Ramblings: Fresh Take on Baseball Card Investing

There are so many of us who were involved in the hobby peak times that sometimes even we forget about the many books that were produced. One of the truly under-appreciated parts of that time was just how many different ways “card investment” clubs, books, articles and printed newsletters that emerged in the Rich Ramblings 2014late 1980s and early 1990’s.

Recently, I was reading a thread on the modern era part of the popular Net 54 Message Boards and there is a poster created a thread about all the different Lou Brock cards and peripheral memorabilia he owns. One of those items includes a signed copy of the Lou Brock Baseball Card Investment Guide.

I’m not sure whether Lou knew anything about baseball cards or just lent his name to the project.  I’m sure there were plenty of other players who were involved in some kind of card-related promotion. For some reason Whitey Ford comes to mind as being involved as a titular name in one of these clubs. There might have been other players and other names as well but there is little doubt the late 1980’s into the early 1990’s was the period in which everyone thought they were going to get rich on baseball cards.

Modern Baseball Card InvestorAs it developed, the only people who got rich were the printing press owners which were working overtime in those days to produce cards and all the paper products (price guides, hobby magazines and newsletters) which we all happily devoured.

And the memory of those days was why I was so excited to receive a copy of the The Modern Baseball Card Investor written by Jeff Hwang.  You might remember Jeff from a series of articles he wrote from The Motley Fool not long ago (we linked to a few of them here on SC Daily).  With his book, he’s done a terrific job in researching and writing about the various aspects of modern investing. His take is fresh and establishes the much-maligned current era as a fairly ripe period for turning a profit or investing wisely for your own collection.

We need to point out there that modern card investing is a totally different world then investing in pre-1975 cards.  Those cards have developed a pretty good and reasonably stable percent of high grades.  And, frankly, other than a few really scarce cards in older issues, the real investment will come in the form of high-grade cards of the game’s iconic players.

Meanwhile Hwang breaks the newer market down into: Value of Scarcity, The Baseball Prospecting Game, Value Investing, Supply Chains and even what to do on other sports.  Each of these chapters was well written and researched and to Jeff’s credit he understands the importance of third-party grading and what a really high-grade means.   The book is built on analysis.

But lest you think it’s all about flipping cards or gambling on prospects, I was truly struck by his final closing comment:  “If you approach this game as a way to make money above all else, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead, be a collector first, and think of it as a way to have your collection and one that may potentially pay for itself — and maybe more.”

To me, when a collector says this, they mean they “get it” and if we all looked at the hobby for enjoyment more than “what’s it worth”, we’d probably have an even better hobby.