Friday, March 9, 2012

The way it was in '93


In 1993, I was fully on board with the "cards are an investment" mentality that infiltrated the hobby in early 1990s.

I bought one of these price guides every year in the early 1980s, and when I returned to collecting in the early '90s with a vengeance, I bought this particular price guide and consumed every page.

In September of that year, I compiled a list. It was a list of my most expensive cards according to the prices listed in this book. I'm not sure why I made the list. I never acted on my "investment," meaning I never sold any of the cards. I guess it was basically a reminder of what I could get if I decided to be one of those movers in shakers in the hobby who bought and sold cards and got insanely rich. Or so I believed.

I recently dug out the list I made in 1993. Here it is:


The list is ranked in order of the most expensive cards according to the Beckett book. The list actually goes up to 50 and the other cards are listed on the back, but I just scanned the front. This post is going to be long enough as it is.

As you can see, I listed the condition between the player's name and the price. I always inflated the card's condition -- making it seem in better condition than it was. I figured that if I ever sold them, the buyer was going to underinflate their worth, so I might as well overinflate them and then we could meet somewhere in the middle. I had a weird way of thinking about cards 19 years ago.

The prices at right seem extraordinarily high. But those were the prices in the book, and during the early '90s, cards were going for crazy prices. Never mind that there was no ebay or any online card presence at all, but it was just the state of the hobby. Cards were just about as valuable as any other commodity traded on the market.

As for the list itself, I still have most of these cards. I've traded away a few. I also have acquired a number of other cards since that would make this list -- I think. It's been a long time since I calculated the cost of my cards.

So, I decided to do a little unscientific research and see how much some of these cards go for today. I went on ebay, found most of the cards, looked at the "Buy It Now" prices, considered the condition of the card being sold -- if available -- to match it up with the condition of the card I had listed, and averaged the highest and lowest prices. I also ignored graded cards. Is there anything scarier than looking at the prices of graded cards on ebay? Goodness, what a racket.

I realize that my procedure is in no way an accurate way of calculating a realistic cost. I got sloppy and included some prices for cards that didn't mention condition. I should have averaged all the prices, or look at what price pops up the most for each card. I should have waited for every auction to finish and included those prices. But I'm not trying to sell these cards or tell anyone what a good price is for a certain card. I just wanted to see if I could get each of these cards for anything close to what was listed in 1993. Oh, and I wanted to be finished with this project in less than a day. This is one of the reasons why I spend very little time on ebay. It sucks up way, way, WAY too much time.

So here is what I found.

If you see a scan of the card, I still have it. If you don't see a scan, I either don't have it or I do but just didn't scan it. I like to keep people guessing.


1. Cal Ripken, 1982 Topps Traded

1993 Beckett price: $275.00
Highest BIN price: $200
Lowest BIN price: $29.50
Average of highest and lowest price: $114.75

Note: There was a graded version for $1,535. Yikes.


2. George Brett, 1975 Topps

1993 Beckett price: $225.00
Highest BIN price: $95
Lowest BIN price: $20
Average of high and low: $57.50

Note: Probably wasn't even a near-mint card when I bought it through the mail in the early '80s.



3. Sandy Koufax, 1961 Topps (autographed)

1993 Beckett price: $122.00 (autograph included)
Highest BIN price: $120 (non-autographed)
Lowest BIN price: $30 (non-autographed)
Average of high and low: $75

Note: Back in '93, I added on the value of a Koufax autograph at the time. I have no idea if the autograph -- which I believe is real but don't have proof -- adds or detracts from the value of the card. It doesn't matter anyway. I will never sell or trade it.


4. Rickey Henderson, 1980 Topps

1993 Beckett price: $120.00
Highest BIN price: $90
Lowest BIN price: $19.99
Average of high and low: $55

Note: Ebay is lousy with Henderson rookie graded cards. Anytime you search for '80s cards on ebay, graded cards pop up everywhere. I'll take an '80s card with 70-30 centering any day.


5. Willie Mays, 1957 Topps

1993 Beckett price: $115.00
Highest BIN price: $99.99
Lowest BIN price: $39.99
Average of high and low: $69.99

Note: I listed this card on the '93 list as "very good." I have no idea if that is an accurate statement. Perhaps it's only in "good" condition. At any rate, it's a little more difficult searching for cards on ebay that boast of "very good" or "good" condtion. My theory is then they wouldn't be able to use 57 exclamation points in the listing.


6. Nolan Ryan, 1971 Topps

1993 Beckett price: $115.00
Highest BIN price: $75
Lowest BIN price: $28
Average of high and low: $51.50

Note: I absolutely love this card.

7. Brooklyn Dodgers team, 1956 Topps

1993 Beckett price: $85.00
Highest BIN price: $49.99
Lowest BIN price: $36
Average of high and low: $43

Note: There doesn't appear to be a  lot of listings for off-condition, non-graded '50s Dodgers. Too bad. Those are right up my alley.


8. Darryl Strawberry, 1983 Topps Traded

1993 Beckett price: $75.00
Highest BIN price: $30
Lowest BIN price: $19.99
Average of high and low: $25

Note: Out of all the cards on the '93 list, this is the one that has taken the biggest tumble over the years. Even 10-15 years ago, this card was way down from its early '90s heyday. Should've sold it when I had the chance.

9. Ozzie Smith, 1979 Topps

1993 Beckett price: $75.00

Note: I skipped this card because I was so disgusted with my evaluation of it as a near mint card in 1993. My Smith card has the same problem as so many Smith rookie cards. It's drastically off-center. Not that I care. But I would care in '93, which is probably why I tricked myself into thinking it was near mint.


10. Orioles Future Stars, 1982 Topps

1993 Beckett price: $75.00
Highest BIN price: $80
Lowest BIN price: $15
Average of high and low: $47.50

Note: I have an attitude about this card because I've owned the Ripken Traded card for so long. It's time I got off my high horse.


11. Steve Garvey, 1972 Topps

1993 Beckett price: $70.00
Highest BIN price: $36
Lowest BIN price: $29
Average of high and low: $32.50

Note: The first high-priced card I ever bought at a card show. At the time, the Garvey card was around $30, but I bought it for less. Then I relentlessly monitored its increasing value throughout the '80s and into the '90s. Now it's back to close to what I paid for it.


12. Reggie Jackson, 1971 Topps

1993 Beckett price: $60.00
Highest BIN price: $39.99
Lowest BIN price: $5.21
Average of high and low: $22.60

Note: I researched the ebay prices for these cards about two weeks ago, so I don't remember the condition of the $5.21 Jackson. But I think it was in at least as good of shape as this one.

13. George Brett, 1976 Topps

1993 Beckett price: $60.00
Highest BIN price: $29.99
Lowest BIN price: $5
Average of high and low: $17.50

Note: You can get this card pretty cheaply just about anywhere.

14. Ryne Sandberg, 1983 Topps

1993 Beckett price: $60.00
Highest BIN price: $40
Lowest BIN price: $11.48
Average of high and low: $25.74

Note: I have a hard time buying virtually any '80s card for more than 10 bucks.They just seem too plentiful.


15. Duke Snider, 1957 Topps

1993 Beckett price: $50.00
Highest BIN price: $69.99
Lowest BIN price: $22
Average of high and low: $46

Note: Again, not a lot of options for '50s Brooklyn Dodgers. Roger Kahn has been very good for the card business.

16. Sandy Koufax, 1966 Topps

1993 Beckett price: $50.00
Highest BIN price: $39
Lowest BIN price: $20
Average high and low: $30

Note: Another "very good" card so I couldn't find a lot. It's also probably Koufax's least desirable solo card from the time when he was pitching.

17. Tom Seaver, 1970 Topps

1993 Beckett price: $50.00
Highest BIN price: $29.99
Lowest BIN price: $5.99
Average of high and low: $17.99

Note: It's almost shocking how low most of Seaver's cards go for these days. He was a god when I was growing up and I still can't get that out of my head.


18. Rookie Catchers-Outfielders, 1975 Topps mini

1993 Beckett price: $46.00
Highest BIN price: $24.99
Lowest BIN price: $9.99
Average of high and low: $17.49

Note: I graded this card "excellent" in 1993. I should start my own grading service. Collectors would love me.

19. Ryne Sandberg, 1983 Donruss

1993 Beckett price: $40.00
Highest BIN price: $29.95
Lowest BIN price: $5.99
Average of high and low: $17.97

Note: From the first flimsy 1981 Donruss cards, I have had an attitude about Donruss. I can see myself saying in 1993: who would pay 40 bucks for a DONRUSS card?

20. Sandy Koufax, 1955 Topps

1993 Beckett price: $40.00

Note: I skipped this card because I didn't expect to see any "fair" or "poor" condition Koufax rookies, although I'm sure they've been there in the past.


21. Don Drysdale, 1963 Topps

1993 Beckett price: $40.00
Highest BIN price: $55
Lowest BIN price: $24.99
Average of high and low: $40

Note: I was so proud of the condition of this card when I acquired it. I still am to some extent although it's not as minty as it was when I first got it. I always want to put this card in its sleeve upside down so I don't chip the bottom colored part. Something to think about for all you people who are going to buy 2012 Heritage.

22. Tony Gwynn, 1983 Topps

1993 Beckett price: $40.00
Highest BIN price: $35.00
Lowest BIN price: $6.99
Average of high and low: $21

Note: I just looked at my Gwynn, Sandberg and Boggs rookies from '83 and they are all off-center from left to right. I wonder if that was an issue with 1983 Topps?

23. Wade Boggs, 1983 Topps

1993 Beckett price: $35.00
Highest BIN price: $19.99
Lowest BIN price: $6
Average of high and low: $13


24. Mark McGwire, U.S. team, 1985 Topps

1993 Beckett price: $30.00
Highest BIN price: $59.99
Lowest BIN price: $6.00
Average of high and low: $33.00

Note: Love the USA trucker caps.


25. Don Newcombe, 1956 Topps

1993 Beckett price: $25.00
Highest BIN price: $29.95
Lowest BIN price: $9.25
Average of high and low: $19.60

26. Bob Gibson, 1968 Topps

1993 Beckett price: $25.00
Highest BIN price: $29.92
Lowest BIN price: $9.95
Average of high and low: $19.94

And there you are.

Again, I was very sloppy with this, so all you veteran ebayers, please don't tell me what I missed. I don't care. I just wanted to see how the prices of today compared to those posted in Beckett in '93.

I was actually surprised that you could find prices that matched closely with those in '93, although it also appears that you would have to be a fool to pay those prices. There are plenty of prices that are much much lower than what the market was calling for in 1993.

That's a good thing. A great thing.

But the guy who made out the list in 1993 is a little disappointed. And it's probably one of the reasons why he doesn't make out the list anymore.

What's the point?

Just collect and have fun. Anything else will give you unnecessary heartburn.

10 comments:

  1. nice post! i love when people post about the values of cards even though they have no desire to exercise those values - i like doing that too!

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  2. 1) I had a boat load (ok maybe two dozen) Ripken rookies that I got for pennies because I used to by an 500 card box of Topps Orioles every year. Sold many of them for big bucks at a card show at the height of the rookie card craze.

    2) the '57 Snider makes me weak in the knees. Love that card.

    3) nice penmanship. You did your elementary school teachers proud.

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  3. Interesting. Card selling is such a strange universe. Rarity only gets you so far, you have to pander to the desires of the people. Like Alpert Pujols cards right now, arnt worth a nickel but we are selling them for a few bucks a pop, what a return on investment. However, it is hard to seperate your own collection and whats for sale...maybe drug dealers have this issue lol. You need to set strict guidlines for what goes in "my" stack and what goes to ebay.

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  4. You had/have nice handwriting.

    I got the price guides, but they were more for checklists than for card values.

    The 57 Mays and the 71 Ryan are my favorites from this group.

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  5. (Lifetimetopps)

    I need that Bob Bonner RC. Just sayin!

    It's interesting to see the BIN's - though I think those can tend to be inflated.

    That Drysdale card is a beauty! Seeing it makes me not be able to wait for Heritage. It's funny - last year was the first year that I ever bought anything that wasn't Upper Deck / SP / Topps base. That first product was Heritage based on the 62 design. I like the 62 and 63 designs alot. If I had gotten that urge in 2010 - I don't think I'd have bought Heritage based on the 61 design.

    The McGwire card is also interesting given the timeframe you're comparing. I bet it had an initial peak around 1988-1991, then went down. It would have bottomed out around 94/95. But then in 1998 - obviously it would have gone off the charts. At least he knows those steroids didn't help him hit any home runs.

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  6. I've got some of those cards. The 71 Reggie Jackson I've had since the day, about the same kind of shape yours is in except mine is off-centered to the right.

    Off of Ebay I had gotten the Cal Ripken Orioles Future Stars card for slightly less than $12.50 delivered. Fortunately it arrived in the good shape the seller sent it in but I tell the story on my blog: http://captkirk42.blogspot.com/2010/11/white-whale-of-iron-man.html

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  7. In the last couple of decades, the only way you could expect to make any money on cards is to flip them immediately. Hanging onto them as an investment, as Dr. Beckett would have you do, can only be an investment of emotion towards the cards themselves--be that an emotion of pure joy or one of painful disappointment. Perhaps nothing in the world, not even an automobile, depreciates in price over time as drastically and as quickly as a baseball card.

    Rally Squirrel, anyone?

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  8. At the peak, that McGwire would have dwarfed the rest in value.

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  9. @Topher: You couldnt be more correct. When I rip and flip jumbo and hobby boxes, If I don't sell the cards in the frist 7 days I rarely ever relist them. Usually I get them the second they hit the HTA stores and get them posted by the time everyone gets off work. If you miss your window, you can only do a "buy it now" and let it sit for the month until a real collector needs it rather than the day-one impulse "I need it need it need it guy". Over and over again I have sold a card for X dollars, and by the time the purchaser has received said card the internet is so saturated with them that the card is worth less than the shipping. This isnt the golden era boys, collect what you desire and give the rest to your kids to play with..like they were ment to be.

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  10. Just lost my comment to cyberhell, so everyone's missed my profound and totally insightful response to this. So I'll just boil it down to: great post/comments.

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