The other day I asked the following question in a Twitter poll. “If you could only invest in rookie soccer cards from 1 rookie year from 2018-2020 which would it be? The stipulation is you can buy but can’t sell until 2036.” I encouraged people to chime in with why they voted how they did. You can see the vote and responses HERE. I picked these 3 rookie classes as they all have quality players and the cards produced during those years vary greatly. I also picked the year 2036 because it was far enough in the future where these players will have either established themselves as hobby superstars or not. I added the stipulation of not being able to sell because I didn’t want the idea of flipping to be involved in the thought process. This question was for people that are investing not PCing. If you are PCing you buy what you like and don’t care about the future.
The reason I asked this question was to get people that are more long term to think about what they are buying. There is no right answer to the question. We won’t know the answer until 2036. A lot can and will happen between now and then. I know there are a lot of new collectors that consume SoccerCardsHQ content and hopefully you are all around in 2036. If you have consumed my other content or have ever asked me direct investing questions, I don’t really give an answer. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. My goal is to provide enough information to help you make the decision you feel most comfortable with. Also, I have learned in life that giving financial advice is a fool’s errand. If the advice turns out to be good, you get very little credit. If it is wrong, you never hear the end of it. Here are some things I think about when making my long-term decisions. Maybe you agree and maybe not. That is what makes markets.
Look For The GOATs
If you haven’t realized by now in the long run the money in cards flows very much to the top. Early in player’s careers a lot of the money is spread out among prospects. People are deciding who they think will pan out be it in the short or long term. Usually after a couple of years a player’s card values either takes off or falls off. That is because to hit GOAT status you have to start early and keep it up for a long time. Players can have a bad stretch or maybe even a year but if you pile up 3 or 4 people will move on. The earlier a player starts the easier it is for them to possibly reach GOAT status. Playing for a top league team and having a bad season as a 17 or 18 year old is much different than getting your first big action as a 21 or 22 year old and having a bad year. A lot about reaching hobby GOAT status is compiling huge stats and trophies.
There is no guarantee there is a GOAT or even multiple GOATs that come out of one of the 3 rookie classes I asked about. I do think having one will be made easier because Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are reaching the end of their careers than if this question would have been asked of the 2008-2010 rookie classes. There have been a lot of all-time great players in the last 20 years but they have been greatly overshadowed by Messi and Ronaldo. Look at the prices of their rookies compared to say Luka Modric or Robert Lewandowski. They are a fraction of the price. A common question in the hobby is something along the lines of “How can the 5th best player of their generation be worth that much less than the best of the era?” The answer is usually that’s just how it works in the hobby. All of these players are still very early in their careers so a lot can change. Most are still in the prospecting stage of their card values. Want to know why Haaland and Mbappe cards are down while players like Saka and Osimhen are up during the same time? One is because the flippers like the cheaper gamble which can lead to higher percentage gains. Two is because their hobby careers are much less mature. So much of rookie soccer cards values right now is based on short term thinking. This happens in every sport, but eventually the cream rises to the top.
The biggest takeaway is that if there is a GOAT you can’t miss them and expect to be right in 2036. It’s hard to go back and look at soccer rookie card classes because before a couple years ago it was very disjointed. Just know that if there was a class that had Messi OR Ronaldo and another that had Modric, Lewandowski, Benzema AND Zlatan the one with Messi or Ronaldo would likely be the better choice in the end. That is just the way card prices tend to work in the long run. The 2019 class with Haaland and Buako Saka rookies has by far the least potential candidates right now but as of today they are two of the best. The 2020 class has a lot more potential candidates but none that have truly laid the groundwork quite yet. Player like Jude Bellingham and Jamal Musiala are 2-3 years young than Haaland and Saka so there is time for them to catch up.
Supply And Demand Of A Player’s Rookie Cards
The supply and demand is not only year dependent but also player dependent. Unlike the other sports soccer sets do not contain all of the same players. The idea of a rookie class is only a thing in cards not necessarily in soccer itself. Of all the players in the 2018-2020 class Saka has the least amount of rookies. you can read about them HERE. Haaland is in the same year and has many more choices unless you are of the belief that his rookie cards in a Salzburg kit are his “real rookies”. That is a debate for another time and not really the point of this article. Overall 2018 has the least amount of rookie cards helped greatly by the fact that none of the current top end 2018 rookies have cards in World Cup Prizm. Vini Jr has rookies in 2018 Donruss, 2018 Megacracks and 2018 Treble (Search On Ebay), while Phil Foden only has cards in 2018 Donruss and a very short printed Topps Now card (Search On Ebay). Neither were included in 2018 Topps Chrome products. Yes they have a couple of other cards that could be considered rookies but none are currently well received by the hobby. Maybe that changes in the future but that is just another variable that is hard to predict. The lack of production will help Vini Jr. and Foden card prices greatly if one of them does turn out to reach GOAT status. A player like Jadon Sancho was in both Panini and Topps products in 2018 so his scarcity is not nearly as much as Vini and Foden. It’s why two of my favorite sets the last couple years has been Merlin Chrome (Search On Ebay) and Chronicles (Search On Ebay). Those sets tend to get a few rookies that aren’t in any other sets.
The 2020 production runs really took off compared to previous years. A player like Bellingham has a ton more rookie cards than Victor Osimhen and Darwin Nunez. The more sets a player is in the more you have to worry about not only picking the right player but the right rookie card of the player. For instance, the difference in Messi 2004 rookie cards are substantial with his Megacracks (Search On Ebay) being the go to. Thankfully CR7 only has his 2002 Mega Craques (Search On Ebay) for a rookie card (yes he has a sticker as well). The good news is if you do pick the right player you should be OK regardless.
A player’s popularity is a super important variable when it comes to card values. This plays into supply and demand as well. Since the baseball card market is the most mature of all the card markets we can look to there as a good guide to the future of soccer cards. The grail baseball card is the 1952 Topps Micky Mantle. Willie Mays was in the exact same rookie class. Mantle cards from that set sell for 10 times or more than the Mays cards. For those that aren’t familiar with baseball just know that you will not find a single all-time greatest list with Mantle ahead of Mays. The difference is that Mantle played for the biggest team in the sport and Mays didn’t.
Predicting popularity is almost as hard as predicting production. I own my fair share of Haaland and Mbappe rookie cards. Strictly from the popularity aspect I feel much more comfortable with Haaland right now than Mbappe. Haaland is much more liked by the masses than Mbappe right now because Mbappe has got the label as a complainer by some. Neither play on huge hobby relevant teams but that could and probably will easily change at some point. Could Haaland end up like Mantle and Mbappe like Mays? Will one of them do something stupid like start biting opposing players or try to blackmail his teammates? Will Haaland’s lack of international success hurt him? Will the young up and coming Norwegian players make that a non-factor? Did I mention that prospecting is hard lol.
These 3 factors are not the only things that matter. There are others such as injuries which is another thing that can’t be predicted. Since I asked everyone else to choose I will do so as well. I own some rookies and sealed wax from all 3 classes so I have spread my risk around as I am sure most people have. I would choose 2019 right now based on the groundwork that Haaland has laid and the potential plus scarcity of Saka. Both do things that the hobby likes aka score goals. Full disclosure I was as high on Ansu Fati as I was Haaland back in 2020 so what do I know.
If you have any questions reach out via social media @SoccerCardsHQ on Twitter, IG and FB. Want to read about more Erling cards? Check out this article on the very first Haaland rookie cards.
*All Search on eBay links are Ebay affiliate links