The Memorabilia Market: Eye on the Future

In part four of our ten-part Q&A, we asked auction company officials for their opinions on the vintage baseball card market.  They talked about which cards and sets might be underrated or have the best long-term potential.

Part five stays on the same course, but we’re talking memorabilia this time.  Here’s what they said:

Steve BledowCollect Auctions:

“Game-used bats were one of the hottest segments of the market five years ago and softened during the recession. I expect them to rise back up to pre-recession levels. I also think truly scarce and desirable print materials, like pre-1950s yearbooks, World Series programs, etc. have potential.”

J.P. Cohen, Memory Lane

“We think that game used equipment such as jerseys, bats and caps of the mainstream vintage Hall of Famers like Ruth, Cobb, Mantle, Gehrig, Mays, Aaron, Williams and the like will continue to rise in value due to the scarcity compared to a collectible of a modern day Hall of Famer–say from 1970 onward.   There is more supply available of the modern Hall of Famers and many of the others rarely come up for auction.”

Leighton Sheldon, Just Collect:

“Great historical items from a one-time event with provenance.  I collect photography myself and love a great image from a historical event.”

David Kohler, SCP Auctions

“There’s been a lot of interest in game worn jerseys the last few years, especially the vintage Hall of Famers and that will continue.  Anything attached to an icon, though, still has room to grow.  We have a Honus Wagner cap with great provenance in our November auction.  It even has a note from Wagner.  Anything scarce is going to continue to be popular.”

David Hunt, Hunt Auctions:

“We have always focused on  primary source collections originating such as players, families, teams, or  leagues. It has always been our belief that sourced materials of that category will continue to appreciate in value as time passes.”

Rob Lifson, Robert Edward Auctions

“The market has shown  us many items that have taken big jumps in recent times and they all have one thing in common: they’re great items! In uniforms, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle are magic names whose values have soared. If we could get our hands on a Jackie Robinson uniform, of course it would bring a record 1938 Yankees road jersey letteringprice. But getting one is almost impossible. You really have to just wait for one of the few collectors who has one to be willing to sell. It could be a long wait!

In cards, we’ve seen many big jumps, including a recent jump in the value of the T206 Honus Wagner. The funny thing is that the Wagner increasing in value is not new. It has been a long established trend in the marketplace since the 1930s!  The fact is that the very best cards in general have a long history of increasing in value. Not necessarily increasing in value overnight; that’s not how collectibles work. But when dealing with the very best cards over a period of many years, the increases in value have been pretty steady and impressive.

Ask anyone who bought a Wagner in 1970, or 1980, or 1990, or even 2000: “How did you do?” No matter what they paid, no matter what the condition, if they held onto the card, they made out very well. In 2020, when we ask the 2010 era Wagner buyers the same question, I think they will all have the same answer.  The most famous cards and other items relating to all of the “magic” names in the field (Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Joe  Jackson, Mickey Mantle, and Jackie Robinson, among others) are a rich hunting ground for undervalued items. Timing is everything, of course. But looking to the trends of the past will often give us insight into the trends of the future when dealing with cards and memorabilia.”