Home » Side Hustling » Interview with Jon The Basketball Card Guy, Buying or Investing in What You Know and A Warning to Those Who Think Market Values Are eBay Values

Interview with Jon The Basketball Card Guy, Buying or Investing in What You Know and A Warning to Those Who Think Market Values Are eBay Values

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I’m very excited to share interviews conducted with several sports cards hobbyists, enthusiasts, champions, and hustlers. Check out the entire interview series at the bottom of this page and let’s all learn, improve, inspire, and collaborate.

interview with jon basketball card guy

Today, I bring to you Jon from Connecticut, known at shows and online as the Basketball Card Guy. Instagram is @basketballcardguy and Facebook is http://facebook.com/basketballcardguy/.

Tell me a bit about your background, any other hobbies/interests

  • I’ve spent over 20 years in emerging media fields, working in consulting, video production, website design, app building, and entertainment- working with some of the most well-known companies in the world on their media/technology strategy, design, and implementation. 

What is your sports card background, how are you involved today including your collection and what you love most about the hobby

  • I’ve been passionate about collecting basketball cards since I was a teenager in the 90’s. But my introduction to card collecting started before that when my father gave me his 1959-63 baseball cards from when he was a kid. Going through them, learning about the players, organizing and putting them in cases– I just got hooked. But even though I had these great vintage baseball cards, my true passion was basketball. And my favorite player was Michael Jordan. I started collecting him then and have grown my Jordan collection to over 4,000 cards in the years that followed. 
  • Cards were also my first regular job.  I was hired at 14 years of age to work in a sports card store in a local mall. The owner of the store was soon trusting me to not only work in the store, but to operate it alone, and close it up at night. It was an amazing learning experience that really showed me all ends of the card business and strategies for collecting. About a decade after graduating from college and working in emerging technology and media fields, I decided that I wanted to learn more about e-commerce. But I needed something to sell, so I looked around and decided that I could sell some of my cards. That’s what led to the creation of my site and online store: basketballcardguy.com
  • Sports has always been a passion for me. There is nothing quite as relaxing as organizing cards, putting them in cases or binders, building a set etc. My other work is exciting, but it’s high-stress and always moves at warp speed. Card collecting allows me to slow things down and interact with other collectors and hobbyists. I enjoy looking at other people’s collections as much as my own, and hearing their stories as well.

Biggest sports cards related regret or mistakes you’ve had and lesson learned to help others

  • The biggest card collecting mistake anyone can make is buying something you either don’t know anything about, or just don’t love. Following the hype is a recipe for disaster. One of my friends from the 90’s was a big sports collector, but he saw how some non-sports items were blowing up in value. So he hopped on the hype train and bought into “beanie babies”. This was a grown man, who ended up with a garage full of thousands of children’s stuffed animals. It was a horrible move for him, and a lesson I got the chance to learn from observation. Buy what you know, and what you like. He had no passion for stuffed animals, so he was both left with a devastating financial hit when the values of them dropped, and ended up storing things that he hated.

How do you stay motivated, what keeps you going or excited in this hobby

  • Talking to other collectors is what keeps me motivated. As much as I have enjoyed building my collection, it’s just as rewarding getting the cards off to other people for them to enjoy. I also get to employ my other talents in video, online, and interactive to bring new things to the industry, which keeps me excited as well. 

When was the moment you realized you can make money with sports cards

  • I knew that I could make money with cards from the moment I started back in the 90’s I was the kid at the big NY shows, wheeling and dealing, trying to trade whatever I had for big Michael Jordan cards. And the cards I couldn’t trade I sold. The industry has grown a lot in the past few years with everyone looking at eBay as the center of the value spectrum, but the market was good 20-30 years ago too if you were collecting stuff people liked.

What’s your hope for the future of this hobby

  • My hope for the future is that the hobby goes back to being a hobby. A lot of people have started investing in cards for the first time. I don’t get the sense that all of those folks are as into cards or the sports they document the way many of us hobbyists have been. I hope that those investors can gain some passion and become hobbyists too. Similar to real estate, the great thing about card collecting is that you have a physical investment you can enjoy while you have it.

What are your favorite specific, detailed ways to make money with sports cards

  • There is a lot of “dumb” money coming into the market at this point. “Dumb” because it’s coming from people that don’t know what they are doing, and just want to grab a piece of the success they are hearing about. There is a reason I personally don’t invest in stocks, and it’s because I don’t know enough about them and the companies they represent. I feel the same should go for people looking for alternative investments in cards. Learn about the players. Learn about the sport. Learn about the products and what they cost new, how many are produced, and how rare certain things actually are, then invest accordingly.
  • I receive at least 5-10 messages a day from people asking me “what should I should invest in”. And I say the same thing to all of them: Invest in what you know. If you like a particular player, invest in him. If you like having autographs, then go after cards that are autographed. 
  • So how do you make money with cards? Buy them for less than you sell them for. Pretty obvious, and not actually that hard if you purchase cards and don’t get distracted by all of the elements of chance out there. I don’t buy packs anymore and haven’t done breaks. Those things are all adding in elements of chance that you cannot control. Instead, I buy specific cards I like and value, knowing that if I like them, other people likely will too. I buy players I like watching play, and it works. The market requires that people agree on who the best players are – that’s what adds to the value. So as long as you are collecting guys with real talent, and you are paying at or below the market rate for the cards you are buying, you will be good to go. 

Anything else you want to say or share

  • One additional note from my perspective: “The Market” ≠ eBay. A lot of folks just entering the industry have been informed that what cards sell for on eBay is their current market rate, and it’s just not entirely true. Yes, eBay is the largest online marketplace for sports cards, especially when it comes to high end cards at this point. But it is NOT the only marker for value, and the sold prices on the same cards can vary greatly on eBay minute-to-minute for little or no reason. I see cards going for much different prices (both higher and lower) at shows and in stores across the nation. So as a collector or investor, just be smart. Understand the limitations of cards, the odds, the original product prices etc. to inform your purchasing decisions. Just because something is selling for a lot on eBay right now does not mean that the long term value of that item will be at that level.

I hope you found some helpful nuggets in this interview. My goal is to help the community because we can all be more open minded.

Check The Rest of The Sports Cards Interview Series

  1. John Newman of Sports Card Nation Podcast and selling 150 1993 SP Derek Jeter RCs way too early
  2. Kyle of Wax Museum Podcast as a full time teacher and leaning on one another to help grow each other’s collections
  3. Jon, the Basketball Card Guy, an emerging media field professional and helpful thoughts for the many new people entering the hobby
  4. Ron, founder of the largest sports cards scammers group on Facebook with 27,000 members and how a $25 deal ended up helping countless number of collectors
  5. Kyle of KWJ Sports Cards shares several ways to make money with sports cards
  6. Agostino of A&M Centerpiece Sports Cards Investments and what he learned buying, selling, and grading a 2001 Bowman Chrome Albert Pujols auto
  7. James AKA Awe_SomeProCards and how nostalgia kept him in sports cards and continuing to learn about the hobby

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