Collectibles: What You Need To Know About Collecting Baseball Cards

Useful things to know about baseball card collecting that no one ever tells you about, including buying, selling, value and bargains.

I guess you could say that after 35 years of collecting baseball cards I have acquired a good deal of knowledge about the hobby. In fact, I am sure that a great deal of useful information has been pushed out of my mind to make room for this knowledge. While some of it is information that is readily available from hobby publications, some of it falls under the category of, "things nobody bothers to tell you about the hobby." With that in mind, I present my list of "Useful things nobody bothers to tell you about collecting baseball cards."

Card Prices Always Come Down After the Initial Release:

One of the first and most important things to know about card collecting is that 99% of the time card prices come down after the product's initial release. Maybe it's do to the hype surrounding the initial release of a product, or maybe collectors just move on to the next product. Whatever the case maybe, I tend to wait until after the initial release to find the cards that I want for my collection. In some cases I have been known to wait a year or more for what I really want. Such was the case with how I acquire my Upper Deck SP rookie card of Alex Rodriguez. I found the card, now valued at about $100, going for five cents at a card show. This was a year or so after the initial hype for Alex had died down, and while he was still down in the minor leagues. This rule seems to hold for almost all products and stars.

Chase Cards come and Go but Rookie Cards Hold Their Value:

I have seen or participated in nearly every chase card craze that has taken place over the last few decades. There was the "error card craze," followed by the "insert card craze," then the "game used jersey card" craze just to name a few. These fads faded as quickly as they emerged. Through it all collectors still went on collecting a player's first released card or rookie card. Rookie cards have been one of the pillars of the hobby for a long time and still continue to be so. They maintain their value within the hobby long after other craze have come and gone. For any collector who is investing in the long term value of baseball cards, collecting rookie cards is one of the best ways to go.

Never Sell and Buy Your Cards at the Same Place:

You should never sell and buy your cards from the same dealer. This is one of the easiest concepts to understand. There are dealers in the hobby that sell way below book price. They may sell them through e-Bay, card stores, or flea markets to name a few places. These dealers that have fantastic prices on their cards generally buy at a lower price as well. For example, it is normal for a dealer who sells his cards at 50% of book value, to offer only 25% of book value for the cards he is buying. It's the only way he is going to make money. So it's wise to sell to those dealers with the higher prices, while buying from dealers with the lowest prices.

Beware of Buying Packs of Cards at Discount Stores:

It's not a well known fact, but trying to pull a pack with one of those neat inserts, like a jersey card, from a discount store like Target or Wal-Mart is nearly impossible if you are a novice to the hobby. That is because there are a lot of collectors who have figured out one way or another to find the packs with the special insert cards. I have met people who have known the sorting order for a box of cards. They know just what packs in a freshly opened box of cards holds the inserts. I have seen others who can tell by slightly bending the packs and feeling for the inserted cards. Over the years I have even come up with a few ways of telling which packs hold certain cards as well. Unless you know what you are doing, or don't care what you might be getting, I would recommend either buying the un-open boxes or buying those expensive packs from a dealer you know and trust. Having said that, I have nothing against discount stores like Target or Wal-Mart, I have bought many of my cards there. Of course, by then I was no longer a novice to the hobby.

Looking for Bargains in all the Right Places:

Like anyone else in life I love bargains, especially when it comes to collecting. I have been going to one dealer at a local flea market for over ten years. Why? Well, because he makes his money selling expensive inserts and rookie cards while discounting the rest of his cards. He puts those cards into a bin and sells them for a penny a card. Over the years I have found great bargains in his penny bins. Some of these cards have been in the $15-$40 price range. There are other places to look for bargains as well. Card shows held near the Christmas holiday season can be equally rewarding. Some of these dealers have holiday expenses just like you or I, and are willing to discount their cards for a little extra cash around that time of year. This becomes a great time to hunt for bargains.

These are but a few of the things I have learned about the hobby over the years. Any collector who stays with the hobby long enough will begin to develop his own knowledge base about collecting cards. While there are no rules set in stone, there is a wealth of additional information that can be gathered by talking to other collectors. The more you learn about the hobby, the easier it will be to enjoy it.

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