Tuesday, July 3, 2012

My 2 Cents

A couple of days ago, Robert from $30 a Week Habit wrote an interesting post about where the hobby would be if "the magazine" didn't exist.  Of course, he was talking about Beckett.

There was a time when Beckett was a respected hobby publication, but I think it's become a lightning rod of criticism for what is wrong with the hobby.  Whether it's the over inflated card pricing, the "loaded" box breaks or contributing to the hype machine of such players as Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, Beckett has outlived it's usefulness.

Accurate card pricing is reflected better on a variety of online resources where the actual buy/sell price of cards can be checked at any given time.  If  you've bothered to check prices on a hot new card, you know that prices start high and begin to drop within a few days.  It seems like Beckett never reflects the drop in card prices.  Sometimes even years after the fact.

One of the things I used to enjoy reading in Beckett was the box breaks they would show in each issue.  Now, I can watch an endless array of box breaks on youtube if I want too, knowing that those breaks more accurately reflect what you might actually get in a box.  We've all heard the accusations of manufacturers sending Beckett loaded boxes for their breaks in an effort to build up excitement for the product.

I don't know about all of you, but I know some of us got sick of Strasmania and Harper fever.  Topps is the main culprit, but Beckett did it's part to fuel that fire too.  I don't have anything personal against either player, aside from that ridiculous eyeblack Harper used to use, but I know I rolled my eyes every time I pulled one of their cards.  Of course, I'm not looking to flip cards on Ebay so I wasn't seeing $$ when I pulled their cards.

Eric from Manupatches and Mustaches commented on Robert's post that childhood card trading was made better by having Beckett price guides.  I had a completely different experience as a kid which I wrote about way back in October of 2009.  Let's just say that chunky little Beckett price guide, the one that was updated ONCE per year, ruined everything.  No longer would my friends and I trade based on wants or needs.  It was all about the bloody book "value".  What a joke.

It's been a long, long time since I bought a Beckett and I can't imagine ever buying another one.  I'm not a case buster.  I'm not a prospector.  I don't really care about the real or perceived value of any certain card.  If I want to buy a card and I feel it's a good value, I'll buy it.  If it's not, I can skip it.  If I go to a card shop or show and the dealer has to get out his dog eared copy of the latest Beckett to tell me how much he wants for a card, I'm not doing business with him because he's out of touch with reality.  One of the very best things about the blogosphere is the fact that almost every single one of us trades with each other without regard for the value of the cards we're trading.

Every time I open a package of cards from one of you, knowing you've already opened mine, or soon will, I'm transported back to my childhood.  A time before Beckett.  A time when trading was fun and all that mattered was two kids happy about the pile of cards they had in front of them.

So yea, Beckett's still here, but I don't need it.


  1. I agree with you, though there are still some people who use Beckett values while trading. I also tell people who do so that I don't (for many of the reasons which you highlighted) but whatever makes them feel good. Oftentimes, I would have given up more had they not used the book!

  2. Back in the day (1980s) when Beckett was just the yearly Guides (and the monthly update magazine(s) I got the guides purely for use as GUIDES not for ACTUAL VALUE. At the time it was also the best way to get the current year's (or rather previous year's) checklist. This was before all this GU junk and when there were only a couple of insert sets, not a million different variations on one single obscure card all of which look entirely different like they came from 50 different sets.

    Oh also if anybody wants to get rid of their tired Strasburg or Harper cards just send them my way. :)

  3. Well said. I very much agree with your opinion. I loved Beckett growing up, and spent hours checking the value of my cards, but honestly I just didn't know better. eBay and other online sites are much more useful for determining the value of a card, which really only matters if you intend to buy/sell.

  4. You guys have got to help me out here. I want to get it but I'm just not converted yet. You must care about "book value" at least somewhat, otherwise you would trade me your 1952 Mantle for my 2011 Jack Cust? Or your star autograph card for 20 commons of your favorite team? Help me I want to be converted!

  5. I think, regardless of whether your '52 Mantle is valued at $3 or $350,000, it holds some sort of value to you that extends beyond a price guide. I think that is the main point. Just like some people have player collections of journeymen or binders devoted to relief pitchers with great mustaches. For me, personally, I have plenty of cards that are probably "valued" at five cents, but consider them gold. To each his own.

  6. Exactly Mark. Kyle, I'm not saying the cards don't have value, but Beckett is too arbitrary. Value comes in two forms: what the market says and what it means to me. I may value a common beat up 1965 Senators card the same as you value a 1986 George Brett card. I'll give you more later when I'm not using my phone.

  7. Beckett used to be a great source of information about the hobby - and yes, that's mostly gone because of the internet. The validity of their pricing has gone by the wayside, too, because of the internet. It's hard for me to completely agree - part of this is that I started collecting in 1987 and I don't know a time without Beckett. Which means I don't know a time without "book value".

    But because of all this, I don't have quite the hatred that others do for "the magazine". There are some clear conflicts with Beckett's business model. The box breaks are one, but the bigger one to me is that they grade cards, which conflicts with the issuance of price guides.

    I kind of agree with Kyle4KC's comments - value does matter for the reason he mentioned. I guess the point is that it's not necessarily the "book value" as determined by Beckett which can be a bit of a joke.

  8. I agree that Beckett is far from reality, but for the most part, as a guide, isn't it relationally accurate? A common beat up 1965 senators card IS probably about the same value in Beckett as a 1986 Brett. Isn't it?

    And, as I said, "for the most part". I just priced a Fukudome rc and Beckett says $10. Riiiiiight. Even relationally, that's ridiculous. To me Beckett can guide sometimes when we don't have enough information. Let's say I pull some short printed, one of 100 card and I can't tell by looking at it (no stamped number or whatever), Beckett can help me know that it's a kinda rare card that has some market value and if I want to trade that away for a "cheap" card fine, but at least I'm informed where I might not have been otherwise. I'm totally down with not nickel and dimeing each other. If you get 50% more in book value than you give me, so what as long as we're both happy. But at least I should know what I'm doing. I watched a card shop for a friend back in the 1990s. A 10-12 year old boy came in with a notebook full of Andre Dawson. I could have told him they were worth $10 or $10,000, he was going to take whatever I gave him. Beckett CAN (not always does) level that playing field so that he at least knows, somewhere, others perceive the value of Dawson's rookie at $60 and this shop owner is only offering me a $1 pack of cards (no, that is not what I did to the boy, I'm just giving an example).

    You guys are helping me and I want to get where you are in your thinking because I too value the purity of the hobby, when we traded because we LOVED Freddie Patek, who cares about this Rickey Henderson dude. He for the A's anyway!!

  9. If I have time to kill in a bookstore I'll sit down and flip through whatever issue of Beckett that is on the news stand, but never am I tempted to buy it.

    As far as prices I really could care less. If I'm going to sell a card (which rarely happens) I'll look at completed eBay sales to gauge a price. Otherwise I'll happily trade something I have for something I want.

  10. Brian, great post. I do use "the magazine", but strictly as a guide to get an idea of the value.

    I do not use it for trades, (as Kyle can attest to...lol) because it just becomes tedious if you're trading 50 or more cards to price them all out.

    If you have the time to do all that, you need a new hobby!!

    I've enjoyed just sending envelopes to other bloggers/blog readers without even knowing the "value" of the cards inside. I think that is why I've enjoyed the hobby more in the last year. The excitement I experience when I open these envelopes outweighs any monetary value I may have derived from the cards 10 fold.

    This is in no way to discourage the use of "the magazine" to anyone that wishes to use it.

    Everyone has their own perception of a fair trade. So far, I haven't really experienced any "bad" trades.

    Brian, thanks for reading my post and adding on, it definitely gave me fuel for thought.

  11. I'm on the fence. I agree with the self-inflated pricing, but a good chunk of that lands on Topps for manufacturing rarity. A 1/1 or 5/5, etc, card is only that way because they only printed that many, not because that's how many still exist in the world. A Mantle rookie card however, is rare because there aren't many left. That market manipulation is strictly Topps' fault, but Beckett is more than happy to slap an arbitrary number onto it, and smile while they do it.

    That said, it is a good baseline, or comes in handy when other options aren't available. You just have to realize that Beckett's price is a "guide" and not actual street value. The "book value" of my car is 18k, but street price it's only 12k, which is what I paid for it. So, what's the actual value of my car? No idea, I'll find out if I ever end up selling it. At the moment I sell it, and I've agreed on a price, that's it monetary value. That value also has NOTHING to do with the sentimental value of the car. It was the first I bought 100% on my own, it was the first I paid off, etc. Does one factor into the other, probably a little, but it only influences the high/low range. Same holds true for cards.

    If the book value of a card is $20, and I really love the card, or I'm a big fan of the player, I wouldn't sell period, but for this example lets just say I wouldn't sell it for less than $20. If I don't care about the player, I'd probably take $5-10 for it. That doesn't mean that the $20 is meaningless, just a starting point for negotiations.

    As a rule, I don't sell cards, especially not to other collectors. I would 1000x prefer to trade, and not use value as a determiner at all. That's just how I roll. If both parties are happy, I could care less what the value of the cards being exchanged is. But by knowing the value of something, I can protect myself against someone wanting to trade me complete junk. Which, incidentally, has never happened and is one of the things I truly enjoy about this hobby, the relative honestly between collectors.

    So, while Beckett isn't completely useless, it is far from the "best" way to determine value. That's a personal thing between you and the cardboard. IF, and only if you're the type to sell cards, which is completely ok, just not for me personally, then I'd prefer to compare eBay, COMC and Beckett and get a good solid average if I'm going to put a number on something on the open market.

  12. I think the last Beckett I bought had A-Rod on the cover in a Mariner uniform so obviously I don't use a price guide anymore. The only trades I complete are with you other bloggers and when I do I just package up some and wait to see what I get back.

    It doesn't bother me however to be at a show or something and a dealer gets out a Beckett to price a card. If he says this one books at $25 how about $2.50 he has a sale. If he throws a big number at me I walk. I already know about what I want to pay for a in my head regardless of what number he comes up with so if he consults a book doesn't bother me.

  13. Good input from everyone. Thanks guys.

  14. I never have anything to say when people bring up Beckett. Except for the once-a-year price guides they put out in the early 1980s, it has been virtually nonexistent in my collecting experience. I consider that a good thing, by the way.