Faced with a worldwide pandemic and the upcoming presidential election, American investors are battling a historic case of motion sickness.

In March alone, the seesawing Dow Jones had both its best and worst days ever, and the historic market volatility shows no signs of stopping after ballots are cast on November 3, regardless of the outcome. Even gold – generally thought to be a safe bastion for uninitiated investors – has faltered in late 2020 after roughly two decades of steady gains.

But for market-weary Americans searching for a safe way to grow their savings, a trusted name has re-emerged and it isn’t JP Morgan or Goldman Sachs.

It’s Mickey Mantle.

No, the deceased Yankees legend didn’t leave behind any investing tips; but Mantle’s name on a vintage trading card now serves as a better indicator of value than any triple-A rating from Moody’s or Standard & Poor’s.

Take his famed 1952 Topps rookie, which has seen its average market value rise to $362,222, according to PWCC Marketplace, a trading card website and auction house. In 1988, a mint-condition Mantle rookie card sold at auction for just $3,300; 30 years later, the price for a mint-condition Mantle rookie jumped to a whopping $2.8 million. 

Then there’s his 1953 Topps card, a less-celebrated item that still fetched $2.5 million at auction earlier this year — not to a single buyer, but rather a host of stakeholders who paid $25 a share in an SEC-regulated online market.

And it’s not just Mantle, although his cards are the best symbol of a booming industry that insiders value at around $5 billion. Now, due to the development of new investment tools and the sudden rise in speculation, prices are soaring and hobbyists are evolving into Wall Street day traders.

‘The market’s just on fire,’ PWCC director of business development Jesse Craig told the DailyMail.com. ‘We’re very fortunate to be in the business that we’re in right now during a pandemic and still be thriving.’    

Mickey Mantle's famed 1952 Topps rookie (pictured) has seen its average market value rise to $362,222, according to PWCC Marketplace, a trading card website and auction house. In 1988, a mint-condition Mantle rookie card sold at auction for just $3,300; 30 years later, the price for a mint-condition Mantle rookie jumped to a whopping $2.8 million.

Mantle's 1953 Topps card is less-celebrated, but still fetched $2.5 million at auction earlier this year ¿ not to a single buyer, but rather a host of stakeholders who paid $25 a share in an SEC-regulated online market.

(Left) Mickey Mantle’s famed 1952 Topps rookie (pictured) has seen its average market value rise to $362,222, according to PWCC Marketplace, a trading card website and auction house. In 1988, a mint-condition Mantle rookie card sold at auction for just $3,300; 30 years later, the price for a mint-condition Mantle rookie jumped to a whopping $2.8 million. (Right) Mantle’s 1953 Topps card is less-celebrated, but still fetched $2.5 million at auction earlier this year — not to a single buyer, but rather a host of stakeholders who paid $25 a share on Collectable, an SEC-regulated online market

According to the back of Mickey Mantle's 1952 Topps rookie, the switch-hitting centerfielder was a prospect to keep an eye on

According to the back of Mickey Mantle’s 1952 Topps rookie, the switch-hitting centerfielder was a prospect to keep an eye on

To be clear, the market has enjoyed steady, if unspectacular growth for decades.

One primary reason is that investors typically have an emotional attachment to vintage cards, many of which are heirlooms. And that sentimentality can make card owners less likely to sell than, say, a Tesla stockholder during an economic downturn.

‘I’d rather own a $500 card than a $500 stock, right?’ asked Craig.

With the sobering influence of sentimental card owners, the high end of the market has steadily outperformed blue chip stocks for several years. 

Since 2008, PWCC’s index of the top-performing 500 cards based on auction prices has a return on investment (ROI) of 216 percent compared to just 135 percent for the S&P 500.

CARDS vs. STOCKS 

High-profile entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk told DailyMail.com that the most valuable cards may likely outpace blue chip stocks 'over the next several decades'

High-profile entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk told DailyMail.com that the most valuable cards may likely outpace blue chip stocks ‘over the next several decades’

No, trading cards are not inherently more valuable than stocks, nor are they automatically a safer investment. But according to Gary Vaynerchuk, a high-profile entrepreneur, speaker, and author, the top end of the trading card market offers more than blue chip stocks because of its dwindling supply and surging demand. 

‘I don’t think that sports cards are a safer bet than the stock market or Wall Street. I think that in the super premium, top-3 percent of sports cards, they will outpace the stock market over the next several decades,’ Vaynerchuk told the DailyMail.com. ‘There are a ton of variables that go into such a question, but I think that if you’re educated on culture and sports, sports cards are a really good alternative for a lot of those individuals. 

‘I think the scarcity at the super premium – cards [with] less than a thousand in a perfect grading case or production – are very, very attractive pieces of art that have huge potential to outpace blue chip stocks.’

(Vaynerchuk is the co-founder of the restaurant app, Resy, and serves as the chairman for his communications company, VaynerX, and the CEO of VaynerX subsidiary VaynerMedia)

Those analytics may seem too sophisticated for a product that was famously packaged with tobacco and bubble gum in the 20th century. But to insiders, the modern investment tools fueled the trading card market’s steep rise in 2020, which, oddly, may have been sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘I think it was kind of this perfect storm this year with coronavirus.’ said Craig.

‘Everybody’s sitting at home with time on their hands… They started going through their old stuff, got reinvigorated, started paying more attention.’

According to Craig, the number of buyers on the PWCC Marketplace platform doubled over the last six months as the hobby’s popularity has caught up with modern investing.

‘There needed to be a level of sophistication in our market to really take it to the next level,’ said Craig. 

‘Once investors are equipped with tools and can actually view our market as a legitimate, tangible asset class, then it makes all the sense in the world for people to invest in these [cards] versus your traditional stocks and those kinds of things.’

Now collectors can buy and sell cards over secure internet platforms, most of which work to protect consumers from fraud while using sophisticated vaults to store auction items. The various prices and trends are calculated, charted, and analyzed like any other commodity. 

And for those who can’t afford a $2.5 million Mickey Mantle card, there’s fractional ownership — an emerging market that gives investors a chance to buy shares of a card or collectible that they may never hold or even see in person. It’s even regulated by the SEC.

Collectable, an online fractional trading card market, was recently launched with that in mind, and started by auctioning off the aforementioned 1953 Mantle card at $25 a share.

‘The vast majority of people would never be able to afford to buy a $2.5 million item, but odds are they’re on board to buy one share of that for $25,’ Collectable CEO Ezra Levine told DailyMail.com.

For investors, the process isn’t much different than logging onto E-Trade or a similar platform. As Levine explained: ‘It’s exactly like what it’s like to buy shares on the public exchange.’

And as was the case when the New York Stock Exchange was created in 1792, fractional buying can have a democratizing effect for investors.

‘We love those guys,’ Craig said of Collectable. ‘It is a way to truly get the masses involved in our market. I think it’s the future of our market to an extent.

‘It’s going to create a real day-trading experience,’ added Craig, who hinted that trading card mutual funds may be on the horizon.

Sellers can even retain majority ownership of a card and sell off a minority stake if they ‘need money for whatever personal reason,’ Levine explained.

Naturally, the Wall Street tools and metrics have led to a rise in speculation, which has bolstered the value of modern cards more so than their vintage counterparts.

Since May, the sales record for modern cards has been broken by a Mike Trout rookie ($900,000) and a LeBron James rookie ($1.8 million).

Then in August, another autographed Trout rookie sold for $3.9 million, eclipsing the record for all cards — old and new — set in 2016 by the famed 1909 Honus Wagner ($3.1 million). 

Since 2008, PWCC's index of the top-performing 500 cards based on auction prices has a return on investment (ROI) of 216 percent compared to just 135 percent for the S&P 500

Since 2008, PWCC’s index of the top-performing 500 cards based on auction prices has a return on investment (ROI) of 216 percent compared to just 135 percent for the S&P 500

Now collectors can buy and sell cards over secure internet platforms, most of which work to protect consumers from fraud while using sophisticated vaults to store auction items. The various prices and trends are calculated, charted, and analyzed like any other commodity. In this picture, one of PWCC's storage vaults can be seen

Now collectors can buy and sell cards over secure internet platforms, most of which work to protect consumers from fraud while using sophisticated vaults to store auction items. The various prices and trends are calculated, charted, and analyzed like any other commodity. In this picture, one of PWCC’s storage vaults can be seen 

Before the pandemic, sports trading card shows were the best way to find a great deal, many of which are now found online

Before the pandemic, sports trading card shows were the best way to find a great deal, many of which are now found online 

Don Flanagan of Mastronet, a sports memorabilia auction company, unveils the T206 Honus Wagner baseball card June 6, 2000 in New York, when it was auctioned off for $1.27 million. By 2016, a similar Wagner card went for $3.12 million

Don Flanagan of Mastronet, a sports memorabilia auction company, unveils the T206 Honus Wagner baseball card June 6, 2000 in New York, when it was auctioned off for $1.27 million. By 2016, a similar Wagner card went for $3.12 million 

Now, like traders buying up penny stocks, collectors are investing in new packs or even entire cases of modern cards in hopes of obtaining an asset that could ascend in value.

‘They see a lot of these big numbers that Mike Trout cards are getting,’ Craig said. ‘And they look at it and go, “Well, what if I can predict the next Mike Trout?” And guys start betting. Everybody’s a scout.

Since May, the sales record for modern cards has been broken by a Mike Trout rookie ($900,000) and a LeBron James rookie ($1.8 million). Then in August, another autographed Trout rookie (pictured) sold for $3.9 million, eclipsing the record for all cards ¿ old and new ¿ set in 2016 by the famed 1909 Honus Wagner

Since May, the sales record for modern cards has been broken by a Mike Trout rookie ($900,000) and a LeBron James rookie ($1.8 million). Then in August, another autographed Trout rookie (pictured) sold for $3.9 million, eclipsing the record for all cards — old and new — set in 2016 by the famed 1909 Honus Wagner

‘Instead of betting on the specific game, now I can bet on this athlete,’ Craig continued. ‘And every single time he touches the field or court, I’m invested in him succeeding.’ 

Card values rise and fall for a number of reasons, with a player’s performance being the most obvious and significant.

For instance, as the Lakers were steamrolling through the playoffs en route to a 17th NBA Title earlier this month, James’s 2003 Topps rookie card was rising to an average value of $4,500 – an 800 percent increase from last year, according to Stockx.com, a website that sells sneakers and other collectibles.

Another James rookie, his 2003 Topps Chrome card, has an average price of $13,800 over the last 30 days, which is a 600 percent increase from 2019.

And in September, after Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo won his second NBA MVP, the ‘Greek Freak’ saw his rookie card sold at auction for a modern day basketball record of $1.81 million.

Rare items obviously offer more value, which is why card companies have been more calculating in recent years about oversupplying the market. That’s one reason modern cards tend to be worth more than those made in the 1980s and 1990s. 

‘They did mass production of everything [in the 80s and 90s] and there’s not a ton of stuff that’s worth a lot from those eras,’ Craig said.

Another factor has been foreign money from populations that have only recently embraced sports memorabilia, as China and the Philippines have with basketball cards.

‘The demand from Asia is a big part of that,’ Craig said, adding that Australia has also become a major investor in the basketball trading card market.  

Honus Wagner, the famed Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop, is perhaps best known as the subject of baseball's most famous card

Honus Wagner, the famed Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop, is perhaps best known as the subject of baseball’s most famous card 

Some modern basketball cards include a patch from the player's jersey, like this $1.8 million LeBron James rookie card

The card is authenticated on the back

Some modern basketball cards include a patch from the player’s jersey, like this $1.8 million LeBron James rookie card

Rare items obviously offer more value, which is why card companies have been more calculating in recent years about oversupplying the market. That's one reason modern cards tend to be worth more than those made in the 1980s and 1990s

Rare items obviously offer more value, which is why card companies have been more calculating in recent years about oversupplying the market. That’s one reason modern cards tend to be worth more than those made in the 1980s and 1990s

Although they’re more stable, older card values can fluctuate when a former athlete resurfaces in the news.

Following the popularity of ESPN’s 1997-98 Chicago Bulls documentary, The Last Dance, Michael Jordan collectible prices soared over the summer.

Remarkably, the auction price for a case of 1986-87 Fleer basketball cards jumped to $1,491,431 in August on the chance it contained several Jordan rookies, which have sold for as much as $99,630 in recent months.

Kobe Bryant jerseys have seen an 86 percent spike in value following his death in January, according to StockX

Kobe Bryant jerseys have seen an 86 percent spike in value following his death in January, according to StockX

Death is an undeniable factor as well in sports memorabilia.

For instance, Kobe Bryant jerseys have seen an 86 percent spike in value following his death in January, according to StockX. 

There are anomalies too.

In 2019, an old Mark Jackson basketball card was revealed to contain convicted murderers Erik and Lyle Menendez seated in the background behind the Knicks guard. As it turned out, the photograph was taken during their infamous spending spree after they killed their parents in 1989, but prior to their 1990 arrests.

A mint condition original printing of that card now sells for nearly $400 on eBay after being relatively worthless beforehand. 

A more notorious 1989 card featuring then-Orioles second baseman Billy Ripken now regularly sells for hundreds of dollars because, as many collectors know, the words ‘f*** face’ can be seen written on the bottom end of that bat he’s holding in the picture.

Of course, no investment is entirely safe and some sports memorabilia can decline in value due to its condition, market supply, or other factors.

OJ Simpson’s Heisman Trophy, for instance, was appraised at $400,000 during his 1997 Civil Trial into the violent deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman. However, the 1968 statuette was sold at auction in 2019 for just $255,000. (Simpson was acquitted of their murders in criminal court, but found responsible for their deaths in civil court. The statue is now believed to be owned by Rick Reviglio, a construction wholesale supplier in Reno, according to ESPN. It is not known how much Reviglio paid for the statue)

In September, after Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo won his second NBA MVP, the 'Greek Freak' saw his rookie card sold at auction for a modern day basketball record of $1.81 million

In September, after Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo won his second NBA MVP, the ‘Greek Freak’ saw his rookie card sold at auction for a modern day basketball record of $1.81 million

In 2019, an old Mark Jackson basketball card was revealed to contain convicted murderers Erik and Lyle Menendez seated in the background behind the Knicks guard (far left). As it turns out, the photograph was taken during their infamous spending spree after they killed their parents in 1989, but prior to their 1990 arrests. A mint condition original printing of that card now sells for nearly $400 on eBay after being relatively worthless beforehand

A more notorious 1989 card featuring then-Orioles second baseman Billy Ripken now regularly sells for hundreds of dollars because, as many collectors know, the words 'f*** face' can be seen written on the bottom end of that bat he's holding in the picture

In 2019, an old Mark Jackson basketball card was revealed to contain convicted murderers Erik and Lyle Menendez seated in the background behind the Knicks guard (far left). As it turns out, the photograph was taken during their infamous spending spree after they killed their parents in 1989, but prior to their 1990 arrests. A mint condition original printing of that card now sells for nearly $400 on eBay after being relatively worthless beforehand. A more notorious 1989 card featuring then-Orioles second baseman Billy Ripken now regularly sells for hundreds of dollars because, as many collectors know, the words ‘f*** face’ can be seen written on the bottom end of that bat he’s holding in the picture

OJ Simpson's Heisman Trophy (pictured) was appraised at $400,000 during his 1997 Civil Trial into the violent deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman. The 1968 statuette was sold at auction in 2019 for just $255,000. The statue is now believed to be owned by Rick Reviglio, a construction wholesale supplier in Reno, according to ESPN. It is not known how much Reviglio paid for the statue. (Simpson was acquitted of their murders in criminal court, but found responsible for their deaths in civil court)

OJ Simpson’s Heisman Trophy (pictured) was appraised at $400,000 during his 1997 Civil Trial into the violent deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman. The 1968 statuette was sold at auction in 2019 for just $255,000. The statue is now believed to be owned by Rick Reviglio, a construction wholesale supplier in Reno, according to ESPN. It is not known how much Reviglio paid for the statue. (Simpson was acquitted of their murders in criminal court, but found responsible for their deaths in civil court)

Remarkably, the auction price for a case of 1986-87 Fleer basketball cards jumped to $1,491,431 in August on the chance it contained several Jordan rookies, which have sold for as much as $99,630 in recent months.

Jordan's Fleer rookie card is among the most sought after cards on the market

Remarkably, the auction price for a case of 1986-87 Fleer basketball cards jumped to $1,491,431 in August on the chance it contained several Jordan rookies, which have sold for as much as $99,630 in recent months.

Many speculators buy boxes of trading cards in hopes of pinning down a Luka Doncic rookie (pictured), which have already been sold for $237,000 despite the fact that Dallas Mavericks sensation is just 21 and has only played two NBA seasons

Many speculators buy boxes of trading cards in hopes of pinning down a Luka Doncic rookie (pictured), which have already been sold for $237,000 despite the fact that Dallas Mavericks sensation is just 21 and has only played two NBA seasons

Then there are the modern card speculators, who buy boxes of cards in hopes of pinning down a Luka Doncic rookie, which have already been sold for $237,000 despite the fact that Dallas Mavericks sensation is just 21 and has only played two NBA seasons.

‘A case of cards from his rookie year is now like $40,000,’ Craig said. ‘You get four boxes to try and search for a Luka and you’re not even guaranteed to hit one.

‘So it’s a lot of speculation and a lot of hype,’ Craig continued. ‘Investors look at it and say, “if he wins a championship with the Mavs and then a couple of MVPs, this card could be worth $400,000-$500,000,” so people are willing to roll the dice.

The backs of cards remain informative. In this Mike Trout rookie, Topps reveals that he could pitch the ball at 90mph

The backs of cards remain informative. In this Mike Trout rookie, Topps reveals that he could pitch the ball at 90mph 

‘The flip side is, if he snaps his leg and he’s never the same, the card is going to be worth a quarter of what it is now. It’s a big risk-reward with these modern cards.’

So no, the trading card market is not a full-proof way to make money, and investors can still go broke chasing the latest trends.

But if there is one advantage to the modernization and securitization of the industry, it’s that investors have the tools to protect themselves with the help of regulators and other third parties, whether that’s offering transparent data or vetting the merchandise itself.

We’re still talking about decades-old scraps of cardboard here, so any investment is inherently risky. Only now, there is a level of accountability that rivals more traditional markets.

‘I can’t promise that everything we put on the market is going to make money for people,’ Levine said. ‘It’s a market. Things go up, they go down, whatever. I can’t control that.

‘But we do a tremendous amount of work to ensure authenticity, to vet users, to vet consigners. Everything has to go through SEC and financial regulatory bodies, so I think we’re doing a lot in that area.’

Now, like traders buying up penny stocks, collectors are investing in new packs or even entire cases of modern cards in hopes of obtaining an asset that could ascend in value. (Pictured) A vendor displays hockey trading cards at a sports memoribilia show on November 12, 2011 in Mississaugua, Ontario

Now, like traders buying up penny stocks, collectors are investing in new packs or even entire cases of modern cards in hopes of obtaining an asset that could ascend in value. (Pictured) A vendor displays hockey trading cards at a sports memoribilia show on November 12, 2011 in Mississaugua, Ontario

source: dailymail.co.uk

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