Thursday, July 5, 2012

What gives a card value?

This is a follow up to the My 2 Cents post about Beckett.  The comments that post received were great.  Opinions about Beckett vary, but one thing that seemed to resonate with everyone was how cards are assigned a value.

Everyone seemed to agree that Beckett's valuation of cards was arbitrary and didn't make a lot of sense.  Several people like that you can use Beckett as a guide, but not the final say in what a card might be worth.

So what are the determining factors in a card's value?

1.  Scarcity.  It's been going on for a while now, but Topps and the other companies got ridiculous with the serial numbering, SPs and SSPs.  Take a set like 2008 Topps Moments and Milestones.  There were so many "base" cards numbered to 150 it was insane.  Those cards have very little value.  Even the seemingly endless supply of 1/1 printing plates has depressed prices for many of those one of a kind items.  Then you have the 2012 Topps Bryce Harper or Yu Darvish SSPs.  They have high value now, but will it last?  Do set collectors feel the need to include these artificially scarce cards in their complete sets?  How about real scarcity like 1952 Topps Mickey Mantles?  There aren't enough of those for every collector to have one.  That leads us to..

2.  Supply and Demand.   Let's say you want a 1954 Topps Hank Aaron rookie card.  One in loved condition recently sold on Ebay for $340.  That's a chunk of change for one card, but it's one of the most significant players in MLB history.  Now, let's say you wanted one in PSA 10 condition.  Well, you could have bought the one Dmitri Young had in his PSA 10 Rookie Collection.  It recently sold at auction for $357, 594.  That's downright crazy.  It's also all about supply and demand.

3.  Beckett.  Just kidding.

4.  Location.  Just like real estate, location is a factor in a card's value.  I might be able to get St. Louis Cardinals cards for a song at my local card shop, but he overcharges for Rangers.  I can get the same Rangers cards on Ebay, Blowout or from another blogger for a fraction of the price he charges.

5.  Newness.  It's the "hot" factor.  If you bust a box or case of 2012 A&G and put the hits up on Ebay the first day or two the cards are out, you're going to get a better price than you would a month later.  Vintage cards are a different animal of course, but the value of those cards really depends on the team/player.  We've all seen the posts about amazing vintage cards coming out of dime and quarter boxes.  Another blogger once picked up 44 Washington Senators cards for me at a show.  Cost: $20.  I'll take that over a new blaster every day of the week.

6.  Personal preference.  The commenters touched on this on the My 2 Cents post.  I think this is how many of us put a value on cards.  I don't open a pack of 2012 Bowman cards, pull a gold parallel of Matt Kemp and think, GREAT!  I have to have this card!  It doesn't hold any monetary value to me.  I think of it as having trade value because I can probably get something I want from one of the 79 Dodger bloggers for it.  Someone brought up a good point about star cards.  If I pull a Matt Kemp auto, I'm not going to trade it for a Mitch Moreland Opening Day card.  That's true so in a sense, I am placing a value on the card, but I don't think of it as a money thing.  I just want to get a sweet Ranger in return for it.

In reality, all of these factors, except #3, all come down to how much you think a card is worth.  If some factor causes a card to be priced higher than you are willing to pay, then it's not worth that much to you.  If someone pays $50 for that auto relic #/10 that you wanted for $20, it's worth $50 to them and $20 to you.  Of course, in this fickle world of collecting, you might still get it for $20 down the road.  Just wait for the new to wear off.

I'm sure I left out all kinds of factors that give a card value.  Let me know what you think.  After all, it's 2 in the morning and none of this may make sense when I read it in the light of the day.


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  2. Made pretty good sense to me.
    In the past no's 5 & 6 were primarily what helped me value my cards although nowadays it's just no. 6. The other four only came into the picture when it comes to cards that I felt like selling and needed to consider a legit price tag for.
    Although specifically what makes a card valuable (to me) is completely dependant on the player who's printed on the card. By that I mean I look at the card and ask myself if the card is of someone I care about. If it is I consider it valuable on a personal level and don't think about how much it could get me on eBay. If it isn't then, while I don't consider it "trash" exactly, chances are it'll fit the old "one man's trash is another man's treasure" saying.

  3. Good assessment.

    The one quibble I have is with the phrase "let the new wear off." I agree that it is bad on the finances to get cards in the first week, but that is also when supply is the highest. I am thinking more of say the black parallels for Topps. You can usually find 3-5 of them a week up on eBay for the first three or so weeks of a release, but they are rare thereafter especially for stars.

    I think a balance needs to be struck in the "it's new and shiny" phase and the "where did they all go" phase. Of course, you can find both bargains and overpriced cards at any time, but I think about 2 weeks after a release is usually the best time to start looking for certain cards.