Baseball, perhaps more than any other sport, attempts to quantify how good or bad a player is with statistics. Most baseball statistics only measure a small part of a player’s ability. One statistic that gained popularity in recent decades is On-base Plus Slugging, or OPS. Here’s an explanation of OPS in baseball and what it means.
When it comes to baseball cards, rookie cards are usually more valuable than non-rookie cards. But when we think of the Pantheon of valuable baseball cards, they tend not to be rookies. Instead, they tend to be scarce cards from hugely popular, iconic sets. The T206 Wagner. The 1933 Goudey Lajoie. The 1952 Topps Mantle. So what is the most valuable rookie card?
In the 1980s, almost everyone I knew collected baseball cards, at least briefly. When we think of the 1980s today, baseball cards aren’t what comes to mind but they probably deserve to be up there with video games, Rubik’s cubes, G.I. Joe, and Star Wars. With so many of us buying and preserving cards during that decade’s baseball card bubble, there aren’t a lot of super-valuable cards from the 1980s. But that doesn’t mean all 1980s baseball cards are worthless. So let’s take a look at the most valuable baseball cards of the 1980s.
If you’re like me and thought you’d fund your retirement with baseball cards someday, this could be depressing. More depressing than 1970s baseball card values. Possibly more depressing than 1990s baseball card values, even. But there’s a flip side too. If you didn’t have all of these cards back then, you probably can afford all of them now. None of the most valuable baseball cards of the 1980s are worth what we thought they’d someday be worth.
I recently decided to collect the 1948 Bowman baseball set. It has a number of things going for it. With 48 cards in the set, it’s attainable. Of those 48 cards, 18.75% of them are Hall of Famers. It’s also one of the two first postwar major-issue sets.
A partial box of unopened 1948 packs surfaced recently in Tennessee, so that’s as good of an excuse to talk about the set as any. No one knew any unopened 1948 Bowman packs survived. It sold at auction for $521,180.
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, especially cards from his early days with the Boston Red Sox. 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.
“Will baseball cards ever be valuable again?” someone asked me recently. The answer is that it depends. Not all cards were valuable in the first place.
Part of the problem is there was a time when 90% of boys collected cards. Now they don’t. Prices dropped due to simple supply and demand.
Babe Ruth is arguably the greatest baseball player of all time. No doubt he’s the most famous baseball player of all time. Goudey was the top baseball card brand of the 1930s, so Goudey and the Sultan of Swat make a legendary combination. When it comes to Goudey Babe Ruth cards, there are several options.
I don’t generally recommend baseball cards as investments. But Goudey Babe Ruth cards have increased in value over time and they aren’t hard to sell quickly if the need ever arises. So they are a safer investment than most other baseball cards, at least.
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.