Everybody knew one kid growing up who had boxes and boxes of baseball cards, great memorabilia from legendary players, and chose to put them on his bicycle so the spokes would go plink plink plink.

Didn’t that kid drive you nuts?  Didn’t he care what he had?  And what would you give to have the cards that he ruined?

Of course, that kid probably used up a lot of nobody cards, guys who have probably forgotten they ever played in the majors.  But you always wonder what superstar rookies went for a ride on his Schwinn, never to see

You can’t go back and extract Roger Clemens from your neighbor’s Huffy, but you can sure be prepared for the next valuable cards to wander your way.

Here are some tips on speculating with sports memorabilia:

Take Care of Them!

First of all, keep them away from the bicycle.  Proper storage of valuable items will help them retain their condition, and subsequently their value.  Consider exposure to light, levels of humidity, and more complex things like pH of paper.  Some of these items will be long-term investments, so treat them that way.

Anticipate Increasing Value

This is where reading sports gossip and rumors can come in handy.  Keeping yourself in tune with who is quietly considering retirement–and that means quietly, not in conjunction with a full-season fan appreciation tour–you can be ahead of other collectors in stockpiling higher-value items.

For example, if you haven’t already picked up some LA Galaxy memorabilia, make plans to commemorate the career of David Beckham now.  He has announced his retirement from professional soccer, which means investing collectors need to position themselves quickly.

Get Items With Increase Potential

Admittedly, the collectibles business has changed.  There is far more material generated bearing the name or likeness of famous athletes than there once was.  Dale Earnhardt died in 2001, yet there are still mountains of #3’s merchandise still hitting store shelves.

The best pieces are those that are generated during the athlete’s active career (and lifetime).  There will be career retrospectives, Hall of Fame items, and the like for any significant figure.  But the things that went on the market when you could still watch the player live on television are the ones with the highest value.

Honus-Wagner-card

Know What You’ve Got… And Make Sure Others Know Too

Speaking of value, your efforts in acquiring the best items are wasted if you don’t know their worth.  Getting accurate collectible, sports card, and coin values is the piece of the puzzle you shouldn’t try to place by yourself.

A qualified person can get you a realistic value before you begin to market your item, and in the case of particularly high-dollar items, can authenticate them to ensure that would-be buyers know they won’t be taking advantage of you.

While you may not be lucky enough to find a Honus Wagner card in your attic, you can position yourself to get the most for your valuable sports collectibles.

Watch for news and information about who’s planning to hang up the cleats (or the mitt, or the basketball…), and do your best to snatch up potentially valuable items ahead of time.  Then care for them properly, get good market and item information, and enjoy your life as a collectible trader.

Written by Ashley Roberts