Why “The Market” Sucks for The Hobby

Sports cards are far more expensive than they were as little as a year ago. They are also more valuable. After all, what something is worth depends on what someone will pay for it, right? This value has even been recognized and publicized beyond traditional sports cards hobbyists recently. People have been drawn to cards as an investment or at least as a way to flip something to make a buck. Lots of interest, publicity, celebrities getting involved, values going up – all good things, right? Right…?

Or nah.

I collect sports cards. Collect. I’m in this because it’s an enjoyable hobby that doesn’t cost too much. I have a day job to make money. I would prefer to never sell a single card. I have my PC teams and players, but I also enjoy cards in general. Unique insert card? Neat! Great looking autograph? Very cool! Big hit of a current star player? Glad to have it! If I go into a big retail store, I’ll usually at least consider picking up a blaster box or hanger pack. I love being able to spend around $100 on a hobby box of a product with an appealing design and the possibility of a big pull. I’ve even bought an entire case of a product once or twice, and opening those was a blast!

My kids have learned in school over the last few months about “needs” versus “wants.” Sports cards are inherently a “want.” They serve no useful purpose in life. Can’t eat them, can’t wear them, they are impractical to build shelter with. You can burn them… but there are better, cheaper fuel sources. I find room in my budget to buy them because they bring me joy, but I also consider with every purchase whether it’s worth the opportunity cost of what else I could do with the money. That’s where the big boom lately has really rubbed me the wrong way. I can easily still afford to buy cards, even at inflated secondary rates on retail, but with prices the way they are, cards have largely become a poor use of my money. If a box costs more than my car payment, I’m out. When my “hobby” becomes expensive to the point that truly enjoying it is detrimental to my finances, it’s time to stop. I have not bought a hobby box of a new sports card product in almost a year. Prices, especially for any brand new product, have gotten to where I just don’t enjoy paying for cards.

The other thing that sucks for me is not just the prices, but the skyrocketing values of some of what I already have. Wait, how could that be bad?! As I said, I’d prefer never to sell a card. That doesn’t mean I never have sold a card. I’ve pulled a few (or gotten them in breaks) that were just selling for too much at the time to justify keeping them. Also, I moved to a new house last fall, and I sold quite a few cards (including some PC stuff) to help with moving costs. High values are good there, right? Well, the reason they aren’t is this – I’m now looking at my cards in light of how much money they could be instead. One of the cards I sold was a 2005 Topps Chrome Aaron Rodgers rookie that I bought several years ago for about $40. I sold it because it was going for $250, and I could not justify keeping it at that price when my family needed the money. It’s great that I could do that, but as a collector, it sucks. I find myself looking at some of my favorite cards now thinking, “That could be a new couch” or “That could help pay off the car.” I don’t want that. I want to look at these cards and think, “That’s cool damn card, and I’m glad I have it!”

I know the uptick in cards has brought lots of new faces to the hobby, and I truly welcome them. There’s an awesome community here, and new faces just add to it. I recognize plenty of us, myself included, have been able to bring in some much needed extra income from increased card prices. I don’t begrudge anyone the opportunity to earn a living. All that said, the boom in the card market has really put a damper on sports cards as a hobby for me, and it sucks, because I’m not in this as an investment. I’m just here to enjoy collecting cards.



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2 responses to “Why “The Market” Sucks for The Hobby

  1. John Bateman

    Two years ago, I bought a Luka Doncic Hoops rookie for about $4 shipped on ebay, I thought maybe in 10 years it might be $10. I just sold it for over $100.

    I kind of want my cards to be worthless, I enjoy them more but if the valve is going from $4 to $100 in 2 years I selling.

  2. loqtus

    This is America, so capitalism can’t really be criticized that much. But it still irks me that so many people get into the hobby to make a buck. Like you, I don’t care what my stuff is worth in terms of cash, it’s more valuable to me in terms of either the connection to the pictured player or the labor of love that I put in to build that set. Flip all you want, but don’t burn base cards and don’t throw stuff in a box to never be seen again because it won’t sell for double digits…

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