4 important insights from analyzing PWCC Marketplace Index

by Bryan Roberts

Below I share four key insights I took from review the PWCC Marketplace Index. All four insights will make you a more informed sports card collector and investor. Read to learn more.

Thank you to PWCC Marketplace for putting together this analysis. I found it incredibly helpful. For those of you not familiar with PWCC Marketplace, check out their website here.

PWCC Marketplace features a market index of 2,500 sports cards on their website. The default view shows an ROI of 313% since January 2008 on the PWCC 100 (see image below), more than double the ROI from the S&P 500 over the same period. This is an impressive return.

Source: PWCC Marketplace

PWCC Marketplace Index Methodology

PWCC Marketplace considered the following factors:

  • Auction sales only
  • PSA-graded cards only
  • PSA 4 or better
  • Data is limited to years earlier than 2000
  • Card was sold more than 10 times in the last 10 years and at least 2 times in the last 12 months
  • Outliers are removed (e.g., recent sale widely over/under performs current market averages)

After the above criteria is applied, the cards are then sorted into indices based on the average sales price of the last 3 sales. The cards are ranked by average sales price and then assigned to an index (e.g., Top 100 in average sales price are included in PWCC 100 Index).

1. Top 100 most valuable sports cards have outperformed in the sports card market

The ROI on PWCC 100 Index is 313% since January 2008, far outpacing the performance of other indices. For example, the ROI on PWCC 500 is 216% and the ROI on PWCC 2500 is 134%.

This suggests that collectors and investors looking for the strongest returns should look to invest in the most valuable sports cards in the market. The top 100 cards are expensive, however, with the most expensive being the 1952 Micky Mantle PSA 8 with a market value of ~$362K. Even at the lower end of the top 100, the bottom 10 cards have an average price of almost $6K with the lowest being ~$4K.

Main point: it takes a significant investment to realize the highest returns.

2. Baseball cards represent 73% of the PWCC Marketplace Index 500

Category#% of total
Source: PWCC Marketplace

Baseball cards dominate the PWCC Indices, accounting for 75% of the PWCC 100 and 73% of the PWCC 500. Basketball, Hockey, and Football each represent 8-9% of the PWCC 500 with Boxing and Non-Sports accounting for less than 1%.  

Baseball cards have a long history in the United States, which is the primary market for sports cards. The first baseball cards were printed in the late 1860s. The first basketball cards, in comparison, were produced in 1910, many years after baseball cards.

Given the current popularity of sports in the United States, I would expect more basketball and football cards appearing in the PWCC Indices in the future.

3. Basketball cards have outperformed the market with ~700% return over the past 5 years

The ROI on Basketball cards in the PWCC 100 and PWCC 500 is an incredible ~700% over the past 5 years, based on a weighted average of 5-year ROI on basketball cards. In comparison, Baseball, Hockey, and Football cards in the PWCC 500 provided an ROI of ~80-135% over the same period. Basketball cards in the PWCCC 500, therefore, have increased more than 5x the next highest sport.

This is surprising considering that the popularity of basketball is on a downward trend. Viewership of the 2020 NBA Playoffs and NBA Finals was down significantly compared to 2019, -37% and -49%, respectively. In addition, only 11% of US Adults feel basketball is their favorite sport to watch, which is only slightly higher than baseball (9%), and significantly lower than football (37%).

Popularity of basketball is only one factor influencing card prices, but at a minimum this should make you question whether the current prices of basketball cards are sustainable.

4. Baseball, Basketball, Football, and Hockey cards in PWCC Marketplace Index 500 all increased value over the past 5 years

All four major sports represented in the PWCC Indices increased in value over the past 5 years. See an estimate of the weighted-average return by major sport below.  

The weighted-average was calculated using the current price of the card and estimated 5-year return, according to PWCC Marketplace Research.

Basketball cards outperformed, as noted in the previous point, though 80-130% returns over a 5-year period are also impressive.  

As noted previously, I am cautious of the basketball sports card market right now given the massive increase in value, despite the decreasing popularity of the sport.

I am more interested in exploring football in more detail. It is the most popular sport in the United States and the United States is the largest market for sports cards. The lower-than-average return could indicate that prices have not accelerated as much as they could. More analysis would be required before making any definitive conclusions.

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