If I Had A Million Dollars…

I’d buy me some cards. I would have cleaned up at a recent auction hosted by Heritage Auctions. Dubbed the┬áPlatinum Night Sports Auction, it was held Feb. 20-21 in New York. If you don’t think that high grade vintage sports cards is a part of the hobby reserved for the rich, then you haven’t seen what these cards are selling for lately. The greatest example of this was the bidding on a PSA 9 1955 Topps Roberto Clemente RC:

1955 Topps Roberto Clemente PSA 9

1955 Topps Roberto Clemente PSA 9

This card shown above fetched, and I kid you not, $478.000. It make my saving up to buy a T206 Roger Bresnahan card at a low grade for $100.00 look infantile.

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle PSA 8

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle PSA 8

Not to be outdone by the Puerto Rican Hall of Famer, a Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps card graded at PSA 8 realized a price of , and stop telling me to stop kidding around, $501,900.00.

It’s time to start buying lotto tickets if I ever wish to participate in these auctions. Perhaps I have a rich uncle somewhere who will leave me a million in his will. I can just image me sitting in a room with other astute refined men holding numbered paddles trying to keep an air of maturity and sophistication as we bid on cards which were sold to children over 60 years ago.

Two other significant cards were sold in New York those two days as well. A 1916 M101-5 Blank Back card of Babe Ruth graded at PSA 5 realized $191,200.00 and a 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle RC graded at PSA 8 sold for an astounding $137,425.00:

1915 M101-5 Ruth & 1952 Topps Mantle

1915 M101-5 Ruth & 1952 Topps Mantle

Those four cards, some of the more significant cards in the hobby’s history, are ones that will never be in most card collector’s inventory (including not in mine). I will need to stick to high grade cards from the 1990s if I ever want to stay out of bankruptcy court and leave the vintage ones for those that have more money than brains.

Grading Companies, Who Is Your Favourite and Why?

Grading Services Logos

Grading Services Logos

It seems PSA is the most popular. Myself, I like SGC since most of the cards I buy graded are pre-1950s cards.

It seems that the going rule-of-thumb, is the following:

  • SGC – pre 50s
  • PSA – 50s to ’79
  • BCG – 80s forward
1933 Goudey #53 Babe Ruth Graded

1933 Goudey #53 Babe Ruth Graded

I have only one graded card that is not from the pre 50s and that’s a GEM Mint SGC graded 98 Tony Gwynn rookie from the 1983 Topps set.

Two things you need to decide when grading your cards or buying graded cards, when collecting rather than selling them.

The first is whether when collecting a set will you grade every card in that set or second only grade certain cards in the set. Due to cost most people when collecting a set just protect the cards without grading, others grade only the star cards and/or rare cards, and a third type of collector grades the whole set of cards.

Grading becomes more prolific the further back in time you go. for example, a person collecting the 1990 Leaf set may only grade or buy graded the Frank Thomas rookie and perhaps the Sammy Sosa rookie and the Ken Griffey Jr. 2nd year card. But the same collector, when he collects say the 1955 Topps set will grade every card in the set since every card is worth money.

If you decide to grade every card in the set, you may want to think about uniformity. In the 1990 Leaf example, if only 3 cards are graded, it seem unimportant if they were graded by different grading companies, but the 1955 set you will probably want each card graded by the same company that way the slabs all look the same.

PSA became the most popular for this reason. PSA was around first, so the collectors who started grading their cards, used PSA and the cards they had of worth first were the pre 80s post 50s cards. They began grading the star cards first then later the rest of the cards in the sets. Since PSA was used for the star cards, they used PSA for the non-star cards as well to keep the look of the cards uniform. After that with SGC and BCG people liked the former for the pre 50s cards when their collection might have had many cards from the era, but they were individual cards from many sets rather than cards mostly from one set. Uniformity in displaying pre 50s cards meant using SGC. BCG was used by most collectors of modern cards. I’m not exactly sure why but my guess is that Beckett knows the most about modern cards than the other two grading companies.

I like SGC mostly because the mark up for a SGC graded card from the same card non-graded is not much for pre 50s cards, and not as much as PSA for post 50s cards . PSA holds a premium on those cards. As an example, Schmidt’s rookie card (1973 Topps) ungraded yet seen to be in near mint grade sells for around 100.00, if its graded by SGC it sells for 185.00, if its PSA its 220.00. Not sure why except that PSA are sought after more because of the uniformity issue I talked about earlier.

Lastly I should offer you a piece of advice or insight to the graded vs. ungraded card. If you are good at grading cards by look then you should always look at the going price for ungraded and graded cards. If you see a large discrepancy between the two, it may be more cost effective to buy the ungraded card and send it off to be graded yourself. If we use the Schmidt rookie example, If you can spot a near mint card ungraded, and it costs you 20.00 for PSA to grade it with 25.00 to ship it there and back, it would be worth doing since to buy the PSA graded card would cost you 75.00 more.

The Memorabilia Card

I remember when game used jersey cards, game used bat cards and the like came out, and I was quite surprised. I left card collecting in 1993 but returned in 2007 for about a year, then left again, returning in 2013. My first swatch card came from a box of Upper Deck, and another from a box of Fleer. One was a Roberto Clemente card the other a Roy Campanella card. I remember being surprized in pulling them and a bit bewildered.

Why did they put these pieces of history into cards? It seemed like another gimmick like the signature inserts from the 90s. But, for me, it seemed to have a more drastic result. What popped into my head was not, “Coool, I got an awesome card with a piece of history included,” but, “Shit, did they cut up and destroy a rare collectible to put pieces of it inside different baseball cards?” What a punishable offense if they did. Why would anyone want a card like this? I read up on the introduction and proliferation of game used memorabilia cards and found out that yes, the card companies were buying up bats and jerseys and other memorabilia at auction in order to cut them up to put pieces of them into cards.

Let me ask a question, are they insane? Why is anyone putting up with this crap?

A piece of jersey or bat in a card holds no real significance.When you look at it it means nothing. It looks like a piece of wood or material, that’s it. It doesn’t look like a jersey or a bat. So when these items of baseball history are cut up it serves no purpose. The jersey or bat when intact shows the viewer what that bat or jersey actually looked like. You get a feeling of historical significance when you look at it. This does not occur with a small one inch by one inch piece of that item.

To further my point, here is a picture of a Babe Ruth game worn jersey circa 1920s:

Babe Ruth Jersey

Babe Ruth Jersey

It sold for 4.4 million recently. Now when you look at it, and understand this is just a picture of it, you get a feeling of wow, Babe Ruth actually wore that jersey, how cool is that?

Now imagine some ass buys it for $4.4 million and then cuts it up into 500 pieces and puts these pieces into insert cards in packs of Upper Deck or Topps. Man, I would want to slap the people who did it. But these cards do exist:

Babe Ruth Jersey Relic

Babe Ruth Jersey Relic

Or how about this jersey of Ty Cobb which sold for $385,500 recently:

Ty Cobb Jersey

Ty Cobb Jersey

Now imagine some idiot decides to start cutting it up to make this card:

Ty Cobb Bat and Jersey Relic

Ty Cobb Bat and Jersey Relic

Wouldn’t that kinda piss you off? I wonder how many of these important pieces of baseball history have been destroyed over the years so that card companies can pull in some serious money from collectors. When you look at a jersey card do you get a feeling of what it was like to wear that jersey in a game 100 years ago, or 50 years ago? Not really correct?

What is even sadder is that there are literally millions of these cards made over the last decade, to the point that they hold no special significance in the hobby anymore. They have become the same as any other card. I hope the card companies stop destroying history before all the older memorabilia has disappeared into cards.