Last week I wrote a column giving a general overview of the new NBA Top Shot craze, but this week I will focus more on specific strategies you can employ to try and come out on top of this emerging market.
What Drives Value?
Obviously, one the most important things that drives the value of a moment is the star power of the player, but perhaps equally important is the rarity of that moment. There are four different tiers of moments – common, rare, legendary, ultimate – and there are also distinctions within those categories such as CC (circulating count) and LE (limited editions). A CC moment will be inherently less valuable, as it doesn’t come with scarcity; they could continue to put those moments in future packs in perpetuity. However, a limited edition by definition is short in supply and thus more valuable.
The two other obvious factors that drive the value of moments are the serial number and the Series. In general, the lower the serial number the better, as a moment with a serial number in the 1-10 range will often fetch a price in the thousands, regardless of the player or tier of the moment. The other huge serial number boost is when the serial number is the same as the player’s jersey number – those cards will be exponentially more valuable than any other card in the set. However, the serial numbers start to lose meaning the higher you go. For example, there won’t be a large price disparity between serial numbers 11,000 and 15,000. As for the Series, we’re currently still in Series 2, but if you look you won’t be able to find any Series 1 moments (regardless of the player), that will go for much less than $100. Therefore, I believe once this thing truly gets off the ground and they move into Series 3, 4, 5, etc., all these Series 2 LE moments will spike in value – and the Series 1 moments will get an even larger boost.
Other factors that could drive value, but are less significant: Did the player have a good game? Did his team win? How visually pleasing is the highlight?
For these last set of factors, I’m doing some guesswork, as this market is still so new that it’s tough to precisely determine what drives the value of a moment, but I think as more NBA fanatics get into the mix those variables will gain in importance. Now, I fully acknowledge that my final metric, how visually pleasing a highlight is, or as I like to put it – the coolness factor – is completely subjective, but to quote Justice Potter Stewart: “I know it when I see it.”
Lastly, it’s worth noting that we’re still in the very early stages (beta) of this product, which has resulted in a volatile market. Ultimately, the users determine the prices of the moments, but there can be wild swings in value before a consensus price point is reached. The values also tend to spike right before pack drops and then precipitously decline post-pack-drop, but learning the swings and catching the market at the right time can have lucrative results. You can track the day-to-day value of the entire market or any moment here: evaluate.market.
The great thing about NBA Top Shot is that you can make money whether you believe in it or not, all you need to do is get a pack, and from there it’s essentially a free lunch (take that economists). As described in my previous column, getting a pack isn’t necessarily easy and it involves quite a bit of luck, but it also doesn’t require a ton of effort, as you just have to sign into a digital line and see if you can make it to the front before the product sells out.
Now, to be clear, I am a true believer in NBA Top Shot. I think it will be the next generation of sports trading cards, and I think years from now these “moments” will be worth thousands of dollars. Therefore, my strategy is long-term and I am essentially always in a holding pattern.
I believe in it because, one, I think it’s a cool idea, and two, the demand for this product at the moment is undeniably massive. As I’m writing this, there’s literally a line to even be able to sign up for an account, because the NBA Top Shot staff has been overwhelmed with such a massive spike of new user requests. Hundreds of thousands of people are showing up for pack drops, and this product is still in beta and has done next to no marketing, other than word-of-mouth. When you see a product blow up like this purely through word-of-mouth, that’s a great sign of long-lasting potential.
However, if you remain skeptical, you can buy-in to the market for as low as $9 on a pack drop, and sell those cards instantly for a profit, typically in the hundreds-of-dollars range.
Load up on undervalued, LE moments
Probably the most accessible strategy for newcomers with a smaller budget would be to try and load up on as many Limited Edition, Series 1 and 2 moments as possible. As previously stated, I believe that these moments will spike once we get further down the line, so I’m grabbing as many of these as I can and holding them. Any quality Series 2, LE card tends to average around $20, so when I see any of those cards dip into the $15-range, I scoop them up instantly.
As an example, right now I see that a Series 2, LE Jarret Culver dunk is selling for $13. However, I’ve regularly seen that card in the $20-range, so I know that if I buy it now, I’ll be able to sell it a few weeks (or days) later at a small profit. You don’t make a ton of money this way, but you can red paperclip your way to better cards, and again, the idea here is a long-term strategy in which holding onto these LE cards will yield significant gains.
I also think it would be wise to try and attain at least one Series 1 card.
Series 1 Targets I’d recommend:
Jonas Valanciunas, Series 1 LE common, block (Jan. 12, 2020) – $110
Kelly Oubre, Series 1 LE common, block (Jan. 10, 2020) – $158
Khris Middleton, Series 1 LE common, 3-pointer (Sept. 6, 2020) – $163
Dejounte Murray, Series 1 LE common, layup (Nov. 7, 2020) – $195
Pascal Siakam, Series 1 LE common, block (Nov. 10, 2020) – $265
Julius Randle, Series 1 LE common, dunk (Nov. 29, 2020) – $269
Bol Bol, Series 1 LE common, dunk (Aug. 6, 2020) – $292
Caris LeVert, Series 1 LE common, jump shot (Aug. 23, 2020) – $314
Donovan Mitchell, Series 1 LE common, dunk (Aug. 17, 2020) – $335
Brandon Ingram, Series 1 LE common, dunk (Oct. 28, 2019) – $350
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Series 1 LE common, layup (Aug. 1, 2020) – $355
Christian Wood, Series 1 LE common, dunk (Dec. 1, 2019) – $359
Kristaps Porzingis, Series 1 LE common, 3-pointer (Dec. 14, 2019) – $569
Another way to try and make money in NBA Top Shot would be a version of the previously mentioned strategy minus the holding pattern. If you keep a close eye on the market via evaluate.market, you can track the swings of a moment – sell-high when it gets to a high-point – and buy it back when it inevitably falls. One of my friends has done this with his Jayson Tatum seeing stars moment, as he has bought and sold it, for a profit, on three separate occasions. You also don’t have to buy the same card again, instead, you could take that money and try and move up to a Series 1 or just better moment in general.
The risk here is you never truly know when a moment is at its peak or low-point, and you could argue employing this strategy is more art than science, as you’re selling when you feel your moment has peeked. Thus, if you sell or buy at the wrong time, you could lose a decent chunk of change.
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The High-Roller approach
This is the most cost-prohibitive and riskiest strategy, but it’s also one that will have the highest rewards if and when this product truly takes off. A High-Roller approach would involve getting one or two big-money, Series 1 moments and just wait for the product to get out of beta. If all goes according to plan, those big-ticket purchases will net big-time profits. However, if the product flops, you may end up holding a very expensive gif of LeBron James.
Targets I would recommend for the High-Roller strategy:
Luka Doncic, Series 1 LE common, dunk – $5,500
Zion Williamson, Series 1 LE common, block – $7,599
LeBron James, Series 1 LE common, dunk – $5,500
Stephen Curry, Series 1 LE common, 3-pointer – $2,399
These are the cheapest Series 1 LE moments you can get for these superstars, with the unique and legendary version of these highlights going for the prices of BMWs or houses. It’s not a super complicated strategy: pick a superstar you like, buy a Series 1 version and sit on it. If the market takes off, that investment could turn into a house.