As mentioned in the previous post in this series, the first factor to consider when selling a card is who the player is.
It’s pretty easy to figure out that you want to be selling a Hall of Famer, rather than a player who has never hit more than .230. But what about prospects? What about players in the middle of their careers? What about players who have had a terrific first year?
The first type of player to consider, with respect to investment value, is an older, established Hall of Famer. There are a couple of reasons why you’d want to invest in such a player’s cards. Obviously, being a HOFer, this player had a terrific MLB career. The player has already established their body of work on the field of play. They are done with the on-field portion of their career, and have put up some terrific numbers. That’s it. There is not going to be an injury, a drop-off in talent, or anything else.
Being that they are an older player, a larger number of fans may be familiar with such a player. Baby-boomers and Gen X-ers alike are familiar with Johnny Bench, George Brett, Warren Spahn and Roberto Clemente, to name a few. In addition, most of these players are past their “wild” days and there should be little to no concern for character related issues to affect their card’s value. There should be no steroid indictments, no gambling accusations, and no drug-related bans.
An added bonus here is if the player spent his entire career with only one team. A Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Roberto Clemente or Don Mattingly (not a HOFer, but should be) might bring more value than a Tris Speaker, Nolan Ryan, Frank Robinson, or Wade Boggs. The latter player’s cards certainly should, and do, have value, however, they would have an even higher value if the player spent their career with only one team, due to the fan identification factor. (Babe Ruth, identified with the Yankees, is an anomaly here).
Also, consider whether or not the player currently holds, or previously held, any statistical records. Rickey Henderson, the all-time stolen base king? Can’t touch his best cards without dropping close to triple digits. (Would be even higher if he played his entire career with the Yanks or A’s.) Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Joe DiMaggio are all examples here too.
For the types of players above, you can plan on paying top dollar. And that’s okay, because there is genuine value there. If you can find cards of these players at a discount to their book value, you should consider picking them up.
Next, let’s look at players who have been around for a while, put up some quality numbers, but have not quite had Hall of Fame careers yet. This would include players like Johan Santana, David Wright, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, and Jose Reyes to name a few. Be careful with investing in these player’s cards. Although they may look like they’re headed for stardom, there could be reason for a dip in card value.
There have been plenty of cases, where an established player suddenly had a drop in their level of play. Their stats drop off for no apparent reason. In the case of any current player, you also need to take into account the possibility of an injury. A torn rotator cuff or a broken leg will put a certain damper on a player’s career, and therefore their card value. You also need to be aware that an off-field incident could potentially impact the value of these player’s cards.
How about the sophomore season player? The rookie who just had a phenomenal first year. This is another type of player you might want to be cautious with, concerning investment. One good season does not a Hall of Famer make. Give the player some time. Their card value is most likely overvalued right now. If you don’t already have their card, don’t go out and get it now, if you’re picking it up for an investment. If you’re picking the card up as a collector, that’s a different story.
And what about the prospect who is about to break into the bigs? If it’s a well-known prospect, you may find that the price of their cards is already built up. Where you can find card value is in researching the little-known prospect who you think may be poised for a big rookie season. This type of card investing can be likened to investing in small-cap stocks. They are cheaper than blue chips, but for a reason. You don’t know if the player will really turn into a superstar or if their card value will really increase. This should all be built into the price of the card. You don’t want to overpay for these prospects.
These are the basics of which player’s cards to invest in. They aren’t hard and fast rules, but guidelines to follow as you look to invest in baseball cards. As you do your own research you’ll come to find out which players have value as far as you, and the card market, are concerned. Keep tracking the prices of some of the cards you think will increase in value, and see if you have the eye for investment.