Like any other market, sports and gaming cards are governed by the laws of supply and demand. The scarcity of a card determines its price… how rare it is and how many people want it. This article talks about the factors that determine a cards value, and how to determine what your cards are worth TODAY.
Before card collectors had the Internet, they had to rely on buying and selling to a local market. Nowadays it’s possible to buy and sell to a global market thanks to eBay.
Most price guides have a secret algorithm that spits out a high and a low price. Often times baseball cards sell for a fraction of what they book for. So what is YOUR card ACTUALLY worth? The economists answer is, “whatever you can sell it for today.” The best place to find out what cards are selling for right now is eBay. You could sell it to the local card shop, you could sell it to a friend, you could sell it on online… but it’s only worth what you can sell it for.
The price guide is simple. The price of a card is not. There are many factors that influence price, and eBay reflects that. Below are a few factors that influence what your card is worth:
Player Popularity – this varies over time and is not just based on stats. Did the player have a good year? Are they loved by fans? Did they win an award? Did they just get inducted into the hall of fame? Did they get into legal trouble? Did they just die? All of these things effect that player’s card values. Some of them are predictable (like being inducted into the hall of fame), others are not (like suddenly dying or getting arrested).
Rarity – some cards are just more rare than other. Fewer were printed. Card manufacturers often “short print” certain cards, usually rookie cards. Some cards have a serial number such as 1 0f 100 that make that card unique.
Brand – not all card brands are created equal. There are low end brands that print large quantities of low quality cards, there are high end brands that produce small quantities of high quality cards… and everything in between. The best brands will cost the most to buy but they usually end up being worth the most.
Condition – the condition of the card can drastically affect the price of the card. People are more forgiving when it comes to the condition of older cards. Nobody expects a 100 year old card to have perfect centering and corners… but they do expect that for modern cards. Cards are judged based on many factors, which you can learn about here. The card collecting industry recognizes several major authenticating/grading companies: PSA, Beckett, GAI, and SGC. There are other grading and authenticating services out there, but it’s best to stick with the established well known companies.
The most well known and widely used grading scale is the PSA scale developed by Professional Sports Authenticators. They use the following scale:
- 10 Gem Mint
- 9 Mint
- 8 Near Mint-Mint
- 7 Near Mint
- 6 Excellent Mint
- 5 Excellent
- 4 Very Good-Excellent
- 3 Very Good
- 2 Good
- 1 Poor to Fair