this young upstart video site was starting to get really hot? Why didn’t I buy Amazon stock in 1997 instead of two weeks ago?
Do I wish I’d bought a 1952 Topps Mantle when a nice one was about $5,000? Sure, but at the time I didn’t have $5,000 to spend. I could have borrowed it even at loan shark rates and still done OK, but it would have been scary and who really knew they would eventually be worth what they are now?
Many times, i’ve written or talked about cards that seemed to be underrated or undervalued. Turned out I was right and pretty much all of them have since jumped in price. Did I buy them myself? Of course not.
Ah, regret. It’s a blast!
But sports cards are supposed to be a hobby. If you’re mad or sad all the time, you’re not doing it right. What’s that old saying? ‘It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.’
Don’t fall out of love with 1933 Goudey cards because you can’t afford even a low-grade Ruth anymore. Buy Jimmie Foxx or Hack Wilson. Dizzy Dean or Sam Rice. They were memorable players, too. The cards are just as old and just as cool and you can buy a bunch of them for a fraction of the price of a beat up Babe.
Keep in mind, too, that things ebb and flow. What’s hot today may not be so hot next year.
One thing I do know is that it’s never a bad strategy to buy cards you like at a price you don’t mind paying. This week, I bought several vintage pre-1950s cards that I like for various reasons. I paid a little more than I would have paid a year ago because just about everything is more expensive. Do I wish I’d have bought them in 2019? Or 2015? I guess. But my focus then was a little different.
Having a 1911 Turkey Red Cy Young is hard to regret. It came from a wonderful lifelong collection that just entered the hobby. Even if it’s never worth more than I paid for it, I have a legendary player in one of the best looking sets ever made. It’s not “high grade” but it’s not bad. I just thought it was a pretty good value. I have another card from the set that I bought a few years ago and love so I felt good about adding another. I’ll probably never have the resources to own a full set, but that’s OK. They take up a lot of room anyway.
I bought a few other cards I liked for various historical reasons, too. I like my collection to have a little meaning rather than just an ever-expanding “portfolio.” I probably could have taken the amount of money I spent on the five cards I bought and purchased a single card that I wasn’t all that interested in but thought would appreciate in value a lot more than these will. Financially, it probably would have been a better move, assuming the market continues to thrive. Make the smart money move now and you can buy more later. I’m not saying one way is right and one way is wrong. It just depends on your motivation, I guess. For the most part, I still think like a collector rather than an investor.
The cost of collecting may be forcing all of us to make some choices. I feel especially bad for set collectors who’ve been waiting to cross some of the more valuable cards off their want list only to see them shoot out of sight, but you know something? It’s always been that way. Maybe what you buy will be worth more years from now. Some stuff you thought about buying will skyrocket. C’est la vie.
Shoulda, woulda, coulda can be fun to talk about with fellow collectors and it’s really the sign of a healthy hobby. If you’re truly in it because you love cards, though, it’s usually more fun to buy what you’d buy if none of this stuff was worth much of anything.