You know we love our AliExpress trading cards around here, it’s pretty much all we ever open. You might have heard me talk about the “secondary market” a few times on video. Maybe you’ve considered buying some boxes of your own but you don’t know where to start or what to buy? Afraid you’ll open things that won’t hold their value? Well, I am no financial advisor and this is not advice to buy or sell any specific thing. Instead this is my guide to the world of AliExpress Trading Cards and how to hopefully make some money along the way.
Table of Contents
- Just Tell Me Which AliExpress Trading Cards To Buy!
Why AliExpress Trading Cards?
First why trading cards? To get into this hobby you had better actually enjoy the hobby, it can’t be purely a money making scheme or you will just be disappointed. Trading cards have a rich and storied history around the world, and continue to be a successful hobby even today. Maybe you collected cards as a kid, or maybe you just dream of pulling that one special card – there is a lot to love in this hobby.
For me it’s the physicality of it, I’m holding something in my hand – it’s not just some digital thing or another achievement in an online game. They are also small and easy to store, relative to other hobbies like model building or figure collecting. As much as I have here at the Archives, it still all fits inside the 4 bookcases I started with!
There is also that rush of opening a pack and pulling a really cool, or even better, valuable card. It’s almost like playing a slot machine or buying a lottery ticket – you know the chance is small, but it’s there. I also invest in regular things like stocks and ETFs, in fact that is a big part of how I pay for the hobby in the first place, but that’s another story.
That’s what led me to AliExpress as a source for cards. There I could find things that people were already actively collecting and selling like Hero Battle and Star Wars. I could also find weird little niches that were special to me or part of my childhood. The best part was I could experiment and fail and it wouldn’t cost much. For the price of a single western hobby box I can pick up 10 or more AliExpress trading cards sets. Keep in mind that you won’t pull 4 figure cards in this niche, that only happens in the sport card world or western cards.
At least for now…
Buying from AliExpress
I know AliExpress has a bit of a stigma to it, and rightly so there are a ton of scammers and ways to get scammed on that site. If you aren’t prepared to lose at least a couple orders early on as you learn the system, maybe reconsider this hobby. That said, you will still come out way ahead vs sourcing this type of product any other way. Add just 1 more middle man and the price nearly doubles on these. We see Star Wars boxes sell on ebay for 50$, they cost us 15$.
Still, I’ll try to teach you what I can about the process. First setup an account and everything so that when you get to the point of wanting to checkout you don’t have to start over and do that. The site presents itself kind of like Amazon or Walmart, like a big general purpose store where you can buy anything. And that is true, if you type in something like “Dragon Ball” into the search and hit enter you will find everything from T-Shirts to cookware.
To find the kinds of cards we’re interested in the keywords to include are “Collection Cards”. So if you want Dragon Ball cards you search for “Dragon Ball Collection Cards”. Remember that you are basically walking down a street in China and visiting individual vendor stalls on this site. The exact same product may be available from 10 or different vendors, how do you pick the best one?
Choosing a Vendor
This is tough, I buy from a few different vendors and am always willing to test out new ones with a small order. I have learned a few things the hard way though, by losing orders and no way to get a refund. My best advice is to stick to vendors who specialize only in the kinds of cards we like here.
If the vendor is dealing in Pokemon or toys, anything other than trading cards you should probably avoid that vendor. I also try to avoid vendors that sell a lot of singles – where are they getting those singles? Are the searching boxes, taking the best packs, and then selling the singles back to us? I just avoid them all together.
My current favorite vendor is C1LUXURYACC Store, who you will hear me refer to as “luxury store” sometimes. I love them because they are rock solid reliable, reasonably priced and ship exceptionally carefully compared to other vendors. I’ve gotten many perfect boxes from this vendor, never from any others. On the other hand they get product slower, sometimes a week later than other vendors. They are also not the cheapest, often 5-6$ more, which can add up fast in this hobby.
My next two vendors of choice would be KAYOU Anime Card Store and Anime Card Store. Both of these vendors have similar products, and similar pricing. They will almost always be cheaper then all but the sketchiest vendors. They have never failed me, always shipped quickly and product was in good condition on arrival. They don’t ship carefully though, watch this unboxing for an example of how rough a shape some of the boxes arrive in. I buy equally from these two, whichever is cheaper at the moment.
Small Frogs Store Store – it has two “Store”s in the name – is one I’ve only bought from once. They didn’t ship especially well. They never have the best pricing either, sometimes much higher. They do have great variety though, often they have a product that nobody else does. Another niche vendor would be Goddess Story Official Store they do a lot of wholesale and sometimes have great pricing that way. Be careful though as often you can just buy 4x from one of the two bargain vendors above for less.
Finally, Shop1102878110 Store and MyBoutiqueCards Store are two new vendors I’ve recently been buying from. They have some interesting products that I don’t really see anywhere else. At the same time I’ve had some trouble and needed a refund from the first one already, and the second is still a pre-order so I don’t actually have the product yet.
A final tip, and the most important thing really is to understand this basic problem with AliExpress:
Take this search result for example, you were looking for some Naruto AliExpress trading cards. Looks like a fantastic deal eh? Entire box for 1.18$ or 3.12$ – too good to be true maybe? It is:
See how when you click on that search result you end up on the product page with the first entry selected? There are 4 variants for this product, “5PACK NO BOX”, “10PACK NO BOX”, one for 15 and then finally one for 30 packs with the box. That’s the thing you actually expected from the picture right? But the site is so confusing about this. You need to be absolutely sure you clicked the actual thing you want on the product page BEFORE you add it to your cart. Always check your cart twice before you really checkout too or you will end up with the wrong thing. Yes, this has happened to me, it was SCP Foundation stuff.
See! When you click the actual box of 30 packs the price jumps up to much more reasonable $14.69. Just because a vendor does this doesn’t mean they are scamming! If you think about it this is like picking a category of things in Amazon. If you search for like a stereo, and then click on a link to the category “Home Stereos” – you wouldn’t immediately add the first thing in the list to your cart would you? These are categories for the vendor, you can see in that one that all 4 options are the same exact card packs just in different configurations.
Finally, before we move onto the actual advice – remember shipping times. They are long, sometimes really long. Some products are actually pre sells in which case you may have the wait a long time, extending the delivery window in AliExpress periodically, before your order even ships. Then it may be weeks until you get it!. The 12 day guarantee is also not worth much, it’s 12 business days and you just get a 1$ coupon if they miss it anyway. Nobody can control customs so be prepared to wait.
Ok, but where is my Lamborghini?
HAHAHAHAHA… well, now that I’ve got that out of my system – put your Lamborghini dreams to the side my friend. AliExpressTradingCards are not the fast path to riches. You need to love these franchises, love this hobby, and be committed for the long term if you really want to find success. This means investing not only in the cards but also in supplies to store and preserve them. This means sleeves, boxes, top loaders, binders and all those other things that come along with this hobby.
Also remember that to make money you will need to actually sell the cards. This means listing them somewhere, Ebay or WhatNot or maybe even your own website. Then shipping out, this means packaging the cards safely and finding a cheap yet safe way to actually get them to their destination. I won’t be covering that kind of thing in this post, just the buying side, the fun side.
Choosing Which AliExpress Trading Cards To Invest In
Now that you know why you should be investing in AliExpress trading cards, and you know how to buy them as cheaply as possible with relative safety lets think about what we should actually buy. EVERYTHING, well yes, that is what I do here at the Archives, but let me assure you that is not path to profitability, not by a long shot.
Instead think about two things: Longevity and Marketability. Outside of collecting things that you are personally interested in or passionate about, you also might want to think about how you would ever cash in on your collection some day. Maybe you want to do that everyday, flipping cards or even flipping boxes on Ebay. Or maybe you want to do that 20 years from now. Either way these two qualities are the best way to judge any set.
For us as collectors thinking about the potential value of our sets, longevity is a good way to begin to measure things. What we mean here is how long will any given card or set remain valuable, and liquid, vs maybe fade from the zeitgeist into obscurity? This is subjective, and at some level speculative, but we can still think about it. A movie might be incredibly popular, like the weekend that “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” was released in theaters everybody was talking about it. Today? Not so much.
That’s the essence of longevity. A year later nobody remembers that movie, and if they do – not fondly. On the other hand pretty much anywhere, in nearly any country, people recognize the Transformers franchise. They recognize the gen 1 designs from the comics and early tv shows. Show them a product like that, like the Kayou Transformers sets for example, and you’ve got a product that should endure for a long time, maybe even generations.
Above I’ve got two cards pictured. On the left is a card from Chainsaw Man, it’s from the KX set. This is my favorite set I own a lot of it and I’m happy I do. It also has a great market right now, there are cards selling on Ebay, not quickly but they do sell. At the same time, I know that won’t last forever. A show like this is not something young adults will show their children when they grow up. In that sense it it unlikely to survive a generation. Products like that are best for flipping now while it’s hot, or holding forever because you love them.
The other set is Kayou’s fantastic Hero Battle TCG. That TCG is unlikely to last long, to be honest very few do. How many TCGs besides the obvious MTG have been around for longer than 30 years? A handful at most. Too many come out too often for that genre to hold value. But, look at that artwork! The card design is exceptional.
Kayou did something wonderful here – when cards have no special rules or actions they become full art cards. So this full art Venom card would be a welcome curiosity in any Marvel collectors binders. Even someone who only collects western cards would recognize the value of having a unique piece like that to talk about at the next trade night. This is why franchises like Marvel last forever, even if any given set doesn’t. There will always be somebody who wants to collect every Venom card ever printed.
This is really about two things, market size and liquidity. Either can be wrong and you will have a difficult time selling your cards. It’s never impossible, find the right buyer at the right time and anything could happen. It’s just more likely if you really plan for that to happen.
Above I’ve got two more cards pictured, each with different types of marketability. Let’s start with the easy one, Darth Vader. This is a gorgeous card, you have to see if on video to really understand how awesome the foil effect on the lightsaber is. This card has both a large market size and high liquidity. We can measure this by looking at a site like Ebay for what are called “comps” or comparable sales.
This specific card is rarely sold… but other GP rarity cards from this set are sold. They sell for around 50$, they are a case hit in rarity so that’s not a great return. Still, if you get lucky – that pays for 2 boxes. Star Wars is a massive franchise with excellent longevity, so you’d be able to sell a rare card like this long into the future. Even a collector who doesn’t understand Pre Release specifically as a set can appreciate the rarity and unique-ness of having this on their shelf.
To the right is a metal card from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. This is also a fantastic looking card, known to be case level rarity. But this franchise is not as popular as Star Wars and likely never will be. It will last, being a cult status franchise by now, it will always have a following. That following is also hungry for products, official or otherwise to add to their collections. This gives a card like this liquidity outside of the AliExpress trading cards market specifically.
Just Tell Me Which AliExpress Trading Cards To Buy!
Ok, ok, I understand not everybody has the patience to study a market this big. To really learn the ins and outs of all the different vendors and product lines becomes a full time job – trust me, I know. So if you just want my advice on what to buy I’d stick with big franchises like Marvel, Disney and Star Wars. Yes I realize those are technically all Disney but I mean the Card.Fun sets specifically. Yes, there are AliExpress trading cards made for all 3 of those.
Branching out go to the big Anime franchises. Dragon Ball, One Piece, Demon Slayer and Bleach all have large followings and a good variety of products available. You could easily pick one of these and specialize entirely in that franchise. You’d likely still never run out of new products to look at.
To get started I would pick at random one of the cheap 1-yuan or if you really want to be a big spender a 2-yuan box. Any random set will do, the purpose of this box is just to satisfy your urge to rip packs. The packs will come out to 40 or 50 cents each, so ripping even 10 at a time isn’t going to break the bank. From there I would pick up a few 10 yuan offerings, the 10-13 pack boxes. I know they seem like poor value but the hit rates and card quality will blow you away.
Don’t sleep on the 5-yuan boxes either, they can be a really good value. At that level you are often paying 20$ for 20 packs. While at the 10 yuan level this drops to 15-18 packs for 30-35$. Sure you’ll get better cards on average over time with 10 yuan packs. But, you’ll have more fun and pull more immediate hits from a 5-yuan box. And you can almost buy 2 of them for the cost of 1 10-yuan.
A strategy I’ve seen some people use is to always order 2. One box for them to rip, and the other box to flip on Ebay. When you are buying JoJo or Star Wars boxes at 15$ that routinely sell for 4x that much, it’s a tempting way to try and support the hobby. Just understand that this is a risk and you might end up not being able to sell the box for as much as you hoped, or at all.
That went longer than I thought it would, I started out just wanting to answer a simple comment on a review I did. The person had asked if they should buy that particular box or not, and if they did – could they sell the cards for a profit? This article is my very long way of answering that question I guess.
One final tip is about numbered cards, or serial-number cards. These are cards that have a specific, unique number printed or stamped into them. this means that the card you are holding is unique in the world! If it says it is 1 out of 10, that means there are only 10 copies of that card, ever, in the whole world. If you could find the other 9 for sale you could own 1 of 10, 2 of 10… 10 of 10! They would all be exactly the same card except for this number.
The reason I mention it is that these numbers guarantee rarity and therefore command value. It doesn’t mean you can’t sell other cards, none of the examples I used above were numbered cards. They are easier for another person to look at and immediately assess rarity though. If you hand somebody and 1/1 they know they are holding the one and only copy in the entire world. That immediately adds a ton of value to a card. The card has to have some value to start with though, multiplying 0 by 100 is still 0.
Happy investing, and good luck! Let me know if you do strike it rich, or have advice for me or others to learn from.