Value of baseball cards

How to determine sports cards values in the baseball trading card market

Baseball cards are considered the most important sports trading cards in the sport collecting market. They were the first sports cards ever produced (as early as 1800s) and their emergence started the sports collecting hobby. Because of such significance, many baseball trading cards have high monetary and sentimental value.

How to determine baseball cards value

For an enthusiast who is investing in sports cards or a hobbyist who simply likes buying vintage and modern baseball memorabilia, to know about appraising baseball cards is very important.

1933 Goudey #106 Nap Lajoie rarest baseball card . The missing card – The 1933 Goudey #106 Nap Lajoie is one of the rarest and most valuable baseball cards of all time. This was not produced along with the entire 1933 Goudey set. It was only manufactured and issued in 1934 because of the customers’ complaint of incomplete sports card set.

You will spend the best sporting collectible for your money’s value, it helps you determine which are authentic sports items or not (cheap finds are generally too good to be true), and guide you to plan and prepare for a growing sports collection.

Factors influencing baseball cards price

Here are some factors that influence the changes in the price of baseball trading cards. Prices used in the examples are not necessarily the standard values of the baseball cards; they are only based from various sources for illustration purposes.

  1. The player featured on the baseball card

The player or the subject of the card plays a vital role in determining baseball cards value. For example, a baseball card featuring a popular player with outstanding performances in major leagues will generally be more expensive than cards with less famous players as subject.

In the 1933 Goudey set of 240 sports cards, a #53 Babe Ruth card in mint condition card was priced at $6,600 while a #29 Jimmy Foxx in the same condition cost $666.

Aside from being a Hall of Famer, Babe Ruth was hailed in 1969 as baseball’s Greatest Player Ever and ranked Number 1 in the 1998 list of Baseball’s 100 Greatest Players (to mention a few of his awards and honors). Jimmy Foxx, on the other hand, is only second to Ruth in terms of the number of home runs.

  1. Rarity of the baseball trading card

Rare sports cards are often very valuable cards especially when they are highly in-demand by the card collectors. Most rare baseball cards are vintage sports cards (and only a few modern sport trading cards can be scarce). Rarity can be relative to: how many cards were originally printed and how many cards still exist today.

We can explain how scarcity increases baseball card values by still using the 1933 Goudey set example. It is presented in the previous entry that the #53 Babe Ruth card is more valuable than the Foxx card. The most valuable baseball card in the set, however, is the 1933 Goudey #106 Nap Lajoie card with a value of $27,750.

When the Goudey Company issued the baseball card set in 1933, #106 was a missing card. Collecting customers complained and demanded for the missing piece to complete their set. Goudey had to produce the #106 featuring Nap Lajoie and sent them through mail to the customers who expressed their desire to have the card. This may mean that only the buyers who asked for the missing card owned such. This made the #106 Lajoie baseball card a classic rarity.

  1. Age of the collectible baseball cards

Age and the scarcity of a baseball card can be very much associated when it comes to baseball cards price. As mentioned, most of the rare cards in the collection today are those antique baseball cards. Because of time, many examples of antique cards could have been lost or destroyed through time while some may still exist but not in collectible condition. This is how age influences baseball cards values.

The most valuable sports cards of all time are composed of cards from pre-war and post-war eras (early 1900s to 1950s). The most expensive baseball card priced $2.8 million in 2007 is the T206 Honus Wagner card which was issued in 1909. Newly produced cards rarely reach the value of $50,000 worth.

Tip: If you like to invest on sports cards, it would be wise to purchase vintage baseball cards. They are highly valuable and desirable by both old- and new- time collectors. Most of the cards that increase in value over time are the old baseball cards.

  1. Condition of the baseball trading card

The condition or quality is indeed an important factor in determining the price of the baseball card. This includes eye appeal – does it still look good and pleasing? Cards with stains, blemishes, print defects, tear, wrinkles, and poor centering are in low condition and less demanded by collectors.

The condition of a baseball card is determined through sports card grading. Grading is the process of evaluating the state of your sports card using a scaling system. The procedure is done by reputable sports cards graders like Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA; uses a scale of 1-10 with 10 as the highest grade) and SportsCard Guaranty (SGC; uses 10-100 scale with 10 as poor). The higher the grade of a card the more expensive it could get.

In, a 1914 Cracker Jack #30 Ty Cobb in good condition was valued $1,620 while the same type of card in mint condition (near perfect) was valued $6,600. A 1914 Cracker Jack Ty Cobb card is among the most valuable baseball cards in the collecting industry.

Tip: To increase the value of baseball cards, it is encouraged that you have them graded. Graded sports cards are generally more expensive than the same cards without grade. Aside from determining the condition of your card, grading also assures you of the baseball card authenticity.

  1. Is the baseball card in demand

Above everything else, the demand is the most vital factor that influences the baseball card price. Even how rare, old, and high-graded your sports card is, it will not be worth anything if no one wants it. A baseball card value depends direly on how much a person is willing to pay for the card. This explains, therefore, how auctions work. In sports cards pricing in general, the same principle applies.

In relation to demand is the implication of economic conditions to the worth of baseball cards. When financial crisis arise, there is a great possibility that unnecessary expenses like collecting and buying sports cards are set aside by consumers.

There will be a decline of demand to purchase baseball cards and their values may decrease consequently. Some experts say when baseball card prices decrease, it may be a good time to purchase these items. When the economy recovers, the baseball cards can be sold at higher prices.

Other determinants of baseball cards values:

Presence of autographs

Presence of the athlete’s autograph may increase the value of a certain sports card, provided that these are not fake sports autographs. As a matter of fact, a signature of a famous athlete alone can already be worth thousands of dollars. An autograph of baseball icon Lou Gehrig was once priced at $5,000.


A controversy can have different effects on the value of baseball cards. Baseball cards of Roger Clemens (seven-time winner of the best pitcher Cy Young Award in Major League Baseball) had declined in demand and value when he was accused of steroid use and adultery.

On the contrary, the 1919 Black Sox scandal of Joe Jackson (it said that Jackson was bribed to intentionally lose a game in the World Series) did not have a diverse consequence on his baseball cards value. The 1914 Cracker Jack #103 Joe Jackson is even one of the most valuable sports cards in the sports collecting hobby.

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