Blog Bat Around #4: What’s truly valuable?February 12, 2009 at 1:06 am | Posted in Blogs | 3 Comments
I’d like to thank Dinged Corners for hosting the 4th Blog Bat Around! The question is very thought provoking. What cards will be valuable in ten years and are worthy of being bought and held?
Collectors nowadays tend to be very cynical about the future value of their cards. Many of us grew up in the 1980s and thought that by the time we were adults, our 1987 Topps cards would be worth a small fortune. Eventually, we came to the sad realization that due to the insane overproduction of cards in the 1980s and early 1990s, our childhood collections were essentially worthless. Today, we’re better off burning those cards for heat than trying to sell them. Even the best cards from the 1980s are worth a fraction of what they were worth 20 years ago.
Because of that, it’s common for collectors to say that the only good reason to collect cards is for the fun of it. If you’re collecting in the hope that your cards are going to increase in value so that you’ll be able to make a profit, you’re probably going to be disappointed. But while that’s true, it certainly is nice to own cards that you enjoy and also stand a good chance of maintaining or increasing their value in the future. I definitely believe that there are many cards that make this possible.
One of the bright spots in today’s card collecting hobby is that the era of overproduction is long gone. The number of active collectors has shrunk significantly in the last 20 years, so the card companies have fewer consumers for their products. While we don’t know the actual production figures, it’s fairly obvious that 2008 Topps was produced in a smaller quantity than 1988 Topps. The higher end sets from recent years were produced in even smaller quantities, and there are many serial-numbered cards that are produced in very small quantities. I don’t think this means that cards from 2008 are ever going to come close to the value of cards from the 1950s, but I do think that it’s likely that they’ll be more valuable than cards from the 1980s and 1990s.
Of course, the value of any cards depends on the demand for them. The demand for today’s cards is much lower than the demand for new cards was 10 or 20 years ago. If the demand increases in the future, the value of our cards will also increase. The big question is, how likely is it that demand for cards will increase in the future? New collectors must somehow be attracted to the hobby, and inactive collectors must return to the hobby. A lot of bloggers are former collectors who were inspired for one reason or another to return, including me. I think that all of the card collecting resources on the internet, including the blogs, YouTube, eBay and other online stores are going to help to bring former collectors back. But the big challenge is to attract today’s kids to the hobby. The resources on the internet, especially YouTube, can play a big role in that, and it will be interesting to see how successful Topps is with things like Topps Town and Topps Attax. Let’s face it – if more kids don’t become card collectors, the future demand for cards is going to plummet. I think that’s what happened to coin and stamp collecting in recent decades.
With that said, let me begin to answer the question for this Blog Bat Around. What cards will be valuable in 10 years?
Let’s start with the obvious choice, vintage cards. By vintage, I generally mean cards that were produced before 1980. I own many vintage cards, and I am confident that these cards will at least hold their value, and stand a good chance to increase in value in the future. I believe this for many reasons. First, these cards were not overproduced and many people did not hold on to them or keep them in good condition. There are only a finite number of vintage cards in good condition in existence. Second, many vintage card sets are iconic in our culture. T-206, 1933 Goudey, and 1952 Topps – just to name a few examples – are always going to be highly desirable. And finally, vintage cards feature legendary players whose legacies are never going to be tarnished by performance enhancing drugs. No matter what happens in baseball over the next 10 – 20 years, players like Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Willie Mays are always going to be among the game’s all-time heroes.
I believe that it’s important for valuable vintage cards to be graded by PSA. When you own a graded card, you have the peace of mind in knowing that it’s legitimate and not counterfeit, and you have a professional assessment of the card’s condition. The card is encased in a plastic slab, and it’s protected from anything that would cause its condition to diminish over time. In addition, because of these things, if you ever decide to sell your cards, you’ll be able to get a much higher price for a graded vintage card than for a non-graded copy of the same card.
Other types of cards that I believe might increase in value are relic cards from legendary players and certified autograph cards of legendary players who have passed away. Let’s start with relic cards. We’ve all seen some amazing relic cards featuring pieces of game-used jerseys, bats, and other memorabilia from players like Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio, among many others. Those cards sell for a lot of money right now, and for good reason. There is a very limited amount of game-used memorabilia from these players. A lot of it is displayed in the Hall of Fame and other museums. There is only so much material that the card companies can acquire and insert into cards. Eventually, they are going to run out of Babe Ruth jerseys to cut up. And when that happens, the existing cards that feature these relic pieces will increase in value.
It’s a similar concept with autographs. It is hard to envision the value of autographed cards of living players increasing very much, but how about players like Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, or Mickey Mantle? Obviously, autographs of these players can never be produced again, and we have a limited supply available. Check out the selling prices of certified autograph cards or cut signature cards from these players on eBay. They’re astronomical, and I don’t see why these cards would ever become less valuable.
That brings me to cards of current players. It’s probably not likely that the value of cards of current star players is going to increase much, unless there is an influx of new collectors to drive up demand. But I’m more optimistic about cards of prospects and young stars. The two players who immediately jump into my mind are David Price and Evan Longoria. It just so happens that I collect cards of both of these players. Sure, their cards are already selling for high prices, but there’s certainly room to grow. Just a year ago, Longoria’s autograph cards were selling for less than half of what they’re selling for now. Then he went out and won Rookie of the Year, became an All Star, and played in the World Series, and the value of his cards skyrocketed. But he hasn’t lived up to his full potential yet. Longoria can easily become one of the biggest stars in the game. The Rays definitely know this, and that’s why they signed him to a 9-year contract within his first week in the major leagues. I believe that the Rays have the smartest front office in baseball, so if they believe in Evan Longoria that much, then so do I. If Longoria hits 50 home runs, wins the A.L. MVP award, and leads the Rays to a World Series win, his cards will be even more valuable. And since I have 22 of his autograph cards, I’ll be sitting on a gold mine. Now, even if that doesn’t happen, I’m OK with that. I collect Longoria cards first and foremost because I’m a huge fan.
David Price is in a similar situation. Even though he’ll be a rookie in 2009, he is already widely known because he was the #1 overall pick in the 2007 MLB draft and because of his postseason heroics in 2008. The value of his cards has also skyrocketed over the last year. With Price, there’s more risk than with Longoria. Price is a pitcher, and like any pitcher, he’s an arm injury away from disaster. He also hasn’t proven that he can be successful over the course of a full MLB season yet. But there are many reasons to be optimistic about David Price. He could definitely become the Rays ace, win multiple Cy Young Awards, and pitch in many World Series, and I’d be sitting on a gold mine with his cards…
Still, I wouldn’t advise anybody to stock up on Evan Longoria and David Price cards with the expectation that their cards are going to increase in value. As is the case with any young player, there is a huge risk. There have been countless prospects that have not lived up to their potential. I think that the key is to collect the cards that you really enjoy having in your collection. If you’re a Rays fan like me, then by all means, go out and guy as many Longoria and Price cards as possible! Even if the cards decrease in value over the years, you’ll probably still be happy that you own them. But if you’re just buying the cards as an investment, you’re taking a big risk, and you could wind up very disappointed in the long run.
So, in summary, I believe that while the best reason to collect cards is for the fun of it, part of the fun can be in trying to figure out what cards to collect that will hold their value or increase in value in the future. While it would be foolish to expect that all cards will increase in value, there are definitely cards out there that will. The best bets are vintage cards, relic and autograph cards of legendary players, and cards of top prospects and young players. And of course, you’re taking the most risk with cards of prospects and young players.