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, 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 Gretsky 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 Gretsky 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











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.

5 Ways to Combat Inflation: Safe Investments

Collecting anything as an investment is always going to be risky to some degree. It’s possible that the market for Cabbage Patch Dolls, for example, dries up when the generation that started the craze passes on (or grows up). Coin collecting, on the other hand, retains value because the value of the metal in the coin always has value. That gives the hobby a foundation on which to build.

Baseball card collecting, on the other hand, straddles both of the above examples. The cards themselves, being made primarily of paper, have no inherent value. Unlike Cabbage Patch Doll collectors, though, the sport these cards represent — baseball — isn’t likely to die out. As a result, the sport creates new generations of fans every decade. And fans buy baseball cards.

Baseball Card Investing

Baseball cards have been around for more than 100 years. The most valuable baseball card ever, the T206 Honus Wagner card, was first printed in 1909. That card continues to appreciate in value — one owner bought one in 2013 for $2.1 million and sold it three years later for $3.12 million. That’s a pretty solid return for any investment.

It’s also a bit out of reach for most card collectors. Fortunately, you can buy baseball cards for a lot less money than that. Collecting baseball cards is a hobby that takes some talent, making it a challenge even for established collectors and a learning curve for new collectors. That’s just part of the fun of the hobby. If everyone could jump in and be successful, collecting baseball cards as an investment wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable and fulfilling.

Safe Bets

If you can’t afford to buy a T206 Honus Wagner, you need a strategy. You can take some risks, as long as you balance that risk with safe investments when you buy baseball cards. You also can hedge your bets by making sound investments you know you can count on. Follow these five tips for making safe investments:

  1. Old stars keep rising. Pre-WWII stars — like Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Joe Dimaggio and Ty Cobb — are always in demand because of the scarcity. Of course, these cards have been through six-plus decades of growth, so they aren’t inexpensive. But they’re still cheaper than the T206.
  2. Buy good quality cards. This doesn’t mean you should only buy baseball cards that have been professionally graded. Grading doesn’t always matter unless the card is very old or very valuable. But don’t buy a beat-up Nolan Ryan rookie card and expect to get top dollar for it.
  3. Look for post-war deals. They’re still out there, and some of the most valuable cards ever made are from the post-war era. Ever heard of Mickey Mantle? Roberto Clemente? Hank Aaron? The 1950s and 60s were an era ripe with stars and the cards are still rare enough to hold their value.
  4. Don’t forget modern cards. But do forget about modern rookies. Instead, go for inserts, signed cards and patch cards. By far, the most expensive cards made today are those signed and authenticated or have uniform patches embedded in the cards. If you pull a rising star, you could hit it big. While these are a little riskier, if you find a good deal, take it.
  5. Store your cards properly. To save your investments when you buy baseball cards, keep them safe. Store your cards in plastic in a cool, dry place, like a closet in the main part of your house. Don’t’ put them in your attic, garage or basement, where humidity or temperature changes can damage them.

Also see our article about protecting your investments:

3 Tips for Protecting Your Sports Card Investment



The Most Valuable Baseball Cards of 2016

When you collect as an investment or even as a hobby, you may dream of one day being able to sell baseball cards at a profit. While the conventional wisdom tells you to buy vintage baseball cards, conventional wisdom isn’t always up on the latest industry developments. Yes, a Mickey Mantle rookie card in mint condition will always be a valuable commodity, but believe it or not, 2016 produced some winners, too.

If you don’t think it’s worth it to buy baseball cards made after about 1980, you’re thinking of the run-of-the-mill cards you can buy for a couple bucks a pack. As special inserts have become more desirable and as production rates of these inserts has shrunk, they’ve become increasingly valuable. Therefore, you can sell baseball cards from 2016 at a handsome profit.

The Most Valuable Card Series

Certain series contain more high-value cards than others, even in 2016. That means when you buy wax packs that may contain one, you’re more likely to pull a card that could be worth hundreds of dollars. When you’re ready to sell baseball cards, these will be at the top of your deck.

Obviously, some series cost more, making them more of a commitment, but in other cases, those higher prices may be worth the investment, given the odds of finding one of these special cards. When you sell baseball cards from these series, you’re more likely to make a nice profit. These are the 2016 series that contain a few high-priced individual cards:

Common Threads

The most valuable cards in 2016 may be younger players or older players. They may be bound for the Hall of Fame or they may not have appeared in a single MLB game. They may have game uniform patches embedded in the card. They may have a shiny reflector surface. They may be one of one or one of a dozen. But they do have some commonalities:

  • All of the most valuable baseball cards in 2016 are signed. Signature cards have always been worth more than other cards. This year is no different, and these cards have been authenticated. They’re not like the cards you had signed at the ballpark.
  • Rookies or draft picks. One of the reasons rookies have been more valuable than other cards, even in vintage sets, is the risk involved. If you pull a rookie card out of a pack, what are the odds that the player will go on to have a memorable career? Pretty low, but collectors love the chances and typically pay more for a new rookie, making them more in demand.

The Valuable Cards

The top 15 most valuable 2016 baseball cards are all worth more than $300, according to Becket and other sources. To sell baseball cards, you’ve got to find the right buyer or the right dealer, so there’s no guarantee you’ll get this amount. These are the posted, public prices:

  1. Panini Immaculate Collection Autograph Dual Materials Black #7 Buster Posey ($899.95)
  2. Bowman Chrome Prospect Autographs Blue Refractors #CPAYM Yoan Moncada ($799.95)
  3. Bowman Chrome Draft Top of the Class Box Topper Autographs #TOCMM Mickey Moniak ($799.50)
  4. Topps Gold Label Framed Autographs Black Frame #GLFAI Ichiro Suzuki ($770.00)
  5. Bowman Chrome Draft Superfractors #BDC188 Jon Harris ($699.99)
  6. Topps Pro Debut Pro Production Autographs Red #PPAAB Alex Bregman ($699.99)
  7. Elite Extra Edition Autographs Status Tie Dye Die Cut #99 Tim Tebow ($699.95)
  8. Bowman Chrome Prospect Autographs Blue Twitter Refractors #CPAAA Anthony Alford ($649.33)
  9. Bowman Chrome Red Refractors #40 Corey Seager ($600.00)
  10. Topps Heritage Clubhouse Collection Relic Autographs #CCARMT Mike Trout ($600.00)
  11. Topps Allen and Ginter Framed Mini Autographs Black #AGAMT Mike Trout ($600.00)
  12. Immaculate Collection Immaculate Trio Players Memorabilia #5 Lou Gehrig/Joe Jackson/Ty Cobb ($599.50)
  13. Topps Allen and Ginter Framed Mini Autographs #AGARKI Kevin Costner/Ray Kinsella ($499.99)
  14. Bowman Chrome Rookie Blue Refractor Autographs #YM Yoan Moncada ($450.00)
  15. Topps Allen and Ginter Box Topper Autographs #BLANG Nomar Garciaparra ($449.99)

Most Valuable Baseball Cards of 2016

The Truth About Who’s Collecting Sports Cards These Days


Sports card collecting is still an active hobby for many people. You can tell because every so often, a card sells for a record amount and makes the news. But who are these mysterious collectors? Is it old men who buy vintage baseball cards? Is it young fans who buy hockey cards? One thing is certain: the demographic of the hobby has changed.

It’s true that the audience is skewed to an older crowd today, which is the opposite of what you might have expected. After all, baseball card collecting has a history of being a young boy’s hobby. Remember when cards made bicycle wheels sound impressive? Those same kids are now older guys with a new respect for their hobby. And they buy vintage baseball cards.

Baseball Card & Sports Card Collecting History

Let’s take a look at the hobby in a historical context. By the 1970s, the card companies had a good thing going, even as their products were substandard photos on perishable cardboard stained by cheap bubblegum. Then came the 1980s’ explosion that paired great advances in quality and design with a glut of production. For a while, the card companies had the best of both worlds: huge production runs and an eager public ready to buy hockey cards, baseball cards — anything they produced, really.

Then reality sunk in. Rookie cards that used to gain in value — mainly because most card collections didn’t last past puberty — sank like a nickel tossed into a fountain. With the newfound interest in investing, not just collecting, more sports cards stayed in pristine plastic cardholders. Coupled with incredibly high production rates, the glut meant that all the cards lost value because even desirable rookie cards became commonplace.

Old Cards Rule

So the public still interested in buying and collecting sports cards tried other tactics. When baseball cards lost value, they decided to buy hockey cards, football cards and basketball cards. But they too proved to be poor investments, even as those sports gained popularity and the card quality increased.

Then, like real commodities brokers, they turned to the one place where value remained high. They found the niche where the love of the sport matched the urge to collect. They found the sweet spot where collecting again became investing. Their new strategy was to buy vintage baseball cards.

Old Guys Rule

Take that, you Whippersnappers!

Photo credit: Boston Public Library via Visual Hunt / CC BY

Vintage cards hold or increase their value. They’re rare, so collecting has again become a fascinating hobby, rife with strategy, tactics and bargaining. But the price points are higher, which precludes young boys from really participating. Furthermore, as the sport of baseball declines in popularity, it leaves fewer people to buy vintage baseball cards. It leaves the hobby to old guys.

Specifically, it’s now old guys with money who rule the hobby. That’s of course a generalization — others buy hockey cards, baseball cards and cards from other sports, but when it comes to the rare gems like a Mickey Mantle rookie card or a Bobby Orr rookie card, it’s the older generation that collects them.

The Future of Card Collecting

The bottom line is that the trading cards collector’s market will never be as red-hot as it was in the 1980s. The card companies don’t seem inclined to slow their production, although the introduction of rare inserts has helped drive sales. But whether you buy vintage baseball cards as an investment or buy hockey cards for fun, the hobby will continue.

While older guys bemoan the lack of interest in sports card collecting in the younger generation, someone always comes along to set a new record price for that Honus Wagner or that Mickey Mantle. Is sports card collecting still a solid investment? It’s in the cards.

10 Tips Before Selling Your Sports Cards

When you sell baseball cards, it’s not as simple as putting an ad on Craigslist, especially if you want to get top dollar. The same is true when you want to sell football cards, basketball cards or hockey cards. Sports cards are collectables, so you need to find interested buyers.

Selling sports cards often means going to a reputable dealer who can assess the value of your cards. Unless you’re trying to dupe an unsuspecting buyer — something the people at Goldin Auctions never do or approve of — then you need to sell valuable cards to honest collectors. That’s often a dealer who has access to serious collectors.
Topps Baseball Cards

Know the Value of Your Cards

To sell baseball cards or sell football cards, you need to have a rough idea of your cards’ value. To get an estimate, you should do at least a couple of the options below:

  • Buy a magazine (such as Beckett Media Magazine) that lists the current values of most cards
  • Submit a query to an online card shop
  • Go to a sports cards shop to ask the owner for an estimate
  • Never settle for one opinion

If you’re relying on print research, you should realize that the magazine is out-of-date the day after it’s released. Take the listings with a grain of salt. Also, you’ll rarely get the selling price that’s listed for the card. Most prices are for mint condition cards, and card stores — even those online — often pay a lot less than the going rate. If you really want to sell baseball cards, find the best offer and take it.

How to Value Your Cards

Sports cards have varying values, depending on many factors. Find the categories that fit your cards, and you’ll have a better idea of their value. When you sell baseball cards, develop an idea of its price by comparing:

  • The player on the card
  • The condition of the card
  • The year or season of the card
  • The card company that made the card
  • How scarce the card is
  • If there’s exceptional interest in the player

So, for example, a Pete Rose card may be worth more than a Willie Wilson card. A mint condition card may be worth more than a ripped card. A 1967 Carl Yastrzemski card may be worth more than a 1982 Carl Yastrzemski card. A 1951 Bowman card may be worth more than a 1951 Topps.

The Bad News

Baseball Card ValueThe newer the card you’re selling, the less likely it will bring a big return. If you sell football cards or baseball cards made after 1980, they likely have very little (if any) value. These cards were produced in such massive quantities that their value has plummeted. This mass production was good for the card companies in the short run, and it led directly to the introduction of the special inserts — rare cards placed in mass-produced packs to generate interest and value.

So unless you were lucky enough to open a pack that contained a hand-signed rookie insert card for a player who went on to accomplish great things, then your cards have value only to you. Of the 30 most valuable baseball cards in the world, 29 were produced in 1970 or earlier. Most of you probably started your card collection after that. Whether you sell baseball cards, sell football cards or sell other sports cards, the value is set by objective criteria, not nostalgia. Unfortunately.

Find Out How Much Your Cards are Worth ▸

These Post-War Baseball Cards Will Make You Drool

Post-war baseball cards are consistently good investments with a wide variety of them available. The players were amazing, and the cards were vibrant. Love of the game hit new highs. There is a unique nostalgia specific to the time.

World War II had forced a slow-down in baseball because many players, as well as their money-spending fans, went off to war, their dreams filled with the pop of a gun instead of crack of a bat. “Home” meant something different. Afterward, as the dust settled and the veterans returned, baseball’s popularity surged to a whole new level. The time brought home some baseball and wartime heroes, like Hank Greenberg and Ted Williams, and over the next few years introduced some new legends-in-the-making to the major league. Mickey Mantle. Jackie Robinson. Roberto Clemente. Hank Aaron. We recovered from the toll of war from the seats of stadiums while witnessing history being in several different ways. Records. Equality. Industry. Maybe that’s a romantic way to think about it, but what is baseball if not a romantic part of American history?

The cards are the tangible remnants of that time. The new baseball cards were colorful, popular, and easily obtained. But there aren’t many truly remarkable high-grade cards still available to collectors today, and the ones that sell, sell fast and sell high.

We’re proud to include in our Inaugural Great American Trading Card Auction some gorgeous post-war baseball cards that are sure to have a Pavlovian effect on any serious collector. It’s okay. Happens to all of us.

952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311

1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle Rookie Card – PSA NM+ 7.5

This is most recognizable baseball card in history. PSA has graded more than 1375 of these, and only 44 graded higher.

1955 Topps #164 Roberto Clemente Rookie Card - PSA MINT 9

1955 Topps #164 Roberto Clemente Rookie Card – PSA MINT 9

The Hall of Famer was the first Hispanic player in the Majors and a remarkably versatile talent. PSA has graded more than 4,075 of these and only one has graded better!

1954 Topps #128 Hank Aaron Rookie Card - PSA MINT 9

1954 Topps #128 Hank Aaron Rookie Card – PSA MINT 9

The “Home Run King”. Of nearly 4,000 copies graded by PSA, only two graded higher. This card is beautiful.

1949 Bowman #226 Duke Snider Rookie Card - PSA GEM MT 10

1949 Bowman #226 Duke Snider Rookie Card – PSA GEM MT 10

“The Duke of Flatbush” presented in a state of perfection.

1968 Topps #177 Nolan Ryan Rookie Card – SGC 98 GEM 10 "1 of 2!"

1968 Topps #177 Nolan Ryan Rookie Card – SGC 98 GEM 10 “1 of 2!”

Graded 98 GEM 10 by SGC. Hall of Famer, in his debut appearance. This is one of just two examples at its tier among a total of more than 1,400 copies recorded in SGC’s census reporting.

1951 Bowman #253 Mickey Mantle Rookie Card - PSA NM-MT 8

1951 Bowman #253 Mickey Mantle Rookie Card – PSA NM-MT 8

Hall of Famer, and a scarcer “High Number” entry. Among more than 1,600 copies recorded in PSA’s census reporting, just ten examples have been graded higher.

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