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Collecting High-Valued Baseball Cards

by BigEds (09/09/08).

While prices for the basic living necessities keep rising faster, the market for high end baseball cards seem to be growing more and more. Unlike when times were tough back in the early 1980’s when high end sports cards prices were at their lowest, this time around the baseball card market is just the opposite.


Then and Now

In the early 1980’s, when economic times were tough, prices of the highest valued cards fell and caused many dealers of that time to go out of business, or not see enough profit to afford to stay in business. The market right now in comparable economic times is booming. Recent major auction house prices for some of most recognized baseball cards continue to set record prices. To use 1 prime example, the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card #311 (see image); back in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, this card in near mint/mint condition sold for $1,500. It wasn’t easy to find a buyer at that price either. Recently a PSA graded near mint/mint 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle sold at auction for $98,177.13 , passing one previously sold for $96,000.


A Sound Investment

The market for high-end baseball cards has grown to the point of being a sound investment and I think that is why we are seeing the opposite effect from the early 1980’s in the sales of quality cards. Back in the 1980’s it was almost impossible to name three cards that would sell for over $10,000. Today, you can come up with thousands of cards that would sell in excess of $10,000 in this market.

Of the cards for players that are recognizable (Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, etc), all have cards of value in excess of $10,000. There are many other cards that are not recognizable by most that come from early production, such as various tobacco cards produced in the late 1800’s where you got a baseball card in a pack of cigarettes or chewing tobacco. Many of these cards have not survived the course of time, thus making them rare.


Paying Top Prices

Collectors and investors have been paying top prices to obtain the rare and big name player cards in the best condition possible. In my opinion, this is part of the reason for the sound investment in baseball cards. Their track history of value has proven to increase, plus the fact that you have a hard asset in your hand. If you invest in 10 shares of a companies stock you have a piece of paper that says you own 10 shares, not really something you would want to display in your house, but if you have Babe Ruth card (see image), it is something you not only invest in but take pride in showing to others. Aside from the investment factor having cards of favorite player’s fuel interest in the history of the game, it may bring back childhood memories, and keeps an ongoing interest in the current players for future investment.


Collecting Types

Many people do not see how collecting high-end baseball cards are an investment, but as long as there is some type of sentimental value attached with certain cards/players, the desire to own their favorites will never die. True card collectors who want to own many cards usually steer more toward mid-grade cards, by that I mean they buy cards that would rate 3-6 on a scale of 10, that way they still get a reasonably nice looking card and can afford more of them. Generally, the true collector is not looking for investment, then the true collectors with the ability to own the best will buy cards from the 7-10 range, but more likely the 9-10 range if such cards are available to them. It is the collectors that love the hobby, but just can not afford to buy much due to everyday living costs eating up their budget, they usually buy the cards graded 1-3 range, they still have the card they desire and surely not looking for investment purposes.

The investor on the other hand strictly is looking for the highest graded cards of the best sets on the market, for example a 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth card (pictured PSA 4) would be an investment card but more so in grades 8-10, they are very hard to find in that condition and highly sought after. The one pictured is a nice clean card, still has investment potential but will not see huge increases in price as would one graded 8 or even a 9.

As economic times get tough I see collecting cards to be a good solid investment because of the emotional attachment to the hobby/sport, the fact that you have an item you can display and still holds a good value. You will know that a particular card, what ever it may be, will not be filing for bankruptcy. The board of directors will not be producing more of them, and as time progresses other copies will be destroyed due to natural disasters and people not knowing what they have and discarding them. Just like in other collectibles markets like coins, comics etc. baseball cards produced in 1933 are just that, from 1933 and not reissued as authentic, as more and more disappear from circulation, the value has kept rising and given the track history of the last 20 years baseball cards have seen major increases in value far exceeding that of most stocks, bonds, and commodities.

With the investment history being sound and the fact that you have an original card in your possession when the stock market or economy is not allowing investors to increase their portfolio’s investing in hard assets has become very popular. As stated above, when a specific card is destroyed the value of the surviving ones increase, when a stock certificate is destroyed, another original can be obtained, additionally any board of directors can vote for more shares to be made available, sports cards are only replaceable by purchasing another copy but it still leaves one less available in the market


Any Market is a Good Market for Collecting

I am not saying for everyone to go out and buy baseball cards and look to get rich or that they all go up in value, like all hobbies and investments the card market has its ups and downs. Thorough research and education should be obtained to insure you are buying items that meet your needs, if for investment be sure you consult with experts to assist you, if for collection purposes an experts assistance is always good, collecting cards in both booming and staggering economic times can still be fun and rewarding, you just need to proceed with caution and enjoy the hobby. My next article will focus on grading sports cards and what it has done for the hobby, till then enjoy the hobby.

4 Responses to “Collecting High-Valued Baseball Cards”

  1. SDHC says:

    Sweet , I hope to see more from you and continue these great work that really inspires me to create.

  2. Michael Sanders says:

    I have this Mickey Mantle Baseball card that is pictured above, it came with a protective seal that is still in mint condition. How would I go aboot getting a proper price for this card and one other Mantle card that I have collected. I also have a Bo Jackson Rookie Card that is signed with a Certificate of Authenticity, how much would this card be valued at? Do you have a recomendation for a good pricing book for rare baseball cards? Please get back to me at my email, mike-sanders13@hotmail.com.

    Thanks,
    Mike
    (949)330-3706

  3. Steve says:

    How is the market now, four years after this article appeared?

    • Rob Bertrand says:

      Hi Steve and thank you for the question. While I did not write the article I am the current Sports Worthologist and I can tell you that the market for high grade vintage cards, like the ones reference in this article, has never been better. These cards continue to set records at auction and will continue to appreciate in value. In fact, the only guaranteed, investment quality sports cards are those from the ’50′s and earlier. The finite population and the premium put on grading makes these cards a sound and stable investment. You would be buying on the high side with marginal increases in value but a return would still be there. Even cards from the ’60′s and early ’70′s are increasing in value as children who collected in that era are reconnecting with the hobby in record numbers. Vintage will always be hot.

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