One of the cards, out of the thousands I’m looking for, is a graded Rickey Henderson 1980 Topps RC. I usually end up buying three rookie cards of any given Hall of Famer from 1980 forward. One is for the set I build which includes the card, the second is an ungraded card for my HOF display collection (they get puttied to a wall in my house) and a third is a graded card for storage. It’s always the third card that is a pain in the ass to buy.
With Rickey Henderson it is an added burden. Although the ’80s began the overproduction of baseball cards (and 1980 Topps is not an exception) there are certain cards at certain grades that just seem to escape the law of supply and demand when it comes to their pricing. Ken Griffey Jr.’s 1989 Upper Deck #1 in Gem Mint is one (it consistently sells in the $350.00 to $400.00 range on eBay, a ridiculous price when the cards population at that grade is in the thousands (over 2500 graded 10 by PSA alone). Rickey Henderson’s 1980 Topps #482 graded at Mint is another.
The Henderson card consistently sells at Mint in the $400.00 to $500.00 range on eBay. Which is plainly ridiculous. The 1980 set was produced recently enough to avoid much of the damage incurred by cards in the ’70s, ’60s. and earlier. Those cards that were thrown around in schoolyards and put onto bicycle spokes. When protection of cards began to be popular in the mid ’80s the 1980 set was one of the sets that was protected. You can easily find the whole set in Near Mint condition or better for $100.00 or less without much difficulty (I picked one up recently for $60.00). So why the outrageous price for the Henderson card?
The card follows a trend that is quite alarming for this collector. It seems the younger generation is beginning to believe a card isn’t worth squat unless it’s sealed up in a graded case. Just looking at population reports from the major graders shows that most submissions are for the newer cards. Each year more and more cards from the previous seasons of baseball and other sports are graded by younger collectors. Why not? If your card ungraded is worth 2.00 but graded at Mint or Gem Mint it jumps up to $100.00-$500.00 because people are stupid enough to pay those prices for them you would have to be an idiot not to grade your cards.
Returning to the Henderson card, it just seems that if a card is not even the least bit rare at a certain grade, then its price should no way be the price of some people’s monthly rent. Here are the populations from the major graders for Mint 1980 Topps #482 Rickey Henderson Rookie card at the time of the writing of this post:
PSA 9 Mint – 1540
BGS 9 Mint – 149
SGC 96 Mint – 130
That is over 1800 of the cards graded Mint and there are more added each month. The people who argue that it is because of the demand that drives the price up needs to look around at the different online sellers, such as eBay, Amazon, Dean’s cards, COMC, Kijiji, etc. to easily see that the card is always available. At this present time, eBay has sixteen copies listed at PSA 9, three BGS/BVG 9s, and one SGC 96 and this is always the case. The card has a higher supply than its demand, which should reduce its price but it hasn’t.
The only solution to this craziness is to keep a keen eye out for nice ungraded copies of the cards you want and then roll the dice and submit them to the grading companies yourself. That is, if you want graded cards in your collection. COMC has made the practice quite easy as the site has teamed up with Beckett to grade any card you buy off the site without it being shipped to you first. It’s a crapshoot but when you can buy a nice ungraded copy of the Henderson card for $15.00, and the avg. price to grade it is around $15.00, it means that unless the card comes back at a 6 or less you have at least broke even on the cost. And if you are astute enough to get an 8 or 9 you just saved yourself $50.00, $100.00 or even more dollars.
It is a shame when graded card pricing becomes so ridiculous, but ever since the boom era of the late 80s, early ’90s, greed has dominated the hobby, it just moved from over pricing of packs, boxes, and insert cards, to graded cards. I wonder what will be next.