Will baseball cards ever be valuable again?

“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.

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How to sell baseball cards

How to sell baseball cards

If you want to know how to sell baseball cards, chances are you want maximum value for them. Here are some tips on how to sell baseball cards without getting ripped off.

Selling cards starts with knowing how to value baseball cards. So I recommend you read that first, or at least skim it. Then, come back here to read about your options.

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How to value baseball cards

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

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

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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How to mail a baseball card

If you sell cards, odds are at some point you’re going to have to mail a baseball card. You can mail a card cheaply and give it good protection.

One would think people would realize sticking a baseball card in an envelope in between two pieces of cardboard cut from a Federal Express overnight envelope and wrapping a sheet of typing paper around the package isn’t enough protection for a baseball card in the mail.

Even if you write “Do not bend. Deliver Flat.” on the envelope.

Doing it right isn’t too hard, doesn’t cost a lot, and your customers will appreciate it.

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Beware “graded value” baseball cards on Ebay

There are a few hucksters on Ebay, whom I don’t care to give free advertising by mentioning by name, who hawk “graded” cards on Ebay and claim them to be especially valuable. One even puts supposed appraised values in his listings in parenthesis, then invites you to visit his page for an explanation of “graded” value, where he cites an example of a run-of-the-mill 1970s star card, normally worth $60, being worth $2,500 once graded.

The thing is, that’s an edge case. It’s important to understand those edge cases to avoid a ripoff.

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Why you need a hobby

As security professionals, we deal with a tremendous amount of stress. Like my new boss told me about a week into our tenure together, we tend to be perfectionists, and frequently we’re asked to deal with the most cavalier people in our organization. It’s a toxic combination.

One of the first things my boss asked me after we met was what I think about at home. In all honesty, I can’t help but think about work sometimes–I apologize for being crude, but I have a thinking chair at home and it doesn’t look like the one on Blue’s Clues–but I have a lot of other things I think about at home too. Important things like my family of course, but other important things too, like trains and baseball and baseball cards.

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My second 1935 Goudey: Grimes, Klein, and Cuyler

My second 1935 Goudey: Grimes, Klein, and Cuyler

Sometime around the sixth grade I realized that prices on modern cards were very volatile. If a star player had a bad month, his card prices were likely to suffer, while a good month or good season could send prices skyward. I have few regrets in life, but I do wish I’d sold or traded off my Jose Canseco rookie cards when their book value was $300. I could buy several today for $5 or $6 if I wanted more. (I’ll pass.)

That’s about what I paid for my second 1935 Goudey card, which featured not one but three Hall of Famers in Chicago Cubs uniforms: Burleigh Grimes, Chuck Klein, and Kiki Cuyler, along with Woody English. And when I bought that card in the late 1980s, I knew none of them were going to have a bad year the next year.

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