To illustrate this point, I went deep into the archives and pulled some old price guides. According to the Beckett Price Guide published in 1992, I could have purchased a 1968 Topps Nolan Ryan rookie card in Mint Condition for $1,500 in 1992. That same Ryan card listed in the 1998 Becket for just $900, a reduction of $600 from 1992. In the 2010 Beckett, the Ryan rookie dropped to $500. So, in about a 20-year period beginning in 1992, if I had invested $1,500 in the Ryan, I would have lost $1,000 by 2010.
Though, there is a twist in this tale. If that Ryan rookie was truly in Mint Condition, flawless, I would have actually made about a $3,000 profit on that $1,500 investment from 1992 because the advent of third-party grading in the past 15 to 20 years has caused the value of high-grade cards to sky rocket. I stress, just high-grade cards only. Low or middle grade cards have dropped in value. However, to have purchased a pristine Ryan rookie in 1992 and made a profit in 2010, I would have had to purchase the card perfectly centered, no wear whatsoever, razor sharp corners and edges, perfect gloss, no printing marks and the photo would have had to be perfectly focused. The problem here is that nobody in 1992 was inspecting their cards in the same manner as grading companies today. Back in 1992, if the corners and edges were sharp and the card was crease free, I would have thought I had a mint card and not noticed the printing marks, centering or the focus of the picture or anything else that companies like PSA use in their grading scale. So, even though third party grading has caused increased values in a select few cards, it still would have been difficult to make a profit on my 1992 investment because of the strict grading guidelines.
Unfortunately, I regularly meet people at card shows who invested great sums of money in sports cards in the 1980s and 1990s and I have to be the one to inform them that they lost their shirt. Case in point, there was a gentleman at the Serb Hall show who seemed to have spent the last 28 years locked in 1985. He told me that his mother built sets back in the early to mid-1980s and stuffed the cards away in the hopes that they would substantially increase in value. He told me that he recently brought some of the cards to a local card shop and was offended at the prices the card shop owner offered. In particular, the man was hot because the card shop owner offered him $20 for his 1985 Fleer baseball set. According to my old Beckett, the 1985 Fleer baseball set valued at $180 in 1992. That same 1985 Fleer set had dropped to $100 in 1999. The set was valued at just $60 in 2010. Moreover, in order to have the $60 value, the cards have to be in high grade. I have my doubts that this gentleman's cards are in high grade. So I think the card shop's $20 offer was very generous considering the set high books at $60 and the card shop needs some room to make a profit. As I explained to the guy, another thing to consider is the difficulty in selling ANY cards from the 1980s here in 2012. People just don't want them and EVERYBODY has some to sell.
I explained to the guy that Fleer manufactured those sets in the billions and the market is flooded with them. Nobody wants them. He should have taken the 20 bucks from the card shop. I offered him $10 for the set.
He started to go through my binders and looked at the cards in my display cases and was astounded at my prices. He couldn't understand why I would sell a star card from the 1950s for under $100. He kept saying that the cards are rare and hard to find. I had to explain to him that since he crawled out of his Ronald Reagan bomb shelter, Al Gore invented the internet and some guy who collects Pez dispensers created eBay where one can find ANY and ALL of the cards from the 1950s at reasonable prices, unless they are in super high grade. Thus, if I want to sell ANY of my cards, I have to consider that they are ALL available for reasonable prices on eBay and I have to price them accordingly for the shows.
The guy was just astounded and I don't think he believed anything that I told him. He walked out of the show thinking I was nuts.
Well, I think all baseball card dealers, myself included, are a little nuts. None of us are getting rich, we're in it because we love it. There is great enjoyment in this hobby when you're not making bad investments. Don't invest in sports cards! Enough said.
I had a really nice show on this warm and windy late fall day. Jeff got things going for me today by purchasing my 1963 Topps Al Kaline, 1959 Ernie Banks and a large pile of commons from 1957 and 1963. Jason picked up a large group of 1968, 1969 and 1970 Topps baseball commons. I had just reloaded by 1970 Topps baseball binder before this show and a new customer pulled out all my Pilots. Being the precurser to the Brewers, the Pilots cards are very popular in Milwaukee.
A regular customer purchased some 1960s football cards. A new customer purchased some 1976-77 Topps hockey and a bunch of my quarter packs. Another new customer purchased my 1958 Topps Warren Spahn. Jim picked up my 1962 and 1963 Topps Tim McCarver cards. The night before the show, I put some cards together for Mike, who had emailed a want list. Mike arrived late in the day and picked up his cards. A new customer purchased some 1961 Post baseball. A regular customer purchased some of my 25-cent packs and some 1970 Topps baseball.
I also made a little money at this show by submitting some cards for the live auction. Serb Hall promoter PJ has a deal for vendors that if they submit 10 items to his live auction, he will give three tables for the price of two. I made a big $11 on the cards I submitted to the auction. Bill Nest was telling me that he submitted some autographs to the auction and made a real nice profit. I may have to dig out some autos for the next Serb Hall show.
On the buying front, a regular customer had an autograph promo item from Carlos Arroyo, who played for the Bucks. I didn't really want the auto but the guy only wanted a dollar, so I bought it. A random guy showed up at my table with a bunch of low-grade pre-war items but he wanted way too much money. I love buying cards, especially pre-war, but I need to buy them low enough where I can make a profit. Too often, guys try to sell me stuff for more than I can sell it for. I purchased some cards from Mike, including some 1980 Topps football, 1969 Topps football and 1970 Topps baseball. Mike, if you're reading this, I'm still working on your 1971 Topps football list and I'll have something for you at the December 16 Gonzaga show.
All in all, a really good day at Serb Hall. We had a nice crowd and sales exceeded expectations. I probably won't make the December 30 Serb Hall show because it is on the same day as Orland. Though, if I have a lousy Orland show on December 9, I may head up to Serb for the Dec. 30 show and skip Orland. Serb has been up as of late while Orland has been down. I gotta go where I am making the most sales!!
Anyway, I'm extremely late with this blog. As I write this, it is November 28 and the Serb Hall show occurred on November 11. Good thing I took really good notes. I still owe you guys blogs from the November 18 Gonzaga show, the November 24 Orland show and the November 25 Bloomingdale show. I have notes on all these shows and will be getting to these blogs shortly. Quite a few guys are mentioning my snail-like pace at getting these blogs done. Unfortunately, I'm a little short on time with the day job, prepping for shows, eBay, and making sure my family is happy and healthy. I had more than 300 hits to my website on November 24. I can't thank you guys enough for the support. I promise to have those blogs soon!!
Next week is December 2 and I'll be set up at the Best Western Plus show in Schaumburg, Illinois. Come one, come all to the greatest show on Earth!!!!