Sports Cards

Submitted by Eli on December 25th, 2018 at 9:31 PM

Hope everyone had a good Christmas. 

I got some packs of football cards today and it got me wondering if they are still even a thing and are any of them worth anything. Does anyone know much about this topic? As a kid I remember going to card shows and there were several little sports card stores, but these seem to be dead. I had a lot of cards that were worth quite a bit, but no idea if they still are. There was a magazine you could get to check worth. Are these still a thing? What’s accurate? It seems like in the digital world kids couldn’t care less about cards. I loved them and thought it was cool to get some today. Any insight, opinions and stories about sports cards would be appreciated. Have a beautiful night. 



December 26th, 2018 at 12:39 AM ^

My son collected a lot of game used memorablia embedded baseball cards 10-15 years ago. I've been telling him to pull them out and get them valued. Becketts pricing valued the collecton at a couple thousand about ten years ago. 


December 26th, 2018 at 1:12 AM ^

Card prices are really divided into a few eras.

Anything prior to the early 1970s, it has a market (you may have to be patient and find a buyer) as long it is in Ex+/NM condition via Beckett's grading guide.

Early 70's to mid-80s, decent market, especially for certain players (rookie cards, etc.). Overall, some one will buy these if the condition is Ex/NM or better. Be patient again, 

Late 80s and into 90s' - the only market is for inserts (autographed insert cards, etc.). I remember a big set was the 1992 Bowman with Mariano Rivera rookie, etc. At one point in time, it would cost you $200-$300 for the set. I bought it a few years back on EBAY for $40-$50 just to have the set - since cards and photos and nice rookie selection, but even it has been on the downturn.

Anything 2000+, unless you got lucky and got a Brady, Mahomes, etc. autographed insert, not much to own here. Card quality is very nice but at $5 per pack with 8 cards, sorry.




December 26th, 2018 at 1:21 AM ^

Some interesting history on Sports Cards and the evolution of the trade.

I've been a collector since childhood and have a pretty thorough collection. 

Until the late 70's, people could treat cards as assets for the IRS if they ran a business (big dealers, etc). This allowed people to claim losses, in theory. An IRS ruling changed this to make it harder and the business hit a slump in the early 80s for a few years.

Beckett came out with the monthly price guides for Baseball in November 1984. That seemed to jump start things and interest in collecting. 

Card shows were in full sonic boom around 89-90 with even small towns having shows and 2-3 card stores.

The peak year for card sales was 1991, with over $1 Billion in sales in new cards that year. The peak was also the glut, as things began to slide after that.

The 1994 baseball strike really hit the hobby hard, not just baseball, but other sports too.

Insert cards began in the late 1980s with Upper Deck and then others - this became the fad - I remember going to a card store in the early 1990s, and kids came in and bought packs - if the packs had no inserts or stars, they left the cards on the desk counter. You would never see this pre-1990. 

Other than sex, and perhaps booze and cigars, too much of a good thing is not for good. 



December 26th, 2018 at 1:22 AM ^

As for mags, Becketts has the most reliable pricing, but realize that the going price may be 50% of Beckett HIGH price unless it is a hot card. 


December 26th, 2018 at 6:06 AM ^

As with any collectible, the value is what you can get someone to pay for them.  I have way too many cards that I collected around 20-30 years ago.  I was going to keep a small number and get rid of most.  I gave away a bunch to libraries a few years ago, and my go the Freecycle route (just looking for someone who is interested.  One of the hard parts is that they are expensive to ship.  

If you have enjoyment with the cards, then they are worth something.  Tales of financing anything with these are likely one-part truth and one-part fantasy.  Having said that - if you want a box or two or ten of baseball cards from the 80s and 90s, let me know.  I can hook you up!


December 26th, 2018 at 8:00 AM ^

I have two boys, ages 6 and 9.  I've been getting each of them a set of Topps baseball cards for Christmas every year since they were born.  Oddly enough, the darn cards don't come in order, so for a few nights each year in December I have to sort the 700 cards (x2) and then put them into binders so they can look at them without destroying or losing.  I also prepare a kid-level summary of the baseball season for them (playoff results, standings, statistical leaders, etc.).

Honestly, I probably do it more for me than for them (I'm a huge baseball fan and was a collector of cards in the 90s).  But I will say it has really helped them enjoy the sport.  I will catch them flipping through the cards quite often, and they can rattle off stats and players better than I can. 

Long story short, cards still exist and people still buy them.   


December 26th, 2018 at 8:25 AM ^

Just for fun I tried to collect a full set of last years Topps baseball cards buying loose packs from retailers.  It was surprisingly fun and satisfying though I noticed some packaging quirks that kind of put me off some.  I would frequently open a pack of cards only to get nearly the identical pack in the same order a few days later.  I ended up buying something just over 2500 cards and came up between 20 and 30 cards short of the full set. My cost per card was around  12 cents.  I'll have to probably pay a bit more for my missing individual cards and I was fortunate I'm only missing one star player card.  I'm expecting to put another 20 to 30 bucks into it to buy the missing individual cards online.  And if you're good at math you know I'm paying on top of what I already spent another 20 bucks for the individual cards while a full complete factory sets cost 54 these days.  C'est la vie.

However by full set I mean the ordinary 1 through 700 set, todays sets have insert card after insert card  blue, black, purple, gold platinum, mothers day pink, fathers day blue, 4th of July the list seems endless.  About 100 or so of the cards offer different picture variations, one "rare" one "ultra rare".  While these are incredibly annoying to the purist or old school collector its actually kind of the highlight of opening a pack these days, to see which inserts you pulled out.  Some of the "ultra rare" inserts and autographs are somewhat valuable to someone out there.  A quick sale of unwanted inserts can recoup some cost I suppose.  The trick is finding a buyer.


The quality of the cards was pretty amazing(to me at least), though Topps seems to still have some cutting issues. I last collected cards full scale sometime mid 90's, and would pick up a pack or two just to get a look for another 10 to 15 years.   I lament they removed a players full career stats from the back of the card in favor of their useless (to me) twitter handles and last 5 years.  A far cry from the days of buying a pack of cards and knowing at least one was ruined by the gum stain.


Overall I found it enjoyable and fun, I've certainly learned a lot of the players names in a sport I no longer follow as closely I did as I was 12 and it was everything to me.  I would never expect to make money collecting cards, the scale needed is simply to high and when factoring in the time cost its pretty guaranteed to be a losing proposition.  But I think you can still find some satisfaction in finding a rare card, off loading it for a quick "profit".  But your over produced poor quality cards of the 80's aren't really worth much of anything together, only a few singles could make you a buck or two.


I'll add last years cards to my 10 containers of cards I've dragging around from place to place for 30 years.  Someday I'll figure out what to do with them.  But the truth is I just like knowing I have them and I know parting with them will hurt a lot one day.




December 26th, 2018 at 8:29 AM ^

Kind of an aside.  I found out this summer that many of the original Pokemon cards from the late 90's are quite valuable.  It was never my thing but if you have some laying around it might be worth checking out to see if they have some value.


A pristine set of Star Wars cards from the 80s might be worth something to someone as well.


December 26th, 2018 at 8:32 AM ^

Need 'Im, Need 'Im, Got 'Im -- Baseball Card Collecting in the 1950's

When my family was moving to a new home when Dwight Eisenhower was nearing the end of his presidency, my mother took all my shoe boxes filled with sports cards (a nickel a pack in those days) and my stacks of comic books (a dime apiece), dumped them in a large cardboard box and threw them all away.

Thirty years ago, when my young sons started to collect sports cards and Starting Lineup figures, I promised myself that I wouldn’t throw them away.  Now, with about fifty banker’s boxes and numerous, large plastic containers filled with cards and plastic figures taking up space in my basement, I have to wonder whether I should’ve saved some of that money and bought stock in Apple’s initial public offering.

In the early 1990's, a friend of mine met a guy from New Jersey who’d jump-started the card-collecting craze of the 1980's when it seemed like there were card-collectors’ shows every weekend and specialty card-and-comic-book stores were popping up all over.  He called himself “Mr. Mint” and became the most famous sports card and sports memorabilia dealer in the country.  LINK to some stories about him.


December 26th, 2018 at 9:09 AM ^

Sports cards are still a thing, at least with my kids and their friends. They’re interested in today’s players, but with Madden, they also want to learn about greats from the past. The kids are using them for fun and learning and trading, not for an investment. 

I found a place that sells boxes of unopened packs of football cards from the early ‘90s. Cost runs from about $7 to $12 for about 450 cards. My kids love them, although not as much as the newer cards that are super expensive relatively. It’s simply a difference between a dull finish from back then to the ultra shiny current cards.


December 26th, 2018 at 9:16 AM ^

I found some places that you can donate old worthless cards to a worthy cause. One is called Commons 4 Kids and gives cards to kids in children's hospitals. I sorted mine and will be donating some soon.


December 26th, 2018 at 9:43 AM ^

Apparently lots a variance as well.  I ran a search for Shaquille O'Neal rookie cards and found one for $5,000:

And the exact same card for $2.36:



December 26th, 2018 at 9:44 AM ^

Collecting cards and taking my young son to card shops and shows was a favorite activity we shared in the 1990's. Gibralter in particular was a big one I remember. We even got to meet John Wangler and Anthony Carter at one show and Harmon Killebrew and Ferguson Jenkins at another one.

I miss those days, what I would give to go back in time and relive them.



December 26th, 2018 at 12:30 PM ^

There's still definitely a market and an industry, but it's shrank noticeably since when I was growing up (born in 84), and the money side of the market has shifted very heavily to the autograph and jersey swatch cards, away from base set stuff.  There's still a strong market for rookie cards and limited print run stuff, but not as a strong as say 10 or 15 years ago, and the demand for base set cards of stars and veterans is pretty light.  It also seems like it's shifted away from a kid focused hobby and towards an "adults who've collected for years" hobby, but maybe I'm just skewed by my local market/shops.  


Re: books, beckett still prints monthly (or maybe they cut back to quarterly), though your best source for pricing is likely looking at sold listings on ebay, since they stay current with market fluctuations.  


December 26th, 2018 at 12:54 PM ^

I have a really good collection of cards, rookie cards of hof players, with misprints, etc, rare cards, and a complete set of baseball cards from the 80s, and they are all virtually worthless. My friend started collecting Magic cards his senior year of high school, sold 3 of his decks after 15 years, paid off his student loans with them and bought a used car with the rest of the money. Wtf is life, even?

Booted Blue in PA

December 26th, 2018 at 1:17 PM ^

I had a modest baseball card collection mostly from '76 thru '86, it wasn't huge, about  a shoe box full.  I left for the Army after graduating HS in '88.  August of '90 Iraq invades Kuwait and we go on lock down to deploy to the Middle East.  A buddy of mine asked me if I'd let my mom know that should anything happened to me, she could give him my baseball cards.  What a dick!

I believe that box is in my attic, probably contains my old baseball cards along with a fine collection of rodent shit and at least one mouse nest.

I'm fairly certain the collection doesn't include a Nolan Ryan rookie card, although there are a handful of '68 to '70 cards my older brother donated to my collection. 


December 26th, 2018 at 5:01 PM ^


I own a small business (still work corporate job) where I buy/sell sports cards. Yes, there’s still a big following but it’s different than what it was for us growing up. 

The overwhelming majority of cards are worthless but some are extremely valuable. Just like anything else, if you know what you’re doing you can make a bunch of money. 



December 27th, 2018 at 9:55 AM ^

My dad and I were huge into sports cards when I was a kid (early to mid 90s).  We did mostly basketball and baseball cards but sprinkled some football in there in the late 90s.  I sold a bunch of Kobe rookies and high end Jordan cards around 2003 to help pay for my wedding.  

I still dabble in baseball cards.  I heard this mentioned above and its 100% accurate, serial numbered/autographed and game used cards are the only ones that have any value.  You might get lucky and hit on a Bryce Harper or Mike Trout rookie card that isn't but let's be honest, those guys are generational talents.

 I also have a few Jordans and some Pujols rookies left.  I usually check eBay for accurate pricing.  No baseball card shop is going to pay you close to what you can sell it for on eBay as most of them have eBay stores to help supplement the dwindling interest.  Its like going to Gamestop, you are lucky if they give you 20% of what they plan to sell it for.