Knowing How Much Your Cards Are Worth
Ah, the value of the baseball card. It's taken on a life of its own and transcends both the sport of baseball and the card-collecting hobby. Thousands and thousands of dollars' worth of baseball cards have been thrown away over the years. But today, even non-sports fans are aware of the baseball card and its presumed value—and no one would dare throw them out.
Beckett's Price Guides
It was in 1979 that a man named James Beckett published the first comprehensive book of its kind: a baseball card price guide. Perhaps no book since the Bible has quite revolutionized the sports collector's world like The Beckett Baseball Card Price Guide. Prior to 1979, Dr. Beckett had produced some small pamphlets containing estimated card values, which he distributed free of charge to interested parties in the hobby. A comprehensive, full-length book, updated annually established a valuable precedent.
The buying and selling of baseball cards represent the heart and soul of the sports memorabilia market. Beckett's card pricing guide is credited with (or blamed for, depending on your perspective) turning the pedestrian baseball card into the most coveted bit of paper product in human history; for turning a drowsy hobby into a big business. From the moment the Beckett price guide saw the light of day, the average collector has had ready access to a publication with up-to-date values of his or her baseball cards. With its publication, being an educated collector became possible for everyone who collected—or would collect—cards. The card collector circle has enlarged dramatically, courtesy of Beckett identifying card values and putting them on collectors' radar screens.
The Beckett Baseball Card Price Guide remains, over two decades since its first publication, one of the most important sources in the marketplace for discerning card values. The Beckett name is trusted and respected. It's become synonymous with “price guide.”
In addition to the annual publication, there is also The Beckett Baseball Card Monthly, a subscription magazine that provides monthly updates in card pricing. Some card prices are dynamic and change in a flash. An unforeseen event such as the 1998 Sammy Sosa–Mark McGwire home run race, for instance, created fast upward pressures on both Sosa and McGwire card prices. Baseball Card Monthly keeps collectors informed on the latest market trends and publishes listings of the upcoming card shows throughout the country. Helpful articles on relevant topics aimed at enhancing your collecting experience regularly appear in the magazine. Useful advice is continually dispensed on how to maintain your cards in the best possible condition, which, you should always remember, is the key to their value.
Although The Beckett Baseball Card Price Guide is the most popular, there are a series of books published by Beckett and House of Collectibles. The Beckett Basketball Card Price Guide, The Beckett Football Card Price Guide, and The Beckett Hockey Card Price Guide are popular with collectors in these sports. In fact, basketball card collecting has become very hot. Collecting Michael Jordan cards and memorabilia is an industry in and of itself.
Other useful Beckett publications include The Beckett Official Price Guide to Baseball Cards, which is published each year with the current year's cards only. Then there's The Beckett Baseball Card Alphabetical Checklist, with players listed alphabetically for easy reference. Just keep in mind when purchasing any Beckett publication, or other price guide, to make certain that you've got the most updated edition. This is essential in the world of prices. A 1987 price list won't do you much good today.
You can also check out www.beckett.com for Beckett online. This Web site will furnish you with up-to-the-minute happenings in the world of card collecting. A “Daily Hot List” and “Card of the Day” are just a couple of the features that you'll find here.
Ironically, even old Beckett pricing guides are collectors' items; particularly those with star players on their covers, like Nolan Ryan and Ken Griffey Jr. So, don't recycle those old price guides—hang on to them.
Originally, card manufacturers issued their cards in series. In early springtime, the first series hit the stores, followed in a few weeks by the second series, the third series, and so on. As the summer wound down, interest in card collecting did, too. The card companies—aware of the law of supply and demand—printed smaller runs of their later series. Because there are less of them in existence, high numbered cards are more valuable today.
No, it's not the Federal Budget. It's the Sports Collectors Digest Standard Catalog of BASEBALL CARDS. This annual publication takes the Beckett price guide more than a few steps further. You might need help carrying this book home—it's that thick. The Standard Catalog is over 1,500 pages, lists more cards than any other source, and provides current market prices and a variety of photos. The most unique feature of the book is the wealth of historical references and descriptions that precede each of the card listings.
The Standard Catalog of BASKETBALL CARDS is available for basketball fans; the Standard Catalog of FOOTBALL CARDS, for football fans. Again, make sure you pick up the most recent edition of any of these books, they are updated annually.
Visit www.krause.com for more information on Sports Collectors Digest books and their highly regarded magazine, Sports Collectors Digest, the largest publication in the hobby. Known affectionately in the industry as SCD, this magazine has it all. Whether you're looking to buy, or looking to sell, look here. Can't surf there, then call 800-258-0929 for a free copy of the Sports Collectors Digest catalog.
Where does the book price or book value come from? From price guides like Beckett and others, which base their prices on what's happening in the marketplace. When selling a card, however, don't expect to get the full book value for it.