Can You Still Make Money Flipping Sports Card Retail Boxes?
Recently, the card market has seen a move toward more high-end brands, while blaster boxes and retail releases are lasting longer on the shelves of retail stores and websites. What does this mean for the viability of flipping retail? Can you still make money flipping retail?
Sports cards + pandemic: A surprising recipe for growth
One of the most common questions we hear at Cardlines is, “why did collecting take off during the pandemic?”
Our best answer is that the success of sports cards was a combination of several factors.
Primarily, a large amount of cash flowed into sports cards from gamblers who suddenly didn’t have live sports to bet on. Sports card collecting (and box opening) fulfilled a similar psychological desire.
On top of that, people had a lot more time on their hands, so a good deal of fathers dusted off the old sports card binders and introduced their children to the hobby.
Other factors included the amount of (often misguided) “influencers” weighing in on perceived industry trends and pushing people to collect, plus The Last Dance documentary sent Michael Jordan cards to all-time highs, while other cards followed suit.
All of this and more combined to set the stage for an unprecedented rise in sports card popularity, which set the stage for flipping to gain traction.
Why flipping sports cards became very popular during the pandemic
With the sudden explosion in sports card value and the demand created by thousands of new collectors getting into the hobby, prices for cards soared.
Sports cards at retail stores became very hard to find on shelves, as many flippers would camp at the card aisle awaiting the card vendors to arrive, only to clear out the products. The issue persisted for so long, even, that Target temporarily stopped selling cards and Walmart placed restrictions on the quality of boxes one could buy.
Panini did its part to squeeze as much profit out of the boom as possible, ramping up production and introducing several new products – enough to majorly delay the releases that matter, which still plagues the industry.
For the flipper, the opportunity was obvious: if you could buy a blaster box for $20 and resell it for $60 – $100, why wouldn’t you?
Easy profits led to mass flipping.
Videos like this became ubiquitous during the height of flipping sports cards:
Changes in the hobby
For the most part, collectors have outlasted flippers.
As live sports have picked back up, sports card prices have fallen back down to earth a bit. Plus, as I’ve written about before, the overall market flooding with rookie cards as print runs soared, and the mass-grading of base rookie cards has helped deflate the overall value of retail cards.
The big money cards now are high-end brands, and other than a few of those brands with retail off-shoots, the value of blaster boxes is dropping.
The price of blaster boxes, ironically, is climbing. Depending on the release and the type of box, Panini has gradually crept the price higher, anywhere from $30 for a cheap blaster to $80 for a mega, brand-depending.
On top of that, new online sales tax enforcement laws have gone into place that will make it much more difficult for flippers (and card sellers in general) to sell on eBay and get away with not paying income tax on profits.
The combination does not lend itself well for flipping.
Value of retail wax now and then
At the peak of flipping, some blaster boxes were shooting up past $100 in value. I personally sold a Prizm 2019-20 Mega box for $850 after buying it at Walmart for around $36 and several 2018-19 Prizm blasters at $800/each.
Prizm, as the most sought-after brand, was the biggest beneficiary of that boom so those prices are extreme by comparison with other brands, but the same mega now sells $400 for about and the blasters go for around $425. That’s a 50% drop across the board (and some regret, since I’m still stashing away quite a few of each).
Now, recent releases are far from profitable on the flipping market. Even a recent basketball release like Mosaic is only selling for about $45 on the secondary market, so it’s been priced out of flipping.
How much money can you make flipping?
Or, perhaps, the question should be “are any products worth flipping?” and “how much money can you make flipping sports cards?
Of all the boxes you’ll find on a retail shelf, basketball cards are your best bet of being profitable. In particular, the three leading opti-chrome brands have the best resell price: Prizm, Optic, and Select.
If you’re a flipper, this might hurt to read.
Of those brands, the only one worth the time to flip is Prizm.
Here’s the math…
Let’s say you bought a blaster box of Optic for $30 at Walmart.
Those boxes currently sell for about $50 on eBay.
Of the $50, you pay 10% ($5) to eBay and ship the box for $5. To make the math simple, say you pay 20% of this sale ($10) as income tax on the online sale.
What are you left with?
2020-21 Prizm blasters are selling for about $85 right now, so after fees, shipping and taxes ($9, $5 and $20, respectively), you’re left with about a $20 profit per box. Whether or not that is enough to bother with is up to you.
Flipping is dead.
Thanks to rising prices and decreasing value, there is no longer enough margin to justify the time and effort it would take to flip them. With most brands and sports, flipping would now only result in a loss.
That said, the end of flipping means more investment in strategy and more accessibility to cards. While you might not make an immediate profit, picking up cards from your favorite brands and holding them as a more long-term investment piece is still totally a viable way to make money, and now it’s easier to get cards than ever before.
The hobby isn’t made for the faint-hearted. Money-grubbers looking for quick cash are waning, while those who actually care about cards have stuck around – including many old collectors who have fallen in love with it once again.
The best part? Many of them have money. Quite a bit of money, even, so the high dollar cards will continue to rise in price.
What do you think about flipping? Did you have any flipping fun, or are you glad to see it go? Let us know on Twitter @card_lines.