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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Quote of the Day

I think it is a little disconcerting when young baseball fans are more interested in the value of a player's baseball card than his batting average. In some ways that's a tragedy.
This was one of the quotes I copied from the film release Ultimate Baseball Collector's Collection.

What's a Ken Griffey Jr. 1989 Upper Deck rookie card worth?

Jose Canseco's '86 Donruss?

How about Nolan Ryan's 1968 Topps rookie?

What's the high book value of a 1996 Upper Deck Derek Jeter card?

When I was collecting as an older kid and teenager, these were questions I knew the answer to off the top of my head. Back then, everything had a certain value, and I made sure I knew it. The "cash" value of a card, according to the Beckett guide, really meant everything. I didn't have to have the most expensive card, and collecting wasn't about the money, but I knew its value. I knew that base Griffey cards from a quality release were worth about $3 each, while from a standard set like Topps or Donruss they'd be worth about $2. When the next month's Beckett came out, I'd check to see how I did on my box breaks from the month before. "Wow! That parallel I pulled from Stadium Club is worth $60! Awesome!"

Did I know Griffey's batting average? Usually. I knew how many home runs players had, where teams were in the standings, and what happened the night before, thanks to Sportscenter.

But I know back then, most people were interested in the value of their collection more than the players in the collection. More people collected Griffey than, say Will Clark, because they knew that Griffey's cards would put their kids through college. (Did that ever work for anyone? Honestly?)

I know I've seen parents caution little kids about keeping their cards in mint condition, but six year olds don't love something they can't play with. I've always suggested when getting children involved with baseball cards that they buy them inexpensive packs and let them play with them as they wish - condition isn't important when developing a love of the hobby. As they grow older, you can introduce them to proper techniques for storage and handling so they can keep nicer cards to enjoy for years. It shouldn't be about the money, but cards can become a great lesson in value, including and especially intrinsic value.

I remember at some point in the '90s I mentioned to someone that I collect cards, and they asked me, seriously: "Do you wear white gloves and stuff to handle them?" The perception at that time was that any card was an investment in the future and the shiny, new cards like Topps Finest would be worthless with so much as a fingerprint smudge on them.

I've grown since then. I have a Beckett on my coffee table, and I refer to it a few times a week. I use it to ensure I'm not being cheated before bidding on some cards on eBay, and more as reference for things such as insertion rates. Of course, things are different now, anyway. Most people don't look to Beckett to price cards at shows anymore, and I have an idea of what a card is worth to me, regardless of "book value". Where in the past I used software to track the value of my collection, complete with up-to-date pricing information, everything these days are listed in Google spreadsheets. In fact, other than the set collections (where specific card numbers are important for set-building) and my personal collections (because the specific cards in those collections are what matters to me), I don't know what cards are part of each collection. I have a real nice 1/1 autographed patch card from 2005 Absolute Memorabilia. I pulled it from a pack - my first 1/1, and a nice one at that. But I don't remember who it is, because the player on the card doesn't matter to what the card represents, and neither does its value.

Getting back to the quote itself, the person in the video says it's a tragedy when a kid is more interested in a player's card value than his average. Do you agree? How much about the value of a card should a child have?

What are your thoughts on the quote? Plenty of room below!


  1. Great post, Ryan - and a great question.

    Looking back upon my childhood, I can easily say that I made the transition from collecting for fun to collecting for "worth" in just 5 quick years in the hobby. I started in '87 and I can still remember building team sets in this gigantic and awkwardly circular card case that resembled a giant baseball. I'd go through them every day, memorizing names and matching players with box scores in the daily sports page. I'd celebrate a new Yankee, Brave or Oakland A....but Doug Corbett from the Angels had his own spot, too. My collection grew quickly and I was forced to jam too many cards into too small of a space. I damaged the cards but I didn't care because I was having fun.

    Then Christmas hit and Santa left me a complete set! It was sealed and wrapped in plastic for about 5 seconds that morning. I shuffled through all of those cards over and over and over......I kept the set together (I think), but I sure didn't care about enjoying them. I think I even took them out of the factory box and placed them into my team-organized case before realizing they wouldn't fit and then transferring them BACK into the factory box. (laugh) As a father now.....God, that cracks me up.

    Fast forward to about '90, '91 or so - you know, the purest of junk wax years! I had a Beckett subscription (duh!)and COULDN'T wait to pull it from the mail box every month to check the HOT LIST and see how my collection's numbers had improved.

    "....'84 Mattingly, 18 bucks and going UP! Greg Jeffries, 4 bucks this month - WOW! I need to trade for Jared's Kevin Maas soon before he goes up anymore! Dale Murphy just isn't panning out. What happened to Jerome Walton and Chris Sabo?! Out of the top loaders and back into the common box, boys!"

  2. continued......

    I still received a complete set every year but these were left sealed and quickly placed into deep storage for my future fortune. Instead, I chased the hot players and hot rookie cards. I busted packs that now resembled metal more than wax and quickly checked high-range "prices" (why would anybody go by the 'low' prices anyways?!?) to see which cards deserved a top-loader. Usually, if a card registered over the $1 mark - it was carefully penny-sleeved and top-loaded. Ready to show! Didn't matter who it was, I was getting rich.......

    Bleh. Oh well. If I could go back and talk some sense into myself, I don't know if I would. Sure, now I would encourage 'me' to hold off on $3/$4 packs of Fleer Ultra, Finest or whatever and save up to complete my favortie player's '84 rookie card collection or enjoy some of those great vintage cards at the back of my LCS's display case. I would also encourage little me to build some older sets.....but I can't, and that's okay because I STILL had fun!

    Depending on what age group you define as a "kid", I would keep the worth/price/value aspect of the hobby away from youngsters as long as possible. Their immersion into the sport, whether it be playing the game in Little Leagure or as a fan checking the sports page, Sports Center and Sports Illustrated - could very well be tainted if the business side plays too big of a role. I'm not saying that it will ruin the experience but it will have an effect.

    Baseball cards, when not treated as potential dividend checks, are a great way to supplement a person's love for our national past time. Particularly when looking back upon days gone by. The two can go hand-in-hand in that regard.

    On the flip-side, the game of baseball can't supplement a kid's money-hungry approach to the hobby. Players will get hurt, teams will have bad years and hot rookies don't pan out. These are facts of life and will affect baseball cards' "value/worth/price" accordingly. When this happens, if the pure love of the game and a certain team(s) or player(s) is not there to sustain the passion for that young kid through a hard-hit "card portfolio"......there's a recipe there for a loss to the hobby and perhaps even the sport. And there's nothing fun about that!

    Sorry for the long post - passionate and sentimental subject matter + slow morning at work = novella :)