A Problem of Overproduction: Analyzing the Prizm Market
The Prizm set is a staple of the basketball card market. Prizm cards are generally affordable while also holding value, and they have a nice, clean look.
During the summer of 2020, a lot of new people began to get into sports cards. The sports cards market really took off, especially Prizm cards. A lot of new collectors were solely buying Prizm cards because they are very liquid, making them easy to move. Prizm Silvers and Base Rookies, the most commonly traded parallels, are non-numbered cards and have print-runs in the thousands. With thousands upon thousands of these cards produced, there are tons of reference sales, making it easy to set a price on them. In this sense, Prizm Silvers and Base Rookies are the closest thing to a stock of a player. Many collectors saw these Prizm cards as safe option, with limited risk but still potential to go up.
However, this period of Prizm prosperity did not last forever. With the demand for sports cards growing every year, the print run for non-numbered Prizm cards such as the Silvers and Base Rookies has also grown. As a result, these cards are becoming extremely common. Over the course of 2021, a lot of collectors have adjusted to only buy rare cards, fearing that the overproduction of Prizm would cause that market to crash. While rare cards may be more risky, they have significantly higher upside. Because of this shift, the Prizm Silver and Base market has notably went down, with people seeking high-end products such as National Treasures instead.
Let's look at some graphs, via OnlyAlt, to analyze the market shift.
First, let's take a look at the Luka Doncic 2018 Prizm Silver Rookie, graded PSA 10 (highest grade). There are over 2,000 of these cards in existence, even though a "PSA 10" grade is the most difficult to obtain. This emphasizes the overpopulation of the Prizm Silver market.
From October 2020 to January 2021, the value of a Luka Doncic Prizm Silver rose steadily. This is because the 2020/21 NBA season started on December 22nd, 2020, and a lot of people were making their NBA investments as the season neared. However, from around March to July of 2021, these cards clearly underwent a sharp decline. Although Doncic had another All-NBA First Team season, his Prizm Silver still decreased by a lot.
This decline can also be seen if we look at Trae Young's PSA 10 Prizm Silver Rookie. Like Doncic, there are over 2,000 Trae Young Prizm Silver PSA 10s in existence.
This graph is very similar to the Doncic graph. From October 2020 to January 2021, the value of a Trae Young Prizm Silver really shot up as people were making their investments before the season. A lot of people were high on Trae Young as a player, so everyone was looking to buy a Trae Young Prizm Silver, since that was the norm at the time. However, this card really declined a lot January 2021 to July 2021. Even though Trae Young was brilliant in the playoffs, putting up monster stats ever few days, his Prizm Silver barely went up compared to some of his other higher-end cards.
Lastly, let's look at the value of a Jayson Tatum Prizm Silver Rookie PSA 10 over the course of this year. There are 724 copies of a Jayson Tatum Prizm Silver Rookie graded PSA 10, much less than the number for Doncic and Young. This is because Tatum was a rookie a year earlier, a time when the demand for sports cards was slightly less and the product was produced less.
Even though the population report is lower, the same pattern appears. From January to August 2021, the Tatum Prizm Silver Rookie (PSA 10) has gradually decreased in value, despite Tatum playing well.
Maybe the best example of the Prizm decline can be shown through Giannis Antetokounmpo. Even after winning the NBA Championship and Finals MVP, his PSA 10 Prizm Rookie is still shockingly worth less than it was at the beginning of the year.
As shown by the graph, Giannis' Prizm Rookie increased in value when the Bucks won the championship in late July, but that peak is nowerhe near where the prices were between October 2020 and April 2021. The increase in his Prizm Base Rookie is minimal compared to how some of his scarcer cards grew.
Unlike Doncic, Young, and Tatum, Antetokounmpo was a rookie is the 2013/14 season, much before the time of the other three. In 2013, the print-run for a Prizm Silver was much lower. In fact, there are only 30 Giannis Antetokounmpo Prizm Silver Rookies graded PSA 10, comapred with over 2,000 for Doncic and Young. This helps to explain why an Antetokounmpo Prizm Silver PSA 10 is so expensive, with the last one selling for over $30,000.
Is All of Prizm Declining?
It it important to note that the prizm set does include many numbered cards, such as a red parallel that is numbered out of 299 (only 299 produced) and a gold parallel that is numbered out of ten (only ten produced). These cards are considered rare since they have a limited print-run, and they have not taken the same type of hit that many Prizm Silver and Base cards have.
Let's look at the Luka Doncic Prizm Purple Rookie (PSA 10), which is numbered out of 75. Because of its rarity, it hasn't taken nearly the same hit as the Silver. In fact, it has even increased in price since the start of 2021.
Why is it that the Luka Doncic Prizm Silver has declined by so much, yet the Doncic Prizm Purple has gone up in the same time span? The difference between the Doncic Silver and the Doncic Purple highlights the market shift towards rarer cards. This is an issue of overproduction, which is causing many Prizm Silvers and Base Rookies to flood the market and become undesirable. As mentioned earlier, the Giannis Antetokounmpo Prizm Silver still carries a ton of value because the card was not overproduced like many Prizm cards are today.
The Future of Sports Cards
While many people are panicking about the future of sports cards, thinking the market could crash any day, the card market is here for the long-term. With so many people intrigued in the idea of investing in players, it is hard to imagine the market completely crashing. However, it is absolutely reasonable to expect the market to adapt and shift with how fast it is growing. We are currently amidst a period of change.
We’ve seen some of the most expensive sales ever recently. For example, a Luka Doncic 2018/19 National Treasures Logoman Rookie Auto 1/1 sold for a whopping $4.6 million in late February of 2021. With frequent sports cards sales exceeding hundreds of thousands of dollars, it’s safe to say that the market is still strong and will continue to grow.