In the closet of my childhood bedroom, on a shelf underneath my old high school baseball uniform sits my collection of baseball cards.
The cards are stacked in dusty shoe boxes and organized in binders. I save my most valuable cards- the Hall of Famers and rookie cards, in a wooden box my father gave me.
I accumulated my collection in various ways. Like any good Disney movie, my father gave me all of his old cards from the 1960s/1970s. My cousin gave me some of his cards too from the early 2000s.
When I was young, I would get packs of cards as gifts. I have a bunch of Topps and Upper Deck cards from the 2000s as a result. While dwindling in number, I would buy cards from baseball card shops. When I got to middle school, I started spending too much time on eBay sifting through the sales online.
I would buy individual cards on eBay, but I would also buy unopened packs in bulk from the late 80s and early 90s. I rarely got anything of value from that purchase, but I have a lot of cards from that time period.
Collecting baseball cards was one of my first hobbies, which made a lot of sense considering how much I was into baseball as a kid. At sports camp over the summer, I would bring my cards with me to show other kids and possibly even make trades. Baseball cards were a whole social event.
Once I got to high school, I completely abandoned my cards. I dropped them from my consciousness. I was too busy with school work and after-school sports and crossing my fingers hoping girls like me. It wasn’t on purpose, as I never put my cards down one day and was like “I’m done with this.” It just kinda happened.
I ignored my cards throughout college, as it was the last thing on my mind as I struggled to get all of my school work done. Being away from home kept me from opening up those dusty boxes.
Now that I am done with college and living at home, as part of my mom’s campaign to get me to clean out and organize the old junk in my bedroom, I have been tasked with organizing all my cards into one giant plastic box.
This campaign has reawoken my love for collecting baseball cards. Instead of the intended result of getting rid of my unused cards, I am now 100% invested again in the expansion of my collection. I’m back on eBay and online auction sites looking up the prices of rookie cards and player’s most valuable cards.
I’ve been spending a lot of time on PSAcard.com, the organization that professionally grades cards. They have lists of specific player’s most valuable cards, so I know which ones to look up when I want to purchase a card.
PSA is really important to the baseball card world. The value of a card goes up when it is graded by PSA. If I had two of the same cards in identical condition but only one of them was graded, the graded one would be worth more money even though they are the same card.
When a card is graded, the authenticity of the card becomes recognized to potential sellers. Buyers want to purchase a card they know is legitimate and that has been assessed by professionals to determine the card’s true condition and value. Without getting your cards graded, they aren’t worth selling.
My collection probably exceeds 5,000 cards. It is expensive to get a card graded, as each individual card costs around $15 dollars, if not more. It would be outrageously expensive and not worth the cost to get my thousands of cards graded.
To be clear, 99.9% of baseball cards are completely worthless. I’m sorry to say this, but your 2008 Topps Derek Jeter card isn’t worth any money, even though Jeter is in the Hall of Fame. Like any business, baseball cards become valuable through supply and demand. That’s what makes a rookie card the most valuable genre of a card- there is only one year you can be a rookie. An athlete can play 20 years and have 20 different cards for each season- but there’s only one season in which they were a rookie.
Really old cards become valuable by default- the industry did not produce baseball cards the same way they do today. The late 80s/early 90s baseball card production boom saw an estimated 81 billion trading cards made per year during this time, making all of the cards produced during that era completely worthless. There was way too much supply to demand high prices for any of the cards produced during that time.
Trading card companies do not share with the public how many cards they make per year, but before the late 80s production boom it can be assumed that the industry made significantly less than 81 billion cards a year. Since there are way fewer copies of cards from the 40s, 50s, and 60s, these cards can be worth a lot of money.
Because of how much time has passed, it is hard to find mint condition cards from the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Rookie cards from this era are some of the most valuable cards in the entire industry. Cards from before the 40s are almost impossible to find in mind condition and are expensive simply for how old they are.
What I would prefer to do is get 10-20 or 50 (depending on the pricing of different plans) of my most valuable cards graded with the hopes of one day in the future cashing out on a profit. If it is going to cost around $15 dollars a card to get graded, I would only pick 10-20 cards that I think would make it worth the cost. Otherwise, I might lose money from paying for too many cards to get graded.
Something I try to remember when participating in the hobby is that baseball cards aren’t worth anything. 99.9% of cards are worth zero dollars. It is only 0.1% of cards that can net anything of value. If you have a collection of baseball cards, it is very likely that it cost more to buy than you would sell.
So, while your collection probably may not be worth anything financially, it still retains value if it is something that is emotionally valuable to you. If you have fond memories of collecting cards as a kid, that is really all that matters. If your cards mean something to you, not every hobby has to earn you a profit.
If I ever decide to sell my baseball cards, I will have to grapple with the emotional consequences. The hobby is intrinsically tied to the most important people in my life, which makes my specific collection of cards more than just pieces of shiny cardboard. They’re ties to my family and friends who have played a role over the years adding to my collection. Getting rid of those ties for the sake of a little extra money is a decision that I will not take lightly.
Unless you have a 2009 Mike Trout Bowman Chrome rookie card listed on eBay for as much as $300,000, the best thing to do with your cards might be to hold on to the ones that are important to you in hopes that someday you will pass them on to a loved one who will appreciate them just as much as you do once you’re gone.