The National is Proof that Collecting is Still Going Strong

The National Sports Collectors Convention was huge for 2016, and it stands as proof that the industry is in great shape. The big take away, though, is that while collectors expect that vintage items, especially the ones that have impressed us before, will always do well, one of the great indicators of how healthy the market is when we see newer items come to the table and sell for well above estimates.

Case in point, the Wayne Gretzky 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee rookie card. His TRUE rookie card. It’s not that a Gretzky rookie card hasn’t been a familiar sighting for sports collectors. It’s that this one is PERFECT. This is the only known Gem Mint 10, making it more than just rare. It’s not like there weren’t plenty of these in production, and we also haven’t had decades upon decades for them to bear the marks of time – assuming time doesn’t just swallow some cards whole. This is a modern card. “Modern” and “rare” aren’t often adjectives that are paired together.

At The National, the perfect Gretzky rookie card sold for $465,000. That’s about five times the previous record. This is huge for the sports memorabilia industry and for hockey.

Another example that we took to NSCC: Michael Jordan’s 1997-98 playoff game-used and signed home jersey. It was worn May 3,1998 during Michael Jordan’s final season playing for the Chicago Bulls. This is the only MeiGray Group photo-matched playoff Jordan jersey to come up for sale, and while it was surely going to bring in a great price, estimated at about $100,000, at The National, it sold for $171,500. Modern history is making a statement.

We all expect to see great and consistent numbers from proven vintage items, even Joe Frazier’s jock strap because, hey, it’s Joe Frazier! When vintage collectibles do surprise collectors, it’s usually in a good way (like the 1953 Topps Sandy Koufax rookie card). When modern collectibles exceed even the expectations of experts, it’s great confirmation that sports memorabilia as an investment, an industry, is going strong. It’s thriving.

Maybe we’re sentimental, but it seems like the desire to own a slice of history is something incredibly human. To capture time and invest in something with great promise at the same time. How else can you possess the past and the future at the same time?


3 Tips for Protecting Your Sports Card Investment

Protecting your sports card investment is more than just “important”. It’s probably just as critical as the purchase of the card itself. What good is a valuable item if its condition deteriorates? Baseball cards from decades ago or football cards from last week – they all need to be treated with a little more respect than tossing them in a shoebox in the attic. We’re not saying that if you find a Christy Mathewson card tossed into a cardboard box in your grandpa’s attic that you shouldn’t immediately plan a celebration party and book your next vacation. We’re just saying that you might need to skip the Cristal and keep your trip within driving distance.

1. “Let There Be LightCorrection. Let There Be NO Light.

Joe Dimaggio Baseball Cards Protecting Your InvestmentSunlight, specifically UV light, will be the death of them. If you’ve got a mint 1939 Play Ball Joe DiMaggio, don’t display it in a case on your coffee table or have it framed to hang on the wall near your bay window so you and your friends can gaze at it in admiration. Joe will be behind the glass hissing like a vampire munching on garlic bread at a sunny picnic.

UV light causes irreversible damage cumulatively, leading to bleaching and even more brittle cards over time. Sunlight is the strongest source of UV light, and while direct sunlight is the worst, even ambient sunlight can cause damage. It is possible to take a note from fine art galleries and museums and make sure than anything displayed in a frame is behind conservation glass. That should filter out about 98% of UV rays. Still, though, UV rays and possible heat exposure will have some effect over time on the condition of sports cards, so continue be selective with placement. Avoid being near windows. Artificial light, like from incandescent lights in your home, produce very small amounts of UV light but no where near as much as the sun. Just be mindful of it for particularly valuable cards.

2. Use Protection

Be safe, and always keep your cards in a protective sleeve or case. There are lots of different options on the market starting with “penny sleeves” that actually don’t even cost a whole penny. These are thin plastic sleeves that your sports cards should slide snuggly into. They provide some protection against scuffs and scratches, but not bends.

The next step up is top-loaders. These are heavier sleeves that you slide the card into that offer increased protection, but again, cards can be bent. Often, people will put the card inside a penny sleeve, then inside a top-loader. The key thing to look for with both of these sleeves is that you only use ones that are acid-free to prevent them causing breakdown of the ink or discoloration of the paper over time.

From there, for stability can you step up to some substantial protection for your investment by placing each card in a sturdy one-screw, four-screw, or magnetic holder. The catch here is that some collectors have had their cards damaged by these because of the pressured contact on the cards themselves over a long period of time. If you choose to go with these, be sure to not tighten the screws too much.

Again, to reference fine art tactics, think of storing your most valuable sports cards in a way that doesn’t allow much contact with the card to prevent either discoloring or pressure-related dents or ink damage. Fine art is matted for this reason, and there are a few card case options on the market that follow the idea by holding cards securely by their corners or edges inside a sturdy case. For example, SGC is a grading company that also sells their own “museum quality” cases for this purpose.

3. Location Matters

Baseball Card damages Mickey MantleWhether you’ve got a shoebox of penny-sleeved, low value cards or something that rivals the value of your first-born (kidding, kidding), consider the location of where you store your sports cards. Heat, light, and humidity are the enemies. Attics and damp basements are your worst bets. Garages aren’t good either. Sturdy storage in a closet or cabinet is great because it will control light exposure in a temperature control, low-humidity environment. And by all means, keep your valuable sports and baseball cards away from young children.