30 Day Baseball Card Challenge

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cardboard Values and the Words "Scarce" & "Rare"

I just finished writing the post below & my brain is officially fried. This post starts off in one place and completely ends up in another, so I apologize in advance to those who get annoyed.

Remember the card show I attended a few weekends ago? Well... I saved my best find for today's post:

2000 Pacific Prism Prospects "Holographic Mirror" # Isaac Bruce (#'d 57/75)

Beckett lists this card at $10... but of course that doesn't mean anything... especially since I picked this copy for a whopping 10¢. Yep... 10 pennies. It's flippin' serial numbered to 75.

Wow... cardboard "values" just aren't the same as they used to be. And neither are the words "scarce" or "rare".

Wish I could find this card for 10¢!

Do you remember back in 1990, when Pro Set randomly inserted 10,000 Lombardi Trophy holograms into their wax boxes? Ten thousand. A number in today's hobby that seems astronomic... but back then was considered "rare".

Obviously, it's simply a case of "supply" vs. "demand". Back in the early 90's... there were 5... 10... maybe 20 times the amount of card collectors there are now. Collectors saw the values of '81 Topps Montana rookies soaring though the roof and figured their Dan McGwire rookies would do the same... and so the card market boomed.

Then the walls came tumbling down. Maybe too many collectors got burned and have walked away from the hobby. Maybe kids these days would rather play Modern Warfare 3 or hang out on Facebook, instead of busting packs.

Either way, the number of collectors in the hobby is nowhere near what it once was. In other words, "demand" has dropped... which means "values" have also fallen too.

Here's a perfect example of what I'm talking about...

I recently saw a one of a kind printing plate of Isaac Bruce sell on eBay for $1.76 (free shipping). Insane right? It's impossible to get any rarer than this. And it's not like Isaac Bruce is a common. He has the 7th most receptions in NFL history and the 3rd most receiving yards. On top of that... he has 91 receiving touchdowns... which ranks him 10th all-time.

It makes me wonder whether or not the pieces of cardboard I purchase are destined to fade into obscurity like Kenner Starting Lineups, Beanie Babies, & Pogs.

Well at least the Lombardi Trophy hologram still commands big money.

So what do you think?

What do you think the future holds for this hobby?

Is collecting cardboard a dying hobby?

Regardless if the cardboard future is "dark" or "bright"... I'm in it for the long haul. I've definitely cut back in spending since my collecting days of yore. But that doesn't mean that these pieces of cardboard with pictures of grown men on them aren't a huge part of my "happy place".

Have a great day... and sayonara!

Extra Edition
So... I understand that some of you might feel that I'm focusing too much on "value"... and not enough about the pieces of cardboard themselves & the joy they bring to all of us.

Well.. I wholeheartedly assure you that this isn't the case. It's been years since I purchased cards for the sake of "investment". But at the same time... this particular collector isn't independently wealthy. I'm living on a teacher's salary... and can't afford to just throw away money. Maybe I need to look at it as I'm "investing" in my "happiness"?

By the way... if you can believe it... this post was originally part of my Cheap Cool Cards series. That's what happens when you suffer from ADD.


  1. The Lombardi trophy brings back memories - it used to be listed at $500.

    I go for more of the Dark side of the hobby. Though that could be a good thing.

    Panini is "only" putting out 5 sets this year in Basketball I wonder if that may be a good thing and give the cards more value.

  2. I think the investment part of collecting took over big time, I don't know how many times I've gone to various forms and see people bust boxes of sports they don't know anything about! Or they bust a box and bam everything is for sale. I used to have a motto for my collection and it was "everything I buy stays in my collection period" but as time goes on and there are other things you want (in my case, game used memorabilia has kind of taking over #1 priority) than it's not feasible to keep everything and I've sold some cards I swore I would never sell. It's not like it was when I first started, where base cards were still semi-valuable and the big chases were inserts. Nowadays base cards are garbage and everyone looks for the super hot superfractor of some hot shot prospect. I can't even buy boxes anymore, because they are so expensive and I'd rather get a nice card off Ebay than take a shot at a $100 plus box and get like a Joe Johnson one color jersey card. I'm not a big Panini guy either, I wish UD could get their NBA license back. I'm sure the card hobby will still be fine as long as you have high rollers, it's just not the same as it used to be.

  3. I often look at the cards I buy or collect with an eye towards; "what might they be worth someday?"
    That's not really a stop-and-smell-the-roses mentality.

  4. Back when numbered cards forst started to get popular (think 1997), I spent way to much money on #'d Tino cards...looking back, they were numbered to like 2500. Not so rare in today's world. But the idea of them made them really special at the time.

    In terms of "value", growing up I loved reading Beckett and looking up what my cards were "worth." My brother-in-law always used to argue me that they are only worth the value in the book if you were to try and sell them. I never believed him...I'd stick to my guns and say, "no, this Michael Jordan card in my collction is worth $12." Funny that I'd probably agree with him on it nowm years later.

  5. I see absolutely no value in long term card collecting. The only value to be found in cards now is in 'day trading' style hit-and-flip rookie cards - or in sealed boxes from yester-year.

    My collection is singular in the fact that I never plan to sell it unless something catastrophic happens and I have to buy food for the family.

    In twenty years, if my Batum collection has no sell value, I'll still be glad I have it.

  6. john - holy smokes... didn't realize it booked for that much.. that's insane!

    one good thing about the hobby seeing darker times is that die hard collectors will be able to find cards at very affordable prices.

    chris - i rarely bust boxes for the exact reason you mentioned... i would much rather buy singles with the money. but i also realize i'm giving up the fun factor or ripping packs. i just started selling cards at a local flea market a couple of months ago... first time i've sold my stuff in years.

    sewingmachineguy - i'd be lying if i told you i didn't do the same.

    lost collector - maybe it's a rite of passage or something. the conversation between you and your bro is the same one i had with my father... and the same one i tell my nephew ;-)

    g - i hope you're wrong... but i'm with you... it doesn't look good.