Determining the Real Value of Your Sports Card Collection
I've got to get this off my chest. I can't tell you how many times I have been in my local hobby shop and had the tear-jerking woes forced in my ear hole.
"It's too expensive."
"It's killing the hobby and it's stores."
"It's full of fakes!"
Some of these points are valid and I know eBay isn't perfect, but, like it or not, the site helps drive the sports cards and collectibles business. eBay, and websites like it, are used as the scapegoat for many collectors. They show, in an instant, how they could have, would have, or should have priced or sold their products. That can be a huge ego blow.
Sports cards and collecting, as you know, are like the stock market. Things go up and down, up and down. I believe we need to change how we look at it. I also get sticker shock at some of the prices that people ask for their cards and I'm not just talking about the Mount Rushmore of athletes. Most of those deserve the hefty price. We scoff at some of the values, but this is a big boy's game now. How do we really put a value on something we enjoy?
Let's start with perceived value. Perceived value is a person's opinion of a card's value that has little or nothing to do with the card's market price. Just look at one-of-one, most short prints under 25, short print autographs and the like. Normally, price guides don't even offer a price on these cards. I guess you can throw that out the window. Try this at home: check out eBay the day a new product comes out. Before a recommended value is even listed, you can sit back and watch complete pricing anarchy break loose.
When 2011 Topps Tribute Baseball first came out, I went out to buy a few packs. I could not afford to buy a box, but was still excited to rip what I could. I pulled an auto of Sandy Koufax. "Now that is one heck of a pull," I thought. I was extremely giddy and went to eBay to see where the pricing was at. One seller had it listed at $400, another at $800. Huh? I was officially confused. Here was the same card and there was a $400 swing! What does it all mean?
It used to be so simple. It really did. Sports card collecting used to be a relative value market. Relative value is quite simple: the attractiveness of one investment in comparison to another. In other words, for the Bulls fans, a Michael Jordan card was worth more than a Luc Longley card. It was a simple concept, almost cut and dry. But not anymore.
Let me ask you a question: Why is a Cam Newton autograph going for more money than a Troy Aikman autograph? What has he done? Bryce Harper is a heck of a player, but he hasn't played one MLB game. Why are his rookie cards are off the charts? The rules of the game, ladies and gentlemen, no longer apply.
My favorite baseball player growing up was Ruben Sierra for the Texas Rangers. I have his rookie card on display in my house alongside the Derek Jeter and Adrian Peterson autographs I've been fortunate enough to acquire. Now, that card will go for $2 to $10, on a good day. If you asked me what I'd sell the Sierra for, I'd say around $25,000. Insane, I know. Nobody in their right mind would pay me that, but I value that card higher because he was my favorite childhood player. The memories I attach to that card make it just as limited as any of the high-end, low-numbered hits coming out of today's boxes. My Sierra rookie card has perceived value that's not listed in any guide.
But that wasn't always the case. When I first got it, I probably would have flipped open the price book, dragged my finger along the column, seen the relative price and gone from there if a dealer or another collector wanted to buy it from me. At the time, people agreed upon values and traded cards like they really were stocks. Those days aren't part of the new reality of this hobby.
The game has changed, and so should we. As collectors, the values we put on our collections are neither right or wrong. It's all relative. I guess if someone were ask "How much you want for that?" sometimes the answer could be, "How much you got?"