Originally, sports cards were promotional items given out by gum and tobacco companies as a way to promote their products, and it was only after the Second World War that companies like Bowman and Topps took over their creation. During the 1980s, Upper Deck, Donruss and Fleer entered the market, and Topps acquired Bowman, leaving four companies leading the market. These companies are still responsible for the majority of cards we see today.
Whether you want to start a new baseball card collection, or have inherited one from someone else, here are the basics that you need to know.
Which Cards Should You Collect?
Prior to the 1980s, collecting baseball cards was relatively inexpensive. Buying new sets as they came out was cheap and easy, and it was also relatively simple to fulfill older sets as well. However, once more companies began to get involved in the industry, most collectors were forced to be pickier. Nowadays, very few collect every card that comes out; most only focus on certain sets, while others will focus on specific players. Which you prefer is entirely a personal decision, but it’s important to note that complete sets do tend to be worth higher amounts of money.
Single Player Cards
If you spend much time participating in fantasy baseball leagues, you’ll know that there are certain players that are more popular than others. In fact, as you can see from this fantasy baseball news page, certain retired players are picked time and time again due to their career statistics. It’s exactly the same with baseball cards. Players who are more desirable tend to be worth more money, with offensive players often leading the pack. Of course, the scarcity and condition of the cards also play a large part in the price, which we will look at below.
Condition plays a large part in the price of pretty much every type of collectable, with baseball cards being no exception. While it can be said that there are very few rare sports cards, it’s definitely true that there aren’t many old sports cards that are in mint condition. Most card damage is caused by general handling, but some card damage can be caused during the manufacturing process. While you may think that this would make a card rarer, in actual fact, most collectors just want to obtain the most attractive card – so those without defects are preferred.
Finally, scarcity also plays a part in how expensive a baseball card is. To illustrate this, we can look at the tobacco card that was produced of Honus Wagner. As a lifelong hater of smoking, he took steps to have this card removed from distribution and so very few original cards still remain; this has made it valuable. While there are few cards like this from the pre-1980s, the card companies of today purposely include rare cards in their collections to drive up the price. Collecting one of them could, however, make a huge difference to how much your collection is worth.
Collecting baseball cards can be a very fun hobby, but it’s definitely not cheap. That said, if you are a lifelong fan of the sport, enjoy participating in fantasy leagues, and have some spare income, it can definitely be a good idea to get involved.