Mint Musings: Determining Value in Today’s Market – A couple of days ago, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who was looking to purchase a high-end card. The initial price was rather high, but the seller was willing to take offers on it. I told him what I thought was a fair price for the card given the player and the current market. He got back in touch with me a few hours later to let me know he had purchased the card at considerably less than the price I had suggested. In fact, his purchase price was less than 10% of the original asking price on the card.
My friend’s example poses an interesting challenge in today’s hobby world. Just how in the heck do we determine values on trading cards and memorabilia? With so many parallels, 1-of-1s, box-toppers, manufacturer direct and other unorthodox cards, it’s more difficult than ever to figure out how much something is actually worth.
Pricing magazines such as Beckett used to be the gospel in determining card prices, give or take regional demand. While Beckett is still a useful guide for standardizing prices on many cards, there are still too many cards that can’t be accurately priced due to their scarcity or lack of precedent. After all, how much is a card with a piece of the Berlin Wall really worth?
Being a collector of Baseball Hall of Fame signatures, I deal with this topic often. While an autograph of someone like Rollie Fingers or Bobby Doerr may not be too difficult to price, trying to come up with a fair price for someone like Pie Traynor or Mel Ott isn’t quite as clear. Thankfully, a decade of trying to track these guys down, coupled with eBay and plenty of card shows, has given me a decent idea of what a proper price is for their signatures.
Even with that practical experience, there are times when I’ve overpaid for guys. I knew with certainty that I had overpaid for them too. It just goes to prove that sometimes, logic has to go out the window when buying something you really want. It also serves to prove a point that everybody has a different idea in mind of what they’re willing to pay.
If you find yourself in a similar situation and need a price quickly, there are a few options at your disposal. If you have a smart phone handy, you can always do a quick search on eBay to find similar cards. Even if it’s a 1-of-1 or some other type of rare card, chances are you’ll be able to find something else similar to compare to.
Other resources available to you are services like WorthPoint (www.worthpoint.com) that allows you access to several years worth of pricing data from eBay and other marketplaces for all sorts of collectible categories.
Terapeak (www.terapeak.com) is a licensed eBay partner that also provides a wealth of historical pricing data.
In today’s mobile friendly environment, new services like Elite Cards (www.elite-cards.com), provides real-time pricing information for over 100,000 of the hobby’s most popular graded sports cards from PSA, SGC and BGS.
Even Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) has both a printed and online price guide called the Sports Market Report. It is the only official price guide for PSA-certified collectibles.
Vintage card collectors can utilize the robust real-time pricing data and models found at Vintage Card Prices (www.vintagecardprices.com).
With regards to game-used memorabilia, pre-War trading cards and super-rare autographed items, every reputable auction houses provides access to completed listings. In most cases you simply need to sign up for the company’s eNewsletter. Sites like Heritage Auctions (www.ha.com), Goldin Auctions (www.goldinauctions.com)and SCP Auctions (www.scpauctions.com), to name a few can be provide a wealth of pricing information. (Plus, it’s really fun to “window shop”. You may even find items you never knew existed.)
Most importantly, if you have any real-world contacts in the hobby, at your local card shop or favorite social media channel, it never hurts to reach out for second opinions.
Being a collector today can be a daunting task, especially if you’re a fan of chasing rarer cards and other hard to find items. However, as you can see, whether you’re buying for investment purposes or simply for adding to your personal collection, there are numerous resources available to you. Using them before you buy will insure that you don’t badly overpay.
Even though it’s not always easy to tell how much you should pay for something, don’t forget to use the resources at your disposal. They may just pay off for you.
Kelsey’s ability to bring hobby coverage to the mainstream sports fan as the producer of ESPN’s Mint Condition has been a true asset. GTS is happy to feature his thoughts on the hobby in Mint Musings. The opinions expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect those of GTS Distribution.
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