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Vintage Basketball Card Values Are Soaring: Can The Momentum Last?

fleer-chamberlain-rookieVintage basketball card prices have been on a roll of late, fueled by speculation and demand for some of the hobby’s most prized possessions from the past

The boom in values has been fairly widespread throughout most of the vintage sports card market, but the flame seems to have really been held to basketball card values.

Why the increase in basketball card prices?  It’s hard to pinpoint an exact reason, just like it’s hard to tell you why Pets.com was one of the most loved stocks at the height of the stock internet bubble in 1999.  

Momentum can be a funny thing.  Using stock prices as an example, once that excessive demand builds in something that everyone wants to own, the underlying valuation of the item at hand tends to get thrown right out the window. 

It’s a lot easier to put a value on a stock then it is a basketball card.  With a company, you can evaluate the profits relative to the company’s value and growth prospects to determine if a company’s stock is over or undervalued.

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The Best Topps Baseball Card Sets of All Time

reggie-rookieIn our history of baseball cards piece, we discussed at length the history of the Topps baseball card company; from their initial entry with the 1951 Red and Blue Back sets to their acquisition of Bowman in 1956.

In this piece, we wanted to have a little fun and rank all of the Topps sets starting with the ’51 Blue/Red Back issue all the way to the 1980 Topps Baseball card set. 

Now of course, we’ve noted that anything produced prior to 1980 is considered to be vintage, but we figured with this piece, we’d keep it to an even thirty years of Topps issues.  

Our rankings are based on a few different factors:

1) Overall design of the set

2) Star and rookie card power in the set

3) Collector Demand

4) Investment Potential

I’m sure there will be some that collectors disagree with, so let us know in the comments what you think are the best Topps baseball card sets.

For now, we’ve provided full writeups on the best ten Topps sets of all time.  At some point we might expand the writeups for all thirty Topps sets. 

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An Expert’s Guide To Collecting Vintage Wax Packs

1948-bowman-wax-box

An unopened box of 1948 Bowman Baseball wax packs

Collectors often dream about some of the unopened wax packs owned by Steve Sabow.  Sabow is one of the hobby’s preeminent dealers of vintage wax packs.  In fact, Sabow has sold more unopened vintage wax in the last three years than anyone else in the country.

I had the opportunity to speak with Sabow recently and found him to be an all-around great guy and a wealth of information in relation to buying and selling vintage wax packs. Sabow has been at this for a while; he started out selling cards at flea markets back in 1976 and started branching out into local card shows while also promoting several shows throughout the NY and CT area.

He’s been selling packs since the 1970’s, but it was only recently that he started getting heavily involved with vintage packs.  In fact, Sabow credits his vintage card business as allowing him to stay alive in this hobby longer than most.  He’s had a booth at the National Convention every year except for the first four.

Steve is retired now, but still quite active as a vintage card and wax pack dealer (although COVID-19 has slowed down business a bit). His list of packs for sale is one of the most impressive lists of packs I’ve ever seen.  We’ve summarized our discussion with Sabow, providing some of the most important points for any collectors interested in vintage unopened wax.

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1933 Goudey Babe Ruth Cards: Overvalued Or Good Investment?

The 1933 Babe Ruth Goudey cards (note there are four of them) have been among the hottest vintage cards in recent years.  Given the significant price increase for the cards, many collectors wonder if Ruth’s Goudey cards are still worthy of an investment?

Ruth’s 1933 Goudey cards (despite the significant price increases) remain one of the best longer-term investments for vintage collectors.  The four cards are not cheap by any means, but if you have the funding, Ruth’s Goudey cards should continue to appreciate over the next several years.

In this guide, we take a closer look at the four Goudey Ruth cards and provide collectors with more information on the current values, scarcity, and the ultimate investment potential. 

four-ruth-goudey-1933

The four Babe Ruth cards from the 1933 Goudey Gum set.

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Wayne Gretzky Rookie Cards: A Closer Look

gretzky-rookie-cardWhen collectors think about the best hockey player of all time, the thoughts immediately are focused on one player- Wayne Gretzky.

When Gretzky entered the NHL in 1979, the league hadn’t quite seen a player with Gretzky’s electrifying skills.

His dominance in the league even as a rookie was unheard of, leading to him winning the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player in his first year in the NHL.

Gretzky’s rookie card has always been in high demand, but even forty years later, collectors still view the Gretzky rookie card as one of the most prized possessions in the hobby. 

Let’s take a closer look at Gretzky’s 1979-80 Topps and OPC rookie cards two of the hobby’s most valuable hockey cards.

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Is The Bird, Magic Rookie Card Undervalued?

bird-magicThere’s obviously been a crazy amount of hysteria in regards to Michael Jordan’s rookie card in recent months due to the release of the ‘Last Dance’ documentary on ESPN.

It had us thinking – what other vintage basketball cards might be due for a rapid rise increase in price?

This led us to one card that we think might actually be undervalued — the 1980-81 Topps Larry Bird, Magic Johnson Rookie Card.

I don’t know what it’s going to take — maybe ESPN will come out with a new documentary detailing the legendary battles of Bird and Magic — but it’s clear that their rookie card looks undervalued. 

We’re going to review the Bird/Magic rookie card in more detail and compare it to the Jordan rookie card, comparing pricing and overall population reports.

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Cracker Jack Baseball Cards: A True American Classic

1914-cracker-jack-cobbIn thinking of what represents true Americana, the things that come to mind include  – Baseball, Apple Pie, and yep Cracker Jack.

In the 1896 song “Take Me Out To The Ball Game”, Cracker Jack was given its official stamp of American approval in the line “Buy Me Some Peanuts and Cracker Jack“.

While the Cracker Jack brand first got notice at the World’s Fair in 1893, it was its association with baseball which brought it to the forefront of American culture.

Many kids are most certainly familiar with the small toys included in boxes of Cracker Jack, yet it was two years (1914 to 1915) that Cracker Jack showed its true allegiance to baseball by including cards with its caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts.

The Cracker Jack baseball cards are today one of the most revered sets in the history of the hobby.  In this piece, we take a look at the history of Cracker Jack and examine the details of the two card sets.

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Is Michael Jordan’s Rookie Card Still A Good Investment?

Sometimes hype and excitement gets in the way of reality.  And in the case of Michael Jordan's 1986 Fleer rookie card, I'm worried that this might be the case.

Never have I seen a 30+ year old card garner so much attention--and fueled by what?  A documentary?  Are people so stir crazy that they somehow forgot that Michael Jordan was one of the best to ever play the game?

I bring all of this up due to the fact that Jordan's rookie card has begun to reach levels of hysteria that normally crop up in the way of a new rookie phenom.  But here we are talking about the 50-something year old Michael Jordan.

As a case in point, I put together a spreadsheet back in April of 2019, tracking the prices of Jordan's rookie (see below).  In a little more than a year, Jordan's rookie card has increased across the board by the tune of nearly 200% in most grades.  

Will The Coronavirus Lead To A Freefall in Vintage Card Prices?

coronavirusIt has been an ugly few months. A pandemic is sweeping our nation. The S&P 500 Index has plummeted by 40%. Every so often we get a black swan that catches everyone by surprise.

This surprise is invisible and unstoppable – a powerful and contagious virus called the coronavirus or COVID-19. We weren’t prepared for it despite warnings.

As I’m writing this, the United States is still in the early innings of what will likely be a devastating and heartbreaking outcome for our country. And while the number of deaths are still fairly small in quantity, the economic impact is already being felt far and wide.

Airlines are shut down, restaurants are closed, hotels and casinos are closed up. Employees are getting laid off in the hopes they can quickly collect unemployment. Schools are closed and people are forced to work from home.

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Introducing The All Vintage Cards “Value” Portfolio

value-portfolio

As you might have picked up in past posts, I like to find value when looking for new cards to buy.  

I have an investment background so this is only natural for me–my whole life is involved with finding the best funds or stocks for a portfolio.   Of course, part of that equation revolves around finding good value.

There are definitely some similarities in picking a stock versus picking a card to buy!

As I always say, card prices are a determination of demand versus supply.  For stocks, it’s a similar story.

And if there’s excess supply (think 1988 Topps) with minimal demand, the cards are pretty much worthless.

But if there’s excess demand versus supply (think Tesla in the stock market or the Green Portrait Cobb) the price rockets higher. 

With cards, we determine a card’s scarcity and attempt to evaluate the future demand based on a myriad of factors – player popularity, the card set popularity, etc.

This is NEVER a perfect science and not all collectors think this way, but it’s a good habit to get into if you are making some serious investments in baseball cards.

There are some givens for me.   Names like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner will never see a drop in future demand.

But depending on the card set we are considering, there could be more variability in demand over time.

Sure, there’s no certainty in any of this, but it’s the way I think about collecting. 

I know common T206 cards might see an increase in line with inflation over time, but there’s no reason to think they should increase significantly in value.  

I mean how much future demand should we expect for Buck Congalton’s T206 over time?

congalton-t206

So, with that said, I am assembling what I call the All Vintage Cards ‘Value’ Portfolio

In the stock market, funds labeled as “value” tend to have valuation characteristics below that of the market.  Due to this value discrepancy, investors look for these lower valued stocks in hopes there is some reversion to the mean with valuation.  

For example, today Ford (ticker F) would be considered a ‘value’ play, as it trades at a very low multiple versus its earnings (or P/E ratio).  Whereas a company such as Tesla (TSLA) is very optimistically valued and trades at a significant premium to its expected future earnings.

Hence, I’m attempting to put a portfolio together of cards that I think offer good relative value and have opportunity for future appreciation.

Before getting started, I will reiterate this IS NOT INVESTMENT ADVICE.  While I think cards are a good portfolio diversifier, please do your own homework.  Don’t assume that I will be right about any of this!  

Thus, without further adieu, here are the components of the All Vintage Cards ‘Value’ Portfolio.

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