Where is the Value in Baseball Cards?

They are made of cardboard and not much larger than your credit card. And to purchase one or more of the more sought-after and expensive ones you might likely need to max out said credit card to strike the deal.

Baseball cards. What makes them so valuable? Many people just don’t get it. My wife is one of those people. “When you die, I’m going to fill a dumpster with your cards”, she tells me only half-joking. Do I have enough baseball cards (and other sports-related collectibles) to fill a dumpster? Of course not, but she sees it that way, because any amount is too much to a non-collector. Yet, we agree to disagree regarding my passion, while she bides her time.

For some, it’s a revolving door; they buy cards with the intent to resell – those are the retail shop owners and the speculative investors. For others, like me, it’s a roach motel – they check in, but don’t check out! My wife again: “What difference does it make how much they are worth?… You never sell, you only buy!” Touch©.

To be fair, I have self-imposed a slowdown and curtailed my acquisitions significantly in the last several years, streamlining my attention only to a handful of sets that I have targeted for completion… Topps 1953, Topps 1954, Topps 1965, and Topps 1967.

Why these particular sets? It’s personal. I’ve decided to dedicate myself to these four classics because they were among the very first cards that I collected when I was very young. So, in spare moments, I scour collector websites – eBay* and others – for my want list (the cards I’m still after to complete the four sets). The key for me is to be patient and keep looking for the really good deals; that’s usually when the collector’s pleasure endorphins really kick in! The journey is nearly as much the reward as the prize itself. If I was simply interested in completing the sets as quickly as possible, with little concern for cost, my great quest would have come to an end long before now, and at quite a bit more expense too. So, the trick is not necessarily to find the cards I want (that’s the easy part), it is to find those cards at a price that I consider to be a good value buy.

How do I decide on what I’m comfortable with paying for a specific card? I start with pinpoint research. And for that I usually keep it simple… primarily I reference the standard resource in the industry – the annual Beckett Baseball Card Price Guide, the leading authority on sports collectibles. There I find universally-accepted values for nearly every baseball card in existence. But once you have this valuation book in hand, here now is where your buyer’s tolerance must become personalized and you’ll need some trusty guidelines.

For myself, I set some hard and fast rules (broken on occasion, but never ignored): Using Beckett’s high and low columns for the desired card I’m considering – high dollar figure is typical top-dollar expectancy; low number, stands to reason, is the low-end price you might expect to pay – I then cut the lowest dollar amount in half and that’s my target price… 50% of the low column establishes my comfort zone. So, for example, if the Guide has a particular card ranging from $100(low) – $300(high), I’ll be pleased as punch to snag it at a maximum cost of $50. If I stick to this rule – and I usually do – I know that ultimately I’ve acquired my collection for a nice, reasonable price. And that only adds to the joy and satisfaction of the hobby, because it balances my creative side (the desire to collect memorabilia) with my practical side (the need for fiscal responsibility).

So, if these cardboard cut-outs can be gotten routinely at cut-rate bargains and hence everything becomes clearly negotiable, where then is the value in a baseball card?

It’s in your heart, your memories, your sense and passion for things historical, your love of the sport and its heroes, and in some cases, it’s in your blood.