How to Increase the Value of Baseball Cards
March 7, 2009
by William Szczepanek
The video of David Copperfield tearing up the Honus Wagner card belonging to Wayne Gretzky gave me an idea. Baseball cards don’t age well any more. Encased in plastic these pieces of cardboard will forever remain pristine. With none of them aging or being disposed of will they ever increase in value, or will they follow the example of the millions of cards produced in the 1980s and decrease in value? Will the current deflationary environment ultimately affect baseball cards?
Before baseball cards were a commodity they were collected for fun. Ironically, the cards that were collected by kids prior to the mid 1970s have better monetary value than those of more recent years. That makes sense. Cards produced by the millions from more recent years have not appreciated in value like cards from a time when card production was limited.
How then can this problem be solved? I have a number of solutions. Remember that cards from 50 or more years ago were actually destroyed by their owners. Moms threw them away. Kids threw them away when they thought they had grown up, usually at around age 14. Prior to that kids would play with them. They carried them in pockets along with frogs and dirt. They put them in bicycle spokes. They played games that rubbed the edges off of the cards and put wrinkles on the faces of players. Cards were thrown against brick walls, flipped onto concrete streets and sidewalks or sometimes just flipped on dirt lots – the kinds where kids played, managed and umpired there own, real baseball games. Even with the creases, kids liked their cards.
As years past the worn cards took on the look of an antique. The patina of a card exemplifies its history. Many New Englanders look upon their old furniture with nicks and scratches and say that it has character. Baseball cards have character also. Cards from the 1950s would lose their mint status the minute they saw the light of the sun and many brand new cards back then could not be considered mint because they were cut off-center. Often the gum in the package stained the back of the card.
So, what if manufacturers actually produced cards that were imperfect again? That would mean that every player’s card would not be mint to begin with. Maybe some would be cut off-center and others would have rounded edges or others might have creases scattered randomly across the cards, or holes that go right through the card. Many jeans manufactures are already doing this. The cards would all be different. What if only one out of one hundred would actually be perfect right out of the package. Graders would have a field day. It would create new jobs in a new industry.
To push the issue further we could actually improve the value of cards by playing with them. Since adults buy and own most cards, the games would have to be different. How about a new form of box busters where, in David Letterman style, two people would actually drop boxes of cards off of a roof of a building? The box would bust (I can’t stand that word) or break and the person with most cards or card packs facing up would win all of the cards from the box of the other person. In addition, some of the cards would be destroyed in the process, thereby giving more value to the cards that survived unscathed.
In today’s more violent world, for those with a real passion and a lot of courage, a game of Russian Roulette could be played where a card would be selected, say every sixth card, from a new pack of cards and that card would be shot with a bullet, or if you didn’t own a gun, you could stab it with a knife, or just rip it up.
There are many ways of increasing the value of those current cards that are all mint and encased in plastic slabs. There are lots of games with sledgehammers, water and fire. Plastic melts. The ideas for new reality shows are endless.
But, these are all things that kids would do, not sensible adults who want to protect their investment.