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Baseball Card Values 101: What's Your Collection Worth?

Understanding baseball card values can be tricky. It goes way beyond just looking up a card's "book value." But follow these five steps and you'll be better off than most.

Identify & understand what you have

To fully appreciate your collection, you need to know exactly what you've got. Make sure to correctly identify the players, sets, and the dates. You'll also need to know the difference between authentic material and reproduction pieces.

If you're having trouble, try scanning or photographing your card, and using a reverse image search. This way you can Google search using an image.

Judge the condition

Get an idea of the condition of the cards in your collection. Cards can be damaged by folding, paper loss, scuffing, dirt, rounded corners, and even factory printing errors; and condition greatly affects value. Most people (mistakenly) think that their cards are in mint condition. But true understanding requires a bit more. There are 10 levels of condition from Gem Mint to Poor.

These strip cards, while extremely cool, are not in mint condition.

Learn about the grading scale

Get familiar with the grading system used by PSA, SGC, and Beckett. This will help you narrow down the exact condition of your cards. But don't get your cards graded. For many it's a losing proposition. Only do it if it will truly add value and be cost-effective.

Want to learn more about card grading? Check out these two resources:

Check recent eBay sales

Go on eBay and do a search for some of your cards, starting with the star players. Make sure to check the box to show only sold listings. See if your card in your particular condition has sold recently.

Look on other free and paid sources (optional)

If you want to further explore the current market value of your cards, check out paid sites like vintagecardprices.com. They track recent sales from eBay and auction houses, and can show historical data. PSA and TuffStuff also have free tools available, but be skeptical of price guides because "book values" often don't match up with reality.

Want to see our price guide for particular sets? Check out the table at the bottom of the page.

Want to view values for a particular card? Check out these resources from PSA and Vintage Card Prices.

So what if you want to sell?


Set reasonable expectations

If you want to sell, set reasonable expectations for your selling price. You probably won't be able to fetch a fortune for your cards, but you could still get a nice return. A dealer might offer you 50-60% of recent eBay sale prices. If you don't have lofty expectations for price (or sentimental attachment) it will be much easier to sell.

Pick your preferred method to sell

You might be able to sell your cards on eBay, but for most it's simply not worth the hassle. Scammers and long lines at the post office pose a threat to this method. Here's our full list of reasons why beginners shouldn't sell their cards on eBay.

You could try your local baseball card shop if you still have one. But a national dealer will have more capital to pay top dollar for your cards.

Photograph or scan your cards

Having digital images of your collection will make it much easier to sell. Make sure to scan or photograph with a smartphone your star cards and a sampling of the rest of your collection. Here's a resource on scanning and photographing your baseball cards.

Ship your cards

Shipping properly will assure that your collection is transported safely and securely. Here's more on how to ship sports cards.

What are some of the most valuable baseball cards?:

Here's a sampling of some of the most valuable and coveted cards of all time. Got any of these? You might be sitting on a goldmine.

  • 1909 T206 Honus Wagner
  • 1909 T206 Joe Doyle (NY Nat'l)
  • 1909 E90-1 "Shoeless" Joe Jackson
  • 1911 D304 Brunner's Bread Ty Cobb
  • 1914 Cracker Jack Joe Jackson
  • 1933 Goudey Lou Gehrig
  • 1933 Goudey Nap Lajoie
  • 1948 Leaf Satchel Paige
  • 1954 Topps Ted Williams
  • 1955 Topps Sandy Koufax
  • 1954 Topps Ernie Banks
  • 1963 Topps Pete Rose

Below are some of our most desired baseball card sets and the price we will pay to buy them from you. Look closely at the condition indicated with each price and consider that almost no sets are in Gem Mint 10 condition. Even if never opened. Learn more about how to approximate card condition here. Our buy prices are based on our knowledge of current market value plus our overhead to process the set through our inventory system. We make an offer within 48 hours with immediate payment without you having to wait for your cards to sell individually.

We also buy vintage Baseball Cards Football Cards Basketball Cards Hockey Cards Non-Sports Cards

Complete BASEBALL Set Buy Prices **

We also purchase complete and partial sets in lesser conditon.
Please contact us should you have any of these sets or partial sets. We will pay TOP DOLLAR on PSA and SGC graded sets and truly NM/MT or MINT sets!

1886 N167 Old Judge New York Giants $150,000 $300,000 $500,000 and up
1886 Red Stocking Cigars $35,000 $65,000 $100,000 and up
1887 N28 Allen & Ginter $6,250 $12,500 $20,000 and up
1887 Four Base Hits $300,000 $600,000 $1,000,000 and up
1887 N175 Gypsy Queen $225,000 $450,000 $750,000 and up
1887 N690 Kalamazoo Bats $300,000 $600,000 $1,000,000 and up
1887 N690-1 Kalamazoo Bats Cabinets $75,000 $150,000 $250,000 and up
1887 N693 Kalamazoo Bats Team Cards $65,000 $125,000 $200,000 and up
1887 N172 Old Judge $325,000 $650,000 $1,000,000 and up
1888 N29 Allen & Ginter $1,750 $3,500 $5500 and up
1888 N43 Allen & Ginter $10,000 $20,000 $30,000 and up
1888 N162 Goodwin $10,750 $21,500 $35,000 and up
1888 G&B Chewing Gum E223 $625,000 $1,250,000 $2,000,000 and up
1888 S.F. Hess N338-2 $70,000 $135,000 $225,000 and up
1888 Yum Yum Tobacco N403 $225,000 $450,000 $750,000 and up
1888 Old Judge Cabinets N173 Call Call Call
1888 Dogs Head Cabinets N173 Call Call Call
1889 E.R. Williams Card Game $7,500 $15,000 $25,000 and up
1889 Police Gazette Cabinets $150,000 $300,000 $500,000 and up
1893 Just So Tobacco Call Call Call
1894 Alpha Photo Engraving Baltimore Orioles Call Call Call
1894 Honest Duke Cabinets N142 $15,000 $30,000 $50,000 and up
1895 Mayo's Cut Plug N300 $15,000 $30,000 $45,000 and up
1895 N566 Newsboy Cabinet $6,250 $12,500 $20,000 and up
1902-1911 Sporting Life Cabinets W600 $300,000 $600,000 $1,000,000 and up
1903-1904 E107 Breisch Williams $625,000 $1,250,000 $2,000,000 and up
1904 Fan Craze A.L. & N.L. $6,000 $12,000 $18,000 and up
1906 Ullman Postcards $5,000 $10,000 $15,000 and up
1908-1909 Rose Postcards $10,000 $20,000 $30,000 and up
1909 T204 Ramly $40,000 $80,000 $125,000 and up
1909-1911 T206 $150,000 $400,000 $750,000 and up
1911 T3 Turkey Reds $60,000 $150,000 $300,000 and up
1911 T205 $35,000 $90,000 $150,000 and up
1911 M116 Sporting Life $21,500 $50,000 $100,000 and up
1909-11 American Caramel E90-1 $32,500 $65,000 $100,000 and up
1912 T207 Brown Border $17,500 $35,000 $60,000 and up
1912 S81 Large Silks $10,000 $20,000 $35,000 and up
1913 Tom Barker $1,500 $3,000 $5000 and up
1914 Cracker Jack $100,000 $250,000 $650,000 and up
1915 Cracker Jack $50,000 $75,000 $450,000 and up
1932 U.S. Caramel $20,000 $40,000 $75,000 and up
1933 Goudey $22,500 $50,000 $225,000 and up
1933 Sport Kings $12,500 $25,000 $75,000 and up
1933 Delong $5,000 $15,000 $40,000 and up
1933 Butter Cream $15,000 $30,000 $50,000 and up
1933 George C. Miller $7,500 $15,000 $25,000 and up
1933 Tattoo Orbit $2,500 $5,000 $10,000 and up
1934 Goudey $7,500 $15,000 $60,000 and up
1934 Batter-Up $6,250 $12,500 $40,000 and up
1934-36 Diamond Stars $7,500 $15,000 $35,000 and up
1935 Goudey 4 In 1 $2,750 $5,500 $15,000 and up
1938 Goudey Heads Up $6,125 $12,250 $35,000 and up
1939 Play Ball $2,500 $5,000 $12,500 and up
1940 Play Ball $5,000 $10,000 $25,000 and up
1941 Play Ball $5,000 $10,000 $20,000 and up
1941 Double Play $1,750 $3,500 $8000 and up
1948 Bowman $2,500 $5,000 $12,500 and up
1949 Bowman $4,500 $8,000 $25,000 and up
1950 Bowman $3,250 $6,000 $17500 and up
1951 Bowman $6,250 $12,500 $35,000 and up
1952 Bowman $2,250 $5,000 $15,000 and up
1953 Bowman B&W $1,200 $2,400 $6000 and up
1953 Bowman Color $3,500 $7,000 $25,000 and up
1954 Bowman $1,000 $2,000 $5000 and up
1955 Bowman $1,200 $2,500 $7500 and up
1948 Leaf $20,000 $40,000 $100,000 and up
1950 Callahan $300 $750 $1250 and up
1950 Drakes $2,000 $4,000 $10,000 and up
1951 Topps Red Backs $400 $800 $2000 and up
1951 Topps Blue Backs $750 $1,200 $3000 and up
1951 Topps Connie Mack All Stars $2,000 $3,750 $7500 and up
1951 Topps Current All Stars $1,250 $2,500 $5000 and up
1951 Topps Teams $625 $1,250 $2000 and up
1952 Topps $35,000 $100,000 $250,000 and up
1953 Topps $3,500 $10,000 $35,000 and up
1954 Topps $1,000 $2,500 $8000 and up
1955 Topps $1,000 $2,500 $10,000 and up
1956 Topps $1,000 $2,250 $6000 and up
1957 Topps $800 $1,750 $8000 and up
1958 Topps $750 $1,500 $7000 and up
1959 Topps $750 $1,200 $8000 and up
1960 Topps $600 $1,200 $5000 and up
1961 Topps $750 $1,200 $6000 and up
1962 Topps $600 $1,100 $7500 and up
1963 Topps $700 $1,250 $6000 and up
1964 Topps $500 $1,000 $3000 and up
1965 Topps $500 $1,100 $4500 and up
1966 Topps $450 $900 $4000 and up
1967 Topps $500 $1,000 $4500 and up
1968 Topps $250 $500 $2000 and up
1969 Topps $200 $400 $1500 and up
1970 Topps $175 $350 $1250 and up
1971 Topps $200 $400 $1500 and up
1972 Topps $125 $350 $800 and up
1973 Topps $100 $200 $600 and up
1974 Topps $75 $125 $400 and up
1975 Topps $75 $150 $450 and up

** - Premiums paid for PSA and SGC graded sets

Don't see the card set your interested in?
Call us and one of our specialists will give your cards a free appraisal.
(732) 828-2261

Digging Deeper into the Value of Your Sports Cards

Most collectors believe that their cards are worth more than they really are.

No surprise here. Sentimental value is involved. There's plenty of psychology behind this. People tend to value things for more when they own them as opposed to when they're thinking of purchasing them.

People always want to know what their collection is worth. When we tell them, they're often disappointed, they don't believe us or they're insulted. 

Many collectors believe that because their cards are old, in reasonably good condition, have been safely tucked away for a long time or are similar to other specimens that have fetched high prices that they must be sitting on a small fortune. This is very rarely the case.  Why?  Because far too often, then cards are not in the condition of the examples that are garenering record prices.  Condition still trumps all!

Vintage cards aren't really scarce. But high-grade vintage cards can be. That's why they command such a premium.

Don't be like this guy. Do some internet research and set reasonable expectations for the value of your cards and you won't end up disappointed.

A sports card value lesson

A gentleman collector has a pretty nice looking 1958 Topps Jim Brown rookie card. He does a little research and finds a story about a beautiful PSA 9 that recently sold through a major auction house for over $300,000.00 Yes, that's right! THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS! He realizes that his card isn't quite as nice, but that it still looks pretty good for being almost 60 years old. So, while he realizes that it isn't worth $300 grand, he assumes that it might be worth half that.  So maybe $150,000.00? He thinks that he's being very realistic and that he should be able to sell it to a dealer for 10% of the PSA 9 value and net himself $30,000.00.

If the card were to grade PSA 8 NM/MT, just one grade below the incredible PSA 9 MINT that was researched, it is worth approximately $10,000.00. Why such a difference? Because condition determines value and a scarce PSA 9 or PSA 10 may be worth exponentially more than a PSA 8.

As a further example, a slightly better than average Jim Brown is usually graded in PSA 4 VG/EX to PSA 6 EX/MT condition. What do these sell for? Between $300 and $800, respectively.  In the case of the Jim Brown rookie, a PSA 4 card sells for about 0.001% of the PSA 9! Even a stunning PSA 8 sells for about 0.03% of the PSA 9. Therefore, using percentages to understand the value of your cards is not a reliable way to determine an accurate valuation.

Understanding the condition of the cards in your collection, and not just thinking that they are in "nice condition" will have a huge impact on being able to get a reasonable ballpark of the potential value of your collection.

Finding someone that will honestly and accurately evaluate your collection based upon condition and current market value is of the utmost importance.

We are proud to offer top dollar for all of the sports cards we buy. We offer more than other national dealers, and especially more than local antique shops or small baseball card outlets. We painstakingly walk our potential sellers through our valuation process. We base our valuations on condition, past sales, market trends, years of experience, and publicly and privately available data. We're not trying to change anybody's mind, but we will provide real time, accurate valuations.

We use a subscription service, vintagecardprices.com, as well as sales information from our own database, eBay and all of the major sports memorabilia auction houses.

A quick story

Last year we purchased a collection of T206 cards from a gentleman who had acquired them 25 years ago at a charity auction. The cards had been glued to a poster board so they were not in particularly good condition. We made the man an offer and he accepted. When we submitted some of the group for grading, one card came back as an authentic "blank back" version. We initially thought that perhaps it had been skinned.

This blank back designation meant that the card was significantly more rare (and more valuable) than initially expected.

Upon this discovery, we immediately contacted the seller and paid him an additional sum to account for the additional value in the variation. This is the level of service we strive to provide and include in as part of our WIN/WIN mission statement.

Key points:

If you understand and appreciate the following nine concepts, you'll be way ahead of the game.

• Figure out if your emotions and sentimentaliy are clouding your judgement. If so, selling them will be difficult until you're able to separate from the emotions and sentimentality.

• Don't rely on traditional printed price guides. They tend to be obsolete and rarely provide a realist overview of the current market.

• Hoestly assess the condition of your cards.

• You're probably not the best judge of condition.

• Remember, top condition cards will often trump scarcity in terms of value.

• Buyers are usually extremely particular when it comes to condition and that cards in top condition are worth far more than cards in average or lesser conditon.

• Research the NET return that you will receive for your cards.  Calculate the actuial price that you will receive rather than the gross value.  As an example, auction house prices to the seller are usually less than 80% of the final price and you have no control of what your cards will sell for.

• You can sell through the mail.  Check references, years in business, and make sure that you're comfortable.  

• Getting your cards graded isn't necessarily going to be worth it.

An example of lofty and limited expectations

Two men each have a relatively similar baseball card collection that they're looking to sell.

One thinks his collection might be worth thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars.

The other is unsure if his collection even has value. He thinks he'd be lucky to get $100 for the whole thing.

In most cases both men are wrong. But as you might imagine, the second man is much easier to deal with. He doesn't have an extremely inflated view of the value of his stuff, like in the Jim Brown example above. He will likely be excited that his collection is worth more than he initially thought.

Related reading:

Warning, sensitive readers might find some of this info hard to swallow!

Why Your Sports Cards from the Early 90s Are Worthless

I thought my baseball card collection had value. It did, but only to me.

Dealing With Those Piles Of Old Baseball Cards In Your Closet

We stand by our free appraisals/valuations.

If you would like one, or you have any questions about how we arrive at the numbers we do. Please reach out. We'd be happy to explain in great detail exactly how we research, evaluate, and price our purchases.

Our Vice President, Scott Alpaugh was a senior grader at one of the major grading services for several years and is widely regarded as one of the best at authenticating and grading in the industry. He and our other experienced staff members are always happy to guide you through how we determine condition, rarity, recent sale results, and ultimately value.

Thanks for reading.