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Playing the Prospecting Game

With last week's release of Bowman, you've probably heard of the crazy pricing behind cards of players you have never heard of, and a hobby box will set you back more than $100.

It's the prospecting game, and some collectors love it, and others hate it. Either way you slice it, money can be made by flipping Bowman prospect cards.

This article will give you tips on how to win the flipping game, but you have to put in the work to make it happen. There is no magic key that you can turn and make money overnight. It will take studying, keeping up on players, and a little luck.

Prospecting is almost like buying and selling stocks. Buy low/sell high. In a nutshell, that's the key behind prospecting. But how do you know when to buy, and more importantly when to sell?

It's all about timing, and doing your research. Two places to start are the Blowout Forums and Baseball America. The forums will give you up-to-date information on who is getting hot in the hobby. Baseball America is the best resource to keep tabs on prospects in the minor leagues.

During the season, Baseball America puts out a weekly hot sheet, and this will always be a good guide on who! Just because a player is hot on the diamond doesn't mean he's hot in the hobby. So, when do you sell?

That's not as easy. Once you've done research, and have made some deals and followed the prospects you'll get a better idea. In some cases, a player is hot right away, like Kevin Maitan two years ago. Now, he's not quite as hot. His Bowman Chrome autographs were selling for $125 upon release in 2017. Today, they can be had for half that, and that's why some collectors do not like prospecting. Maybe they held on two years ago and that investment is now worth 50% of what it was in 2017. But there's always the opposite...

A 10-count lot of 2011 Topps Update Mike Trout rookies sold for $91 on eBay in July 2012. That's $9.10 per card. The most recent single card sale (as of April 22, 2019) of a Mike Trout 2011 Topps Update sold on eBay for $308. That's what keeps prospectors looking for the next hit.

It's a volatile market, though. As a Cubs collector, I sought a David Bote 2018 Bowman paper autograph last spring. At release, they were selling for $25. I felt that was a bit too much, and that the prices were high because of a new release. After the newness wore off, I was able to pick up a Bote autograph for $12. Fast forward a couple months later and a Bote walk-off grand slam on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball...those cards were selling for $75. can buy them for about $20.

Take advantage of the peaks. With that Bote example, you knew that was an inflated market based on his one-game performance on national television. That was the time to sell. Other times, it can be right at the Maitan example (for now...that could change in the future).

If I were to pull a Wander Franco autograph (or any Wander Franco card) out of the 2019 Bowman product...SELL...SELL...SELL. When you buy a box of Bowman and pull an autograph of somebody that's not on the radar, stick it in a box. Do NOT sell it on eBay for $5, because even if the player doesn't pan out, that card is still worth a couple bucks years later. On the flip side, if it's a player that picks up steam in the minor leagues it could rise to a more respectable $20.

That may not seem like a big profit, but that's where prospectors stand to gain the most money. Buying a Wander Franco for several hundred dollars in hopes it turns into a couple thousand dollars is a fools errand. The likelihood that pays off is low.

In 2015, I began collecting Dylan Cease cards in hopes that he became a hot prospect. I was buying chrome autographs and refractor autographs for $5-10 per card. They slowly rose in value in the following years, and I would hedge my "investment" by selling a few for $20 each slowly gaining back what I had spent. Then I started the One Million Cubs Project, and getting rid of Cubs cards was not an option. But...I began that pursuit of Cease cards several years ago to profit, so if the opportunity came up, I would pull the trigger. A couple months ago I moved a 2014 Bowman Chrome gold refractor auto for $215. I paid $35 for it in 2016. Now, I am parting ways with a green refractor auto and a refractor auto, and will keep the rest of my stash. Oh, and I traded a chrome auto for a 2019 Bowman Chrome Miguel Amaya auto!

Bowman boxes are expensive. How can you actually make profits when a hobby box is more than $100? That's easy...don't buy boxes. They are fun to rip, but you only get one autograph per hobby box. My advice is pick off cheap autos from eBay, or better yet dig through the dollar boxes at card shows. A few months ago I picked up a Ryan McMahon chrome auto for a buck. I just sold it for $5. These are the transactions to profit.

In the end, you'll never know the correct answer on "when is the right time to sell," because a player could be at his hobby peak when he's a 17-year old freshly signed prospect, or it could come when he rises from nowhere and blows up double-A, or it could be upon a big league call-up, or if a player gets hot as a rookie or second year player. Just remember, there's always room for profit if you get the timing right. Unfortunately, it's not easy and you won't win every time. If you become a student of the game the profits are ripe for the picking.

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