Using Sports Card Price Guides to Find the Real Value of Your Collection

Using Sports Card Price Guides to Find the Real Value of Your Collection

At some point, nearly all collectors want to know what their sports cards are worth. Long-established practices of using "book value" to price baseball cards have, at least in part, been replaced by more timely and relevant data. Those who are looking to invest in sports cards are strongly encouraged to look beyond monthly price guides when doing their research. Often, the pricing data is dated by the time the periodical is published.

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Finding the Value of Your Sports Cards Can Be FREE and Easy

Far and away, the simplest and most accurate method for determining the current value of your sports cards is to look at completed eBay auctions. Registered users have basic access to completed auction data, free of charge. This is a fantastic resource for seeing just how much your sports cards are worth on the open market.

Making use of this information is as easy as it is inexpensive. After entering a specific card, set, or product in the search box, click the "Completed Listings" box on the left side of the screen. This will bring up a listing of all completed auctions from the last 90 days. Listings are included for both completed sales and those that didn’t sell.

This information is vital for getting a snapshot of the current market value of a specific item. The old saying that, "Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it," should be amended to include the disclaimer, "at the exact moment you want to sell it." EBay's completed listings search function is a clear example of why this is true.

Book Value vs. eBay Value

Often times, collectors ask, "Why is there such a difference between book value and eBay value?" Printed price guides largely use sales data from retail brick and mortar stores to price their card listings. Most collectors are aware of the fact that you can often pay significantly more for a card purchased from a baseball card shop as compared to online. Shop owners have added costs such as rent, utilities, payroll, and other fixed and variable costs. Online dealers don't have as much overhead and can often offer things for lower prices.

How Print Sports Card Price Guides and Other Tools Can Be Useful

Not every card has completed eBay sales data available. This is where printed price guides can serve as an additional tool, such as those published by Beckett Media Image and F+W Media (formerly Krause Publications).

In addition to eBay's own search functions, there are a wide-range of services available. Most of these require a subscription that lets users access even more accurate and robust sales data and analysis.

Terapeak and HammerTap are just two companies that offer such pricing services. One of the key differences in these types of paid services is that they allow you to track a bigger range of sales data. They can go back a year or more to provide historical sales data. With this data, collectors can track trends and see how a card’s value increases or decreases over a specific time period.

Other online resources do exist to research sports card pricing data. The key is that all of these resources and tools are just that, tools. They can be used to assemble a pricing profile, and to determine as accurate a value for a specific card as possible. One such site is Sports Lizard, which has incorporated a proprietary pricing tool using a wide range of completed eBay data. The main problem with the site is that it doesn't differentiate cards that are graded versus those that are not. This skews pricing data significantly and returns results with a mean value for all cards within that specific search.

Collectors can also use websites that specialize in providing pricing data for a specific niche such as graded and vintage cards. For example, Collector’s Universe publishes a monthly price guide and online supplement for PSA-graded cards. Collector's Universe is the parent company of PSA. The data is taken from dealer sales at shows, auctions, stores, and online. Condition, grades and realized prices are meticulously tracked and cross-referenced by the company’s pricing analysts.

Additionally, vintage card collectors have a very reliable pricing resource available to them through the website Vintage Card Prices. The site provides a comprehensive database of historical sales info for a wide range of vintage cards. The site also has a "Live eBay" search function, forum and other resources to help collectors determine a value for their individual cards or entire collection.

It should also be noted that even Beckett, while a little slow in getting up to speed with real-time pricing, offers a wide range of subscription-based, online price guides. As with all of the aforementioned resources, they are tools and are intended to be a guide. The secondary market is constantly fluctuating and values for baseball and other sports cards are always changing. They're fluid. This means that determining an actual value for a specific card, set or product, often times, comes down to being able to determine a price range. These tools help accurately narrow that range down as small as possible to get a real-time, here-and-now price.

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The Sport Americana Basketball Card Price Guide & Alphabetical Checklist (1991)
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Beckett Basketball Card Price Guide 2004-05
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Beckett Basketball Card Price Guide, Number 21 (2013, Paperback)
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BECKETT BASKETBALL CARD PRICE GUIDE MAGAZINE JANUARY 2013, ANTHONY DAVIS COVER.
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Rob Bertrand

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Rob Bertrand is an avid collector with over 20 years of active experience in the hobby. He is one of the site's most accomplished writers, as well as the co-host of Cardboard Connection Radio. You can follow him on Twitter @VOTC.

User Comments

  1. i think the people that buy sportscards boxes on ebay should sell there singles on ebay. be a brick and mortar store. tired of people trying to sell to me, after buying on ebay.

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