If you are here, you have stumbled upon the works of David Gonos and his goal of creating a #HappyHobby for sports card collectors.
One of his main principles is collecting cards on a limited budget, since that is where most of us fall. He has recently put together a series of videos to help collectors properly understand how to best use eBay to purchase your favorite sports cards.
In part 10, he examined the best times to buy on eBay — specifically the day of the month, the day of the week, and the hour of the day. In an effort to complement his work, I wanted to share a few thoughts on which players to target when using your newly found knowledge of when to expect the best prices on eBay.
6 Tips on Which Types of Players To Target When Buying Cards
Here are six tips that have worked best for me over the past few years!
Tip No. 1 – “The Early Rookie Card”
Every year, when Topps releases its checklists of rookies, you will find names you have never heard of. These are guys who may still be in Double-A ball, yet somehow have a rookie card already. I don’t claim to understand the “how” or “why” behind this, but this is a chance to take advantage.
During the 2022 season, the Pirates called up Liover Peguero to play shortstop due to injuries. He skipped over Oneil Cruz at the time, who was the top prospect, to fill the role. Why did this happen? It was about proximity to where the Pirates were playing and where the minor league teams were located. Peguero was closer and could be there for game time. He played in one game that year, however, when 2023 Topps was released, he had a rookie card.
Peguero was the perfect candidate to get some great deals on. He was a top-10 prospect who was going to get his shot, it was just a matter of when. Most sellers who weren’t die-hard fans of the Pirates were willing to sell any of his cards for cheap once they realized he wasn’t starting on the big-league team, specifically when he started the year in Double-A again.
Tip No. 2 – “The Call-Ups”
Every year, each team has a list of top prospects who will get their shot to play at the top level. From the best team to the worst team, every GM needs to know what they have with their top guys and who are going to make it. The key to this is knowing when they will get called up and buying their cards before the prices go up.
Timing is impacted by injuries, the trade deadline, and for small market teams, years of control on the rookie contract. Following your local sports writers on social media is a great way to get information about who is about to get called up. Buying a card of a prospect a day or two before they play their first game will cost you considerably less than the day after their first game.
Of note, “Buy It Now” is the best tool here unless you stumble upon an auction ending at the perfect time for the exact player you want. Also, these players usually don’t have rookie cards yet (unless they fall in the category of Tip 1), so this is primary for purchasing Bowman Draft cards.
Tip No. 3 – “The Ugly Sibling”
Every year, there is a new shiny toy that gets all the attention. This is the young flashy rookie who is doing amazing things every game.
Spoiler alert: You missed the boat on this guy already. It is too late to buy a reasonably priced card.
This year’s player is Elly De La Cruz. He is just plain fun to watch. As you tune in to watch him play, take a look at the rest of the roster. Who else is on that team that is getting over shadowed by Elly?
An example for this year is Matt McLain. He is just 23 years old, plays shortstop, and frankly is crushing it. While everyone else is a day late and overpaying to get an Elly card, swoop in and buy on the Matt McLain’s of the league, who aren’t ugly at all and are actually very attractive.
Tip No. 4 – “The Castoffs”
In the card industry, prices are set based on the “What have you done for me lately?” philosophy. The industry is very quick to dismiss a slumping player and move on to the next great player coming up.
This year, two cards in particular feel into the category: Wander Franco and Juan Soto, ages 22 and 24 respectively. Both of these guys are very young and have long careers ahead of them. However, at the beginning of the year they both started slow and were incorrectly deemed failures and card prices dropped.
Now that it is mid-August take a look at their numbers. Would you still call them failures? I wouldn’t and you shouldn’t either.
When the industry tries to write off guys under the age of 25, that is a great opportunity to get a card of one of your favorite players for a cheap price.
Tip No. 5 – “The Injured List”
Injuries are a part of the game now and forever. When a superstar gets hurt and missed most of the year, prices drop.
For example, look at Oneil Cruz. He was the Elly De La Cruz last year. His card prices were soaring last year and at the beginning of this year. He broke his ankle just a few weeks into this year and now you can find a much better price on his cards. There is clearly some risk here as he may never be the same player again, but there is risk in any card you buy.
Tip No. 6 – “The Trade”
As the trade deadline just wrapped up, there were several top prospects that just found a new home. This can be taken advantage of in a few ways.
The first is, some card owners who personally collect (PC) a specific team are now holding a card that doesn’t carry the same value to them anymore. They may be willing to sell low or lower than they were before the trade.
Another advantage can be the change for the player. New coaches, new teammates, new environment. All of this can turn around a prospect who was fading and reinvigorate their game.
The Pirates recently acquired Alika Williams from the Rays. He was a first-round draft pick who just couldn’t hit well enough to make the team in Tampa Bay. Pittsburgh worked on an issue with his swing mechanics, and he hit better in Triple-A than ever before and now he is playing shortstop at the MLB level.
(Editor’s note: How dare you point out a bad Rays deal!?! Haha!)
Whether your goal is just to collect or to make small investments in your favorite players and teams, I hope these tips allow you to buy low in a market that can at times be extremely overpriced.
Much like my favorite team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, it is imperative you find a competitive advantage when collecting on a budget. Cheers and have a #HappyHobby!!!