How to Cash In Your Collection

The fun part of the sports card collecting hobby is normally when you buy baseball cards or the cards of other sports. The hobby wouldn’t work, however, if everybody bought cards and nobody sold them. In addition, selling parts, or all, of your collection can really pay off and, here, we’re offering some tips on the best way to cash in on your precious collectibles.

When you’re ready to sell baseball cards, football cards, basketball cards or hockey cards, you need to do some preparation so you know you’re getting the best deal. It’s worth putting in a little time — not only to understand the value of the cards you’re selling, but to learn more about your hobby. With the internet, you can take advantage of the many available options when you go to sell baseball cards.

Sort Your Cards

When you sell baseball cards, you have to know what you have. You want to hold on to some cards, and you’ve likely accumulated a bunch of common cards that aren’t worth much, if anything. So, before you contact a buyer, sort your cards to determine which cards you want to sell and which have some value.

Of course, if you want to cash in your collection, you can skip this step because you’ve decided to sell all your cards. Then again, reviewing and sorting what you have helps you get an idea how much your collection is worth. Additionally, having your collection organized helps the seller review your cards, which may lead to a better offer.

Assess the Value

Invest the time to determine if you have any valuable cards. Value appraisals, or value assessments, not only set your expectations for how much money you may reap from selling your baseball cards, but it also lets you further sort your cards into those that have value and … the others. Note the condition of the cards you think will bring the highest return.

While you can have the high-value cards professionally graded before selling your card collection, it’s usually unnecessary for lower-to-medium value cards. As long as you’ve stored your cards properly and treated them with care, they’re in as good a shape as you can manage. Don’t try to correct card defects, as this can render the cards worthless.

Sell Baseball Cards

This may be the most difficult step, since you need to find a scrupulous buyer as well as one who’ll give you the best price. Dealers are easier to find than individual buyers, so the possibility of a sale with a broker or auction house is higher, especially if you have cards of value. Of course we’d recommend reaching out to us and consign with Goldin Auctions, but see below for additional options.

Brokers and auction houses have the resources to authenticate your most expensive cards, so they’re best able to know what to ask in a sale or auction. You have many options when it comes to finding a buyer to sell baseball cards to:

  • Pawn shop. Yes, you can sell your cards at a pawn shop, but pawn brokers may not have any idea of the value of your collection, so go with a price and be prepared to negotiate down.
  • Card shop or broker. One of the easiest ways to sell your collection is to take it (or a list of your cards and their condition) to a local card shop or send the list to a broker. They’ll be able to give you an estimate, dependent on actually examining the cards. This is also a good option when you don’t want to do a lot of work, but still want a good price. You can also choose to sell your whole collection or just some of your cards.
  • eBay. This option may be the most hit-and-miss, as well as the most time-intensive. You have to know the price to ask (the starting point) and the price to accept. You can set both online, but you have to gauge the interest and the timing. Everything about the sale, in other words, is up to you. eBay takes its cut, too. Good luck when you sell baseball cards to online strangers.
  • Auction house. This option is best suited for those who have valuable collections. You get the most people — and the most qualified buyers — lining up to bid on your collection. With an auction house, even with the commission, you’re more likely to get top dollar for your valuable cards. And you can still sell the whole collection or just the most valuable cards in your set. Click here to consign with us today.

Baseball Greats: Griffey vs Robinson

Ken Griffey vs Frank RobinsonThe great thing about baseball, unlike other sports, is that you can compare players across eras. Just buy baseball cards and review the statistics. While the sport has evolved, the game itself has changed very little. A ball hit over the fence is still a homerun, and a great catch still makes fans stand up and applaud.

Once you start to buy baseball cards, it’s easy to make the comparisons. Baseball’s detailed history provides fans with fodder for debating which players were better:

For these comparisons, you can’t measure value by cost when you buy baseball cards. The older cards are almost always going to win that argument. Instead, to rate Frank Robinson and Ken Griffey Jr., let’s turn to their baseball accomplishments.

Ken Griffey Jr – Frank Robinson Overview

Griffey Jr. played in 22 seasons, from 1989 to 2010, smack dab in the Long Ball Era. Balls flew out of ballparks at a record pace, and Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris’ single-season homerun record. Even in this era, Griffey stood out, hitting for average and power while playing the best center field anyone could remember.

Robinson played for 21 seasons, from 1956 to 1976. It was the Expansion Era, although Robinson first appeared just nine years after Jackie Robinson (no relation) integrated baseball. Yet, in his sixth season with the Cincinnati Reds, he won his first MVP. Five years later, in Baltimore, he won his second, the only player in baseball history ever to win the award in both leagues.

Starting Their Careers

If you buy baseball cards, you’ll find Robinson’s are more in demand. He made the bigger initial splash, too. He set the rookie record for homeruns with 38 — later broken by Mark McGwire. For much of his career, he was a consistent 30-homer threat, averaging more than 34 homeruns over his first seven seasons. Except for his third year, he consistently hit .290 or better, reaching .342 in his seventh year.

Griffey started slower. Although he hit 45 homeruns in his fifth season, he averaged only 27 over his first seven seasons. Except for his rookie year and his seventh season, though, he was a consistent .300 hitter. Then, in his eighth season, while just 26 years old, he became the Ken Griffey, Jr. you think of today.

Their Best Years

From 1996 to 2000, Griffey was arguably the best in baseball. He hit .290 with 249 homers and 593 RBIs in those five years. He also stole 81 bases. Griffey won his MVP in 1997, when he hit .304 with 56 homers and 147 RBIs. As good as Robinson was, his best five-year span occurred between 1958 and 1962. He hit .309 with 174 homers and 533 RBIs. He also stole 81 bases. Robinson won his first MVP in 1961, when he hit .323 with 37 homers and 124 RBIs.

Robinson’s last great year came in 1973, when he was 37. He hit 30 homers and drove in 97 runs while hitting a decent .266. He walked 82 times, leading to a .372 on-base percentage. As it happens, Griffey’s last great year came in 2007, when he was 37. He hit 30 homers and drove in 93 runs, while hitting a decent .277. His 85 walks contributed to that on-base percentage of .372, the same as Robinson’s.

The Final Analysis

Based on batting statistics alone, the tip of the cap has to go to Robinson. While Griffey hit more career homers (630 to 586), Robinson accomplished his feat when 39 homers in a season could still win a homerun title. During Griffey’s career, 50 sometimes wasn’t enough. Still, even in the homer-happy 1990s, Griffey won four homerun titles. Robinson only won one. Robinson won one Gold Glove Award, while Griffey earned 10.

When you buy baseball cards, Frank Robinson’s rookie card, 1957 Topps #35, sells for as much as $42,500. Because Ken Griffey Jr.’s rookie card, 1989 Upper Deck #1, appeared during the baseball card production glut, it’s less valuable, but it still sold for $425. Whenever you buy baseball cards today, remember that the era of the cards matter more than the era of baseball. Go for cards made before 1980, even if Griffey Jr. is your favorite player.

3 Highest Priced Cards of Each Sport: Baseball, Football, Basketball, and Hockey

Sports card collecting is dominated by the four major American sports. Buy baseball cards, and you’ll collect the most popular sports cards. Buy football cards, and you’ll find they’ve gained in popularity along with the sport itself. Buy basketball cards because its players are so widely known today, or buy hockey cards because it’s not as popular as the other sports.

Highest Priced Baseball Cards Basketball Cards Football Cards Hockey CardsIf you’ve just hit the lottery or inherited a fortune, here are the top three cards, based on value, for each sport:

The Top 3 Baseball Cards

You can buy baseball cards every year and not find gems like these:

  1. 1909–1911 American Tobacco Company T206 Honus Wagner. This card sold for $3.12 million in 2017, by far the highest price ever for a sports card. Only three in good condition exist.
  2. 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle. Mantle’s rookie card increases in value every time a mint version of the card comes up for auction. The last one sold for $1.13 million in 2016.
  3. 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth. Not technically a rookie card, since it depicts Ruth as pitcher for the International League Baltimore Orioles, it sold for $517,000 in 2008.

 

The Top 3 Football Cards

Often, when you buy football cards, you hope that one day they’ll be as valuable as these:

  1. 1958 Topps #62 Jim Brown. What makes Brown’s rookie cards so valuable is that so many of them had defects. A card in perfect condition sold for $358,500 in 2016.
  2. 1935 National Chicle #34 Bronko Nagurski. Surprisingly, this isn’t Nagurski’s rookie card, but since so few exist, it’s become the most valuable football card, selling for $350,000 in 2011.
  3. 1957 Topps #110 Bart Starr. Vince Lomdardi redefined football, and Bart Starr was his aptly named quarterback. His rookie card was sold for $288,000 in 2017.

 

The Top 3 Basketball Cards

When you buy basketball cards, the older cards are more valuable:

  1. 1948 Bowman #69 George Mikan. This Hall of Famer was a dominant player in the early years of the NBA. Cards were scarce then. His rookie card, in mint condition, sold for $403,664 in 2015.
  2. 1970 Topps #123 Pete Maravich. “Pistol Pete” was a prolific scorer. His rookie card, valued as low as $18,000 in 2007, sold for more than $130,000 in 2015.
  3. 1961 Fleer #8 Wilt Chamberlain. His rookie card shows him with the Philadelphia Warriors, but he was perhaps the sport’s greatest player with the Lakers. This card sold for $45,000 in 2017.

 

The Top 3 Hockey Cards

If you buy hockey cards, you may have been lucky to acquire one of these:

  1. 1958 Topps #66 Bobby Hull. Nicknamed The Golden Jet, Hull had one of the most fearsome slapshots in the game. His rookie card sold for $102,000 in 2017, a record for hockey cards.
  2. 1979 O-Pee-Chee #18 Wayne Gretsky. The most expensive modern hockey card ever sold — for $94,163 in 2011 — is no surprise. The Great One ruled the sport, and now his card does too.
  3. 1966 Topps #35 Bobby Orr. Before The Great One, there was Bobby Orr, part of the 1970s’ Big Bad Bruins teams. His near mint rookie card sold for $35,850 in 2015.

The Values Taught by Collecting Sports Cards

Most hobbies have an upside, an aspect that makes it worthwhile beyond the entertainment value it provides. Tend to your garden, and you’ll naturally learn about planting seasons and soil chemistry. Buy basketball cards to collect, and you’ll learn about supply and demand, as well as the value of a dollar.

There’s more to it than that, of course. In fact, there’s much more you can learn — and teach — from a hobby of collecting sports cards. You can buy basketball cards, baseball cards or football cards for your kids, or you can encourage them to start the hobby on their own. Hobbyists sometimes start as early as age five or seven, and encouragement always helps cement the passion for collecting.

Learning about Business

As a child, the most common way to learn about business used to be to get a newspaper route or mow your neighbors’ lawns. From such an experience, you learned how speed produced greater profits. You learned how to expand your business base while keeping your current customers happy.

With sports card collecting, your children learn a different side of business: risk vs. potential. When you buy basketball cards for them, they learn which cards are most likely to increase in value and how to protect that investment. They learn how risky it can be to follow a new player, but how expensive it is to buy basketball cards, for example, of the established stars.

Learning How to Be a Better Fan

Your kids may start their hobby by buying the first card of the hot hometown rookie. They may want to collect that player’s cards through the years and follow his exploits, for better or worse. By becoming so attached to one player, your little fans watch more games and learn the intricacies of the sport.

There are new rookies every year, but they may not be on the home team. This encourages your children to buy basketball cards of other players on other teams in other cities, thus growing their interest in the game itself. Free agency has changed the game, another factor that forces your kids to follow other teams.

Learning about Disappointment

This is a difficult lesson for any child, but sports is ultimately about learning to deal with disappointment. Only one team can be champion each year. Even if your children’s team wins the first season they follow them, the hometown team can’t win year after year. Your kids have to get used to disappointment.

The same thing is true of sports card collecting. The odds of any rookie becoming a superstar is minimal, although doing research into a player’s past performance as an amateur can help narrow the field. Your kids’ favorite players may not become superstars as expected. That’s not only a disappointment as fans, but it affects the value of their sports cards.

Learning to Cherish the Victories

Spend some time explaining the excitement of the hobby to your kids. Tell them to buy basketball cards for the thrill of opening the pack. Buy them for the chance to find their favorite players’ cards or star cards or special inserts that may eventually be of value. Even if they don’t find anything of value, tell them to cherish the moment. The chase makes the prize all the sweeter.

Cherish the victories, in sports card collecting, in the sport they follow and in real life. The hobby of collecting sports cards teaches everyone to value the experience, win or lose. Teach your children to buy basketball cards because they want to and because they enjoy it, not because they may make an extra dollar.

Ask the Experts: Answers to the Top 10 Sports Card Collecting Questions

Sports Cards AuctionIf you’re new to sports card collecting or returning to the hobby, you may enjoy the chance to buy or sell baseball cards from experts in the field. The things you can learn while conducting the business part of the hobby can prove insightful. Once you’ve found a trustworthy expert to buy and sell baseball cards, take advantage of the situation and ask questions. Here are answers to the 10 top questions the experts at Goldin Auctions hear:

  1. Can you show me the difference in how cards are graded?

The best way to learn about card quality is to see it in person for yourself. There’s actually a lot to know, from whether the card is centered to the condition of the card’s corners, which tend to get bent more easily. The grading starts with the best quality, GEM-MT (gem mint), and ends with PR-FR (Poor to Fair). Learning the difference for yourself gives you a heads-up in your hobby.

  1. What are the best cards to buy?

Established professionals in the field see trends come and go. They’ll tell you that their biggest business now likely comes from vintage cards. Since they don’t make them anymore, vintage cards retain their value better than those still in production.

  1. What are the most expensive cards?

If you want to sell baseball cards from your collection to an expert, he’ll look for the best of the best first, such as:

  • Rookie cards of stars before 1980
  • Rare inserts with limited print runs
  • Known mistake cards, like the 2006 Topps Alex Gordon
  • Cards with an authenticated signature, which adds significant value
  1. Is it better to buy singles, packs, boxes or sets?

This answer depends on the age of the cards. For vintage cards, just buy singles of the players you covet, assuming you can afford them. For modern cards, the answer is boxes. Each box often guarantees at least one special insert, and those are the modern cards that may appreciate in value.

  1. Who’s buying sports cards today?

Professionals in the field know who buys and sells baseball cards, and most kids today aren’t buying sports cards. Novelty cards, maybe. Game cards, definitely. But not sports cards. Sports cards are now the province of an older generation more interested in the older cards. (See question #2.)

  1. How are new cards selling?

Selling new cards are part of the business, just not the biggest part of the business anymore.

  1. Why won’t you give me Beckett value for this baseball card?

When you sell baseball cards to an expert, don’t expect to get top dollar. He’s buying it to re-sell. If you want top dollar, find a buyer on your own. When you sell to a sports card professional, you’re essentially selling to a middle man who has to take a cut to earn a living. You always have the option of saying, “No thank you.”

  1. Are my Fleer cards from the 1980s more valuable today because the company no longer exists?

Not as a general rule. The glut in production in the 1980s dropped the value of all those cards.

  1. Do you know of the best card shows to go to in the area?

A sports card professional can direct you to websites like Beckett’s shows, but you can also participate in exciting online auctions.  You’ll find lots of options for buying and selling sports memorabilia, not just cards.

  1. Can I sell cards and memorabilia through Goldin Auctions?

Absolutely. Visit our consignment page to get more information. Then call 856-767-8550 or email us to let us know if you want to sell baseball cards and other sports merchandise through Goldin Auctions.

Baseball Greats: Ruth vs. Aaron

It’s one of the great debates in baseball fan history. Who’s better: The first man to hit over 700 homeruns in his career or the man who surpassed his lifetime total? If you buy vintage baseball cards, you probably have your favorite.

Babe Ruth vs Hank Aaron statistics infographicWhile you can find many ways to compare these two players — and their statistics are examined below — the fact is they were very different men playing in very different eras. Both are obvious Hall of Famers, and both mean a lot to a sport that has essentially changed very little since the early 20th century. Picking one over the other may be like trying to pick between a hundred-dollar bill and two fifties.

Babe’s Accomplishments

Babe Ruth changed baseball forever. In the 1920s, after the Black Sox scandal, he started hitting homeruns at such a rate that he brought fans back to the ballpark. What most people don’t realize is that he hit for average as well as power. In 1921, for instance, he hit .378 with 177 runs scored and 168 RBIs. Among his 204 hits were 44 doubles, 16 triples and 59 homeruns. Dynamite, but that wasn’t even his MVP season.

When Ruth retired in 1935, he held the record for career homeruns, RBIs and total bases, among several other high-water marks. In addition to his single-season record of 60 homers in 1927, he set a record in 1923 by walking 170 times, which stood until 2001, 78 years later. In 1921, he amassed 457 total bases, a record no one has ever broken. The Babe stood head-and-shoulders above his rivals as the greatest player in the 1920s, if not of all time.

Hank’s Accomplishments

“Hammerin’” Hank Aaron also changed baseball. He proved that modern-day players could be every bit as good as the nostalgia-tinted players of yesteryear. Although he never hit more than 47 homeruns in a season, he did what no one else thought possible: broke Ruth’s career homerun record. In 1959, he hit .355 with 116 runs scored and 123 RBIs. Among his 223 hits were 46 doubles, 7 triples and 39 homeruns. Amazing, but that wasn’t even his MVP season.

He hit 30 or more homeruns in 15 different seasons, 40 or more in eight seasons. He hit .300 or better in 14 seasons. In 1963, he hit 44 homers and stole 31 bases while driving in 130 runs. No, that wasn’t his MVP season either. He was a consistent threat at bat from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s while playing a more grueling season and facing tougher opposition. Aaron redefined what a power hitter could be.

When You Buy Vintage Baseball Cards

While both Ruth and Aaron were stars in their respective eras, baseball cards were very different. Topps was firmly established in 1954, when Aaron was a rookie. Meanwhile, baseball cards were still rare when Ruth burst onto the scene. If you’re looking to buy vintage baseball cards, Aaron’s rookie card in mint condition recently brought in more than $62,000 at auction.

Of course, there aren’t many options to buy vintage baseball cards of Babe Ruth. According to Beckett.com, the 1933 Goudey #144 is the most expensive Ruth card at $4,000. A minor league card — Ruth’s first — with the Baltimore Orioles of the International League sold for about $450,000. His first major league card, as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, was the 1916 M101-5, which sold for more than $130,000.

Don’t start your collection with Ruth or Aaron when you buy vintage baseball cards, but they’re goals worth dreaming about. Ruth’s cards are rarer, making Aaron’s cards more accessible. Which would you prefer?

Which Players Should You Collect?

Baseball cards have suffered a production glut since the 1980s. So, when you start to buy baseball cards, it’s a legitimate question to ask where to start. Whether you start by buying new cards or vintage cards, you may choose to collect the cards of your favorite players. But which should you collect?

Baseball Cards Basketball Cards and Other SportsWhen considering vintage cards — defined here as baseball cards produced before 1980 — you can go by price guides and auction results. You learn that early rookie cards are the most valuable. When considering modern cards — meaning cards produced after 1980 — rookie cards have given way to special, limited-edition inserts and autographed cards.

Which Sport to Collect

Among the most popular, you can buy baseball cards, basketball cards, football cards, hockey cards, or even cards from other sports such as auto racing. With some exceptions, the most popular collectible cards are baseball cards. If you have a preference for another sport, the same rules apply when choosing a player to collect, but the pay-off may be less, since fewer people collect those cards.

Baseball cards have the longest history, and they started the collecting craze. Certain players have crossover appeal. Regardless of your favorite sport, you’d probably love to have a Babe Ruth card. You could say the same for a Michael Jordan card, a Joe Namath card or a Wayne Gretzky card. And therein lies the answer to the question about which player to collect.

Start with Stars

Obviously, the players you want to collect, whether you buy baseball cards or cards from another sport, should be stars. The bigger, the better. The cards of those players will be the most in demand, meaning their value will likely increase. For vintage cards, the players are all retired, so you know who’s a star and who’s not. It’s riskier — but more exciting — to find young players to follow and collect. Picking a winning prospect isn’t easy, but it can be rewarding.

Budding stars in the modern era present some card-collecting obstacles. You can’t merely find their rookie cards. Those cards are still overproduced and readily collected, meaning they’re worth much less and not likely to increase that much in value, thanks to supply and demand. You can still find value in collecting rarer inserts and autographed cards. For example, the 2015 Topps Dynasty Kris Bryant RC Auto Patch is an autographed insert highly prized.

Don’t Overlook Appeal

Buy baseball cards of players who have that crossover appeal, which will increase their card value by generating greater demand. Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner,  Michael Jordan, Joe Namath and Wayne Gretzky all appeal to fans of all sports. Meanwhile, there are dozens of players who enjoyed a great career who don’t generate the same level of appeal. Ernie Banks, for example, has more appeal than Luis Aparicio, even though both are in the Hall of Fame.

Looking at today’s players and tomorrow’s stars, can you guess who’ll have the most appeal? No one really knows if Mike Trout’s accomplishments on the field will translate to greater value for his collectible cards. Ken Griffey had magnetism. Reggie Jackson lived for the spotlight. We’d recommend buying the cards of those types of players. It’s not always just about their statistics.

Basketball Greats: Jordan vs. James

A Guide to Buy Basketball Cards and Memorabilia

Every time a rising basketball star enjoys several years of success, fans ask the inevitable question: “Is he the next Michael Jordan?” Sometimes, a prospect is called the next MJ before he’s even taken a free throw. Such is the nature of hyperbole.

Lebron James vs Michael Jordan BasketballLaBron James, on the other hand, is no starry-eyed rookie. In fact, he’s played almost as many regular season games (1,040) as Michael Jordan (1,072) — and more playoff games (199 to 179). So it’s no wonder that the two basketball greats are compared to each other, especially in an era where collectors buy basketball cards.

Comparable Careers?

Although their careers span different basketball eras, there are several parallels, at least as of 2017. Both won Rookie of the Year honors. Jordan (5) and James (4) have been named league MVP multiple times. Both have played in many All-Star games (14 to 13, Jordan).

Since James is still playing, he’ll continue to add to his statistics. However, as a snapshot in this point in time, their regular season stats show their similarities and differences:

_____________

Points per game

Rebounds per game

Assists per game

Steals per game

Jordan

30.1

6.2

5.3

2.3

James

27.1

7.2

7.0

1.7

Where the Differences Matter

The biggest difference between these two great players is most evident in the playoffs. While Jordan’s teams won six championships to James’ three, there are reasons beyond the quality of their teammates. While Jordan averaged 30 points a game during the season, he upped his game in the playoffs, consistently beating his regular season performance. James managed over 30 PPG in the playoffs only four times, although he did improve his rebounding (8.8 to 7.2 per game).

Beyond the statistics, Michael Jordan defined — or redefined — the game. In a game like basketball, where scoring many points matters, Jordan led the league 10 times to James’ once. Jordan was even once named the game’s Defensive Player of the Year. James has never won that honor. James is a great player, no doubt, but he hasn’t meant as much to the sport as MJ.

When You Buy Basketball Cards

Michael Jordan Rookie CardBoth players’ collectables — including cards, jerseys and autographs — command high prices. The demand is likely to remain high, at least as long as James continues to play. If you want to buy basketball cards of the two players, Jordan’s rookie card now exceeds $100,000. That’s a nice investment if you bought one right out of a pack back in the day (1984).

James also has valuable cards such as the Lebron James Rookie Card, but since he came into the league in the era of inserts, those are the cards that have increased in value the most. For example, one 2003–04 Exquisite Rookie Autographed Patch card sold for $95,000. That’s comparable to Jordan’s cards, and James is still playing.

Beyond Cards

Lebron James Rookie CardSome collectors don’t buy basketball cards. They prefer game-worn memorabilia, autographed basketballs and signed photos. You can guarantee that anything with an authenticated signature by either of these two greats will fetch a pretty price.

The value of Michael Jordan’s memorabilia has held up over time. He’s a Hall of Famer. He’s been a role model. His very name inspires kids to greatness. James has yet to reach that stage of his career. After his playing days have ended, after he’s elected to the Hall (as he surely will be), will he have the force of personality to be that role model for future generations? In other words, will he surpass Jordan as an ambassador for the sport? If he does, his memorabilia — including his basketball cards — will continue to rise in value.

If Chuck Norris Had a Rookie Card…

Buy Baseball Cards Smarter

The history of baseball card collecting is littered with sad stories of collectors who focused on “the next big thing.” For every Frank Thomas or Greg Maddux, though, there are dozens of can’t-miss prospects who never made it big. If you pick the wrong player to collect, you’re essentially throwing your money away. You’ll never get anything back for that Todd Van Poppel rookie card.

Yet scouting a rookie you believe in — and collecting his earliest cards — carries not only a financial return if you guess right, but an emotional win as well. When so many collectors buy baseball cards, there are bound to be winners and losers. Everyone looks like a winner when a 19-year-old like Jose Urias broke into the majors in 2016. The gamble is whether he becomes the next Clayton Kershaw or the next Brien Taylor. (Who? Exactly.)

What to Look for

Since rookie cards, like all baseball cards, tend to be overproduced these days, you need to look for specialty cards of your chosen young player. Autographed cards, metal cards and other inserts can pay off big, especially if you acquire the card before the player makes it big. That’s the gamble, of course.

You can spread your risk by investing in multiple players when you buy baseball cards. You may not get everything from one specific player, but you’ll be more likely to get something back if you pick more than one. Remember, if all you bought were Chuck Norris cards, you’d be sitting on a whole lot of quarters, not Franklins.

If you don’t recognize his name, Chuck Norris was a movie and television star, famous — or infamous — for low-budget action movies. Born in 1940, he had a lengthy and fruitful career. If there were a Hall of Fame for B-movie stars, Chuck would fly in on the first ballot. He does have a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, but then, so does Lassie.

He never played professional baseball, but pretending he did can teach you how to buy baseball cards. Chuck Norris broke into the big leagues in 1972 with a part in the Bruce Lee film, Return of the Dragon. The movie featured a fight scene between the two (spoiler: Lee won). Already hyped as an accomplished martial artist, Norris was seen as an up-and-coming box-office draw.

If you bought Norris’ rookie card like you buy baseball cards, you’d have seen him in an action pose on the front of the card. The card back would have shared his measurements and mostly minor league accomplishments to date. Since his rookie card would have come out in 1972 or 1973, it may have been a rare find and initially considered quite valuable.

Then Reality Set in

Despite the hype, Norris failed to live up to early expectations. His career sputtered for a few years until his first starring role in Breaker! Breaker! five years later. Hardly a blockbuster, the movie made little impact, and it appeared that the early hype would crystalize into a career like that of Gregg Jefferies, who turned early promise into a mediocre career. (In fact, that’s an apt analogy on many levels.)

In Norris’ case, he continued to “star” in an assortment of bad action movies. Critics called him “wooden,” comparing his acting unfavorably to a baseball bat. In 1993, after a journeyman career, he was sent down to the minor leagues of television for good. Although he enjoyed a cup of coffee in the big leagues now and then, like many others before and since, he never fulfilled the hype.

Baseball Greats: Mantle vs. Mays

The debate has been raging since these two Hall of Fame players were young men playing in opposite leagues in New York City. Mantle played for the formidable Yankees, and Mays for the talented Giants. With Mantle, the Yankees won seven championships, while with Mays, the Giants won only one. You can’t judge a player by the team he played for, though. Many greats never won a single championship.

Interestingly, the two teams — and the two players — played against each other in only 13 games: the 1951 and 1962 World Series. While the Yankees prevailed in both series, Mays (11-for-49) actually outperformed Mantle (4-for-30). Still, you can’t read much into such a small sample.

The Statistics

Mays had a longer career, partially due to Mantle’s injuries. What Mantle would have done on two healthy legs is, again, subject to debate. Because of those extra years:

  • Mays hit more homeruns (660 to 536)
  • Mays stole more bases (338 to 153)
  • Mays even hit for a higher batting average (.302 to .298)

That may make you think Mays was the superior player, but it’s not that simple. If you break it down by average performance, instead of totals, the results are pretty darn close:

  • Mantle averaged 36 homers, 102 RBIs and 10 stolen bases
  • Mays averaged 36 homers, 103 RBIs and 18 stolen bases

Face it: these are two great players, no matter what era they played in. If you buy vintage baseball cards, you probably want to collect them both. They were superstars before the word was even coined.

The Mystique

Mantle definitely benefited by playing on those great Yankees teams. Mays, meanwhile, moved with the Giants to San Francisco in 1958, well out of the center of attention. He would not win a championship out there, although he came close in 1962. The two locations and the two teams, so vastly different, helped create a mystique around Mantle that Mays never really enjoyed.

So, when you buy vintage baseball cards, you have to weigh the career statistics, the World Championships and the mystique to determine who you think was the better player. In the end, that’s all it will be: your opinion, especially if you never saw either of them play the game.

The Cards

Mickey Mantle Rookie Card 1951 Bowman #253There is one way to discover who is the better baseball player. It’s not exactly an objective source, but as this discussion is on a baseball card collecting website, it is valid. The answer is to look at the two players’ respective baseball cards. Buy vintage baseball cards like their rookie cards, and you’ve got two valuable pieces of property.

The Willie Mays rookie card is the 1951 Bowman #305. It’s listed at $2,500, depending on the card quality. By the same token, the rookie card for Mickey Mantle, the 1951 Bowman #253, is listed at $8,000. That’s a significant difference for two players whose statistics seemed so close. But people buy vintage baseball cards for many reasons, not just the stats.

Willie Mays rookie card 1951 Bowman #305Whether you like Mickey or prefer Willie, neither is a bad choice for your baseball card collection. Meanwhile, the debate about who was better may never be resolved.