High-end sports cards made headlines in the past year with a number of seven-figure sales, with a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card becoming the most expensive card in history, selling for over $12 million. It has become an asset class that investors have started to take seriously - but what are the reasons for everyday investors to get exposure?
While the sports cards market saw a downturn in 2022, historically, sports cards, particularly the blue-chip ones, have represented an excellent investment. The PWCC 100 Index, a rolling list of the top-100 cards in the industry, has outperformed the S&P 500 significantly over the past five years as of August 30th, 2022. Since 2008, even the cards ranked 101-2500 have seen a 283% gain versus the 175% gain the S&P 500 has seen.
CardLadder’s Indices are also a valuable source of macro data, broken down by sport and price point, with their CL50 a measure of blue-chip cards. The CL50 was down 19.8% in 2023, however their Pre-War (high-end cards from before 1945) index was up 29.3%.
Be aware that micro data for individual athletes and cards are just as, if not more, important than macro data for the industry and individual sports.
Though the market was down in 2022, auction houses continue to see record volume and media interest remains high with all of the record sales that took place in the past few years. Card show attendance is still booming, with over 90,000 attendees at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City, surpassing 2021 totals. Anecdotal evidence abounds of younger collectors flooding shows across the country.
Expect more record-breaking sales going forward and a rise in interest as sports card collecting continues to become more mainstream. The acquisition of card giant Topps by Fanatics for $500 million signals growing optimism that the card boom is here to stay and not just a passing fad.
Tied to Athlete Performance
Sports cards represent a way to invest in player performance on a more long-term basis than sports betting does. Sports fans who believe that certain young players will become all-time greats can see the value of their portfolio rise with the fortunes of their favorite athletes. Imagine investing in LeBron James cards at the beginning of his career, or Shohei Ohtani cards before the 2021 season. As with a lot of the other asset classes that have seen huge gains in the past year, sports cards are simply more enjoyable to invest in than traditional asset classes. As interest grows globally through sports like soccer and basketball, the market will only grow with it.