Thursday, February 25, 2016

Baseball Card Price Guide Comparisons, 2010-2012

     I started using Beckett Monthly around 1987 for pricing data.  About 15 years ago,  I started using Beckett's  Official Price Guide of Baseball Cards, which I still use today as my primary checklist and as a pocket guide during travels (4-1/4" x 6-3/4").  I made it pocket-sized (1/2" thickness) by pulling out all the pages that I didn't need (everything except Topps, Bowman, Play Ball, Goudey, and Tobacco).

At home, I started using the much larger 2012 Beckett Price Guide 34th edition a few years ago (measuring about 8" x 11" with a 1-1/2" thickness).  I started outgrowing this guide lately when some of the vintage or more obscure sets I've been collecting were nowhere to be found.  I knew of two other options: the Almanac of Baseball Cards & Collectibles and the Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards.  I found them both for $4.00 each ($0.01 + $3.99 shipping).

     I replaced my Beckett Baseball Card Price Guide with the Beckett Almanac of Baseball Cards (shown below).  This book is just like my other Beckett guide above, but much thicker (about 2-1/4" thick or 75% thicker).  It includes almost all of the vintage and obscure sets that I've been looking for, as well as modern pricing.        

     The Beckett provides a chart for adjusting pricing based on age and grade of your cards.  Older cards are hold their value better through the lower grades using the Beckett.  This method of pricing requires a little more figuring on our own part, so I've created a modified version of this chart to suit my collecting needs (provided on a separate tab of each of my blogs).

The Beckett provides only two columns for a LO and HI value.  I tend to use the HI column for singles and the LO column for complete sets (adjusted using my version of the chart above).  This is the method that I'm most comfortable with.

     I also purchased the Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards as an opportunity for another perspective.  As far as I can tell, the Standard Catalog moved to strictly vintage pricing with its 2012 edition.  Beckett also began offering a strictly vintage price guide last year, but includes all four major sports instead of just baseball.  Both, the Standard Catalog, and the Beckett Vintage guide boast larger print.       

 My favorite aspect about this guide so far is the chronological index in the back.  Actually, I'd prefer price guides to be organized according to the chronological index for pre-Topps cards (through 1955 Bowman) instead J.Burdick's American Card Catalog system that's been used ever since his first publication back in 1939.  Back then, the industry didn't know much about the companies or the years that baseball card sets were produced, so a library-type card catalog system was invented to organize all of the sets.  Over the years, enough research has been conducted to determine who made the sets and when, so I figure it's about time to start organizing them chronologically.  A primary example is the 1911 Tobacco Gold (T-205) set being listed before the 1909 Tobacco White (T-206) set.  1909 should come before 1911.  I end up having to flip all over the book to go from one year to the next in many cases.  Knowledge of vintage sets becomes difficult to determine--It's confusing.  The chronological index in the back of the Standard Catalog is definitely a first step in the right direction.    

     For pricing, the Standard Catalog uses 3 columns based on condition rather than a range for a single condition, which leads to a little less figuring required.  There is a [NM 7.0] column, an [EX 5.0] column, and a [VG 3.0] column.  [EX-MT 6.0] and [VG-EX 4.0] pricing can be determined by averaging two adjacent columns.

     As a low grade vintage collector, the key to most of my pricing is in the shaded portion of the guide shown below:

*[GD 2.0] condition cards can be determined by halving the the [VG 3.0] column,
*[FR 1.5] condition cards can be determined by halving the [GD 2.0] column.
*[PR 1.0] condition cards are stated to be worthless, which I'll take to be less than [FR 1.5].

  I'm just not so sure that I'm on board with this system yet.  I tried pricing a few low-grade cards using the above logic and came up with some interesting results.  

     I tend to use the Beckett guide more for pricing and the SCD guide more for locating or identifying sets.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

1997 Topps Pre-Production set #1-9

Today, I added the Pre-Production subset to my 1997 Topps collection.  Unfortunately, there's not much difference between the base cards and pre-production cards except for Barry Bonds.  The rest of the cards only have slight variations on the back: numbering, write-up, and statistics.  I do think it is worth acquiring just for the Bonds card though for the rest of those "set completists" out there like me.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

2004 Topps Draft Pick factory bonus set #1-5/15

     One of my primary vices in card collecting are these Factory Set Bonus cards.  The following 5 cards finally completes my Draft Pick bonus set for 2004 Topps.  There don't appear to be any spectacular finds in this lot, but my set feels just a little bit more complete today with these new additions.  With both the Draft Pick (x15) and First Year Player (x5) bonus sets now complete, all that's left for 2004 Topps are the four Team Prospect (x20) Bonus sets.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

1996 Topps Pre-Production set #1-9

Topps Pre-Production sets have quickly become a must-have component to my collections.  As far as I can tell, they first started coming out around 1991 and continued through the mid-'00's.  Topps Pre-Production sets typically consist of 9 cards, but I've also heard of 6-card and 3-card sets too.  Currently, I have the Pre-Production sets for 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, and 2002 Topps.  The 1991-1993 sets consist of cards nearly identical to the base sets, but after that, variations start to show.  

The 1996 Topps Pre-Production set consists of 9 completely different cards from the base set.  Being the smallest Topps set since 1957, I welcome these 9 additions to my collection as variations.  Actually, one of the cards--Rafael Bournigal--doesn't even have a '96T base card with the team provided.

1996 Topps #PP1 Cal Ripken

1996 Topps #PP2 Thomas Howard and #PP4 Ron Gant

1996 Topps #PP3 Rafael Bournigal and #PP9 Hideo Nomo

1996 Topps #PP5 Chipper Jones

1996 Topps #PP6 Frank Thomas

1996 Topps #PP7 Barry Bonds

1996 Topps #PP8 Fred McGriff

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Spring is Almost Here

     For me, baseball is a year-round sport.  With the advent of 24-hour baseball radio, television, and internet, there's a lot of information to digest 365 days a year.  It seems like only yesterday that we were heading into late Fall at the end of an exciting World Series.  We made it through the hot stove season, awards ceremonies, winter meetings, hall of fame balloting, and free agency deals.  All the while, I remained deeply involved in developing my collection while catching up with all the latest baseball news.  For those not as crazy about baseball, it's still hard to deny that today represents the unofficial beginning of the 2016 baseball season--and it won't end again until November.  I flipped through my 20 years of Topps set binders and quickly chose the first card that made me think, "Baseball" from each year.  Obviously, not much time went into these selections.

1991 Topps Yankees Team Set

This 1991 Topps set has really grown on me over the years.  For those that remember collecting baseball cards over 25 years ago, the sets of the late-'80s to early-'90s probably bring back bad memories of poor investments in overproduced cards.  Unfortunately, many people still have trouble even looking at these great sets.   

Well, I too was a victim of the baseball card boom era that saw that led to people making huge investments into mass produced cards that would never appreciate; however, there wasn't too much for me to lose out on the the salary of a 14 year old in 1991.  I actually quit collecting baseball cards midway though '91, and never even saw the wax packs change to cellophane packs by the end of the year.  I never really felt all that burned from my overspending during my first 5 years of collecting between 1987-1991, although relatively speaking, I did spend a large enough percentage of my income/allowances to have learned a few lessons about collecting baseball cards.

The more I look at my 1991 Topps baseball cards, the more fond I become of this set.  I'm still in the middle of a set upgrade that includes 10 complete '91TT factory sets, but keep getting sidetracked by other collecting goals.     

Lately, I've been trying to add to my Mariano Rivera collection, which doesn't for Topps until the 1995 Topps Traded set.  I've always thought that was kind of unfair, since Rivera had turned 26 that year--and he still managed to play for 19 years in the majors.  He teammate, Derek Jeter, came up to the majors during the same year at the age of 21 and was able to play for 20 years.  I can't help but to imagine how much more Rivera could have accomplished if he had those 4 extra years.  

In collecting modern baseball cards, I've been forced to think even further outside the box while staying true to my hobby interests.  Today, we have so many variations and inserts that complete set builders may have difficultly determining what to consider a complete set.  How much money do you really want to spend?  

My sets are organized in a way that tells me a story about the year in baseball; they are functional and educational.  You're not going to learn much from a set organized numerically and separated by each type of set produced that year (i.e. Traded, Debut, Inserts).  I began integrating my Traded sets into my base sets when I started back up collecting again in 2001.  I discovered the Debut sets some years later and began organizing those into my sets as well.  I recently began integrating all of the special cards that I used to store in the back of my binder into my base sets as well.  I started doing this because the back of my binders were starting to get overcrowded with special cards.  I still haven't found a way to effectively integrate many of the insert sets from the back of my binder--I tried.  Besides the inserts sets (Wax Cards, Glossy All-Stars, Glossy Rookies), the only other cards stored at the back of my '91 binder are the checklists.

I mentioned many times how my sets are organized by team performance and then player age.  How do I handle having more than one of the same player or multiple players?  Multiple player cards go in front of the youngest player.  Same player cards are organized from newest to oldest, meaning that in terms of the '91 set, the order is: Traded, then Base, then Debut.  What if there is more than one card in the same set?  In this case there are All-Star cards and Record Breakers.  Since they represent achievements of the previous year, I put them after the Base cards, but before the Debut cards.

So how does Mariano Rivera fit into all this?  Actually, another turning point in my collecting habits has recently taken place, and since it relates to the set that I'm currently upgrading, so I'll discuss it here.  I already include "cards that never were" into my collection, but now there are times when even a non-Topps card will make it into my collection.

Since Topps did not produce a Mariano Rivera in its 1996 base set, I included a Topps Stadium Club card.  For 1995, I included a Topps Stadium Club and a Bowman.  For 1994, I included Classic card.  For 1993, I included a Bowman card.  I'm still strategizing my acquisition of a 1992 Bowman and a 1990 Diamond Mariano Rivera.  Today, my 1991 Topps set gets a new prospect card of Mariano Rivera as a 21-22 year old minor leaguer.

You can see here that Mariano wouldn't have been the youngest player in the Yankees team set.

Here's a close-up of my new card.