Back in August, I was enamored by the sight of a gigantic stash of Darius Bazley rookie cards. The owner of this collection was Reddit user /u/BazeGod7, as shown in his original post to the Oklahoma City Thunders subreddit, /r/Thunder.
After seeing this image, I knew that I needed to connect with the rightful owner of this collection and get down to the nitty-gritty and story behind such a large collection.
Eight months later, I was connected with Frank, a 25-year-old mechanical engineer.
Bazley, the Thunder’s 20-year-old power-forward, took a nontraditional path to the NBA. Bazley originally committed to play under Jim Boeheim at Syracuse but ended up signing up for a 1-year “internship” with New Balance.
Frank’s investment in Bazley started off in March of 2020, soon after the NBA’s postponement of the season. He bought a total of 600 Darius Bazley Panini rookie cards in the six-month span of March to August. In total, he estimates that he has spent close to $13,000 on purchasing and grading these cards.
The return, however, makes this $13,000 price tag look like a burger wrapper tossed onto the street. So far, Frank estimates his collection is worth close to $50,000 based on the current market. And there’s a lot more value that could be found here. 155 of his base cards are sitting at PSA — the industry’s leading card grader — right now, and if he can get 10% of those cards to be PSA 10’s you’re looking at a profit in the thousands.
One of Bazley’s rookie cards is his 2019 Silver Prizm, one that has been worth as much as $300-$350 for a PSA 10. For reference, this card cost Frank $20 apiece last March.
Frank’s attachment to Bazley came not just from his unique journey, but also his personality.
“I followed him on social media and quickly realized how humble, intelligent and respectful he was,” he said. “He didn’t seem like your typical 19-year-old at the time.
“He’s young, teachable, humble, extremely skilled, and unsatisfied no matter how good his performance is. I almost value the system he is in, and influences in his life more than what his skillset was at the time I chose to invest in him.”
But the most important quality that came into Frank’s decision to buy in bulk? Sam Presti.
“Sam Presti has arguably the best track record of current GM’s when it comes to developing your own draft picks, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden specifically,” Frank said.
Frank’s story of how he got involved in the hobby is interesting as well.
The first time he entered the card shop, he was hooked.
Frank knew early that there was a market in the trading card industry, but it was not until his senior year of high school he took a business approach to collecting. His first major sale came from an autographed Lionel Messi 2014 Panini Prizm card. He had saved up his money in months prior and bit the bullet, buying the card for the steep price of $400.
One of the most important factors in the trading card community is the card condition. He opted to send the card in to Beckett Grading Services (BGS), and the card graded a 9.5 out of 10. In other words — gem mint condition.
Frank immediately threw his BGS 9.5 Messi card up on eBay with a $1,300 price tag — it sold instantly. With all fees and shipping included, he had a net gain of $770.
After his first big one-card transaction, it was time to move up to the big-leagues — bulk buying. After investing in players like Cody Bellinger and Giannis Antetokounmpo, he found his way to Bazley.
Frank has sold a tiny fraction of the collection thus far, to break even with his original $13,000 investment.
“I am extremely hesitant to sell anything else with how promising Bazley looks,” he said. “Can you imagine how good Bazley could be in 5 or 10 years if he stays improving his game at this pace?”