Welcome to Beyond the Desk – a series exploring passions, interests, and hobbies outside of the office. This month, our intern, Justin Zhu interviews Xinhao Ma and writes about his passion for collecting and investing in trading cards.
Card collectors love the journey and thrill of trying to collect the most sought-after cards. They love good sports players, sure, but they also love some of the stories behind those players and their cards. For this month’s Beyond the Desk, Xinhao shares his story of when he first discovered cards, realized he could profit from his hobby, and his favorite cards and memories in his collection.
Xinhao first discovered his hobby when he was just 12 years old. At the time, trading cards like Pokemon and sports cards were the hottest and most popular toys. So Xinhao and his friends bought a pack of cards to see what the hype was about. Xinhao explains that as a young child, pure joy came from trading with friends and seeing who got the most popular cards. He still keeps some of his first cards as nostalgic pieces of his childhood and vintage items in his ever-growing collection.
But as he has gotten older, Xinhao has realized that there is a real market for his beloved hobby. In 2019, he began to use his hobby as investment pieces! “There is a large resell market for trading sports cards,” said Xinhao. “A variety of factors go into determining the value of each card, but the biggest things to look for are rookie and first-year cards with logos because they only make a set number of copies for each player once,” he adds. For instance, when the 2020-21 rookies Anthony Edwards and Lamelo Ball’s rookie cards were released, they were upwards of $500 because people believed the young prodigies would become superstars, thus increasing their value in the future.
Though tedious, Xinhao expresses that the magic is in the “chase” for the cards. The main ways to obtain these rare pieces are “pulling” the card from store-bought packs and online marketplaces like eBay. But what Xinhao claims is the most fun and popular way is to participate in in-person card shows. As an avid trading card collector, Xinhao has already traveled to many card shows and has even taken trips to Philadelphia and Texas just for a card show.
Xinhao expresses that there certainly is magic in gathering the cards but warns against buying too many packs because it is a risk with no guarantee of earning your money back. He encourages sports lovers to “give it a taste”, but if you are looking at it strictly from an investment standpoint, then stick to stocks.
Similar to stocks and investments, sometimes you have wins, but other times you may lose. Xinhao’s biggest “oh-no” purchase was his limited-edition rookie autograph Ja Morant patch card, which he bought for $1000. However, due to Morant’s off-the-court problems, it has dropped the card’s value drastically. Therefore, Xinhao tends to take safer investments and often has big wins. He recently doubled his investment with the 2020-21 rookie Anthony Edwards auto card, which he bought for $200 and is now worth around $500. Despite the risk, Xinhao remembers that this will always be his hobby and that making money doing something he enjoys is just an added plus. “When I lose money it’s a hobby, but when I can make money, it is an investment.”