Editor's Note: Oh man, this makes me want to go back through my old card collection. Nice read, suteck! - BG
Sports cards have been around for years, since 1869. In the early 1900s, we had the famous tobacco baseball cards, including the ultra famous Honus Wagner rookie card that has fetched well over $125,000! We have all heard stories of our dads buying packs of cards and pitching them against the wall in a winner-take-all game, or putting them in bicycle spokes so their bikes would sound like a motorcycle. If you want to make dad sick, you can tell them that those Mickey Mantle cards could buy a house for each one he tossed.
Yes, sports cards are worth money. But, people believe that only the old cards are worth it. Many don't realize that cards from the 70s, 80s, and even the 90's are worth cash. If you were lucky enough to open packs of 1979 Topps Hockey you might have opened a Gretzky rookie card. 7 years later was even better as 1986 was the year that Fleer Basketball cards included a plethora of amazing rookies led by Michael Jordan.
The hobby exploded in the 90s when everyone realized those fun packs were putting some kids through college. However, this led to an over saturation of all hobby cards and nearly destroyed the hobby in the process. The hobby simply wasn't strong enough to absorb 1 million of each player, especially the rookies.
The #1 rule of any collectible is scarcity and demand. The higher the demand and/or the lower the scarcity the more it is worth. However, a lesser known fact is just as important, just because it is rare doesn't mean it is valuable. Somebody has to want what you have in order for that item to be worth money.
There are many types of collectors. I have heard of people who collect some or all of the following: Teams, players, Jersey cards, autographs, inserts and other types of memorabilia. The hardest part to remember is that just because it is scarce doesn't mean it is expensive. If you are attached to a card, then it's value to you can't be greater then it's value.
Gone are the days of 1 or 2 companies. If you collected football or baseball you had Topps and that was it. Hockey had a second set that was available only in Canada (OPC). Nowadays there are upwards of 30 sets of each sport, yes, you read that right, 30 SETS OF EACH SPORT. Unless you have unlimited funds, walking into a speciality store might leave your head swimming. There is so much to buy. Literally, you can probably find at least 20 different versions of Andrew Luck this year in all different price ranges. Why are there so many packs today after I had said earlier that the hobby was close to extinction?
In 1998 Upper Deck changed the rules and rewrote the book on scarcity. That year, they took all their rookie cards and only printed 2000 of them. Each one was stamped and counted. Imagine that only 2000 copies exist of this guy!
Needless to say, newfound excitement was injected into a hobby that was dying. As companies found their products flying off store shelves, they printed more and more product. They realized they had found a new cash cow and some companies decided to reduce the amount of rookie cards and each company took a turn "outdoing" the other on printing less cards. In 2001 Pacific Titanium would print 99 of each rookie. In 2002 Pacific again would reduce these rookie counts equal to their jersey number. However if a guy wore the number 5 that meant there would only be 5 copies of that card. At that point, rules had to be clarified regarding what was a true rookie and what was an insert. It was decided, much to Pacific's chagrin that 98 would be the minimum amount that a card could have in the base set and still be not classified as an insert.
Another huge difference between when you collected cards and today is how easy it is to get any card you want. Years ago you had to buy pack after pack to get those 1 or 2 players you were missing to complete the set. Today you don't have to bust any pack to get the whole set. So, the question really becomes what do I collect today?
And that is a question that I will help answer in part 2!