2022 has come and gone and it was a tough year for most soccer cards like it was for most speculative assets in the world. The good news is the hobby grew considerably and current prices should make it more possible for new people to come in compared to the last two years. For those of you that bought at much higher prices and are still around then you must have found the joy in collecting soccer cards and stickers. For those of you that got in somewhat recently you picked a decent time to come in. For those that have been around for a while you understand this is how it goes. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I have thought a lot about the future of the soccer card hobby. These are just my opinions and could be drastically wrong. There are a lot of factors out of our control that could make these all seem silly come January 2024.
Soccer Box Prices May Be Reasonable
I think one of the biggest things I hear is that wax prices need to come down. I find this interesting since 2022 had a lot of releases that have pretty low wax prices right now. The Topps Bundesliga releases are all pretty inexpensive right now and are lower than pre boom prices which is quite amazing. Cases of Topps Chrome Bundesliga (Search On Ebay) are around $500. Yes the rookie class was not very hyped which led to not much demand but that is why prices are low. That said from a pure ROI standpoint if you are willing to do the work and sell the cards the ROI is probably even better than the ROI at the time of opening boxes pre boom. I often ask people what they think the ROI of opening every box in a product should be. I know we would all like it to be 100%+ but that isn’t the way it works. There was a small time during the runup where that was the case but it got wiped out as people realized it and raised prices. I think if you can return 50-60% on a box selling everything that is about as good as we can hope for. From there you hope grading stays cheap enough and quality control is good enough to push that closer to break even. At least that is how I think about it. The thing is you have to be able to buy enough for the numbers to work themselves out and not everyone can afford to do that. You may open a box and get 10% return and that is all you can afford at the time whereas if you could open a case you could get closer to that 60% number. A lot of people like to point out the cost of opening say a 2018 box but you have to realize the reason it was so cheap back then is because the cards weren’t worth much and the return was about the same as now on some products. Could we be in a similar situation now where we will look back on today’s prices and wonder why we didn’t buy more? Only time will tell.
I think in 2023 we could see similar although the rookie class should be better. 2022 pricing could work out in our favor if Topps (Fanatics) and Panini see the price of wax now and price 2023 accordingly. If the sets release in a similar time frame as last year it will be during the summer with not much going on outside of the Women’s World Cup. I am not going to dedicate a section to it, but it could be the year of the Women’s Soccer cards (Search On Ebay) because of that. There is not a lot of inventory like with men’s. They will not want to sit on inventory and with them going more direct to consumers maybe we get a break. It’s still early but the 2022-23 pricing so far has been OK. I don’t expect the print runs to come down but if the prices do and the rookies are better that is a good thing. The problem will be how much “influencers” have on demand and therefor the eventual prices. Remember the consumers ultimately control the pricing no matter how much the companies, distributors and breakers effect it. If people don’t buy the prices come down as we have seen with the aforementioned Bundesliga products as well as others. This is why I do my reviews like this one on 2022 World Cup Prizm to at least inform you of product contents so you can make better informed decisions. The problem is FOMO starts happening and the plan gets ruined. That is why the bigger the hit(s) in a product the worse the overall ROI is because people will chase the big hit and overpay along the way. This is the scenario that I think people are talking about when they say wax prices need to come down. 2019 Topps Sapphire (Search On Ebay) is probably a good example of this. The price of a box is still very high because of the Erling Haaland rookies you can hit especially the 1/1 that seems to still be out there. I have no idea how many boxes are unopened but as long as there is that possible 6 figure card in them the box price will stay high although even those are coming down a bit.
The Soccer Card Hobby Will Continue To Grow Outside the US
Even during a tough 2022 I was very encouraged by the growth of soccer cards around the world and especially in Europe. There were shows popping up in places that never had them before and that was encouraging to see. I often hear that for soccer cards to be big that the US needs to care since that is where all the collectors are. I think a lot of those US collectors came in during the boom which ran prices up and got burned and are gone. Getting those people back is going to be a hard ask as they were only in it for a quick buck and not interested in the sport. Soccer is growing every day in America, but Americans that had an interest in cards are much more likely to have already dabbled. They either were exposed growing up or have friends at some point that have bragged to them about it which led them to give it a try. For sure they have seen cards on sale at one of the big chain stores they have shopped at.
Europeans for the most part have had none of that. En masse they have just started getting a taste of that. Yes I know there have been card releases going back to the 1990’s but they weren’t nearly as big as in America and they didn’t really have all the parallels and chase like now. 2022 was the first year that Topps or Panini had a “premium” blaster product on shelves in a UK store with the Merlin Chrome release in Game. Score was also released in Europe only which gave a lot more people access to a hobby product. There were new sets for the SPFL (Search On Ebay) and Ligue 1 for the fans of those that want cards. The distributors have also started setting up in Europe making it easier to get product. Granted it still isn’t nearly as easy as in America but that should improve in 2023. Simply being able to go to a store or buy local will help greatly.
There should be a network effect with more people getting product. Hopefully they have a good experience and tell their family or friends which will get them interested. The network effect in America is much closer to critical mass whereas the Europeans in the hobby right now are closer to the early adopter stage. With the way Topps and Panini have upper the print runs we need more collectors. If you are reading this from outside the US do us all a favor and make it a goal to get 1 new collector in the hobby in 2023. If my thoughts on 2023 box prices come true, I would fully expect the soccer hobby in Europe and Asia to keep growing.
Investors Will Appreciate Small Gains
The sports card boom was all about trying to get rich quick. People felt they were entitled to massive gains and that clouded everyone’s judgement. In turn people got greedy and thought they had it all figured out. That worked great until it didn’t. 2022 was a huge wake up call to many and that is certainly not limited to soccer cards. For those people that have stuck around you are probably much more experienced and wiser to the risks associated with cards. You also are likely sitting on too many cards that you really don’t want that you held on to hoping you would double or triple your investment. If you could do it all again, I am guessing you would’ve sold for a much less of a gain and been happy buying card you enjoy. I think the market during the World Cup acted as I predicted it would during this time. The players that performed saw a rise in their values while those that didn’t fell and that is a good thing. Those that thought every card would go up must have still thought it was 2021. This same thing will hopefully happen as the Champions League progresses. If we get the hobby superstars performing like they did in the World Cup that will be great.
I think we will see much more selling for small gains in 2023. A 25% gain should be considered a good investment. I know small gains wasn’t the cool thing in 2021 but times have changed. The richest people in the world are more than happy with a 10% return on their investments each year. Small gains are usually better for everyone in the hobby as well. Small gains usually lead to smaller losses. Small losses tend not to drive as many people out of the hobby as big losses. If 10 people make a 10% return on a card it is much better for the hobby than 1 person making a 100% return. Remember the more people in the hobby the better it is for all of us. I wish Topps, Panini, distributors and breakers would realize that.
Some Collectors Will Come Back To The Hobby
There are many sports card collectors that were around pre boom that got frustrated with how much prices got out of control. They could no longer collect the cards that wanted to collect at prices they were used to. That frustration made them give up. While I don’t think there were nearly as many of those like in other sports there were certainly some. I think those collectors will start picking up some cards they have had their eyes on. In fact, I know that has been happening even at the end of 2022.
I spent more money in December 2022 than I have at any month during the boom. There are some real nice cards that have I have wanted that got to a price I feel comfortable paying. I am not pretending to know if this is the bottom, but these are cards that I don’t feel like will come up for sale often. These are also cards that I plan on holding for a while. The World Cup selling was certainly a glut on the market at about the worst time for it for sellers that had planned on it being a big boom for their wallets.
Make Hobby Friends And Go To Shows
This isn’t a prediction as much as it’s a suggestion. If you haven’t been to a show check one out this year. If possible, I would even recommend getting a table at one. It will give you a better appreciation for the hobby and what people want. It could also lead to deals outside the big platforms which will save you money. If you don’t have many hobby friends, make it a point to do so in 2023. That is one of the best parts about the hobby. Finding soccer collectors in your area may not be easy depending on where you live but online conversations will keep you engaged. Having this site has allowed me to meet some cool people that I would have never met otherwise. At the end of the day remember……..
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