If you’re looking for the best sports cards to invest in midway through 2021, you’ve come to the right place!
Best Sports Cards to Invest in 2021
Sports cards are back in the headlines and are hotter than ever, and this time we think they’re here to stay.
“Trading-Card Mania Inspires New Reality TV Show From The Makers Of Pawn Stars” – Bloomberg and “The prices of sports cards and odd collectibles are booming” – The Economist.
Best Overall Investment: 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck RC (Buy on eBay)
Best Vintage Investment: 1909 Ty Cobb T206 Tobacco Card (Buy on eBay)
Best Budget Investment: 1992 Mariano Rivera Bowman RC (Buy on eBay)
The return on investment (ROI) on certain cards over the past 4-5 years has been insane. For example, the 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck and 2011 Mike Trout Topps Update are two excellent examples as both have increased in value by more than 700% from 5 years ago.
Here, we will discuss the best sports cards in which to invest your hard-earned cash. You may also want to check out our “Ideal Sports Card Investing Portfolio” write-up to determine how to allocate your sports cards in terms of risk.
For example, there’s much less risk in a Hall of Fame player such as Ken Griffey Jr. compared to a current player such as Zion Williamson).
We may update the list below from time to time and add a new face or subtract one that didn’t quite pan out. But the Hall of Fame players will always have a spot as they are your safest bets.
However, the top ROI usually comes in the form of a first or second-year player who is just starting their career (i.e. LaMelo Ball), but these do carry more risk.
Just remember the above when investing in sports cards..
Best Baseball Cards To Invest In 2021
1993 Derek Jeter SP Foil RC #279
A few years ago, we saw this card as a brilliant short-term investment due to the likely price hike once he was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The MLB HOF ceremony took place in July 2020, and sure enough, Jeter gained 99.7% of the vote to earn his spot.
There’s still time to grab a cheaper copy, with prices likely to rise further as nostalgia kicks in.
The back of the card reads “The first high school player has taken (and the sixth overall selection) in the 1992 draft, Jeter hit a .324 clip for Class-A Greensboro in the first half of 1993.”
We suggest investing in PSA 6, 7, 8, or 9’s and BGS 8, 8.5, 9 or 9.5.
2019 Wander Franco Bowman Chrome RC #100
Here is a solid prospect card for anyone who wants to get on the Wander Franco hype train before it takes off.
The 2019 Wander Franco Bowman Chrome RC will surely be looked at as the most popular and possibly most valuable of all of his rookie cards.
As well as the card seen above, there’s also a signed edition which is numbered #CPAWF.
We’re buying this card in all parallels, as we believe the No. 1 overall prospect has what it takes to succeed in the major leagues.
2017 Ronald Acuna Jr. Bowman Chrome RC #BCP127
If you’d prefer a long-term investment, we’re personally holding onto this Acuna Jr. card for the next 10 years if all goes to plan.
Not only can Ronald Acuna Jr. blast the ball out of the park (great power), he also hits for a high average and even has a good deal of speed – which is very Mike Trout-esque!
“Sure, he can be a little flashy but the talent is right up there with Mike Trout, Cody Bellinger, and Juan Soto”
We like his 2017 Bowman Chrome card as a great long-term investment (Chrome base and Refractors).
Ty Cobb T206 Red/Green Portrait HOF Baseball Card
Ty Cobb has a duo of portrait cards that are highly sought after in the T206 set.
There are four overall, and the Green Portrait is the rarest, with Bat on Shoulder, Bat off Shoulder, and Red Portrait making up the quartet.
The red and green backgrounds are some of the more popular versions and are a must-have for serious collectors.
Ty Cobb T206 cards are an excellent investment and should steadily rise in the long-term.
1989 Ken Griffey Jr. 1989 Upper Deck RC #1
This is a true no-brainer.
The Griffey Jr. RC is an iconic card to millions of kids who came of age in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
It’s the signature card of an era in which the hobby reached its highest highs. We have seen the card steadily climb in value every year since we started tracking prices.
2018 Topps Ronald Acuna Jr. Bat Down Rookie Card #698
This card may very well end up as the most popular Ronald Acuna rookie card. Numbered #698, this card has exploded in value and is quickly becoming a must-have for Acuna Jr. collectors.
(The card is an error as the normal card has the bat pointing upwards.)
We love this card and actually prefer this over the Acuna 2017 Bowman Chrome card, it is truly one of the best sports cards to invest in if you can tolerate a moderate level of risk.
1987 Greg Maddux Leaf Rookie Card #36
We really like this Greg Maddux Rookie Card for a few reasons, number one being the ‘stache! A young, babyfaced Maddux with a mustache is awesome to behold.
“Secondly, when was the last time you remember seeing Leaf mentioned in a list of the best baseball cards… The answer is never.”
Thirdly, we have always loved the signature light blue “rated rookie” logo printed on the bottom of the card.
On top of everything we’ve mentioned, this card is cheap when compared to many of the others on this list (for now).
When we first added Maddux to the list you could find PSA 10 copies for roughly $230/240.
As of May 2021, this has now jumped to the $700-$1,000 range.
2011 Mike Trout Topps Update #US175
This is the most iconic baseball card since the 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck RC, and the price jump over the last few years definitely reflects that.
“A PSA 10 graded card will now go for well over $3,500”
When we first started this blog, the Mike Trout Topps Update Rookie Card PSA 10 was going for $400 to $500.
That’s insane profit, and a reminder of why it’s a great idea to stick with legends and potential GOATs.
1909-11 Ty Cobb T206 Bat Off Shoulder #350
The second T206 Cobb card to make the list, we think that the “bat off shoulder” T206 card is another great long-term play.
We love the multi-color background and his stone-cold stare off into the distance.
We also love the potential for profit in the future.
1992 Mariano Rivera Bowman Baseball RC #302
Mariano Rivera is not only the best relief pitcher off-all time, but also one of the most underrated rookie cards in baseball in terms of price and eye-appeal.
The card has made up ground in terms of value over the last year but should still have a big upward track over the next few years.
Trending: Best Muhammad Ali Cards To Buy Now
Now, let’s talk about that outfit. Not only does it have nothing to do with baseball, you would think he was a high school principal or maybe a semi-pro in tennis, anything other than the relief pitcher for the NY Yankees.
We absolutely love this card!
2016 Fernando Tatis Jr. Bowman Chrome Refractor RC #CPAFT
Fernando Tatis Jr. proved his rookie year was no fluke as he has been the best player in the game over the last few seasons.
This kid is loaded for bear and he is only 22 years old!
Either his 2016 Bowman Chrome rookie card or the 2016 Bowman Chrome Refractor RC are two great options for long-term investors.
Best Football Cards To Invest In 2021
2020 Justin Herbert Panini Prizm RC #325
Drew Brees and Tom Brady are on their way out but we have some great young talent at the QB position that look ready to take over.
One of those young bucks is Justin Herbert, and this kid is clearly the real deal.
We feel that Herbert’s rookie cards are undervalued, and that they are severely undervalued based on his long-term potential.
A great card to capitalize off this young phenom’s career is the 2020 Justin Herbert Prizm RC.
A dark horse candidate in 2021, thank us later when he wins his first MVP award.
2000 Tom Brady SP Authentic Rookie Card #118
This card is the certified GOAT of Tom Brady’s rookie cards and is one of our best picks for long-term card investing.
It is numbered #118 and has a print run of only 1,250 copies. This card is on another level, combining rarity and artistic appeal.
2017 Patrick Mahomes II Panini Contenders Rookie Ticket #303
Patrick Mahomes may be ushering in a new era in football – out with the old (Tom Brady) and in with the new.
We fully expect Mahomes to win at least one more Superbowl and maybe even run a string of them together to move the dynasty West to Kansas City (bye-bye New England).
All of Mahomes’ rookie cards are great investments but we particularly like the Panini Contenders Rookie Ticket and feel as though this one has the greatest ROI relative to his uber-expensive rookie cards.
1986 Jerry Rice Topps RC #161
Jerry Rice was without a doubt the best receiver the NFL has ever seen; and likely will ever see.
His work ethic was second to none, (well maybe Michael Jordan) and his desire to win was just as great.
Numbered #161, the 1986 Topps Rice rookie card seems somewhat undervalued to us given the greatness of the player.
It might have something to do with how bad this Topps set looks, with bright colors that clash with the border.
Best Basketball Cards To Invest In 2021
2018 Luka Doncic Panini Prizm RC #280
The 2018 Luka Doncic Prizm rookie card has been nothing but jaw-dropping since he first arrived on the scene.
Top Investment: Best Luka Doncic Rookie Cards
It’s a must-have for any serious investor attempting to maximize profit from their sports card collection.
“The Luka Doncic Panini Prizm Rookie Card is a must-have for collectors and is one of the best investments; if not the best investment in the entire hobby”
The card is also available in a variety of rare parallels.
1986 Michael Jordan Fleer Rookie Card #57
Michael Jordan rookie cards are some of the greatest investments in the hobby, and the ’86 Fleer is the best by a wide margin.
Not only is it a top-rated card for investment purposes, it’s also one of the best-looking basketball cards on the planet with a classic Jordan dunk and an iconic border design.
Prices for the Jordan Fleer RC have exploded, but we’d still advise to buy in if you’re aiming for a solid ROI year in year out.
2020 LaMelo Ball Panini Prizm RC #278
LaMelo Ball’s rookie season reminded us of Luka Doncic until he got injured. He hasn’t been the same since but is still putting up insane numbers for a player of his age.
We feel the 2020 Prizm LaMelo Ball rookie card is a no-brainer investment for a rookie who will soon be a triple-double threat nightly.
It’s just a shame that he missed 21 games with a fractured right wrist.
1996 Kobe Bryant Topps Chrome Rookie Card #138
The 1996 Topps Chrome Kobe Bryant rookie card was always going to make the list.
Not only is it an absolutely gorgeous card, it should be an ROI beast over the next few years.
The potential value is also influenced by his untimely death in January 2020.
Consider if a Kobe documentary similar to the Michael Jordan doc is released, the value of this card is likely to skyrocket.
2009 Kobe Byrant LeBron James Topps Chrome Refractor #24
Although not officially a LeBron James card, it might as well be as the 2009 Kobe/LeBron Topps Chrome Refractor has broken out from a cult following to reach mass market appeal.
We named this card as one of the best-looking cards of all time, and you can find the article here.
“The 2009 Kobe/LeBron Topps Chrome Orange Refractor may go down in history as one of the most iconic cards in the hobby”
The card obviously looks amazing but it also seems to hold a hidden, deeper message in the image.
Two of the best of all-time, one on his way up, one on his way out, and the passing of the old guard to the new guard with the ball being the key.
Maybe we’re reading too much into this but regardless, we want this card more than anything.
2013 Giannis Antetokounmpo Panini Prizm Rookie Card #290
The Giannis Antetokounmpo Prizm RC is one to hold onto for the next decade.
We like the Orange Prizm version but it is hard to find, not to mention it will set you back by a significant amount!
“The Giannis Antetokounmpo Prizm is a good bet for most investors”
We would not be surprised to see three or four more MVPs from Antetokounmpo, although Luka Doncic may have something to say about that in the future.
2003 LeBron James Topps Chrome Refractors RC #111
Every serious collector in the hobby should have a copy of this card in their investment portfolio.
The 2003 Lebron James Topps Chrome RC is on fire and the ROI in the last few years is insane.
It is still not too late to buy this card as, like fine wine, the price will only go up if current trends continue.
Best Hockey Cards to Invest In
1990 Jaromir Jagr Upper Deck RC #356
Jaromir Jagr is one of the most underrated players/rookie cards in the hobby.
The 1990 Jagr Upper Deck RC is an icon in our eyes as many of us on staff can relate to tearing open more than a few packs of 1990 UD in search of this bad boy.
We consider it to be a great-looking card that is somewhat undervalued based on where it will be 10 years from now compared to other HOF-type players who dominated their sport similarly to the way Jagr did.
2005 SP Authentic Alexander Ovechkin RC #190
For a time, this was the only hockey card on this list and should be seen as a must-have for long-term investors.
In our opinion, Ovie is already the best player to ever lace up the skates and is a scoring machine even in the “dead puck era” (imagine what he would have done in the ’80s and ’90s).
The 2005 SP Authentic Alexander Ovechkin RC will cost more than $2,000 but is worth the price long-term as this card will only go up over the years.
The card is numbered #190 and the back reads “The top overall pick in 2004, Ovechkin can play both the physical and the finesse games, blending blazing speed with a 212-pound frame”.
1990 Pavel Bure Upper Deck Young Gun RC #526
The 1990 UD Pavel Bure card ranks right up there with the 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. UD RC as an iconic card for kids who came of age during the ‘junk wax era’.
Numbered #526, the Bure Upper Deck Young Guns RC is a thing of beauty and should have a tremendous potential ROI moving forward.
For whatever reason, it seems hockey cards were more popular than any other sports card for a brief period of time during the early 1990s.
1990 Eric Lindros Score Canadian Future Superstar RC #440
Like the Pavel Bure RC mentioned above, the 1990 Score Eric Lindros Future Superstar RC was what dreams were made of for many kids in the early 90’s.
Look out for the Canadian version in particular as it’s much rarer.
Numbered #440, the card shows Lindros cruising up the rink looking to make a pass or shot towards the net.
Hockey was king in the early ’90s among sports cards, although you will have to contend with the massive print runs seen at the time.
2005 Sidney Crosby SP Authentic Future Watch RC #181
The 2005 Sidney Crosby SP Authentic RC is not only one of our top hockey cards to make the list; it’s also one of our favorite sports cards ever.
Decades from now this RC is going to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars if not more.
A true masterpiece from one of the best hockey players of all time.
1990 Martin Brodeur Score Canadian RC #439
Martin Brodeur is the best goalie to ever stack the pillows; and by a wide margin.
He was a professional in every way and has the championships to prove it.
The 1990 Score Canadian Hockey set makes another appearance on this list, and for good reason.
Numbered #439, this Brodeur rookie card wasn’t a huge deal at the time when we first pulled it but it has aged exceptionally.
This card should have an excellent ROI moving forward, and could get even better as collectors realize just how good Brodeur was (and this was a time of massive goal scoring).
1979 Wayne Gretzky O-Pee-Chee RC #18
The Great One. Enough said.
A note about hockey cards.
Many were predicting NBA cards and the NBA, in general, to take over as the most popular/profitable sport in the US. For the most part that is generally correct as the NFL has faced many issues.
We recently read that ‘Hockey is the new Basketball‘ ten years from now.
In other words, there are predictions that hockey will become the most popular sport in the United States over the next decade.
ESPN did just purchase the NHL viewing contract.
However, they have to increase the scoring, (and excitement) if this is to happen.
Best Soccer (Futbol) Cards To Invest In 2021
2004 Lionel Messi Panini Sports Mega Cracks La Liga RC #71
Potentially the top soccer RC in the hobby, it’s no surprise as the 2004 Panini Sports Mega Cracks contains an image of Lionel Messi in his trademark Barcelona kit.
The only drawback is it will cost you the price of a brand new Range Rover at higher grades and is only going up as he edges closer to retirement.
1993 Zinedine Zidane Panini Soccer RC #261
A much more affordable soccer card to invest in for the average collector also happens to feature one of the greatest midfielders of all time.
To be honest, we have always loved Zinedine Zidane since the ‘headbutt heard around the world’, which was a shocking end to a World Cup final, as well as the player’s career.
Zidane went on to manage Real Madrid, leading the team to an unprecedented three Champions League wins in a row.
Best Golf Cards To Invest In 2021
2001 Tiger Woods Upper Deck Golf RC #1
It may not be the most expensive Tiger Woods rookie card, but the Upper Deck Golf RC is a solid pick nonetheless.
Numbered #1, it’s a great-looking card that should have nothing less than a great ROI moving forward.
Maybe not as great as the ‘2001 SP Authentic Auto Gold #45 /100 RC, but that card simply isn’t obtainable for the average investor.
1965 Arnold Palmer Bancroft Tiddlers Giants Of Sport RC #26
A wonderful vintage card hailing from 1965 featuring Arnold Palmer, it hails from the Bancroft Tiddlers “Giants of the Sports” set.
These hand-cut cards have illustrations on the front, with info about Palmer’s illustrious career found on the reverse.
Best Boxing Cards To Invest In 2021
1987 Mike Tyson Panini Supersport Italian #160
There are a number of Mike Tyson boxing cards that are worth checking out, but the 1987 Panini Supersport Italian is the one that stole our hearts.
Numbered #160, the card features a jacked Tyson ready to demolish a poor, helpless soul. A patriot crowd-pleasing picture of old glory in the top right-hand corner finishes this masterpiece of a boxing card.
We purchased this card a year ago and couldn’t be happier with it.
1979 Muhammad Ali Venorlandus Our Heroes World Of Sport Boxing #3
When picking the Ali card it was a close race between the ‘1979 Venorlandus Our Heroes World Of Sport Boxing Muhammad Ali #3’ and the ‘1960 Hemmets Journal Cassius Clay Muhammad Ali RC #23’.
Ultimately, we went with the Venorlandus card as there is something about the uniqueness of the design that you rarely see.
This is another boxing card on this list that we have purchased in the past year.
Top Rookie Cards To Invest In 2021
Below is a list containing our picks for the best rookie cards to invest in for the maximum return on investment in 2021.
Best Baseball Rookie Cards
Right now we are investing in the following baseball rookie cards:
- 2020 Jasson Dominguez Bowman Chrome Prospects RC #BCP8 (BUY ON EBAY)
- 2019 Wander Franco Bowman Chrome RC #100 (BUY ON EBAY)
Best Basketball Rookie Cards
Right now we are investing in the following basketball rookie cards:
Unlike baseball, these are players in the league now contending for the 2021 NBA ROY. The above card is a sick Anthony Edwards Prizm RC Parallel in the form of the Purple Ice!
- 2020 LaMelo Ball Panini Panini Prizm RC #278 (BUY ON EBAY)
- 2020 Anthony Edwards Panini Prizm RC #258 (BUY ON EBAY)
Best Football Rookie Cards
Right now we are buying the] following football cards:
Best Hockey Rookie Cards
Like basketball, we are buying the best hockey cards containing players competing for the ROY in 2021.
Only one kid here worth buying as hockey isn’t fun as it used to be. Bring back goal scoring!
We think Kaprizov would have been a lock for 50 goals in 50 games if he was playing in the early ’90s.
- 2020 Kirill Kaprizov Upper Deck Young Guns RC #451 (BUY ON EBAY)
Best Place To Buy Sports Cards
- We purchase 80% of our cards at eBay but have also used Heritage and Goldin Auctions.
- Avoid shady websites and dealers as they tend to overcharge.
- Avoid Amazon.com when buying sports cards. From time to time you might find a good buy now deal but for the most part, the prices are inflated and they don’t do auctions.
Best Boxes Of Sports Cards To Buy
Do not buy a hobby box expecting a positive ROI, the majority of the time the value of the cards you receive will not equal the amount you spend on the hobby box.
However, there are few boxes that do offer a decent chance at hitting it big, and over the long haul could potentially result in a positive ROI.
Another reason to buy a hobby box is the sheer joy you got from ripping packs as a kid! It brings us back to a time when life wasn’t so stressful!
Get a group of your friends together and go in on some hobby boxes (the ones listed below would be a good start). Order a pizza, put some beer on ice, and sit around for a couple of hours ripping packs.
Without further ado; here are some boxes of sports cards that are worth a purchase if you want the most bang for your buck!
1993 Upper Deck SP Foil Baseball Hobby Box
We have bought this box a number of times and have had some great results.
Out of the four hobby boxes we bought, a total of 5 Derek Jeter rookie cards were pulled. Two graded PSA 8, one graded PSA 9, and the other two came back PSA 5 and PSA 6.
1993 Upper Deck SP Foil key cards to pull: 1993 SP Foil Derek Jeter #279, 1993 SP Foil David Justice #280, 1993 SP Foil Manny Ramirez #285
2011 Topps Update Hobby Box
This hobby box provides you with a chance of scoring the legendary 2011 Mike Trout Topps Update Black Border rookie card.
2011 Topps Update key cards to pull: 2011 Topps Update Jose Altuve #US132, 2011 Topps Update Anthony Rizzo #US55, 2011 Topps Update Paul Goldschmidt #US47, 2011 Mike Trout Topps Update #US175
2018 Panini Prizm Basketball Box
Here is a box that contains the best player in the hobby in terms of the greatest ROI over the next 10 years (in our humble opinion).
The 2018 Prizm hobby box holds the legendary 2018 Luka Donic Prizm rookie card and a shot to obtain some sick parallels (i.e. Luka Doncic White Sparkle).
2018 Panini Prizm key cards to pull: 2018 Luka Doncic Prizm RC #280, 2018 Kobe Byrant Panini Gold Fast Break Prizm #FBKBR, 2018 Trea Young Prizm RC #78, 2018 Deandre Ayton Prizm RC #75
Best Sports Card Packs To Buy Right Now
- 2020-21 Panini Prizm NBA Basketball Cello Fat Pack (BUY ON EBAY)
- 2020-21 Panini Prizm Football Cello Packs (BUY ON EBAY)
- 2020-21 Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey Packs (BUY ON EBAY)
Best Cheap Sports Cards To Invest In
Here are some cheap cards that could turn into expensive cards.
Please note there is a decent amount of risk in these purchases as the players are not exactly proven at this point. In our opinion, they still have the potential for great things.
We like to buy Bowman Chrome when possible as they grade well when sent into PSA and lots as you can get them cheaper vs buying singles.
Here are a couple of options to purchase when it comes to investing in the best cheap sports cards;
- 2013 Byron Buxton Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP1 (BUY ON EBAY)
- 2013 Tyler Glasnow Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP134 (BUY ON EBAY)
Best Cards To Invest In Now: Advice and Tips
If you have any concerns or are nervous in regards to buying an expensive card ($1,000 or more) feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get a second opinion on the purchase.
Also, read the following write-ups to learn more and make some extra money while investing in sports cards…
If you have any general questions in regards to sports card investing please do not hesitate to reach out to us at email@example.com.
Card Grading: Before you get a card graded please read PSA Grading vs BGS Grading vs SGC Grading
We will email you back within 24 hours or even call you on the phone if you would like (just leave your phone number and a good time to call).
- We recommend buying via eBay 7 day auctions as it’s usually a great way to get the card you desire at a reasonable and even sometimes cheaper price.
- Buy now on eBay should be avoided as in almost every scenario the cards are marked up from the actual value (not every time but 95% would be a reasonable estimate).
- It’s hardly ever worth it buying non-graded cards. Stick with PSA 10, PSA 9, BGS 10, BGS 9.5, and SGC 10. One side note; modern Bowman Chrome baseball cards are about the only set of cards that holds up well when being submitted to PSA (in our experience). Comment below if you disagree or can name another.
- When listing your card for sale on eBay check out the listing of top-rated sellers and consider using them as they are experts in getting the card the most views possible via keywords.
- Avoid buying hobby boxes or packs of cards as your return on ROI will be terrible. Unless you are doing it for entertainment’s sake.
- 99% of sports cards are not worth your time. Stick with high-grade HOF players with a few stud prospects, rookies, or second-year players mixed in.
What are the best sports cards to invest in?
The best sports cards to invest in are Hall of Fame players rookie cards at high grades (i.e. 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck RC PSA 10).
Is collecting sports cards a good investment?
Collecting sports cards is not a good investment it is a great investment... you just need to know which are the right ones to buy.
Which brand of sports cards are worth the most?
Traditionally Topps, Bowman, and Upper Deck are some of the brands of sports cards that are worth the most but Panini is now part of the discussion as well.
What sports cards are worth money?
Sports Cards that are worth money are good or great players rookie cards with high grades (i.e. PSA 10, BGS 9.5).