How To Start Collecting And Investing In Soccer Cards

Over the last couple of years, soccer cards and stickers have started to explode in terms of hype and popularity and for someone who might be new to collecting them, there’s a lot to learn.

You may be asking yourself, how do I start collecting soccer cards?

Where to start or what to learn may differ slightly depending on your motives for collecting cards…

There’s usually 2 types of collectors:

  1. You’re a soccer enthusiast who wants to collect cards for the passion and love of the sport.
  2. You realize it’s a growing market and there’s money to be made so you want to buy cards and sell for profit.

Some collectors are a mix of both – buying and selling cards for profit to fund the collection of the cards they want to keep.

Whatever the reason, I’d always recommend spending time researching and educating yourself before jumping into buying cards… there’s a good chance you’ll overspend or make mistakes if you don’t know what you’re looking for!

Firstly, Learn The Sport!

If you’re a soccer enthusiast already who’s collecting for passion then this won’t apply to you… 

But if you’re going to start collecting cards to flip for profit, you need to know soccer. 

Learn the current best players, the icons of the game, the rookies with a big future and the most popular players.

Having knowledge of the sport will allow you to identify which cards will hold value and which cards may increase over time. 

Spend some time watching games and reading about soccer before doing anything else.

Is It Best To Buy Soccer Cards Or Stickers?

To some it might seem unusual that there’s such a thing as collectible stickers. 

While most sports collectibles come in the form of cards, with soccer, especially in the UK, stickers have been more popular in the past. Stickers would be stuck into an album rather than held in a binder.

Because of this, most iconic players have rookie stickers as opposed to cards – not in all cases, but most.

However, the dynamic has shifted slightly, particularly with the increase in hype around collecting and flipping… cards are growing in popularity. 

Stickers and sticker albums were for the passion collectors who had no interest in selling for profits – they were for the fun and enjoyment of filling the albums. 

This makes unstuck vintage or rookie stickers rarer, especially if you want mint condition as most collectors at the time would have stuck them into an album.

There may be a bit of a debate as to which are better to buy but to be honest there’s room for both. If you’re buying for a personal collection then it’s down to what you prefer and if you’re buying to flip then there’s value in both… it doesn’t have to be a case of one or the other.

What Soccer Card Or Sticker Brand Is The Best To Invest In?

There’s so many different leagues and competitions with soccer, it can get a bit confusing.

You have the different national leagues like the Premier League in England or the Serie A in Italy and then you have continental competitions like the Champions League as well as international competitions like the World Cup.

The most recognized card and sticker brand right now is Panini – they are leaders when it comes to national leagues and international competitions… collectors mostly favor panini sets.

Topps are popular for collectors looking for Champions League or Europa League cards, they have the rights to print these sets. 

Topps also have their popular UCL living set – every Thursday they release a new set of unique player prints which will be available for one week. The amount printed is dependent on the number of orders and once the print run is finished, Topps will never re-print the same design.

Topps UCL living set Youssoufa Moukoko Soccer Card
Youssoufa Moukoko Topps UCL Living Set Rookie Card (print run - 888)

What Kind Of Soccer Cards Should I Start Collecting?

There’s a number of different options you have when starting with soccer cards.

Firstly, you need to decide how much you’re able or willing to spend to begin with and go from there. 

A low budget strategy is to pick who you believe are the stars of the future and invest in their rookie cards. 

Someone who I believe has a massive future in soccer is 18 year old Amad Diallo, he transferred to soccer giants Manchester United at the start of this season. His raw Panini Calciatori 2019-20 Atalanta rookie sticker goes for around $30 on eBay right now – PSA do not currently have any graded on their population report… so something like this could be a great place to start your soccer card collection.

If you have a much bigger budget to play with, you can look to invest in highly graded icon rookie cards – for example Lionel Messi’s 2004 Panini Mega Cracks #71 rookie card, which is one of the rarest rookie cards in soccer, recently sold in a PSA 8 for just under $20k on eBay. Given how rare and highly demanded this card is, I can only see it rising over time.

eBay listing of 2004 Panini Sports Mega Cracks La Liga Lionel Messi soccer card

How To Check What A Soccer Card Is Worth?

There’s a number of places to check the current value of soccer cards – with one being eBay.

It’s important to remember that the value of cards changes all the time – it ultimately depends on what collectors are willing to pay… obviously factors like rarity, condition and popularity always play their part in this.

The completed & sold items filter on eBay search results allow you to see what previous auctions have finished at. It’s a quick way to check whether the price you are potentially about to pay for a card is above or below its current market value.

eBay sold items filter menu
eBay's filter menu

There are other tools and index websites which can be found via a quick Google search.

Another great one I use to keep a track of my collection’s value is Market Movers – you can analyze prices and values similar to eBay but also add your portfolio of cards and manage them in one place, while also getting access to many different market intelligence tools.

I’ve written a more detailed, separate guide on how to find the values of cards here.

How To Protect Soccer Cards From Damage

I mentioned earlier that the condition of a soccer card or sticker has an impact on its value… that’s the same with basically any collectible item. The better the condition, the more it’s worth to collectors.

It’s important to always keep your cards protected, particuarly when shipping them.

I’d recommend getting penny sleeves and toploaders for any raw cards or stickers (the card goes in the penny sleeve and then inside the toploader) to keep them safe from wear and tear – try to handle a raw card as little as possible!

If a card is graded then it’ll be protected by the plastic casing it’s put in after grading.

Final Thoughts

As I said at the start of this post, there’s a lot to learn when you’re starting out with collecting soccer cards or stickers but hopefully this has helped answer some of your initial questions.

Do your research, learn the market and enjoy the journey!