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Ramblings: Explaining What They’re Worth Often a Futile Exercise

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I don’t get that many phone calls about cards although I do have my number listed for the Plano Card Shows we launched last year.  When I saw the post of the Sports Collectors Daily Facebook page with a link to an earlier article about what to do with cards from the ‘overproduction era’ that don’t have much value, my mind went back to a recent conversation I had with a collector.

Rich Ramblings 2014Literally as I was unlocking my front door, I received a phone call from a nice man from Temple, Texas.  He told me I was the sixth person he had spoken to about a collection he owned and I told him that if he could find a dealer to buy them, the typical buy price for cards from the 1980s and 90s is ten cards for a penny.

Whenever I get a call like that, I always begin with that statement because I’d rather let them know the market immediately. Well, during our little chat I discovered he wasn’t overloaded with 1990 Donruss and Fleer, but his expectations seemed to be about the same as the folks who are rediscovering their childhood card collections and wondering why they’re not worth a fortune.

1980_Topps_HendersonThis man owned the following cards:  1975 Topps Robin Yount rookie VG, two 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson rookies and 1986-87 Fleer Drexler and Olajuwon cards. My first question was when I heard about the Fleer basketball cards was “Are you sure you don’t have any Michael Jordan cards from that set?”  I should have realized he was either a 1980′s Phi Slamma Jamma fan or a 1990′s Houston Rockets fan and had those cards to remind him of those great teams.

The Jordan answer was no, and when I asked about the condition of the Hendersons and the two Fleer cards and the man said they were mint, which is what most people say about cards that are nice but not likely to grade more than a 6. My next comment was to ship them to Beckett or drive them there in case he was worried about putting them in the mail. I also told him that unless he was certain they’d grade at a high level, it might not be worth the expense.  I even tried to get him to donate the cards to our next show giveaway as we try to send kids to summer camp help out other charities as has been our mission.  At least that way I could get him a tax receipt sheet so he could claim book value for his items and get a break when he files next year.

You’re left wondering why these people don’t just put them on eBay and be done with it. I did a search for 1980 Henderson rookies and as of this writing there were hundreds listed but an auction will generally find its level and there isn’t anything more fair than that.  As we all know, though, it’s hard to convince someone who’s not actively involved in buying and selling on a regular basis why their card might not sell for the same as a graded 8 or 9 and why dealers can’t pay full ‘book’ value.

But think about our conversation for a second. I was the sixth person he had spoken to and not one person had given him the answer he wanted. I don’t know what he really wanted but I’d wager what he wanted was full retail for his cards which would have been fine if they were high quality, in demand stars from decades ago or already professionally graded.

I hope he finds what he wants but his best move might be to go on Craig’s List and hope for the best if he really wants retail price. But until he accepts that his items are not going to sell at retail, he’ll be holding onto those cards for a long time.  I can only imagine how often the local store owners get calls like that every day.

About Rich Klein

Rich Klein has spent almost his entire life collecting baseball cards having begun at the tender age of seven. He has spent more than three decades in the organized hobby including editing the first 12 editions of the Beckett Almanac of Baseball Card and Collectibles. He lives in Plano, TX along with his wife Dena and their two dogs. You can reach him at [email protected].

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