Stock Market Not So Different from Baseball Cards

January 31, 2017
by Aleena Karamally

On the surface, it may seem that baseball cards and stock market trends are completely unrelated – but a recent study by Rady School professor Joseph Engelberg along with Linh Le and Jared Williams from the University of Florida found that the market for baseball cards shares many of the same anomalies that have been documented in financial markets. 

In a study of the value of approximately 38,000 baseball cards issued from 1948 to 1996, researchers found that the market for baseball cards featured momentum, price drift in the direction of previous performance and IPO underperformance, much like studies of the stock market.

The findings regarding momentum support the idea that momentum arises because information gradually diffuses across a market. Engelberg, Le and Williams correctly predicted that because of less sophistication in traders of baseball cards (who are mostly younger), momentum would be greater. The researchers concluded that holding outperforming cards for a three-month period generated a 5.6 percent monthly return, compared to the less than 1 percent earned by momentum strategies in the stock market.

Like stocks, price drift in baseball cards occurs in the direction of previous performance. Researchers found that cards that had previously performed well continued to perform better than cards that had previously performed more poorly.

A parallel for IPO underperformance can be seen in newly issued cards and those of rookies. Both Initial Public Offerings of stocks in the stock market and these new cards in the market for baseball cards tend to underperform for a sustained amount of time.

Engelberg, Le and Williams’ research is significant because it supports the idea that financial theories of momentum, price drift, and IPO performance can exist naturally in markets, which do not include factors like dynamic growth rates, dividends or mutual funds.

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