The best thing about the sports cards collecting industry is that there are products for every type of collector. Throughout this article I will be using the term “product” a number of times. In the sports card industry, product basically refers to a box of cards. Card companies (mainly Panini America and Upper Deck) release many hockey products listed at various prices throughout given years. I have been a hockey card collector for a little more than 3 years now. During these 3 years, I have met many sports card collectors. Some of these collectors have been a part of the hobby for many years and others have just recently started to form their own collections. Although it is almost impossible to come across the old-fashioned packs that cost a nickel or quarter, there are ways for any collector to have a collection that he or she will be satisfied with.
Know What/Why You Collect:
Before a rookie sports card collector can build a collection, he or she must know what and why they collect. Personally, I mainly collect Ryan Miller cards because he is my favorite player in all of sports however I do have a small side collection that is composed of other players I like. As stated in the previous paragraph, the sports card industry has a little something for every type of collector. Because hobby boxes (boxes that contain a breakdown of what is guaranteed to be inside it) can have a price range of $50-$400+, it is essential to know what type of collector you are. Listed below are some of the types of collectors that I have met and know of:
Favorite player/team collectors: Like myself, these collectors seek cards that are of a favorite player or favorite team. The greatest benefit about being this type of collector is that there isn’t a need to purchase hobby boxes and hope to pull a card that fits your collection. An Alex Ovechkin collector can buy an autographed card of Ovechkin for $80 rather than spending that money on an $80 box that has little chance of containing an autographed card of an NHL superstar.
Set collectors: Every sports card product has a card set list. A set list is basically a list of that contains cards with its sets and sub-sets. An example would be that card number: 028 belongs to Tyler Ennis of the Buffalo Sabres. This means card number 028 is part of sets that the set list says it belongs to. Say a product has a set titled “Stanley Cup Signatures” and that this set is composed of autographed cards of players that have won the Stanley Cup. A set collector would go after all the cards that go with this set. Why? A set collector may just really like the set and would like to obtain all cards that go with the set. Another reason could be to resell the completed set to another collector that might like that set. Being a set collector could be costly because many of these collectors buy many hobby boxes in hopes to obtain the cards that belong to a specific set. One strategy could be to straight up buy only the cards that fit your set however this could also be very time consuming and costly.
Specific role players collectors: I haven’t met many of these types of collectors but rest assured they do exist. An example of this type of collector would be one that only collects goaltenders or even one that only collects cards of captains that played for a specific team. I have found it rare to come across these types of collectors but I have met some that only collect autographs and jersey/patch cards of goaltenders that have or currently play for the Montreal Canadiens. Being this type of collector means you will likely spend most of your money on cards that fit your specific checklist of what is acceptable for your collection. This also may be time consuming.
“1 of 1” collectors: Many hits (cards that are numbered or contain an autograph, piece of jersey, jersey patch etc…) are a one of a kind. By this I mean these cards are the only ones made for the product. These cards are easily identifiable since “1/1” or “1 of 1” is printed on the front or back of the card. The tricky thing about these cards is that they lack a specific value. Considering the card is the only one made of its kind, the value of the card relies on the owner’s opinion of the card. Values of 1/1 cards can change over time as it is handed down from one collector to another. Generally speaking, 1/1 cards are fairly expensive especially if it is a card of a superstar player. The picture below is an example of such a card:
*Alexander Ovechkin 1/1 NHL Logo Shield Autographed card from 09-10 UD Ultimate Hockey Collection
Buy-to-make-money collectors: These collectors typically take risks. Some of these collectors may include buying cards in hopes they gain value over time so a profit can be made. Other collectors of this type may take greater risks by buying the most expensive hobby box products in hopes to pull a major hit such as the Ovechkin card pictured above. Personally, the only collectors I have met that fit this type are those that own their own card shops. Card shop owners might buy a box or two of a product that they just received in hopes to resell the cards that were pulled for a profit. On some level, many collectors have a bit of this type in them. I know I would trade away a card of my favorite player for a card that has potential to be worth more in the future.
Do-it-all collector: These collectors basically have multiple collections of various interests. This type of collector may have collections that are all Washington Capitals players, Russian-born goaltenders, 1/1 cards, and cards that belong to specific sets. The best thing about being this type of collector is that no card is worthless to you. Every card pulled from a pack or box will have its place somewhere in one of your many collections.
Know the Values of Cards :
In my opinion, the biggest mistake a rookie collector can make is believing different cards of the same player have similar value. An example of this is the old notion that states that rookie cards are worth more than cards that were made the following year. Generally speaking this is sort of true. An Evgeny Kuznetsov 14-15 base rookie card would be worth more than a Kuznetsov not-numbered base card that belongs to a 15-16 product. However not all Kuznetsov rookie cards are worth the same. Below are pictures of 2 different Kuznetsov rookie cards:
Although both of these Kuznetsov cards are rookie cards, the one on the right side is worth more. The one of the left sells for $1.50-$3.00 on eBay and the one of the right side sells for $10-$15 also on eBay. The “Young Guns” set is one of the most sought after sets for base rookie cards. If a collector wanted to just collect Kuznetsov cards, it is to his or her advantage to know the values of Kuznetsov’s cards and not to overpay for some of those cards.
Know Where Your Money Is Going:
This tip goes out to those collectors that are interested in purchasing packs and boxes of cards. It is essential to understand the difference between retail packs/boxes and hobby packs/boxes. A hobby box will guarantee the collector specific cards whereas a retail box is made up of a totally random assortment of cards. In other words, a hobby box may guarantee the collector at least 3 autograph cards out of the 15 packs in a box however a retail box has no guarantee of an autograph. There are hobby box products that offer more autographs than cards with game-used jersey/patches on them. If you are a collector that prefers autographs over jersey/patch cards, it is beneficial to read the contents of a box and know exactly what you are buying. Below are pictures of 2 hobby boxes that have their guaranteed box breakdown:
One picture shows a hobby box of 13-14 Panini Crown Royale. This box clearly states that inside of it there are 4 packs of 5 cards each. The box also guarantees that there are 4 autographs or memorabilia cards per box with at least one of those 4 cards being an autograph card. The other picture shows a hobby box of 13-14 Panini Contenders. This box states that there are 18 packs of 5 cards in each pack inside. If you are a collector that prefers autograph cards over anything else, you are better off purchasing the Panini Contenders box.
*Side note: If you are unsure if a product offers cards you like, I highly recommend watching videos on Youtube of people opening boxes. This way you will feel more confident if you are to go forth with a purchase of a box.
Just Have Fun!:
Regardless of your collection preferences, my biggest tip to collectors is simply to enjoy and have fun with your collection(s). I have been collecting for a little more than 3 years and despite a number of changes to my collection; I enjoy selling, buying, and trading with other collectors. Although I mainly collect Ryan Miller memorabilia, I enjoy obtaining any nice looking cards. I can either sell it so I can buy more Miller memorabilia or keep it and see where things go with the card. I hope the information I have provided throughout this article helps readers that plan to become sports cards collectors. Enjoy!
By Mike Rangel Twitter: @SabreTheMoment