How do I determine my baseball card values?
Read on to find out how to know if your baseball cards are worth money.
The sports card collection hobby is one that has seen a considerable increase in recent years.
Children widely embraced the hobby, which began in the 1880s during its early years.
Later in the 1930s, the emergence of Goudey as a dominant sports card manufacturer caused the practice to resonate well with adults.
Since then, the flame of collecting sports cards of great sports stars from various eras has never lacked embers.
Baseball cards have been a significant facet of the sports card hobby as one of the most sought after sports card.
With the most expensive baseball card sold for $4 million, the baseball card collection hobby is fast on track to reach its peak.
As a result of that, sports card enthusiasts are in a mad rush to get their hands on scarce sports cards, even ready to dish out fortunes for it.
This mad rush for baseball cards has led to a whole new market, where it’s easy to sell a sports card above market value and significantly lower than market value.
It’s best to know how to determine your baseball card values and worth to ensure this disparity doesn’t affect you as a seller, even if you wish to use grading services such as PSA.
In light of that, we discuss how to determine a baseball card worth and value.
Table of Contents
Factors that Determines Baseball Card Values & Worth
For those familiar with sports card trading, it comes as no surprise that huge sums are paid for cards in less pristine condition than those in decent conditions.
To those with little knowledge of how sports cards’ worth is determined, it may seem incomprehensible.
But, after reviewing the factors below, you’ll understand fully how base cards are valued.
The condition is a significant factor influencing every baseball card value, no matter what era it was produced.
Any sports card collector wants any card they purchased to be in the best condition.
As a result, collectors tend to pay significantly higher on quality baseball cards.
A collector’s price for a baseball card quality depends on how rare a high-value version of the card is.
Before purchasing a baseball card, collectors often lookout for these critical factors:
The centering is perhaps the biggest concern for all baseball card collectors when reviewing a baseball card quality.
Centering refers to how the image printed on the card is centered from all angles.
Usually, it’s preferred if a card’s borders are of uniform width from all sides.
However, a card’s centering not worse than 60/40 – 55/45 on the front, and 70/25 on the back can be regarded as a well-centered card.
Vintage cards (cards that are about 30–70 years old) usually have centering issues because they were produced before the printing techniques that bring about precision were developed.
Overall, collectors would pay less for a card with poor centering.
The edges of a card play a significant role in how a card appeals to collectors.
Collectors usually assess a card’s edges by looking at it sideways while checking for debts and cuts.
Some vintage cards have dents and cuts in their edges because their manufacturers poorly cut them.
Professional graders like the PSA usually make exceptions for vintage cards that are known to have such cuts.
But still, every collector prefers cards free from chips, cuts, dents, and notches.
Every baseball card collector in the sports card collecting hobby dreams of purchasing a card with “razor-sharp” edges.
The term “razor-sharp” edges refer to well-defined edges and sharp edges.
Collectors would pay less for cards with round edges, as they are signs of heavy use and in poor condition.
Baseball cards are manufactured with glossy cardstock, so it’s effortless to identify cards with creases on their body.
The best way to reduce a card’s value is by ruining its surface.
It is what several collectors look out for in a baseball card.
Collectors usually check for creases, stains, indentations, scratches, and marks on a baseball card’s surface.
Cards without these deformities will fetch a higher price.
2. Print Year
It’s a recognized rule in the sports card collection hobby that the older a baseball card is, the more valuable it will be; this is primarily due to a dominant factor that would be discussed soon in this article—scarcity.
Older baseball cards are rare to find compared to their newer counterpart; thus, they fetch huge sums.
But, there are exceptions to this rule.
Common 1909 T206 cards would fetch more money than cards printed in the 1980s, and a 1963 Topps Pete Rose would cost more than a 1983 Topps Pete Rose card.
The primary reason for this, as stated earlier, is scarcity.
Cards printed in modern eras were published in large quantities, thus reducing their value.
To effectively gauge the value and worth of baseball cards, cards in the baseball card collection hobby have been divided into three eras.
Pre-War Baseball Cards
These are cards that were printed before World War II ended in 1945.
Baseball cards from the pre-war era feature some of the greatest baseball players such as Ty Cobb, Cy Young, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, and several more.
These cards are smaller compared to other cards.
They also feature beautiful artworks and have advertisements for tobacco or candy companies on their backside.
Cards of Hall of Famers from this era usually sell for quite a huge sum of money.
Cards from players who are not known as such in baseball from this era also fetch significant sums, but this occurs when the card is pulled out of production early or has a rare printing error.
Vintage Baseball Cards (Printed from 1946–1979)
The cards that fall in the vintage era are about 30–70 years old.
They feature notable baseball stars such as Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Mickey Mantle, and Willie Mays.
The 1952 Topps set is regarded as the most valuable set from the vintage era.
Modern (Printed In 1980 Or Later)
As stated earlier, cards from this era are rare.
During the modern era, the increase in card production was significant.
Manufacturers such as Donruss, Upper Deck, Fleece, Score, and Topps struggled to keep up with demand.
Though several cards in this era are too standard for them to be worth anything, cards such as the 1990 Topps Frank Thomas rookie card are valuable cards from the period.
Others include the 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson rookie card, 1993 SP Derek Jeter rookie card, and the 1990 Topps Frank Thomas rookie card.
In the baseball card collection hobby, errors can play a significant role in shooting up a card’s value.
But this factor is dependent on the scarcity of the cards with mistakes. There are two types of errors in the hobby.
These errors occur when the manufacturer notices the mistake after the card has been printed.
The error is then corrected in the card’s subsequent release; this then makes the cards with the error rare, thus skyrocketing their value.
The most desired error card is the T206 Joe Doyle, which was printed when Joe Doyle was playing for the American League New York Highlanders as a pitcher.
T206 printed the card with a “NAT’L” error, which indicated he played in the National League.
The error was correct afterward.
But the limited version of the error card became valuable.
A PSA grade 3 version of the card is worth about $550,000.
These are cards with mistakes that were never corrected by the manufacturer.
An excellent example of an uncorrected error card is the 1957 Topps #20 Hank Aaron card.
The card showed Hank Aaron batting on the left, but Hank Aaron batted on the right.
It is worth a significant amount of money because of the player.
But it’ll have cost more if Topps corrected the error, thus leaving only a few of the error cards in circulation.
4. Position in Set Sequence
As odd as it seems, a baseball card value can be influenced by its position in the set sequence, as that would determine its print and handling process.
A card that is first in a set would be located in the top left corner of the sheet, vulnerable to damages such as wear when the sheet is stacked.
A perfect example of this is the 1953 Topps #1 Andy Pafko card, which is rare to find in mint condition, thus increasing its value.
5. Variation in Print
Unlike errors, variations in print have to do with the design on a card, which occurs due to various reasons.
These differences in design can cause the value of a card to increase significantly.
A card that shows this entirely is the 1958 Topps Bobby Richardson cards.
The standard version of the card comes with Bobby Robinson’s name written in white.
But the card with his name written in yellow costs more.
A PSA 9 version of the white card costs $600, But the PSA 9 version of the yellow card costs $2500.
Another card that evidence this is the 1969 Topps Mickey Mantle cards.
A PSA 9 grade of the card, which has Mickey Mantle’s name written in white, costs $12,500, but a PSA 9 version of the card with Mickey Mantle’s name written in yellow prices $40,000.
This factor is tied to the emotional connections collectors have to cards from some of the biggest baseball names.
These cards are cards of players who need no introduction, such as Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, and several others.
Cards of Hall of Famers would also cost more than cards of other players.
But it’s best to remember that this factor plays a lesser role than the other factors explained.
Scarcity is the one significant factor that determines a baseball card’s value and worth.
Baseball cards ordinarily hold no relevance, but the demand for them makes them valuable.
Thus the scarcity of a baseball card plays a significant role in determining the card’s price.
Determining the price or price range of a baseball card depends on multiple factors which have been highlighted in this article.
However, each of these factors influence the price of baseball cards in varying proportions.
It important to note that considering all the factors together, would give you a close to perfect guess about your baseball card worth.