As the interest in trading cards surged over the last few years, so has the cost to collect. These
rising prices have led to concerns and complaints from collectors, with some even going so far
as to say, “I’ve been priced out of the hobby”.
I’d like to challenge that idea, and propose an alternate way to look at the collecting
environment we find ourselves in.
This isn’t the first time this has come up in our hobby. I lived through these same conversations
at the height of the junk wax era. When we saw prices of packs jump from .50 to $1, then up to
even $5 for some products in the mid-90s, I heard the same thing. The prices for Canseco,
McGwire, Frank Thomas and other superstars skyrocketed as well, and those rookie cards were
well out of my budget. Readers of Beckett were flooding the magazine with comments and
questions revolving around being priced out and it no longer being affordable for kids.
Today, the price of sealed wax for many products is double or triple the cost from 5 or 6 years
ago. Five and six figure cards are becoming more and more common. Only the “hobby elite”
can afford to collect these days, right?
There is one major flaw with that perspective.
For the “priced out” mindset to be correct, you have to assume that the only way to collect is to
collect the same way you’ve always done it. Objectively, that’s just not true. There are all kinds
of approaches to collecting which remain very affordable.
You see, while certain cards of certain players have continued to climb, I’m willing to bet that
there are hundreds of other cards of your favorite player that can be found for $1 or less. You
may not need to go that cheap, but even in the more expensive ranges there are ways to bring
down your cost. Maybe you might need to buy a grade or two lower, or maybe a /99 instead of
It’s possible that you might need to be more selective in the wax releases you buy. Instead of
Prizm, maybe you need to buy something like Revolution. Or maybe instead of buying wax,
you shift your purchases to singles, sets, or collections.
Time horizon is also key.
Hobby cycles ebb and flow, go up and down, and the prices follow along. Patient collectors in
the 90s saw the majority of those cards become more affordable in later years. The same thing
is beginning to happen in our current cycle. Prices for many cards are well off their 2020-21
peaks. Sealed wax for some products is even starting to normalize. Patient collectors are again
being rewarded by the ability to buy their cards at lower prices.
When I hear someone say, “I’m being priced out of the hobby”, I hear “I’m not willing to adapt,
and I’m going to pout because I am not getting my way. I want to buy any card/product I want
and I want to do it now!”
That is the mindset that needs to change. Collectors who are willing to adapt will continue to
thrive in whatever hobby cycle they find themselves in.
I wasn’t going to spend $300 on a flagship box of Topps when I used to spend $80, so I didn’t. I
shifted my focus to collections. Instead of chasing prospects, I moved to building vintage sets
from the 60s and 70s. Instead of getting worked up over the cost of WWE Prizm Golds, I began
collecting Norman Smiley, one of my favorite wrestlers from the 1990s.
Singles vs. Wax, beginning to resell, moving to a new segment, buying collections, beginning to
work out trades instead of purchases, and even putting new buys on hold for a while are all
ways to adjust to the current realities and continue to have fun collecting these little cardboard
pictures we all love.
If you find yourself getting frustrated with certain approaches to collecting, I want to challenge
you to take a step back. Ask yourself, can I approach the hobby in a different way and still find
For most of us, the answer is yes. It just takes a willingness to adapt.