Archive for base cards

Going against the grain: The devaluing of high-end base card

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , on February 17, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

There was a time when this hobby was built entirely on the base card. No gimmicks. No frills. Just a picture, a name, some stats and maybe a cartoon or infograph.

The value of the base card was that this one card released each season was your shot at collecting the player’s image and a tangible way to keep record of his statistics. It was a way to keep score at home as to which players were still with your favorite team, and which ones got traded elsewhere. The value of the base card was at time priceless … even as late as the 1980s.

By the 1990s things shifted, as most know. Collector interests began to turn toward different things, also the reasons why some people collected changed. And by the later part of the century, our means of collecting information about players also moved to a digital format — The Internet.

The value of the base card in our hobby had diminished. But through all of this, there was still some value placed on them by player collectors, especially when it comes to premium issues, or so it seemed.

I remember paying or trading at a premium for base cards of my favorite players from 1989 Upper Deck, 1990 Leaf, 1991 Stadium Club, 1992 Ultra, and 1993 SP, and so on. And 1993 Finest was basically the epitome of base cards. You could not acquire any single star card from this ultra premium set for less than $15.

There are a lot of factors that played into the “value” these cards at the time, much of which was linked to availability — remember, we didn’t have the resources of the world available to us. The cards we could acquire were the ones that were available at the local shops and shows, and maybe via mail order catalog if you were into that kind of thing. And then of course you had the cost associated with the acquisition price of the pack/box — how much more did you value cards from the packs that cost a few dollars than the ones that cost maybe a third or a quarter of that?

So, what brings this up today?

Well, I did my daily search of items on COMC the other day and a batch of newly uploaded Clayton Kershaw cards hit the market — among them were two 2018 Topps Museum cards, one base and one non-serial numbered parallel. I could have had both cards for less than $1.35.

These were not the first Topps Museum cards of Kershaw to hit the market, but this was the first time I paused my search for a second and thought about the ridiculous state of the hobby. How is it that as a player collector I can get two cards from a high-end product like Topps Museum — or are we calling this middle-of-the-road nowadays? — for damn near the same price of base cards of 2019 Topps?

Am I the only one who finds this odd? How are the base cards from premium products now “less valuable” than those of readily available products like Flagship?

I know our collecting ways have changed. And I know this topic is not knew; hell even manufacturers have gone away from making the base cards in higher-end products — they’ve created the hit-only type releases that cost several hundred dollars for anywhere from one to five cards, all of which have relics or autographs. And along with that, we are becoming more desensitized to anything that does not garner some wacky-ass catch phrase from a breaker.

In some ways I love that I can reap the benefits of this new era; but also it makes me a bit sad as at times it seems as if the future is very grim for our hobby. The hobby isn’t disappearing, but the dynamics have changed, so much so that there is very little value in anything other than the best of the best … and as we’ve seen, the hobby is constantly looking for ways to out-do itself. And that may not always be a good thing — unless you’re a player or team collector collecting base cards, then this evolution can be seen as a great thing,