How to identify a valuable baseball card

justCollecting

2016-09-13 15:35:57

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Baseball card collecting is a hugely popular American pastime, and has been since the late 1800s.

Not much has changed over the years, except today cards are sold on their own rather than in packets of chewing gum or tobacco.

It might surprise you to learn that the most sought after cards can sell for millions of dollars.

Here’s a couple of things to keep an eye out for.

Brands

The most sought after pre-war baseball cards are the T206 line, which was issued by the American Tobacco Company between 1909 and 1911.

T206 Honus Wagner cards have sold for millions - Image: eBay

T206 Honus Wagner cards have sold for millions - Image: eBay

While there are other brands, this series has huge appeal for collectors and an easily recognisable graphic style. 

In the post-war era, Topps has been the market leader for baseball cards since the early 1950s. 

Other well-known brands (past and present) include Bowman, Fleer, Upper Deck and Panini.

One thing to bear in mind is that card collecting began to get very popular during the late 1970s. This meant the volume of even the rarest cards increased dramatically.

It’s why the vast majority of dealers will generally steer clear of any cards issued after the mid-1970s – with a handful of exceptions.

The simplest way to determine whether your card may be worth anything is to check it against an online database, such as the nicely self explanatory Trading Card Database

Condition

Baseball cards are exceptionally unforgiving in the degree that condition affects value.

The condition of a card is key to its value - Image: eBay

A card's condition is the key to its value - Image: eBay

Even a small fold or mark can drop the grade by several points, potentially knocking a huge sum off its value.

If you do come across a card you think could be worth something, and it’s not boxed, be sure to handle it with tremendous care.

Recent innovations

During the 1990s the holograph card was introduced.

This was about as exciting as things got for a few years.

But as we moved into the 2000s, rare cards began to appear containing legitimate pieces of memorabilia.

Modern cards often feature genuine autographs and other memorabilia - Image: eBay

Modern cards often feature genuine autographs and other memorabilia - Image: eBay

Often they'll be signed or have swatches of game-used bats or jerseys attached.

As they are only issued in very limited numbers, they can sell for several thousand dollars.

Just remember that with these newer cards you will largely be reliant on selling them on eBay as more established traders tend to steer clear. 

Keep an eye out for...

The most sought after cards of the post-war era are the 1952 Topps issue – and particularly the ultra-rare Mickey Mantle card.

The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle is the holy grail for post-war collectors - Image: Heritage Auctions

The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle is the holy grail for post-war collectors - Image: Heritage Auctions

If you find one of these, you’ve just hit the jackpot.

Gem mint specimens have sold for up to $275,000 in the past. 

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