How To Start a Trading Card Collection
Collecting trading cards is a hugely popular, global hobby with thousands of subjects to choose from.
Our How To Start a Trading Card Collection guide should have you building a fascinating collection in no time.
Decide what you like: You’ll no doubt have a good idea which genres you’re passionate about. It may be baseball, it may be Pokémon or Star Trek. If undecided, a visit to a trading card convention should help you make up your mind.
Limit yourself: When starting out it may be tempting to have lofty ambitions. “I’m going to collect every hockey card ever made”, you might say. Far better to start small. This enables you to maintain your focus, build up excellent knowledge in your area of and avoids the danger of losing your enthusiasm under the size of the project you have before you. In addition, a concentrated collection is much more attractive to other collectors. For example, if you’re a hockey fan, look to collect cards from a particular season, team or just focus on rookie cards. And remember, there’s often more than one trading card manufacturer for each season so be sure to pick the one you like most and stick with it.
Remember that grading is key: With all but the rarest cards, the grade of the card is generally the difference between a valuable item and an also-ran. Grading itself is a skill. If you can learn to size-up a card it will give you a strong advantage over those who can’t, ensuring that you can benefit on those rare occasions when the graders get it wrong.
To open or not? There is a special allure of an unopened pack of trading cards, particularly in these times of “inserts”, which offer collectors the opportunity to own small pieces of sports clothing or equipment used by the particular sports star. Unopened baseball packs from the 1950s can often achieve three figures.
Buy through a reputable auctioneer or dealer: While obtaining unopened vintage packs can be a good way of quickly building up your collection, for the rarest cards it will often be necessary to buy through auctions or dealers, as your chances of finding a gem in an unopened pack are slim. It’s a regrettable fact of the hobby that many forgeries do exist. Purchasing through a dealer or auctioneer who provides you with a lifetime guarantee gives you the confidence that the trading cards you are buying are genuine. There are also many opportunities to buy and trade at shows and via online communities – as always, do your homework and don’t rush into a deal; not everyone is as honest as they appear.
Storage: Many collectors store their trading cards in large binders with small plastic sleeves, which enable you to view both the front and back. This enables you to keep your collection safe and still visible. Sleeves are available to meet a range of sizes of trading card. Keep your most valuable cards in plastic sleeves but store them in an acid-free archival box for safe keeping. Keep the box in a clean, cool, dry and dark area.
Tell your family and friends: There’s nothing like waking up on Christmas morning to find Honus Wagner in your stocking.
Get together: There’s a large community - both physical and online - out there able to give you tips and encouragement. It’s also a great way to engineer trades between fellow collectors.
Be patient: Collectors with an eye on making a profit should be willing to hold on to their cards for several years in order to make a solid profit.
Learn the terms: The jargon can be confusing for the novice. Our List of trading card collecting terms will assist.