Best Rookie Cards to Invest In – The Full Guide

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Looking to dip your toes into the rookie cards water, but don’t know where to start?

If you’re a beginner when it comes to sports cards, it can be baffling. The sports card market is today bigger than ever and it’s only going to grow even more.

Many people collect cards for pleasure and entertainment, while others look at it as an investment opportunity.

If you belong to the latter (investment) category, and you’d like to know more about rookie cards, you’re in the right place.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at the best rookie cards to invest in, and everything you need to know about rookie cards.

Keep in mind – personally, I’m more of a person who likes to collect cards. I’ve sold cards before and will do so in the future. In fact, the real end goal for me is to have a great collection that’s pretty much paid for by my sales.

And I absolutely hate the whole ‘talking about cars like they’re an investment’ part of the hobby. However, if you’re going to get that information, I’d rather you get good information here and not a BS ‘Top 10 cards to invest in this week’ article.

I’ll use the term ‘invest’ in this article, but be aware that sports cards are not an investment in my eyes – if you want to invest money, go to a financial planner.

Rant over. Now let’s get back to the rest of the article.

What are Rookie Cards?

Rookie cards are cards of a player that comes from his first professional season in his/her selected sport.

For example, if a basketball player makes his official debut in the NBA in 2003, then the rookie cards are going to come from that season or year.

Rookie cards are one of the best cards you can invest in because they’re one of a kind. There is only one rookie card and one rookie year, while there might be dozens of other cards released in a player’s career in subsequent years.

These cards tend to be the most valuable cards of a player, but that’s just what generally happens and it’s not a rule – sometimes, you get later cards that are more pricey than rookie cards.

You might find it overwhelming to choose which rookie cards to invest in if you’ve never done it before.

There’s also the fact that nowadays, you’ll find more and more rookie sets for players that didn’t exist before, so there are more cards than ever to invest in.

Which brings us to a question: what are the best rookie cards to invest in?

To answer that question, you’ll have to ask yourself a few things:

  • How long are you willing to hold the cards for?
  • What type of card do you want?
  • How much are you willing to spend on a rookie card?

Let’s take a closer look at all of these aspects.

How Long Do You Want to Hold the Cards For?

One of the first things you need to consider when you’re investing in rookie cards is how long you’re willing to stick to your investment?

As with the stock market, you also have three types of investments with rookie cards:

  • Short-term investments
  • Long-term investments
  • A mixture of the two

Investing in rookie cards can be compared to investing in stocks. With some investments, you’ll need to hold your investments to see the yield returned in the long term.

However, some investments pay dividends almost overnight – but this also means that some rookie cards can be as unpredictable as English weather.

Sports cards are a speculative market that like stocks, change prices depending on the availability of cards, scarcity, and of course, demand. Of course, there’s many MANY differences between stocks and sports cards – no matter what some ‘influencers’ say.

The correlation between supply and demand is perhaps even more noticeable with rookie cards than with many other goods.

1. Short-Term Rookie Card Investments

Investing in rookie cards in the short term is becoming more and more common because of how quickly the trends change in sports.

The better a player does in their selected sport, the more people are going to be interested in buying their rookie cards.

And with that, the prices will go up temporarily.

This type of investment requires you to have a good deal of knowledge about the sport you’re investing in.

For example, you might want to invest in a player that is doing well at the moment and ride the hype wave when the prices are high.

Or, you might want to do some research and find players that are not doing very well at the moment but might improve in the future, which will cause the prices to go up.

Either way, this type of investing can be a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s a great opportunity to make some quick gains and profits. But on the other hand, you might find yourself with the card in your hand and the prices never go up more easily.

Pros

The pros of short-term rookie card investments are the following:

  • There are always new cards and new players to invest in
  • You can make quick flips and earn money quickly
  • If you know a sport or a player, then this could be a great method of making money quickly
  • Can be good for turning a smaller investment into a larger profit with some shrewd wheeling-and-dealing

Cons

These are the cons of short-term rookie card investment:

  • It requires a lot of work and research
  • You can easily find yourself holding the bag when the prices drop
  • Higher risk depending on who you buy

To sum it up, short-term rookie card investments can be tricky and might only be for intermediate-advanced collectors, but they can allow getting great gains if you know what you’re doing.

2. Long-Term Rookie Card Investments

These will be the cards that you want to hold for years.

This type of investment will take some patience and time, but if you’re willing to stick to them, then it’s worth it.

With this type of investment, you’re looking to buy the cards from the big boys – your Lebrons in basketball, or Messis in soccer, or Bradys in football.

You might also want to invest in the players that you think are going to be future greats for certain.

Maybe I can compare this to investing in Amazon stocks in the early 2000s, or investing in Google before the Internet was cool – you would only see results 5, 10, or even 20 years down the line.

It’s a good type of investment if you want to see a constant rise in prices as years pass by, but be careful, because if you’re not a patient person, you won’t like it!

If you opt for this type of investment, then it’s better to stick with the main brands for the sport you’re investing in. This might mean that the prices might be quite high initially, but will bring you a profit with time.

Pros

  • Player card values are going to rise almost certainly as long as there is a card market
  • Less work on constant flipping
  • The profits can be greater over a longer period

Cons

  • Can be expensive to buy
  • It takes time

3. Mixture of the Two

If you haven’t decided on which one you like, newsflash – you can do both!

You can perhaps buy some long-term investments and hold them for some time while also doing some short-term flipping at the same time.

Of course, if you decide on this type, then make sure that you have the budget to accommodate both of your investment styles.

The good thing about this is that you can make money while flipping cards and invest that hard-earned money into larger investments for the long-term, which are bound to bring you some huge profits over time.

What Type of Card Do You Want?

Sports cards come in different shapes and sizes.

Nowadays, you have dozens of rookie card choices for each player, unlike decades ago when you had two, three, or possibly some more choices.

And with so much choice, it might be a bit tough for you to know what to pick, especially if you’re a beginner.

In general, there are three card choices that you can pick:

  • Base cards
  • Parallels
  • Lesser-known sets

Let’s take a look at each option and analyze it to see if it’s for you.

Base Cards

The first and most obvious option is to buy base cards.

These are the cards that are considered to be the most important cards for each player. These cards come from the largest and most important sets such as Donruss, Topps, or Panini.

You’ll find that base cards are a great starting spot because they’re easily available and they’re also usually among the cheaper options for each player.

Today, base rookie cards are available in almost every store or online shop imaginable, so the supply is there if you’re worried that you might run out of cards. This means the cards are not going to be as valuable as parallels or rarer cards, though.

Buying base cards is probably the safest and most reliable market. You can’t go wrong with buying a Panini card for Kobe Bryant rookie card, for instance, because you just know it’s going to age well and it’s going to be valuable still in decades to come.

Parallels

The second most popular market is parallels.

These are alternative cards for base cards. They bring a different twist to the table when compared to the base card, and they’re also almost always rarer than the base card.

This means that there’s a bit of a risk with parallels included, and the prices can be quite significantly higher, especially for the rarer parallels.

If you’re looking for something different and you want alternative options, then parallels will be great for you.

But just know that you’re going to have to spend a bit more to get most of these cards, and you might not be able to find the card that you like for a sensible price.

Additional Sets

In recent years, the demand for sports cards has been growing, which means that the number of sets has also increased.

This means that one player might have dozens or even hundreds of different sets – some of which you might not even know about.

There has never been more variety in terms of rookie cards, which is a plus since you’ll have many great options to choose from.

However, if you want the soundest possible investment for the future, then I’d recommend that you stick to the main sets for that particular year and for your chosen sport.

That’s because these sets are a proven investment and they’re going to do very well in the future, and they’re also going to be more in-demand than a set that not many people know about.

Of course, you always have the freedom to buy whatever you want, and that’s the beauty of sports cards – but from an investment POV, stick to main sets.

What Budget Do You Have?

Which rookie cards you’ll choose will also depend on the budget you have. If you’re a budget investor, then you’re probably going to be priced out of a lot of options that you might like.

Older rookie cards, parallels, and rarer cards are always going to be more expensive, so keep that in mind.

You’ll also find quite a lot of cards that are meant specifically for people who don’t want to invest a lot of money into rookie cards.

But the good news here is that no matter what money you’re prepared to invest, there will always be an option for you.

Sports cards offer you a chance to make some money with a little investment, but you’ll need to be shrewd. It’s always best to have a goal in mind about what you want to do with your money.

For example, if you want to gather enough money for that special card you’ve always wanted, that will be your motivation. Or perhaps you’re investing into sports cards as a side project, or maybe even more than that.

How To Find Rookie Card Values

One important aspect of investing in rookie cards is finding out the values for each card. This will allow you to gauge the viability of your investment and you’ll be able to know whether you’re making a good choice or not.

In general, these are the most common services/sites that people use to find rookie card values:

  • 130point.com for eBay cards
  • Market Movers app – probably the best paid option especially for tracking sealed boxes, as well as for tracking how your collection grows over time
  • Card Ladder– a decent alternative but it doesn’t have as many cards as the other two