What was once thought of as the baseball card boom turned into a two-decade nightmare for the hobby–one that’s still continues in the minds of some. The late 1980s and early 1990s saw an unprecedented number of buyers enter the market and card stores pop up on every corner. With a few years, many were gone and for the last 15-18 years, the “baseball cards are dead” story has been written countless times in the mainstream media.
Those who invested in rookie cards back then didn’t see much of a return. Many potential collectors were turned off. Still, the hobby has endured and a few things haven’t changed. Fans still love sports. They still like to gamble. And the internet has turned the world as we once knew it on its ear. That bodes well for those who like to buy cards with the hopes of making a profit.
While the current state of the hobby probably includes far too many products, it’s a more regulated industry. There’s a bit of a debate about what constitutes a rookie card in the current market but collectors of baseball cards have let it be known that it’s the Bowman lines that they prefer and that brand has become the home of the rookie card.
The first time a hot young player makes his cardboard debut is the card collectors want. Autographed versions are king. Print runs, unlike the 1980s and 90s, are limited because of the autograph angle. Prices are steeper, yes, but that can also mean a savvy collector/prospector/dealer can make more money faster.
At least that’s the analysis of analyst Jeff Hwang who wrote a two-part series for The Motley Fool this past week on the market for modern baseball cards, essentially stabbing at the myth that the baseball card market is no place to look for speculators. In part one, he analyzed the difference between graded cards and ungraded cards of major rookies and dove into those smaller print runs yielding upside leverage.