Profit Margins Selling Early Season NFL Trading Cards

The 2016 NFL draft is almost here. It unofficially marks the start of football card season in a way too – because the Rookie Premiere is held shortly after. There’s a small window where non-licensed manufactures like Leaf and SAGE produce cards of NFL prospects. There’s already 2016 products on the market, but I wanted to take a look back at 2015 today so we can get a feel how these products typically sell.

Today I’m going to look at 6 products that came out before the NFL season started in 2015. Nothing really scientific about my selections, however I tried to get products that came out before the NFL preseason started. I examine the current market value for the un-opened boxes and also take a look at pricing during the peak season using historical eBay data in some cases.

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2015 Leaf Metal Football has been a real hit with collectors. One reason might be because most of these athletes’ signatures get real short for Panini & Topps later in the year. However, Leaf often gets real nice bold – full name – signatures on a set like this before the athlete is tired of signing his name. No matter what the reason, Leaf Metal Football has delivered re-sale value for shop owners & dealers. Also, at $70 cost, it’s tough to get in trouble as a dealer at that price point.

When I looked at historical data, boxes dry up fairly quickly. Most are sold during the initial release window of about 6-12 weeks. After that, un-opened boxes are difficult to find. As a dealer, unless the draft is a total dud from day 1, I wouldn’t be too concerned about moving this stuff ASAP. You can let the product mature a bit and the price trended up. Similar things might happen again in 2016 once supply dries up.

2015 Leaf Metal Football
Released: March 2015
Original Cost: $70/box

Current Price:  $110 – $115
Source: eBay Completed Sales


2015 SAGE Hit Low and High series deliver plenty of autographs (10-12 autos per hobby box) but have come up short for dealers who paid original cost. These boxes can be had frequently on the secondary market for less than $50 shipped. I think if you are a dealer, the key with SAGE product is to move it all around the release date. I found evidence using Terapeak that boxes sold in the $85 – $90 range on eBay, which was even a few months after release.

One problem might have been somewhat lazy packaging by SAGE on this one. The Low Series hobby boxes featured 5 packs that were clear cello-wrapped …. so not even in real foil packs. I appreciate that SAGE is on a budget and it’s probably faster to market this way. But as a dealer – I remember selling this exact same product in my store by the pack & it sold well because it was a cheaper ‘hit per pack’ type product. Kids who like getting hits and my bigger spenders bought it equally because for less than $10/pack they could get a hit. Even at the reduced cost of $50 per hobby box – that’s still $10/cello pack … which is where you need to be at a retail price to really move this product. Those subtle touches by a manufacture is why this started out at $90 cost and has dipped about half in value.

2015 SAGE HIT Low Series
Released: March 2015
Original Cost: $90/box

Current Price:  $48 – $53
Source: eBay BIN Prices

2015 SAGE HIT High Series
Released: March 2015
Original Cost: $90/box

Current Price:  $48 – $50
Source: eBay BIN Prices

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Leaf Metal trended up basically after all the boxes started to dry up.  The same trend happened to Leaf Ultimate Draft for the most part as well. Using Terapeak – I went back and illustrated how the price has trended up since release. At the time of publishing I really couldn’t find a box for sale. My guess is they are worth at least $120 at this point.

April 9th – May 31st
Boxes sold fairly consistently for $100 – $105

June 1 – July 31st
Blowout sold 2 10 box cases on eBay, one for $959 and one for $914. Most sellers were still getting $100 – $105 box still.

Aug 1 – Sep 30
This time frame covers when a player will have played pre-season & regular season NFL games for the first time. Boxes were selling in the $100 – $115 range.

2015 Leaf Ultimate Draft Football
Released: April 2015
Original Cost: $85/box

Current Price: None For Sale


This was Panini’s first use of the NCAA college license. Starting out at $110 cost is really not leaving a ton of meat on the bone for you as the dealer, so this type of product would likely always be a pass for me personally unless it was an incredibly hot rookie class. Remember, to liquidate this on eBay – you’re paying a 20% commission. That means your break-even price moves north of $130 … which is really a lot of money for a product of this nature.

2015 Panini Contenders Draft
Released: April 2015
Original Cost: $110/box

Current Price:  $79
Source: DA Card World


Leaf Trinity is a later season – early season release – if that makes any sense. It’s the one Leaf product that we looked at that actually went down over this time span, and it was also the most expensive from a dealer cost perspective. It’s possible that by the time Trinity football comes out, Topps & Panini already have products as well, which may water down any sales.

2015 Leaf Trinity Football
Released: June 2015
Original Cost: $95/box

Current Price:  $85
Source: Blowout Cards

Personally I think it’s a little too early to tell which 2016 football card products will be winners, but if 2015 is any indication – products from Leaf tend to hold their value, or trend up a bit – especially after the supply dries up. Part of the value will be determined when the actual draft happens. If the key offensive rookies are drafted by popular teams in NFL – it could drive the prices/demand upward. Either way, there’s a small window here before Panini really starts pumping out the NFL cards on a weekly basis, so I could see all early season 2016 products having some early demand. Just from following college football closely – this draft lacks the marquee QB – however there’s numerous running backs and wide receivers that should support products …. but only once real games start getting played. Key lesson of the day might be patients is key when it comes to profiting off early season football.

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