Ramblings: Demand, Perception Determine Card Values More Than Price Guides

Recently there was a post in the most recent COMC blog and below it were comments reflecting the same thing I have heard for more than two decades: “Beckett is killing the hobby”.   This time the thread has to do with the book value of the “hit (s) from just about any box”.

Richs Ramblings Essentially, a couple of collectors were saying something to the effect of “Beckett does not worry about what the cost of the box is as it relates the inserts.  Rather, they put a catalog value lower than the “real value”.  The funniest aspect of the argument is that this has been somewhat true of all inserts even before the world of hits became the staple of any sports card box.

One good example I bring up dates back to 1995 when my one-per-box insert turned out to be a Bubba McDowell All-Pro card. With the possible exception of Rob Veres of Burbank Sports Cards’ on-line store or COMC, the odds are pretty decent that there isn’t much of a market for Bubba, nor was there back in the day.   Bubba played defensive back which is not exactly (unless you are Richard Sherman or Deion Sanders) a position which generates much collector or fan interest.  When I spoke to Rob recently about some unrelated subjects he mentioned he had just filled an order for Alex Cora cards. Yes, THAT Alex Cora who has an even smaller fan base. So on that level, the biggest issue is finding buyers for these cards.

The other, and more important, part of the argument is the “value” of the relic card compared to the box cost, which really aren’t related. This discussion has now been going on for more than a decade and to me one of the biggest issues is just how many of these cards are available (or were available) on the market.

2001 Upper Deck Game Bat EditionMy memory is hazy more than a decade later but there was a set in 2001 titled SP Game Bat Edition in which many of the players had thousands of cards issued. What that production did for these players was bring down the value of this specific set but at the same time also lowered what price customers would pay for other bat relic cards of those players.

I used to have this discussion with Chuck Juliana, a major case breaker at the time, and my point to him was that when collectors start paying $5 for an Alex Rodriguez bat card then the next Rodriguez bat card they see will also be something they would not want to pay more than $5 for. Those prices had nothing to do with relative scarcity of the two differing cards from the products but just a perception of one bat relic card being the same value as the next.

About seven years later I ended up with a table at the National Convention and I remember having a conversation with a dealer who was walking around buying at a discounted rate all the relic cards he could find. In those days, a pretty standard buy price for relic cards was $2 each and I remember  I mentioned guys like Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones were fine at $2 per but I was not happy to sell what could be the one “hit” from a box at that level.  To me a good example of that valuation came in the 2006 Topps Heritage Box I recently opened. The “hit” from that box was Manny Ramirez which was still carrying a book value of $10 but in reality there is probably no real good value over $1 one can sell that card for. And that’s the problem with the argument the poster mentioned in the COMC blog.

The issue is not the “real value” of the card rather the issue becomes what can this card really be sold for?  And those are two very different numbers because the real world value of any card may not have any relation to the perceived value based on the cost of a pack or a box.  Price guides reflect what’s going on in the marketplace.

Thus, if you truly believe that Beckett is wrong on the values of memorabilia cards and you think those are too cheap, there are plenty available for you at bargain prices.  If not and you think the prices are right just continue to pick and choose the cards you want. Either way, those purchases are all up to you.

Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]