Skip to main content

State of the Card Market Depends on the Angle You Seek

Media outlets always ask about the current card market. When they start talking about how today's market pales in comparison to two decades ago, I know they are only talking about the modern card market.

I get a lot of interview requests from various media outlets across the country. It could be to get some background information for a business story on collectibles, to offer some comments on a SCD advertiser being profiled by a local newspaper or a national publication focusing on a person of interest in the hobby and looking for further information to round out the piece.

Whenever they ask about the state of the trading card market, I always have to ask them if they are talking about modern cards or vintage cards, as they are two far different beasts.

Vintage cards are doing quite well, thank you, especially those that have graded out in a decent condition. You can and will always find buyers for these cards. Even the common cardss have an attentive audience, which is something you can’t say for modern cards.

Record prices in some manner are achieved with nearly every auction that features vintage, graded singles. Memory Lane just achieved one in its I Own It Now Sale of a 1967 Topps Rod Carew rookie card for $59,800. It was the only PSA 10 example of the card on record. A T206 Ty Cobb with a Ty Cobb back will porbably break into six figures this Friday.

But when the questions start with, “Will the baseball card market ever be what it once was?” That’s a different angle. Once I confirm that the interviewer is talking about the new card market, the answer is pretty clear: No.

That’s not to say the modern card market is in the dumps; it is simply that the game has changed. There are fewer players, fewer collectors overall and the focus is now on the chase cards — not the complete sets like in the past. It’s a different time.

While speculators still exist in this hobby in terms of newer cards, you don’t have every casual fan trying to grab all of the rookie cards or compile complete sets in the hopes of paying for their kids’ college tuitions.

Modern cards are netting higher prices for certain examples than was ever reached previously. This is due to the limited-edition nature of their production, high-condition grade (as deemed by a third party) and the accompanying autographs adorning the cards. These factors didn’t come into play with cards produced in the 1980s and ’90s.