The Card Collectors Beginners Guide Part 8: Pricing Your Collection

Greetings Fellow Collectors!

Welcome back to my series of Collecting Basics where I break down the hobby of card collecting piece by piece.

In Part 1, we broke down what base/common cards are. Part 2 we got deep into the confusing Sp’s and variations. In Part 3  we dove into what parallels are. Part 4 I showed off inserts. In Part 5 we looked at autographs and the different varieties that exist, and in Part 6 we took a glance at memorabilia cards and their differences. I have tackled all of the inner parts of card collecting and, in Part 7, I covered the bases on what  types of buying options are available and from where to buy them. Today, I am digging into the hot topic of pricing your collection. Since many of us do it differently let’s take a look at the potential options.

I have been in the card collecting hobby for close to 25 years and it seems to me that collectors price their collections in just a few different ways. I will dive into all three of these and hopefully give you some insight on what I have learned and experience using each method over the years.

#1 -The Beckett Sports Card Monthly Price Guide.

Back in the 90’s, this was the only way to price your cards. Everyone (collectors and dealers) would buy a copy and that’s how you knew what to expect the card to be worth when you bought or sold one. There doesn’t seem to be as many collectors today who use this system for valuing but there are still enough to make this one of the Top 3 ways to value your collection.

I personally still buy Beckett. However, the only version I purchase is the Beckett Sports Card Monthly magazine that prices all of the sports and non-sports cards that were released within the last year. As for anything older, that would require purchasing an individual sport or non-sport magazine for your pricing; that becomes a bit expensive in my opinion. Beckett also offers an online price guide for purchase that gives you all-out access to all of the pricing. I, for one, don’t use that because it costs a lot per month and I am also very old fashioned and like to have a physical reading piece in front of me instead of using digital item all of the time.

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Here was the latest copy of the Beckett Sports Card Monthly I received. As you can tell it has some wear from multiple readings and price lookups. It also features the red-hot second-year stud from the Kansas City Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes. He is putting up record numbers so far for the Chiefs offense and is a bit of a surprise to many. Beckett usually focuses their covers on the players who are the hottest in the hobby and it gives us the idea of who we want to be collecting or hope to have been already collecting.
It’s not the cover though that helps price your collection, it’s what’s between the front and back cover that helps you.

This next part you won’t find in the Beckett Sports Card Monthly but I did find it in Beckett Baseball Card Monthly. These pages tell you what each part of the price guide means. I am not sure why they don’t put it into every magazine as I think it would be very helpful, especially for new collectors using the magazine for the very first time.

One of the examples under the How To Use & Condition Guide is What The Columns Mean, this explains things such as the ‘HI’ And ‘Lo’ columns, which are an average range of what a card is selling for. It also explains what a ‘multiplier’ means, which is usually used for parallels such as 10X to 20X the base card value. It also has a helpful legend that breaks down some of the abbreviations used in the magazine, such as AU for Autograph and Sp for Short Print. I will break that all down and more in the next few paragraphs.

Here is an example of what a product pricing looks like. The LO column on the left states the lowest a card is valued. The HI column, the one on the right, is the highest amount the card is currently worth. The entire magazine is set up like this and is organized alphabetically by sport. This pricing for my example is for 2018 Topps Chrome baseball.
At the top of the pricing section, we learn that the product has 200 cards in the base set and what the values are for Common Cards, Semi-stars, and Unlisted Stars that are not listed under this product. The same goes for RC which stands for the rookie card portion of the same pricing.

Underneath this part, we start to see the number of each card is in the set, player names and then followed by the LO and HI columns which tells us the value. You’ll also see the aforementioned ‘RC’ to signify a rookie card.

Also, notice these symbols, ▲ and ▼. They let you know which cards are going up in value and which ones are going down.
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Let’s take a look at a card we can price. This is a 2018 Topps Chrome base card of NLCS MVP Cody Bellinger. He is card # 132 in the base card set. So let’s look for card #132 underneath the listing for 2018 Topps Chrome and we find that his value is .40-$1. Using the Beckett price guide can be quite easy once you understand the basics.

Let’s look at how Beckett breaks a product apart into sections. Usually, the main product name is in bigger, bolder font; then goes the list of player pricing in a smaller font. That is followed by middle-sized bold font for parallels with small-print for multipliers. There is also middle-sized font for inserts, autographs and relics/jersey cards with player pricing under them in the small print. Occasionally, there will be small-print multipliers for each of those sections as well since they do sometimes have parallels.

You will know when the next product comes in as it goes back to the bigger font or by simply reading the name. This makes for a much a much easier search in the magazine if you are looking for a specific product. It also helps that the products come in alphabetical order for every year. I also want you to notice that there is a darkened section among the light colored ones. The darkened section is just a newly priced product in the magazine that wasn’t priced in the previous one.


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Let’s take a closer look at the parallels and multipliers. The multipliers take the card values and increase it. For example, if you had a 2018 Topps Chrome Clayton Kershaw card, he is worth .40- $1. If this card, however, was the Pink refractor parallel like the one I show above, you would take the top number, which is intended for non-rookie players, and you multiply the .40-$1 by 1.2 for the LO end and by 3 for the high end. So, you’re once $1 card is now a $1.20-$3 card depending on card condition. It’s a pretty easy procedure once you know how to do it.

And finally, you may question how one would define which players are Unlisted Stars, Semi-Stars or Commons? Well, luckily for you Beckett puts this guide in. All of those are listed here. However, they are not in every magazine and I believe they are only in the individual ones (baseball, football, non-sports. etc.)
Well, that does it for section one. The Beckett Price Guide is as efficient as it always has been. But, it’s not what most collectors use today. That is what Section Two is all about.

#2-Using eBay To Find Card Values

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When it comes to pricing cards, most collectors today use eBay sales to figure out the going rate. In this example, I looked up a 2018 Panini Absolute Memorabilia autograph card of red-hot NY Giants rookie Saquon Barkley. These were the listing results that came up. However, these aren’t how collectors value them. We have to take a couple more steps here; to use some filters to see what the cards sold for and that’s how we can determine a basis for card value.

It took me a very long time to adjust to this new pricing tool as I was still in the old age of using Beckett. But, so many collectors use it to sell cards or to even gauge a trade value that I had to teach myself, and now I can teach you.
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Up to the top right corner, you will notice sort and filter links on eBay. I used the app in my examples but most should have the same layout regardless of what you use. The filter helps you sort through completed listings by choosing categories such as high price, low price, shipping costs, ending soon, etc.

Once filter clicked, a drop-down menu appears with a bunch of options. The two you want to scroll down to are the Sold and Completed items.
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Click on sold items and make sure that both the sold and completed items sections are slid from left to right and lit up green. This is where the filtering will take place once you click on done at the top.
trading cardOnce you click on done, the filtered results should appear. These are all of the 2018 Absolute Memorabilia cards that have sold in the last few months of Saquon Barkley. In each listing, the details of what they sold for and when they were sold are included. From here, collectors can figure out an average sale value of a card and that’s what can be used to determine the current value of it.

#3-Value your cards what they feel worth to you!

This takes us to the final section of how to value your collection. This one may be more obvious than you think but it’s quite a bit more personal. You can value your collection by what you feel like it’s worth to you. You may be laughing at me for this one but let me explain what I mean. I am not saying you should try to sell your 1991 Fleer Larry Walker base card for $100, I am saying sometimes cards don’t have any value other than the value you give to them, but there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that.
I have had some trades where a collector will say that the card I have of their team means more to them then the card they have of my team. So we trade. We don’t look at the player or its value; it’s simply just what we found more valuable to us. I don’t collect a lot of big money cards so for me pulling off a trade valuing cards like this usually works best.
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One of those trades landed me this 1995 Signature Rookies Autograph of former Ohio State Buckeye and Seattle Seahawk, Joey Galloway. I traded away some baseball cards including some Houston Astros which he was a fan of for a 90’s autograph I was a fan of. We felt we both won the trade since we got something we both enjoyed.
I purchase cards for the fun of it a lot of the time. Players and other forms of cards that many wouldn’t blink an eye at and that most eBay sellers feel relieved to get rid of. These cards usually have very little monetary value if you were to price them traditionally, but, and this is the important part, they have a lot of value to me. Personal value, to me, is more important than having a card worth lots of money I may not care for as much.
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Like this 1997 Skybox Autographics card of Kevin Lockett who played for the Kansas City Chiefs. I grabbed this for $5 only because I loved the late 90’s Skybox Autographics. I have no connection to the player and he is far from a hobby stud, so the only value here is simply what it means to me. I bet the seller smiled after finally seeing this card sell. I am sure many do when they see me coming to buy.

If you were to ask me which method works the best for pricing your collection, well, I would say “they all do.” It really depends on the scenario as I use all three myself. If you are trying to trade, find out ahead of time which method the partner you are trying to trade with prefers, as all collectors are different. Selling, on the other hand, most collectors use the eBay version to gauge prices of what other cards sold for exactly with prices as recent as possible. As for the last method, well, you really have to find the right person to use that one with; someone like myself who really appreciates these small pieces of cardboard with pictures on them for more than they are.

Well, that does it for today’s Collecting Basics lesson and this is the finale of this series. This was a really fun series to write, being able to give out my thoughts, advice, and tips on the hobby. I hope this entire series in some form or another will be used as a guide for those of you that are new collectors or those of you that are veterans needing some guidance. Thanks to all of you that came on a journey with me.
In the comments section on the website, Facebook page or even on Twitter, I would love to hear your thoughts on today’s topic and how you price/value your collection and which method or methods you use to do so. I would also love some feedback on which part or parts of the series were most helpful for you.

I hope something I wrote about today can help guide you in your journey of collecting sports cards.

Til next time, keep collecting!
Matt

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