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Investing in Mike Trout

‘Vegas Dave’ bought the holy grail of modern-day baseball cards for $400K and auctioned another Trout card for a record $922,500, now he's selling again
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Dave Oancea, a.k.a. “Vegas Dave,” holds up the holy grail of modern-day baseball cards: A 2009 Mike Trout Bowman Draft Chrome Superfractor Autographed.

Dave Oancea, a.k.a. “Vegas Dave,” holds up the holy grail of modern-day baseball cards: A 2009 Mike Trout Bowman Draft Chrome Superfractor Autographed.

A shiny, black Ferrari pulls up to a Bank of America and a confident Dave Oancea hops out.

Oancea – also known as “Vegas Dave” in the sports betting world – is about to pull the trigger on a huge deal.

Inside the bank, Oancea meets a Taiwan businessman who takes out the holy grail of modern-day baseball cards: A Mike Trout 2009 Bowman Chrome autographed Superfractor.

The 1/1 card is graded a BGS 9 and 10 auto. It’s a beautiful Trout, truly a one-of-a-kind piece of encased cardboard.

Oancea produces a cashier’s check made out in the amount of $400,000 in exchange for the card. The deal is done.

May 11, 2018 is a day Oancea will remember for a long time. It’s a day that turned modern-day cards upside down.

“I’ve been offered $3 million for the Superfractor, but I’m not selling it for $3 million; there's no reason,” Oancea told Sports Collectors Digest in a candid interview a while ago, before deciding recently to put it up for auction. More on that later.

Oancea, 43, looks at cards strictly as investments. A former professional sports gambler, Oancea doesn’t mess around. When he’s into something, he pushes all his chips into the center of the table.

“I try in everything I do. I go all in,” Oancea said. “So, I just pick a couple players and go very hard on them. I think a lot of people in business, not just in sports cards, they go too wide and diversify too wide. If you’re talking about the sports cards market, they might take eight to 10 players to invest in, where I might just take one or two or three and go all in on all of them.”

To get the full scope of the landmark transaction for the Superfractor – one of many Vegas Dave has logged in the last couple years – let’s hit rewind.

In early 2018, Oancea was perusing eBay when he came upon the Trout Superfractor. He messaged the card owner in Asia.

2009-Bowman-Chrome-Draft-mike-Trout-Superfractor-Autograph-Front

“I said, ‘How much is it?’ And he said, ‘It’s not for sale,’” Oancea said. “‘Why the hell would it be on eBay if it’s not for sale?’ Then like three months later, I used to buy a lot of Derek Carr cards on eBay, and (the Superfractor) was on there. And I messaged him, I go, ‘How much do you want?’ And he goes, ‘I will not take less than $400,000.’ So instead of nickel and diming him, I just said, ‘$400,000,’ and he accepted it.”

The seller wasn’t entirely convinced Oancea was going to buy the card. Since there was a language barrier between the two parties, the guy’s brother in Maryland reached out to Oancea. When Oancea deposited some money into the seller’s bank account and bought him an airplane ticket to meet up to make the transaction, the guy knew the deal was legitimate. The next week, the seller – who had pulled the card from a pack and got it graded by Beckett in February 2011 – flew into the United States.

Oancea was anxious to pick up the Trout 1/1, because he already had one Trout red /5 and has “eight or nine” Trout oranges /25. He knew the Superfractor was nearly a priceless card.

“I always believed in my head it was a million-dollar card, because I knew the red would go for $500,000,” Oancea said. “I had controlled the market. There are five reds total, three have never been seen and the other gentleman that has a red is like a billionaire in Silicon Valley. He will never sell it. So, I just knew that once I sold the red, all the other values of the other colors would go up. I always said in my head the red would always be a $500,000 card and people said I was crazy.”

Oancea recently made big news when he put his /5 red Trout Refractor up for sale at Goldin Auctions. The card sold for $922,500, after the buyer’s premium, which is a record for a modern-day baseball card at auction.

The red was the first Trout that Oancea ever bought just a few years ago. He paid $180,000 for it, and certainly got a very healthy return on investment.

Oancea decided now was the best time to try and sell the red Refractor because one hadn’t hit the market and collectors had never seen one.

“Everyone knew I had the super, but everyone was asking me for the red, the red, the red, the red, the red,” Oancea said. “I decided, ‘You know what, I’m happy if I get $500,000-$600,000 for it, because I’m in the middle of construction on two properties. I’m building another villa in Cabo and another house in the states. I was like, you know, if I can make $400,000-$500,000, I’ll put that in real estate and that real estate will make me money as well. Coming back at $900,000, that was just a huge flip. Which is great, because it brought all values of other cards up as well.”

INVESTING IN TROUT

Collecting cards isn’t a new thing for Oancea. He first started flipping baseball cards at 12 years old. The following year in the late 1980s, he was renting tables to dealers at a Holiday Inn and hiring professional players to sign autographs.

“At a very young age, I’m making $5,000 a weekend at 13 years old being an entrepreneur,” Oancea said. “I stopped when I got into high school, because when you get into high school you change. You want to chase girls; you want to party.”

Out of the card market at 16, Oancea sold off his collection. Now, Oancea is disappointed he didn’t hang on to some of his cards. He used to have a case of 1986-87 Fleer Basketball, featuring Michael Jordan’s rookie. Oancea also had a number of 1/1 Jordan cards. Jordan prices have been going through the roof following ESPN’s documentary “The Last Dance” that aired in April and May.

When he was about 40, Oancea got back into the card industry after the longtime sports better was banned from Las Vegas casinos. Oancea faced 19 felony charges for fraudulently using strangers’ identities to open accounts at casinos. He avoided jailtime and was sentenced to a three-year probation.

Vegas Dave was known for his big futures wagers that often came to fruition. In June 2015, Oancea put $39,000 down on a five-team parlay and the payoff was $418,180.05. Oancea’s craziest wager and most successful came in 2015 when he put down $100,000 on 30-to-1 odds that the Kansas City Royals win the World Series. Low and behold it came true and Oancea cashed in $2,457,200.

“I switched from a professional gambler to a professional sports consultant where I tell people who to bet on,” Oancea said. “I make about 10, 20 times more as a consultant than as a gambler, a lot less stress, too. I enjoy it. I enjoy helping other people make money.”

Oancea has used his same philosophy he used in sports betting for his card investments.

“I kind of parlayed my visions of futures betting in sports into sports cards,” Oancea said. “I had a buddy who told me about it. I’m like, ‘How much are these cards worth?’ And he’s like, ‘Well, I bought a couple hundred thousand dollars’ worth.’ I said, ‘You’re crazy. You’re crazy. That’s so stupid.’ Then I kept an open mind and he said, ‘Good luck on getting Trouts.’ I found it. And once I bought my first Trout, I was like, I’m all in. I just started buying all of them.”

After purchasing the red Trout, Oancea hunted down a number of oranges. At the time, those were valued at about $30,000 apiece. Oancea paid the sellers around $90,000 to get his hands on them.

Vegas Dave’s collection of Mike Trout cards.

Vegas Dave’s collection of Mike Trout cards.

“They thought they were getting a good deal, and now they’re worth a ton of money,” Oancea said.

Of his “eight or nine” oranges, Oancea has one PSA 10, which has a population of one (meaning it’s the only one graded a 10 in the world). He also has a pop 1 BGS card graded 10 and autograph graded 10.

“I think that pop 1 pristine 10/10 by Beckett might go as high as the reds because it’s pop 1 and the reds are a pop 5,” Oancea said. “I think that 10/10 pristine orange is a sweet card.

“I still think the oranges are a good buy and I think the oranges are going to be a quarter million for sure.”

With all his success in card investments, Oancea is always happy to offer advice to people who are interested in a similar path.

“I just tell people in life you need two things: vision and a big set,” Oancea said. “You’ve got to pull the trigger if you want to make that kind of money. If you want to make money in this industry, you can’t listen to what other people say, because I took so much criticism from all the haters.”

GOING ALL IN ON CARR

Along with investing on Trout cards, Oancea collects cards of Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.

“Which I’m taking a lot of heat for,” Oancea said. “But then again, I took a lot of heat for spending $400,000 on the (Trout) Superfractor. I took a lot of heat for dropping $1 million on the red and oranges on the Trouts. Now I’m laughing last, I guess.”

Vegas Dave has also heavily invested in Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.

Vegas Dave has also heavily invested in Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.

Oancea said he has over 100 Carr cards, all numbered range from 1/1 to /99.

“I dumped about a half a million dollars into him,” Oancea said. “Here’s my philosophy: even if he has a horrible season and he’s let go, I still win because all the money I’m making off the Trouts, which I’ll probably make $5-6 million off the Trouts or maybe even more, if I lose $500,000 in Derek Carr, that’s fine. I got $500,000 more than I thought I was going to get off the (Trout) red already off of that. I still believe, and I’ve always predicted it, is when the Raiders move to Vegas, it will be the biggest thing to ever happen to sports. If Carr has a good season, his cards will go up, and I pretty much control the market.”

Oancea’s top Carr card is the 2014 Panini National Treasure 1/1 autograph with an NFL shield patch. It is graded PSA 10. Oancea said the card two years ago was valued at $60,000-$70,000, and he figures now it’s worth $15,000-$20,000.

“I still think it could be a six-figure card if they win the Super Bowl in the next two or three years,” said Oancea, who bought season tickets for the Raiders this year pre-COVID-19.

PLAN FOR THE FUTURE

With Trout and Carr being Oancea’s two go-to players for investments, he isn’t looking to buy any more cards in the near future.

“My plan was to buy and hold and make money,” Oancea said. “Everyone’s asking, ‘Hey, do you want to buy, this, this and this?’ I’m not interested. I might still take it up here and there with Carr, because I might still be able to find some, but I pretty much have all the good ones. I’m pretty much just holding and selling right now.”

Would any player who explodes onto the scene ever sway Oancea’s mind to get back into the investment side of cards?

“I always have an open mind, so it has to be someone that I really believe in and it has to be 1/1 of their best card,” Oancea said. “I won’t get the 1/5 or 1/10. I’ll take the Superfractor. I’ll take the best card, if I believe in the person.”

Oancea will never gamble on a prospect who hasn’t proven himself for two or three years at the professional level. He wants to see how they play on the field and react to losing off the field.

How about Ronald Acuna Jr.? Perhaps, Juan Soto?

“I don’t like any of those,” Oancea said. “Most of those people have one to three, four years good and that’s it. Trout’s the only person right now that’s consistent. I had the option to buy the Harper Superfractor (for $200,000), and I passed on it. There’s no other people I would invest in in baseball.”

Vintage doesn’t do anything for Oancea, either. He’s a modern-day player kind of investor.

“To me, those players are dead,” Oancea said. “I would rather invest in someone like Trout or someone that’s playing because his numbers could go up. For me, I’ve never been a fan of vintage, because they’re underground. If Trout has a season where he hits 50 home runs and 150 RBI, he has the ability to go up more. I don’t want to base my cards – especially the money I invest, hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars – on someone that’s buried under a tombstone.”

Oancea believes since the Trout red Refractor sold recently for $900,000, the next red that surfaces will top $1 million at auction.

If Oancea starts to sell off his cards, he will invest that money into real estate.

“I take all my money in real estate, because real estate will go up,” Oancea said. “I like to buy oceanfront property, too, because there’s only one front row – when it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Oancea, who has a house in Las Vegas, recently bought four oceanfront lots that are tied together in Mexico. He’s also building his dream house, a 20,000-square-foot villa next to another villa he owns in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He just bought his parents a house down the street.

“Everything I do, I always buy in excess to control and monopolize, and then I leverage the market,” said Oancea, who splits his living between Las Vegas and Cabo.

Life is good for Oancea. He recently got engaged to FOX Sports host and reporter Holly Sonders. They are working on setting a wedding date. It’s always go, go, go for Oancea.

“I’ve never had a day off in the last four years,” Oancea said. “I work every day, so during this virus, I’m actually enjoying just relaxing and going to yoga and working on my house, stuff that I neglected by working every day. I’m hoping sports start soon, I miss baseball. But I’m enjoying this time off right now.”

With such a busy life, Oancea doesn’t have much time to sit down and relish in his Trout collection. He keeps all his valuable cards in a safety deposit box in a bank. Oancea pulls out his treasures every once in a while, most recently in late May to shoot a video for his Instagram page and YouTube channel.

Oancea thought he wouldn’t be touching the Trout Superfractor for a few years, but in late July, he decided to put it up for auction through Goldin Auctions because it's the "right time to sell." The card started at a minimum $1 million bid with the auction set to close on Aug. 22.

"I strongly believe this auction is going to end with the Mike Trout Superfractor being the most valuable trading card ever sold in a public or private transaction," Ken Goldin told SCD.

If it does, it'll mean surpassing the all-time record price for a baseball card, the T206 Honus Wagner that went for $3.12 million in 2016.

As of Wednesday Aug. 12, Oancea's card was up to $1.45 million after 10 bids with 10 days to go.

“When I sell it, that’s a pretty good chunk of retirement money,” Oancea told SCD in early June. “You never know, I don’t know how high he’ll go up to, whatever someone’s willing to pay. No one thought anyone would have $900,000 for the red. But when people have money, what’s the difference between $5 million and $7 million? It’s peanuts for them. I just think, if it’s marketed right, I think it could be a $10 million card. Everyone said I was crazy when I said it was a $3 million card last year. Now everyone’s like, ‘It was a genius move.’ I think it’s worth $4-$5 million right now, to be honest with you.

“It’s like the Mona Lisa. It’s a piece of artwork.”