“I have some old baseball cards …”

So the other day I wrote about how I had my letter published in Beckett, and it elicited a Facebook instant message from a friend of my wife. The general premise of his communication: He had some old baseball (and football) cards and wished to sell them. He offered to give me 25 percent if I helped. Before he wrote even another word I asked what he meant by “old,” knowing full-well that “old” to many former collectors meant cards produced between 1986-1994, AKA the worthless era. Well, sure enough I hit the time period right on the head. And because that is the case I knew that there was not much money to be made there at all; we were able to scratch the “million dollar dreams” without wasting much time.

Brian, if you’re reading this, know that I am not picking on you. Rather I found your reaction to my blog post to kind of interesting because it is a typical reaction from a former collector. They always want to know what their cards are worth and how soon they can collect their fortune.

The sad truth: The cards you purchased back in the day are worth almost nothing, especially if you started collecting any time in the 1980s and stopped about the time of the baseball strike (1994). In a nutshell, if you’re a former collector looking to determine what your cards are worth — and the duration of your hobby career fell in the aforementioned timeline — don’t even bother with the dollars and cents. Don’t go buy a Beckett. Don’t bother checking eBay. They’re worthless. Even that 1987 Topps Mark McGwire card that everyone likes to think is his rookie but really isn’t. Worthless.

And on the off chance that you own a 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. rookie — trust me, you’ll know if you do — all you need to know is that you can get $20-$25 cash for it right now. I’d bet that most former collectors would rather hold onto that iconic card then let it go for less than the price of a full tank of gas.

So what are you supposed to do with those cards? You have three options: 1) Keep ’em as a momento of your youth, 2) Give ’em to charity and get the tax write-off, 3) Give them to your kids later in life, particularly the ones who may enjoy baseball. Just know that if the third choice is your preference, the cards will still be worthless down the road, and that their value will be strictly sentimental.

2 Responses to ““I have some old baseball cards …””

  1. You forgot option four and five. Which might actually help the value of the cards. Option four would be to throw them away and option five would be to burn them. If enough people, say a million, do that. Then the supply would be small and maybe the demand would allow those cards to be worth something. After all, that is why the cards from the 50s and 60s are worth anything. Because the majority of the people who bought the cards back then. Ended up trashing them some point in their lives.

    Just a thought.

  2. There is some truth to your statement, Chris. But there is so much more to the value of old cards that lack of supply.

    I agree that the fact that so many of them were tossed or destroyed has certainly helped their monitary value. But those cards also were a way of life for many of the original collectors. Those cards held stats and images that you could only see in magazines or books. In some ways they were reference material. Nowadays all of that stuff is an afterthought for many ion the hobby.

    Now it’s all about ink, material and potential dollars. It’s sad.

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