This is the first interview post in what I hope will become a series of interviews with basketball card collectors. Today’s interview centers around insights from JJ and George, the founders of the sports card research and tracking website SportsCardPro.
I first met JJ through our mutual interests in the sports card and basketball card space. Since then, JJ has contributed to the success of this blog by writing a post about 2019 Prizm Parallels, which quickly became the most popular post on the Ballout blog. I was able to connect with both JJ and George to ask them 10 questions about their site, their prized cards, advice for collectors, and more.
1. How did SportsCardPro come to exist?
[JJ] I’ve been keeping track of video game prices on PriceCharting.com for the last 13 years. My future partner, George, really liked PriceCharting and wanted to know if something similar was possible with sports cards. I had shut down another business about 3 months before George contacted me so I had some more time to devote to another business. We talked things over for several weeks and then we started working on SportsCardPro together in May 2021.
[George] JJ, the owner of pricecharting.com the industry leading video game price guide, had everything in place to create and launch a really great sports card pricing tool now called sportscardpro.com. After several discussions about the possibilities we decided to team up and launch the site.
2. How old were you when you got into collecting cards, and was there a particular card or set that got you into collecting?
[JJ] The first set I remember owning was 1989 Donruss baseball. I was about 8-9 at the time and I was playing baseball and other kids on the team were talking about baseball cards all the time. I bought a few packs but didn’t get crazy into it at the time.
[George] Young. like every other kid in America playing sports and collecting cards. Those were great years. Earliest I can remember is like 83. 1983 Topps Marcus Allen Rookie Football card. I always remembered that card for some reason. 1984 Fleer and Donruss Baseball were a big time too I remember.
3. Did you fall out of the hobby and recently get back in around the time SportsCardPro launched, or have you been collecting more or less since you started?
[JJ] I hadn’t bought a card since 1990 until 2020. I got back into it after talking with George and a couple of buddies about cards. My friends’ kids had recently found their dad’s old card collections and really got into it. I think seeing that childhood enjoyment of it sparked some nostalgia for me.
[George] I did fall out for several years and my interest was sparked again in 2015. I saw this card I used to have on eBay in this thing called a slab. I learned these slabs had something called a pop (population) report. Hmmm I thought, this has potential. I started buying cards again! Six years later everyone’s nuts about it!
4. What is the most valuable basketball card in your personal collection?
[JJ] My card collection isn’t that big since I just got back into it recently. I’ve focused on some Nuggets cards for players when I was a kid instead of buying new cards (since they can’t be found at stores). Alex English 1986 Fleer card is my most valuable basketball card right now.
[George] Basketball… I’d say my PSA10 1986 Fleer Charles Barkley. That card is doing pretty well lately.
5. What is your favorite card (basketball and/or non-basketball) in your personal collection?
[JJ] Ken Griffey Jr rookie card is my favorite. It was my first big “pull” from a pack. I sold off all of my other cards at some point as a kid, but I always kept that card around in a special box. It isn’t worth as much as some cards out there, but it has more emotional value than the others.
[George] I like that Barkley. Its a low POP card of only a couple hundred or so. I like watching Inside the NBA. I think that helps his card prices, Being in the iconic 86 Fleer set don’t hurt either. I have some shiny (Mike) Trout RC if we’re talking Baseball.
6. What is the best card you ever pulled from a pack and what was that experience like?
[JJ] Ken Griffey Jr rookie card was my best and first pull. Since I got back into cards I’ve only been able to find two packs/boxes in the wild. I remember being really excited when I pulled it. I can still remember exactly where I was in the house as I opened the card but I don’t remember my exact reaction.
[George] ITS HARD TO PULL A GOOD CARD! I never have great luck ripping wax, I’ve pulled good cards, but not great ones. I pulled some Zions when that was everything not too long ago. That was cool. I just pulled a Silver LaMelo (Ball)… annnnd… he has a fractured wrist. Too bad! I really love his game.
7. If Kazaam Shaq appeared to grant you a wish to add any basketball card under $25K to your collection, what would be the top card on your wish list?
[JJ] I’d probably go with a 1986 Fleer Barkley PSA 10 card. The players from that year were the first I remember watching as a kid.
8. Where do you see the sports card market five years from now?
[JJ] I see lots of technology changes in terms of grading, marketplaces, and data. I think the fractional ownership concept will gain popularity on the rare stuff, but the vast majority of collectors will still want physical cards. I think there is lots of interest in sports cards right now due to COVID. Not all of those people will stick around but I think lots of them will enjoy the new found or recently rediscovered hobby and stick around for the long term.
[George] Five years isn’t that long from now in the big picture. I think it will remain hot for a good while. Someone tomorrow will buy their first card. And the same thing the day after. It’s still fresh.
9. Do you see sports cards and sports related NFTs (like NBA Top Shot) coexisting, or do you think cardboard or NFTs will ultimately win out?
[JJ] I think cardboard will win out. There are some people buying now to invest. Investors are only in for the financial aspect. I don’t know where prices go in 5 years, but investors will ditch the hobby if money isn’t there. Collecting has more value though with nostalgia, the hunt, comradery involved, etc and it has been around for a long time. Those people will still be around in 5 years no matter what and those people want the physical cards to hold and see and show-off. That is why I’d put my money on cardboard.
[George] I think NFT’s will and can be wildly popular. There are cards from the 1800’s. That’s a long time and a lot of cards. They’ll both have their customers and collectors.
10. And finally, my last question for you is what advice or tips would you give someone new to sports card collecting, or card collecting in general?
[JJ] Focus on the sports/year/players you enjoy or has nostalgia rather than just buying cards as an investment. Prices rise and prices fall, but if you buy a cards that you like there is more value than just an ROI. It doesn’t matter what happens to the prices, you still enjoy your cards.
[George] Just like who and what you collect. Take your time. Buy the right cards. Ask, why am I buying this card? Figure out what type of collector you are. Are you flipping or are you collecting for a long term hold?. Be patient and have a strategy. Focus on a certain aspect of collecting and get to know it up and down. Have fun!!
And that is a wrap! A HUGE thanks to JJ and George for taking the time to answer my questions and for their support. I also want to highly recommend checking out their site (SportsCardPro) for your card researching purposes. The SportsCardPro site is one I use frequently whenever I buy singles off eBay and it has saved me at least a few times from overpaying for some tempting auctions as well as overpriced Buy It Now cards. Always do your research and don’t overpay!