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Paying Market Price for Sports Cards: Don’t Miss Out on Profit

The title says it all, and I think we’ve all done it at one point or another. You search and search for the card you’re wanting to buy at the price you’re wanting to buy, but you just can’t find the right deal.

You send offer after offer and get decline after decline. 

I’m going to use some examples over the next few paragraphs, from my own personal experience, to help you not fall in to this trap in your own card buying ventures. I will show a few charts to help visualize these missed opportunities. It all starts with Sam Darnold. 

A few months back, I had a strong feeling Sam Darnold’s cards were going to see a big increase. Before you tell me how dumb I am for wanting to get behind Sam Darnold in an Adam Gase ran offense, hear me out. This wasn’t a “I think Sam Darnold’s going to light the world on fire with his arm and his prices are going to go all Lamar Jackson on us” situation. This was simply a situation where his prices didn’t seem to fit in with his peers. Regardless of how good or bad he is, he’s still one of only 32 starting quarterback’s in the NFL and QB’s got all of the love at that time. (Although we’re finally seeing non-QB’s get some love too). And at this point in time, I was bullish in general on QB’s seeing a run up. Since I already perceived him as mis-priced compared to his peers, and I expected QB prices to go up across the board, I had a strong conviction on Darnold.

Check out this comparison chart of Darnold, Baker Mayfield, and Josh Allen for the month of June. 

Personally, I didn’t see any reason for Darnold to be around half the cost of the other two guys. I could go deeper into the reasons I felt/feel Darnold was/is mispriced compared to his peers, but that’s not what we’re here for. I want to talk about…

Paying Market Price When You Have Strong Convictions

As “investors” we’re always trying to find a deal. In the earlier days of this modern day sports card gold rush, finding deals was easy. But people are smarter, and prices are higher now. It has become very easy to miss out on opportunities, because you want to pay the price of where the card has been. In reality, you’re only focus should on where the card is going. The past is gone, you’re now in the present. Don’t squander the moment and the future gains that are presented to you. 

So let’s get back to my Darnold situation. In early early June, I set out to buy PSA 10 graded Sam Darnold Prizm base cards. Full disclosure, I ended up buying several other Select/Optic cards, so I didn’t miss the boat completely, but I did miss one big opportunity.

Just before this time, the 2018 Sam Darnold Prizm PSA 10 was selling for $80-100. That seemed like a great price. Count me in for as many as I could find. There was just one problem. I couldn’t find any at that price anymore. Everything was sitting at Buy It Now prices around $120-125. But that wasn’t my target price, I wanted to pay $80, and would be fine paying $100 max. So I did what any savvy investor would do. I set out making offer after offer on eBay in the $80-100 range. 


In hindsight, this should have been the glaring thing I needed to see that market had moved up. I should have bought up as many of the BIN prices at $120 and accepted any and all counter offers at $110. Let’s take a look at this card over the past 90 days or so.

I’ve made some marks on the above chart to show you some important points. I got caught trying to buy at the Red line, when the market was clearly at the Yellow line. I could have bought all day at that Yellow line, but I was too stubborn. As you’ll see I cost myself over $100 because I didn’t want to pay $10 more measly dollars.

Now, I’m not saying you should always pay more than your max price. It’s VERY SMART to set limitations and stick to those. On the flip side, some of the worst decisions can be made in the spur of the moment when you decide to pay more for something than you really should. 

But, when you have a strong conviction on a card and you believe the card could go up by $100, read the room and take a long hard look at whether or not you should reassess the most you’re willing to pay for a card. 

Let’s take a look at one more example. This one is even more painful and cost me to miss out on thousands, because I was stubborn over a couple hundred dollars. During the NBA shut down, I noticed 2018 Luka Doncic Optic Holo prices really slipping. I knew the pop count on these cards were very low and that if and when demand picked back up, these cards should increase rather quickly. So I set out to pick up a PSA 10 and PSA 9 of the card. Let’s take a look at the charts for both cards and then I’ll provide some analysis on the situation.

In this situation, I had set my thresholds at the following:

PSA 10 – $2,000
PSA 9 – $650

There were some previous sales below both of these marks. In fact, I was really hoping to get a PSA 10 around $1,700 to $1,800. But the above prices were my max. As you can see now, if I would have just been willing to pay the price of the Yellow line, where the price sat for several days, I could have had the opportunity to realize several thousand dollars of profit in a short period of time. In this case in particular, compared to the Darnold example, supply was very limited. Therefore, it should have made it even easier to pay market price since I felt that a increase was inevitable. On low population cards, the price can move up in a hurry if demand picks up as well.

Hopefully these examples will help you in your future buying ventures. If you have a strong conviction on a card, don’t be afraid to pay market price. It’s easy to fall into a mindset of only wanting to pay where the card has been and it’s easy to miss out on some real profits. The past year has been a wild ride and there have been way more wins than losses like the examples I’ve outlined, but you always want to use the losses or missed opportunities as learning experiences. 

I think that moving forward, we will see the opportunity windows close much quicker. Meaning those who are quickest to react will be the ones to make the most money. With new tools at your disposal like our card charts with population reports, you will be able to better identify these opportunities as they arise. 

To sum it all up. If you think you know where a card’s price is going, don’t get hung up trying to buy it at the prices it’s already been. 

Eric – Co-Founder, SellThePeak (Click here to follow on IG )

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