Advertisement
business

How Much Are Those Old Baseball Cards Worth?

Depending on the year, condition and, of course, the player, some baseball cards could be worth thousands of dollars.

Question: I was going through my old baseball card collection and wanted to give some of the more valuable cards to my nephew as a gift. What's been happening to the value of baseball cards, and which types tend to be worth the most now?

Answer: The value of many baseball cards, especially from the 1980s and 1990s, plummeted over the past decade as the market was flooded with too many cards. But some cards have been increasing in value, such as Hall of Famers' rookie cards prior to 1970, says Michael Osacky, president of Baseball in the Attic. A 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie card in near-mint condition sold for $89,626 in August 2016, and a similar card commanded a price of $114,000 about a year later. A 1955 Topps Roberto Clemente rookie card in near-perfect condition fetched $5,959 in September 2017, while a comparable card sold a couple months later for $7,200.

Prices have jumped recently because wealthy Asian investors have been buying up collectible cards and pushing up the prices, says Osacky, who has been in the card business for more than 20 years. He recently traveled to Hong Kong and Singapore to help collectors find rare cards.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

Most cards are worth a lot less, though. A Hank Aaron card from the 1970s may be worth only $20 to $25. And the price of any card can vary a lot based on its condition. To get top dollar, you'll need a high score from a grading company, which assigns a value from 1 to 10 (with 10 being perfect condition). Several companies grade baseball cards; Osacky recommends SGC Card.

Other potentially valuable items are autographed baseball and basketball cards that were inserted in packs of cards during the 1990s and 2000s. Famous baseball and basketball players, such as Kobe Bryant, signed just a handful of cards that were randomly placed into packs. "Some of those autographed cards can sell for a few thousand dollars," says Osacky.

It's important to have a signature authenticated, whether it's on a card or, say, a baseball because fakes are plentiful. And beware phony authentication documents. Osacky recommends Beckett Authentication.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Before you buy any autographed items, learn the basic characteristics of the athlete's signature and the legitimate authentication documents. Some sellers will give you a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can get the autograph authenticated yourself.

What isn't valuable? Most cards from the 1980s and 1990s. "They were so mass-produced, and there were so many card manufacturers," Osacky says. Also, the introduction of eBay has made it so much easier to track down missing cards to make full sets that these, too, have come less rare and less valuable.

Full cases of football, basketball or baseball cards from the 1980s and 1990s may have some value, however. Some may even be worth tens of thousands of dollars for an entire unopened case with multiple boxes of cards that are sealed and in their wrapping cases. A 1986 Fleer Basketball Wax Box with 36 unopened packs sold for $50,190 in November 2016, and a similar case sold for $77,000 in July 2017 (this collection is particularly valuable because it includes Michael Jordan's rookie card).

Osacky says cards that have little value are not necessarily worthless. He donates such cards to his local children's hospital so young patients can play with them. "At least it will bring joy to people," he says.

Advertisement

Most Popular

Chiropractor Trying to Get Business the Wrong Way – Illegally
careers

Chiropractor Trying to Get Business the Wrong Way – Illegally

A new chiropractor’s fledgling business plan to attract patients may sound reasonable at first look, but it’s actually against the law, and the same p…
June 30, 2020
What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2020 vs. 2019?
tax brackets

What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2020 vs. 2019?

The IRS unveiled the 2020 tax brackets, and it's never too early to start planning to minimize your future tax bill.
June 20, 2020
13 Luxury Goods That Are Cheaper at Costco
spending

13 Luxury Goods That Are Cheaper at Costco

You could be missing out on huge savings: Costco sells a limited selection of luxury goods at discounted prices, both in-store and online.
June 27, 2020

Recommended

For Financially Responsible Kids, Do NOT Do These 3 Things
family savings

For Financially Responsible Kids, Do NOT Do These 3 Things

The key to putting your kids on the right financial path can be boiled down into one sentence.
July 1, 2020
10 Tax Breaks for the Middle Class
tax deductions

10 Tax Breaks for the Middle Class

Tax breaks aren't just for the rich. There are plenty of them that are only available to middle- and low-income Americans.
June 30, 2020
The Answers to More RMD Questions
retirement

The Answers to More RMD Questions

The CARES Act made 2020 required minimum distributions optional. But what are your next moves?
June 12, 2020
Travel Planning in the Time of Coronavirus
business

Travel Planning in the Time of Coronavirus

Insurance may not cover canceled vacations, but airlines and hotels may be flexible.
June 11, 2020