top of page

Factors That Can Drive Sports Card Values

Sports cards are valued according to what a buyer is willing to pay. Like any collectibles market, that value is influenced by supply and demand. But what factors can influence demand for a particular card? The list below begins to explore this question, but only scratches the surface of what collectors consider.

Player Related

  • MVP's - Number of MVP's won over the course of a player's career.

  • All-Star games - Number of All-Star games a player is voted into.

  • Championships - Championships won and record in those championships.

  • Single season records - Whether the player holds important single season records

    • Ex. Barry Bonds with 73 home runs in a season

  • Career records - Whether a player holds important career records

    • Ex. Tom Brady with 251 career victories or Bill Russell with 11 NBA Championships

  • Cultural significance - Did the player transcend the sport they were in?

    • Ex. Michael Jordan was a cultural icon outside of basketball).

  • Advanced Metrics (WAR, PER, Plus/Minus, QBR) - Whether the advanced stats support that the player is good

  • Future potential - For prospects and younger players, their chances at becoming an all time great

  • Hall of fame status - For retired players, are they in the hall of fame or have a chance to be voted in?

  • Team - Does the team have a significant market?

    • Ex. Yankees and Cowboys have a lot more fans than the Winnipeg Jets and the Oakland A's

  • Position - Does the market value the player's position

    • Ex. General rules of thumb: QB's are worth more than kickers in football; Forwards are worth more than goalies in hockey; Hitters are worth more than pitchers in baseball; Small forwards are worth more than centers in basketball

  • Historic events and significant moments - Was the player involved in an event bigger than themselves?

    • Ex. Bucky Dent or Carlton Fisk World Series home runs

  • Legacy - How does the general public look back on a player's career?

    • Ex. Strong legacy: Jackie Robinson; Weak Legacy: Karl Malone

  • Longevity - Did the player sustain a high level of performance for a long period of time? Were they around the game for a long time?

    • Ex. Ken Griffey Jr. played baseball over 4 decades (1989-2010)

  • Peak performance - How impressive was a player's highest performing stretch?

    • Ex. Randy Johnson won 4 straight NL Cy Young awards from 1999-2002

  • Importance to the era - How was the player received by the public during the era? What did they do to further the sport?

    • Ex. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's home run record chase in 1998 made baseball popular again after the 1993 lockout

  • Player Politics - Is a player vocal about their political affiliation?

  • Popularity - How popular is the player? Do they top the list of jersey sales? Are they featured prominently in ads?

Product Related

  • Players in the set or subset - How many hall of famers, all-stars, or popular players are in the set?

  • Popularity of the set - Do collectors think fondly of the set?

  • Quality of the set - Was the set issued in a memorable way? What card stock was the product printed on?

  • First year of the set - Inaugural sets set the standard for future releases.

    • Ex. 1952 Topps, 2012 Prizm, 1996 Topps Chrome

  • Quantity of sets/boxes/packs released - Was it a limited print run? Or was the product printed to the moon?

  • Continuity of the set - How many consecutive years has the product been around for?

  • Rookie year - What players had rookie cards featured in the set?

Parallel Related

  • First year of a parallel - Is this year the parallel's debut?

  • Continuity of the parallel - How long has this parallel been around for? Collectors tend to value the perennial parallels ahead of new entrants.

  • Parallel year of origin - Did the introduction of this parallel align with a notable set or popular player's rookie year?

  • Parallel popularity - How is the parallel generally received by collectors?

  • Serial numbered - A stamp indicating a limited print run for the parallel.

  • Hand numbered - A hand-written indication by the manufacturer that the card or parallel has a limited print run.

  • Introduction of a new technology - Use of new printing, design, or distribution techniques.

    • Ex. 1993 Finest introduced the first refractor

  • Color psychology - What's the color of the parallel and how does it make you feel?

    • Ex. Gold is often associated with wealth and fame.

  • Autograph - Has the player signed the card and has it been distributed in packs?

  • Hard signed or sticker autograph - Did the player hold the card while signing it? Or did they sign some stickers the manufacturer slapped on the card after the fact?

  • Autograph quality and condition - Is the autograph faded? Does it run off the card?

  • Blockchain - Was a digital copy also issued on the blockchain?

Card Condition

  • Numerical grade - Higher the grade, better the condition.

  • Grade within the grade - How does the condition of the card compare to other cards with the same grade?

    • Ex. PWCC Eye Appeal Designations, MBA stickers

  • Eye appeal - Does the card look nice? Is the registration strong? Are there print lines or other print defects?

  • Centering - Is the subject of the card perfectly aligned to the middle (Top/bottom and left/right)?

  • Grading company - What company graded the card? How does the market perceive the quality of that company's grade?

  • Slab condition - Are there scratches on the slab? Is the plastic crystal clear or is it opaque?

  • Population of grade and graded card

  • Provenance - Are you able to trace the card to its previous owners and the person who originally pulled the card?


  • Team color match - Border or parallel color matches or complements the jersey of the player depicted.

    • Ex. Dallas Mavericks and Blue Prizm

  • Refractor - Does the card look different when viewed from different angles? How does it shine in the sunlight?

  • Die-cut design - Is the card the standard 2.5 inch by 3.5 inch rectangle? Or has it been punch cut into a unique shape?

  • Artwork - How is the player depicted? Is the illustration used high quality and interesting for collectors?

  • Photography - Is the picture used for the card a good one? Does it capture the player in a boring pose or in action?

    • Ex. Topps Stadium Club is famous for its usage of high-quality full bleed photography

  • Card design - What do the borders look like? Are there any borders? What colors were used and how has it aged over time?

  • Nostalgia - Does the design evoke warm feelings and good memories for the collectors?


  • Number of colors of jersey/patch - Is the jersey featured a one color jersey (Napkin swatch) or a 5 color patch with stitching shown?

  • Game used or player worn - Is the memorabilia piece associated with the player? Was the item worn or used in a game?

  • Specific event used - Was the patch used in a specific event or game?

    • Ex. The 1999 Upper Deck Final Floor features a piece of the floor used in Michael Jordan's final game as a Chicago Bull from the 1998 NBA Finals

  • League certificate of authenticity - Is the memorabilia verified by the only the card manufacturer or is its authenticity also verified by the league?

    • Ex. The 2018 Gypsy Queen Bases Around the League Auto set features an MLB hologram with a number on it that collectors can look up see see what the game

Marketplace Factors

  • Scarcity - A card can be rare, but also highly transacted. Or a card can be relatively common (Serial numbered above 50) but never comes up for sale.

  • Mainstream coverage - Does the notoriety of the card transcend the hobby? Are non-hobby media outlets covering a sale of this card?

  • Float or active copies available at the moment - For common cards, how many copies are for sale at any given time?

  • Number of player collectors - How many collectors passionately or passively collect this player?

  • Global collector base - Outside North America, what's the player's appeal? Do fans recognize the players name anywhere in the world?

  • Exchange rates - Do exchange rates enable collectors to transact across currencies?

  • Number of set collectors - Does the set's popularity translate to a high number of people collecting it?

  • Number of team collectors - Does the team's popularity translate to a high number of people collecting it?

    • Ex. Soccer has more fans than any other sport on the planet, but the market demand is less than football.

  • Macroeconomic conditions - Do collectors have money left in their budget for sports cards?

  • Social media influence - Do hobby icons own and advocate for this card?

  • Documentaries - Are there documentaries or series that help tell a player or a team's story?

  • Collector demographics - Who collects these cards? Do they have a lot of money to spend on sports cards?

That's a Lot to Consider

You're right! And this is just the start. Its important to remember each collector values something a little bit different. The ardent team collector who looks to add a single copy of each base card of each player from their team across all products doesn't care about the number of MVP's someone has won. Just like the high-end scarce rookie patch auto collector doesn't care about a critically acclaimed gimmick insert set released a dozen years later. Discovering what you value and why you value it is a process to be uncovered, examined, and and continuously refined by each collector.


bottom of page