When first entering the card game, knowing what the most valuable brands are can be confusing.
With more and more sets released, it feels as if there are limitless options.
In this article, we go over the brands of sports cards that you should buy and invest in.
Each of these have the highest roi and prices for rookies and parallels.
The Three Big Players
Three main companies dominate The sports card industry.
Panini, Topps, and Upper Deck.
Each have monopolies in different sports.
This is due to exclusive contracts with leagues and or players associations.
Let’s take a look at the history of each of them.
Year Founded: 1961
Owns the rights to: Donruss
Main Sports: Basketball, Football, Soccer, Baseball(Unlicensed), Hockey(Unlicensed)
Panini is the largest brand in the sports card industry. While in the past it’s been Topps, Panini in recent years has taken up the mantle.
It owns the exclusive contracts in Basketball & Football.
Topps once dominated these markets.
Now they don’t even produce any cards in them.
Year Founded: 1938
Owns the rights to: Allen & Ginter & Bowman
Main Sport: Baseball
Topps was the king of the sports cards until panini came around.
In fact, they had a monopoly on the industry.
From the 50s – 80s, topps produced many classic cards.
Stuff we imagine when someone talks about sports cards.
Like the classic 52 mantle
Topps today only is in the baseball market.
And while it does well, it still competes with Panini as they make unlicensed cards.
Year Founded: 1988
Owns the rights to: O-Pee-Chee & Fleer
Main Sport: Hockey
Upper Deck got a hot start in the industry when they released the classic 89 baseball set.
With some luck and smart branding, they got a ton of clout after putting Ken Griffey Jr. as card 1 in the set.
It’s the most iconic Upper Deck baseball card.
Over time, it’s pivoted more and more into hockey.
And now it’s the only sport in which it produces cards in.
Panini Dominates the Basketball market.
They have a ton of brands in the market which people go crazy for.
Paper, chrome, and autograph cards or rookies can all fetch thousands of dollars.
Especially when graded by psa or bgs.
Pull the right rookie out of a national treasures box, and you can expect a 6 figure pay day.
In fact, there was a $500,000 bounty on a Zion rookie card.
On card autos, sick patches, and great designs make this product so desirable.
Prizm is the best product you can find retail (if you can beat the flippers)
The cards in the set have a great design and have a ton of parallels & autos available to pull.
Prizm rookies tend to do a lot better then all the retail basketball brands.
It’s the flagship product of Panini.
Donruss Optic tends to be one of the best brands for Panini and basketball in general.
Like prizm it features a ton of parallels and autograph cards.
The big difference though is it’s a Donruss brand rather than a flagship panini brand
I tend to enjoy select cards.
Like optic and prizm, they are a set of chrome cards.
While the resale value isn’t there like prizm, the cards do feature autographs and parallels.
And these desirable cards still go for a ton of money.
Other Top Brands
While Panini makes some amazing cards, a lot of collectors avoid them in baseball.
I collect both, but to some collectors they avoid unlicensed products.
So with that in mind, for baseball, I’ll only be mentioning Topps products.
One of the most expensive brands is Sapphire.
Part of it is the Phil Pulls hype
And the fact that the cards are beautiful
They are expensive boxes & resale on singles are high.
Chrome update is a set of cards that are exclusive to Target.
Flippers have been grabbing them and reselling them for high prices on ebay & Facebook.
Making finding these packs at its retail price near impossible.
Throw in the fact that it tends to have valuable rookies
Like in 2018s set with Acuna & Soto
It’s no doubt the price of chrome update continues to rise.
The chrome cards command a bit more demand then the topps flagship cards.
The recent push of chrome across the entire hobby, has increased the desire to collect chrome.
Whether it’s rookies, parallel, or autograph cards.
Chrome base rookie cards now go for more than the flagship brand.
Topps Standard Series 1, 2, and Update
The standard topps rookie is the safest way to go whenever buying rookies or parallels of a player.
A lot of collectors only want to buy cards from the main brand.
And as Topps produces more cards, I can see this trend continuing to rise.
Bowman chrome cards can command some demand, but it’s not the same as topps chrome.
The only exception is when you can find a 1st bowman card.
Topps chrome doesn’t have prospects in their checklist, whereas bowman is full of them.
This is Topps Version of National Treasures.
Insane booklets, patches, dual autos that are on card.
The cards inside the product are always expensive.
Other Top Brands
- Triple Threads
- Five Star
Panini dominates the Football market. While Topps has produced a ton of cards in the past, they no longer have the license to do so.
So for this section, we will only be discussing panini football cards.
The top brands for football follow the trends in basketball.
So knowing the basics of one market translates to the other.
Like basketball, if you pull the right card in a National Treasure break, expect a huge pay day.
Collectors and investors go crazy over the rookie patch autographs (RPA).
Often spending 5 to 6 figures on their favorite players.
Prizm is Panini’s flagship chrome brand. So it makes sense that the same rules of Basketball apply to Football.
With Autographs, Colored refractors, and the top rookies, Prizm is a desired brand.
The resale market confirms this.
The highest Football rookies in recent years are Prizm.
Optic is pretty close to Prizm in desirability.
But, it faces the same problem as bowman chrome.
It’s not the #1 chrome brand for the company.
People would rather spend big money on Prizm.
Another chrome brand like Optic and Prizm.
Select features a lot of parallels and autos.
Other Top Brands
- Crown Royale
For Hockey cards, Upper Deck is the go to brand.
They command the market, and have no competition from panini or topps.
This is Upper Deck’s National Treasure.
Expect to find sick patches, on card autographs and more.
Like with Topps in baseball, the standard upper deck cards tend to go for good money.
Collectors go crazy over Young Gun rookies.
And in the past few years, the prices have continued to increase.
O-Pee-Chee has had an interesting run as a brand.
It’s gone from being independent, to topps, and now to Upper Deck.
Its not as sought after as The Cup or the standard upper deck cards.
But it is a legacy brand that collectors still buy.
Other Top Brands
- Ultimate Collection
- Black Diamond
- SP Authentic
Panini owns the more desirable leagues in the soccer market.
This makes it’s cards much more valuable then Topps.
Here are what both currently have the rights to.
Topps: Bundesliga, Champions League, Europa League
Panini: Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, European Championships, World Cup
Over time, I can see Topps or Panini battling it out for full control of the sport.
So far, the market has decided that Prizm is the go to brand for soccer.
It’s 100% due to the prices of Prizm Football and Basketball.
But the cards sell for a lot more than the Topps Chrome or Panini Select.
Another panini chrome like product.
Select is under Prizm, but still a desirable brand.
Topps flagship chrome product
The chrome cards are like prizm.
They feature a ton of parallels and autos of top players.
The leagues aren’t as desirable as with the panini products.
Other Top Brands
- Gold Standard
What makes a card brand valuable
Every year Topps, Panini, and Upper Deck release new brands.
If you are looking for a good brand to invest in, look for the following traits.
On Card Autos
Sticker autos don’t do it anymore. A player needs to actually sign a card.
Many collectors avoid or hate sticker autos, so look for a brand with on card.
For a set to be valuable, it needs to have the go to rookies for the year.
Rookie cards are always in demand, so it helps a brand keep its value for that year.
The quality of the patches can help you determine if a brand is valuable.
*Chrome cards tend to have no patches and are still valuable.
Look for jumbo patches with colors, stitches, tags, and other cool displays.
The more unique the patch, the higher a card tends to sell for.
Booklet cards are much more expensive to produce then a normal card.
They tend to have an insane auto patch, or dual auto in them.
They are rare in lower end products, and sometimes found 1 per box in higher end stuff.
Over producing cards plagues the 90s. When buying a box or singles from a brand, look for the production run.
On high end cards, the more limited something is, the better it tends to be.
Boxes and cards are much more expensive.
There are a ton of brands that weren’t mentioned in this article.
It doesn’t mean they are worthless.
In fact some of the hits in these brands are super expensive.
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