This or That?

One of my hobbies and side-hustles is collecting and flipping trading cards. It was a hobby I enjoyed as a child and one I have picked up and set back down many times in the years since the late 1980s. Over the past year I have been trying to find my groove.

I watch a handful of YouTubers trying to get inspired on how to balance a collection with investing and flipping. If all of this sounds confusing thus far, let me try to spell it out more clearly.

Collection – these are trading cards I own that bring me joy when I admire them. For example, a 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card may not be the most rare or valuable card I own but it immediately brings me back to being 11-12 years old ripping $1 packs (the “regular” Topps, Donruss, and Fleer were half the price) in hopes of getting my hands on “The Holy Grail” at the time.

The 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. is one of the most iconic Junk Wax Era trading cards of all time.

Investment – these are cards I am holding on to for the long term. Personally, I am picking up key and iconic rookie cards I feel will increase in value over time. I am also picking up the highest graded cards I can afford of iconic players such as Mickey Mantle and Roberto Clemente for Major League Baseball and Jim Brown for the National Football League as an example.

Flipping – these cards I buy and re-sell for a profit ideally to fund my collection and investment. This can be a bulk lot of base cards from a hot release like Panini Prizm of Topps Chrome or a complete set that I will break up and sell individually or when I was buying 2020 Topps Chrome Randy Arozarena RCs for around $1 and re-sold for $15-20 each during their peak. That card can be had on eBay for roughly $5 these days. (As an aside, those cards enabled me to purchase a PSA graded 1964 Philadelphia Jim Brown, a PSA graded 1975 Topps George Brett RC, among a couple of other less notable cards).

Looking back at 2020 I realize I could have made some better decisions. Not every purchase yielded Arozarena-caliber results. Also, if you know of anybody looking for Aristides Aquino RCs let me know! I have a “few” extra. In 2021, I hope to make some better choices.

High cost or high upside?

Let us say I had roughly $200 after some successful flips and whatever I could justify using from my “personal” bank account. For that I could likely find a lower-tier PSA 9 graded 2018-19 Luka Doncic RC or I could opt for a lower-to-mid-grade Micky Mantle or Willy Mays card from the 1960s. Tough choice, huh?

Doncic is one of the biggest rising stars in the NBA while Mantle and Mays are ICONIC MLB Hall-of-Famers. Doncic has a sky-high ceiling in terms of potential while the icons have proven careers. Which would either bring me the most joy to own and/or carry the most value say 5, 10, 20 years from now?