If you have a sports collector in your life to shop for, you’re in luck and you’ve come to the right place.
In a hobby that is still enjoying tremendous success — despite a modest downturn in the past year — there are literally thousands of options from hundreds of outlets that sell sports cards and memorabilia. And you don’t have to be wealthy or spend five or six figures to find a rare and special gift.
Each issue of Sports Collectors Digest magazine is filled with ads from dozens of reputable dealers, collectors and companies who sell sports cards and collectibles.
Visit any of these businesses and you are sure to find that special card, jersey, autograph or other sports item for the collector in your life.
To help narrow down your options, here's a look at some of the top businesses in the hobby that can help make this a special holiday season.
For nearly 50 years, the pages of SCD have been filled with ads from dealers and collectors who specialize in trading cards and all sort of sports memorabilia.
Companies like APR 57 in New York City buys and sells sports memorabilia and always has a large selection of autographed memorabilia from such legendary athletes as Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio.
Dealers like Dick Gordon Sports and Les Wolff Sports also specialize in autographed memorabilia. Gordon is a marketing agent for Hall of Famers Luis Aparicio, Frank Robinson, Earl Weaver, Dick Williams and Carl Yastrzemski and his offerings include such treasures as baseballs signed by Triple Crown winners Yastrzemski, Robinson and Miquel Cabrera.
Wolff always has a large selection of autographed baseballs and photos from such legends as Mantle, Tony Gwynn, Chipper Jones and even former Presidents Richard Nixon and George H. Bush.
Several longtime dealers specialize in selling vintage sports cards and often feature some of the most iconic athletes and cards in the hobby. Mark Smith in Hemlock Mich. specializes in vintage cards from the 1970s, including such Hall of Famers as Yaz, Carlton Fisk, Hank Aaron, Bob Gibson and others.
Other longtime dealers who specialize in vintage cards are Gizmo’s Sportscards, Barnetts Sports Cards, Kevin Savage Cards, Kit Young Vintage Cards, Kruk Cards, Larry Fritsch Cards and All Star Cards.
Some, like Barnetts, also feature such rare vintage collectibles as old sports magazines and programs from such historic events as the World Series, Super Bowls and All-Star games. And if you’re looking for unopened boxes and wax packs of cards, check out the Baseball Card Exchange, which authenticates and sells unopened products dating back to the 1960s.
Check out some of these dealers for a wide variety of sports cards and memorabilia.
Mark Smith: 989-642-2583, 989-599-5918; Markscards57@gmail.com.
Barnetts Sports Cards: 330-608-4433, BarnettsCards@hotmail.com.
Larry Fritsch Cards: 1-866-595-8687; FritschCards.com
All Star Cards: 800-932-3667; allstarcardsinc.com.
Baseball Card Exchange: 1-800-598-8656; BBCE.com.
APR57: 917-439-9610; APR57.com
Dave & Adams Card World is one of your best sources for all the new card releases from Topps, Panini and Upper Deck as well as older releases spanning all sports.
Two of the largest retail outlets for autographed and authenticated memorabilia are Athlon Sports Collectibles and Fanatics Authentic. Athlon is perhaps best known for its sports magazines — back issues of which are available — but the Nashville-based company is now one of the largest retailers of sports memorabilia.
Fanatics, the world’s largest sports apparel company, is also now known for sports cards. But it also has a huge outlet for signed, authenticated and officially licensed memorabilia. It has exclusive licensing deals with such high profile athletes as Aaron Judge, Tom Brady, Shohei Ohtani, Bryce Harper and Alex Ovechkin and you can find their signed items and more on their website.
Auction houses are a great place to find special gifts for sports collectors if you can time the auctions just right and find a special item that fits your budget. Some of the hobby’s top auction houses include: Heritage Auctions, Goldin Co., Lelands, Memory Lane Inc., SCP Auctions, Mile High Card Co., The Memorabilia Network, Robert Edward Auctions, Collect Auctions, Pristine Auction and Clean Sweep Auctions.
There are also large marketplaces like eBay and PWCC Marketplace that offer daily, weekly and monthly auctions for sports cards, memorabilia and much more. You can also buy cards directly from thousands of dealers on sites like eBay and COMC.
Though the auction houses make headlines for million-dollar and record-setting sales, they all have an abundance of more affordable items for the average fan. The key is to check out their websites, use the search filters and go shopping. There’s no telling what you might find.
For instance, Heritage had more than 3,500 items for bid in its November Fall Sports Auction, with prices ranging from millions to just a few dollars. While you might not be able to afford even a low-grade 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card, you might find a rare tobacco card from the late 1880s or early 1900s that won’t break the bank.
Heritage, Memory Lane, Mile High and Goldin all have hundreds of tobacco cards from the early 1900s and Goudey cards from the 1930s available in current and recent auctions, and it’s possible to find some rare gems that might be affordable.
A deep dive may also uncover some unusual items that might appeal to almost any sports collector.
For instance, for football fans, you could find a 1966 Green Bay Packers helmet signed by several members of the 1966 championship team or a 1959 check signed by legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi. Both are from the collection of supercollector Glen Christensen, who has been featured in SCD.
Or for toy-loving baseball fans, how about a baseball marbles set? Heritage recently had a 1968 Creative Creations Official Major League Baseball Marbles Series 6 set in its original package. Each marble features the name of a different MLB star, like Willie Mays, Roger Maris, Ron Santo, Tom Seaver and Billy Williams.
Bobbleheads are always great gifts for sports fans. But how about a bobblehead before they were called bobbleheads. Collect Auctions recently had a set of “Bobbin Head Dolls” featuring major league teams from the 1960s and ’70s.
Burned out on bobbleheads? How about a Funko Pop!? Funko and eBay recently announced a partnership for exclusive Funko products. One of their latest offerings is a NBA Legends series featuring Magic Johnson. PSA also recently announced that is now grading Funko Pops.
GIVE A LITTLE HISTORY
Collecting sports memorabilia is all about preserving history. Jim Burgess at Baseball In Living Color is helping preserve the history of the Negro Leagues by collecting autographs of Negro League stars and producing trading cards of many of the top names.
He has created a fabulous collection that would make a great Christmas gift for any collector or baseball fan. His Legacy 545 package features a hardwood presentation box filled with 54 autographed trading cards and five foil stamps of Negro League stars. For more information, visit baseballinlivingcolor.com.
GET IT GRADED
Few businesses thrived during the recent sports card boom more than grading companies, which are now grading millions of cards per year, adding value to almost any card. And now that they have caught up on the massive backlogs of 2020-21 — and the card market has dipped a bit — grading prices have dropped considerably.
Getting your collector’s favorite cards graded could be a nice Christmas gift. And you can now get cards graded for as little as $12-$20 per card at top grading companies like PSA, Beckett, CSG and SGC. You can also get a favorite graded card authenticated and certified at Mike Baker Authenticated (MBA).
MAKE AN INVESTMENT
Can’t afford the top cards or memorabilia on the market? You can still own shares of some of the most iconic items in the hobby.
Collectable, the leading fractional investment firm in the hobby, offers shares of such iconic pieces as the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card. Collectable recently offered shares of a PSA 8 version of the iconic card for $485,000, or $10/share. The asset quickly rose to $1.19 million, or $23/share, and investors turned down an offer to buy the card for $1.4 million.
Collectable (collectable.com) offers shares of collectibles from such legendary athletes as Mantle, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, Tom Brady and LeBron James.
SEND ‘EM TO A SHOW
There’s nothing sports collectors like more than attending a card and memorabilia show. There are thousands of shows all across the country, including the annual National Sports Collectors Convention, which will return to Chicago in July. Tickets for the 2023 show are now on sale at NSCC.com. And don’t forget to check out the spectacular autograph sessions conducted by TRISTAR Productions.
To find more great shows across the country, check out our Show Calendar at sportscollectorsdigest.com.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Can’t decide what to buy? Here’s a simple solution: Purchase an annual subscription to their favorite publication, Sports Collectors Digest. You can find subscription information here.
Or, even better, pick up some back issues or some SCD swag at our online store. They’d look great wearing an SCD cap or T-shirt while flipping through their favorite sports collectible magazine.