2021 has begun and the hobby is blazing hot. If we thought 2020 was an incredible year for the hobby, only a month and a half into 2021 and things have gotten to an even higher level. Cards seem to double in price from week to week. Market growth is going so fast you can barely keep up with it. Focus has shifted from prospecting to legends and hall of famers. And, finding things to collect is getting difficult among this huge rising tide.
While the way we used to collect has definitely changed forever, there is still things to enjoy in this hobby. First and foremost don’t despair. Don’t spend over your budget, and try to avoid rising trends. Collecting is about having patience, don’t succumb to FOMO (fear of missing out). Remember that if you don’t feel comfortable paying the price of a given card, then you don’t have to buy it just to have it. Here is an example of how I have approached the rising tide in the hobby.
For 2021, I set myself a few collecting goals. One of those goals was to finish the 1986 Fleer Basketball Sticker set. I wanted to acquire the cards in the best grade possible without breaking the bank. I set myself a budget and dove myself in research. I know gem grades are rare and expensive, so I ruled those out immediately. I decided to start my research for cards graded 9 through 8, both in PSA and BGS. I pulled up the population reports for each player for grades 9, 8.5, and 8. After I had an understanding of the rarity of each grade, I proceeded with market research. I used all available resources for prices: Cardladder.com, PWCC market research, sportscards.com, and of course eBay completed listing. After all was said and done, I decided to focus in BGS 8.5 versions of the cards. I always start with the rarer players in a set. I already had the Jordan, so the next best card is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Luckily one was available on eBay with a best offer. Once that was locked in at BGS 8.5, the rest started to follow. While most of my purchases were made on eBay, I did find some nice deals in COMC.com.
Then something interesting happened: the market shifted and started paying more and more attention to the Fleer 1986 set. Prices started to fluctuate and I saw the rising wave coming in the distance, but approaching fast. The ending price for the Kareem sticker doubled in the week after I bought it in the same grade, BGS 8.5. When I saw asking prices going up for the cards I needed, I decided to quickly pivot and change strategies. While I wanted the set in all BGS slabs, some great deals in PSA 8.5 and PSA 8s appeared, so I added those versions to complete my set. Once a set is complete you can always upgrade it later. You can move the lower grades and keep the higher one in favor of recouping some cash for the new purchase. This particular case was interesting to me because I was able to spot the rising trend as it was happening. So, I was able to adapt my strategy allowing me to stay on budget. Having done the proper research on the set, cards, and grades, allowed me to quickly identify the best deal available. There is definitely enjoyment still to be had in the hobby as a collector. Just make sure you make your plans and stick with them. After completing the 1986 Fleer Master set with stickers, I had to reevaluate my goals for 2021 since the market has shifted strongly in favor of the players and type of cards I usually go for. Now more than ever you need to know and research what you want. And, if your gut tells you the price of a given card you want is too much, then pay attention to it.
The way we collect has been shaken up to its core. We are all realizing we need to change the way we approach it. While the recent trends have been great for value gains for our current collections, it has become a problem for adding new cards. If you feel lost or discouraged about the state of the hobby, simply take a step back and enjoy what you have. Remember all the goals you have already reached and the joy they brought. Shift and refocus your strategy, and remember collecting is a marathon, not a 100-meter sprint. Find other like-minded collectors to share with and network. You will be surprised what a good network of collectors can do for your collection.
For me completing the 1986 Fleer set with the stickers was my 1st goal for 2021. The hobby and market have changed so much in the last month that I will need to reevaluate what I want to do next. So I have decided to keep my options open; and instead of hyper focusing on one specific card, I will go with the flow and see what opportunities present themselves.