Category Archives: Baseball

Cheap Babe Ruth baseball cards

Everyone who collects baseball cards wants a Babe Ruth card. Unfortunately, cheap Babe Ruth baseball cards are pretty hard to come by. His most famous cards, 1930s Goudeys, cost as much as a nice car. Even though I’m not much of a car guy, the car is more practical. Even unattractive 1910s and 1920s strip cards of Ruth run four figures. But there are several vintage cards of Ruth’s that don’t always break the bank, including cards from his playing days. You just have to look off the beaten path.

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How to grade baseball cards

I frequently get asked how to grade baseball cards. I really think this is a job best left to a professional, but I’ve collected the guidelines below that professionals use.

Some people assign numeric values to these grades, and sometimes you’ll find mid grades. For example, if a card is a little too good for one grade but falls just short of the next grade up, a grader might add a plus to the grade, grading it EX-MT+.

Note that printing and cutting quality go into the grade, not just wear. Even if it’s not the owner’s fault, many cards fall short of mint.

Also keep in mind there’s no kind of curve. Even if the card is from 1889, if it has flaws, it’s not mint. Even if the card is brand new out of the pack, if it has flaws, it’s not mint.

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How to value baseball cards

If you have a collection, knowing how to value baseball cards is helpful. That way, if you need to insure or liquidate the collection, you’ll receive a fair price.

But fair also means realistic. A lot of factors go into value. It’s not too different from valuing other vintage collectibles, so if you already know about those, you have a head start.

Also, even though my focus here is on baseball cards, more or less the same principles hold true for any vintage trading cards: football, basketball, hockey, or non-sports cards.

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How many baseball cards Goudey sold

A couple of years ago, former Sports Collector’s Digest editor Bob Lemke stumbled across Goudey sales figures for baseball cards in the 1930s and 1940s. He presented the figures while expressing a disinterest in doing the math to try to figure out how many cards Goudey sold.

For some insane reason I decided to take a stab at it. Or, rather, make my computer take a stab at it. And I came to some unexpected conclusions.

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Why Bowman sold out to Topps, or how Topps bought Bowman

Virtually every schoolboy who is interested in baseball cards knows the story of how Topps bought Bowman. After World War II, Bowman was the leading brand of baseball card, or, at least from 1948 until 1951. Then, in 1952, Topps released its landmark 1952 set. Bowman and Topps battled for baseball fans’ nickels and pennies until 1955. Then, in early 1956, Topps bought Bowman, and that was the end of Bowman until the late 1980s, when Topps dusted off the brand name and started issuing Bowman cards again. And Topps faced precious little competition in the baseball card field until 1981, when Fleer and Donruss won the right to produce cards.

That’s the story as I knew it. But there’s a lot more to the story, starting with the details of the purchase. In January 1956, Topps bought its once mighty rival for a mere $200,000. Normally a company sells for 10 times its annual revenue, and Bowman had sold $600,000 worth of baseball cards alone just two years before. The purchase price makes no sense, until you dig a bit deeper.

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