How Much Money Can You Make From High-Demand Collectibles, Really?

How Much Money Can You Make From High-Demand Collectibles, Really?
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Anyone who has ever spent time on a school playground will know the power of collectibles. Whether it was marbles or Tazos or Pokémon cards, there was probably some kind of collection of items that all the kids were obsessed with getting their hands on, and it very likely consumed every waking moment for all the children you knew. Fast-forward into adulthood and things aren’t all that different. Collectibles are big business and there are a lot of people willing to drop a lot of money on particular items like trading cards, sneakers or even old McDonald’s Happy Meal toys.

As the team at Insider recently highlighted, there are actually loads of dusty items you may not realise have the potential to sell for giant sums of money. From vintage magazines and books to vinyl records and stamps, the list of items people get a kick out of collecting is long, people. So, it’s probably worth learning a little bit about how it works.

We chatted with Jesse Einhorn, StockX’s Senior Economist, about the world of collectibles to get a better idea of how it all works, and just how much money people make.

Collecting Trading Cards 101

To start, let’s take a look at one of the most broadly-recognised collectibles out there: trading cards.

The first thing to know about collectible trading cards is that there are different types. Sports cards, collectible card games and entertainment cards.

Simply put, sports cards are made up of pictures and stats of certain athletes across a long list of sports including the NBA, football and baseball. Collectible card games involve building out a deck and competing against other people — think Pokémon cards. And finally, entertainment cards are based around characters from popular franchises like Star Wars. 

When starting out in the trading card game, the StockX team suggests focusing on an area you’re passionate about and are likely to follow fairly closely — that will help you avoid buying or selling the wrong card at the wrong time.

The other thing to take note of is that you should always ensure you’re purchasing an authentic card that’s been graded. Beckett Grading Services (BGS), PSA and SGC are all reputable companies that can do this.

The StockX team shared over email that “different brands have different scoring systems, but all brands grade cards based on these factors: Centering, Corners, Edges, and Surface. For example, a 1986-87 Fleer Sticker Michael Jordan rookie card in mint condition is currently valued above $100,000, but the same card given the lowest grade is worth just $1,000.” 

Collecting Sneakers 101

collectibles sneakers trading cards
KAWS x Air Jordan IV sneakers buyers covered in blankets wait five days near the “Overkill” sneakers store in 2017 (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

The world of sneakers is a beast. If you know anything about the sneakerhead phenomenon, you’ll be aware that resale of certain kinds of sneakers will very easily tip the thousands of dollars mark. Like these Travis Scott x Fragment Air Jordans, for example, they’re currently sitting at $3,321 on StockX and the last sale is listed as $3,029.

There is an entire convention dedicated to sneaker collection, LA’s Sneaker Con, there are over 2.8 million sneakerheads who subscribe to the r/sneakers community on Reddit and the New York Times even ran an entire guide on how to “score the hottest shoes and keep them fresh”. (The hottest tip was to become friends with people who work in sneaker shops.)

Sneakers are huge. If you’re starting out in this space, brands you’ll likely see floating around, aside from Jordans, include Gucci x Balenciaga (Gucciaga), Nike Dunk and Supreme.

What makes certain collectibles valuable?

There are obviously all kinds of collectibles out there, of varying value levels, but what makes certain items so popular? Some of us might look at a pair of Post Malone Crocs and see a ridiculous-looking shoe, but others see something quite different: they see demand and they see money.

Einhorn explained to me over Zoom that current culture products that are in high demand “often trade above retail, because they’re so in demand… and because the brands themselves often intentionally limit the supply runs.”

These items become incredibly difficult to access, which means that people become willing to pay a premium to get their hands on them.

“One of the reasons StockX has been so successful is that we’ve enabled access to these hard-to-find collectibles and opened it up such that ordinary people around the world can access a product that would sell out at retail and often be, you know, essentially inaccessible unless you had a hookup or know the right person,” he said.

This bridging has allowed more people to dip a toe in the collectibles world — if they so choose.

And although nothing is promised in terms of financial gain (please make sure you consider any investments seriously and chat with an expert before doing anything with your cash) there are those who find this to be quite a solid money-maker for them.

Einhorn pointed out that for many people, this is more than just a hobby — these collectibles are serious investments.

“They fit into this category of alternative asset classes and alternative investment vehicles that customers use to actually build wealth and increase value because they go up in value over time…

“So in terms of what’s popular on StockX, it’s often products that fit this paradigm of alternative investment classes and products that you know are going to be worth more in a year than they are now.”

He pointed out that, as an example, Brooklyn-based artist KAWS has figures that have grown in value at a rate that is competitive with the stock market.

“For KAWS, we put out a report last year which showed that KAWS figures can actually outperform the S&P 500 in terms of price appreciation. You see, you know, a more than 50 per cent increase in the value of KAWS figures over time and… when compared to a similar period, that actually is a better appreciation rate than than the S&P 500.”

StockX’s latest report on investment results shares that almost 80 per cent of Jordan sneakers went up in value over the past 12 months. Comparatively, it states that 50 per cent of stocks on the Dow 100 have done the same.

And we weren’t kidding about the popularity of Crocs, either.

Einhorn shared that “Crocs and Post Malone have teamed up on a somewhat unexpected but incredibly successful partnership.”

“Post Malone was, in some ways, like the first and most important collaborator that Crocs teamed up with to kind of enter into the hype space. And so those early Post Malone products, the ones that were released in 2018 and 2019. Those have gone up 100% in value over the last two years,” he explained.

So, yeah. Don’t underestimate the value of a collab.

Starting out with collectibles

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Screenshot via StockX report

If all of this has you interested in diving into collectibles, whether that be sneakers, trading cards or art figures, there are a few things worth keeping in mind.

“With trading cards, especially, the best source of information is the sports themselves. You know, you’re going to have pretty good insight into what’s valuable in terms of trading cards if you follow sports and keep an eye on the players and the teams that are performing best,” Einhorn said.

And, as we’ve also touched on, brand collaborations with celebrities are always worth keeping an eye on. Sneaker collabs are “some of the most popular in-demand products” StockX sees, and this trend (celebrity collabs) is also seemingly extending out to other collectibles, like trading cards, too.

These guiding pieces of information should offer a solid starting point for those who are a little unsure.

If it’s specifics you’re after, though, per StockX’s last report, highlighted collectibles included: New Balance x ALD collab (2019), Crocs x Post Malone collab (2018/2019), Supreme x Fox Racing collab (2018/2019), 2020 Panini NFL boxes, the Kanye West 808 & Heartbreak Vinyl Record, a LEGO Star Wars Stormtrooper Set and Market Smiley Basketball Yellow.

Beyond that, do your research into what you’re purchasing, spend time ensuring you’re using trustworthy sources and have fun swimming in that sea of options.

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