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As we enter 2012, sports collectibles hobby is stable and full of high prices

A new year, but the hobby should be in a stable position for the next 12 months, depending, of course, on the world economy, which can impact everything in no time at all.

As I write this, it’s a few days before Christmas and the hobby is about to go into its annual hibernation period for a couple of weeks as one year ends and another begins. There are few auctions, but many dealers take a break during the holidays and people in general take a buying break to help pay those credit card bills in January.

It’s the perfect time to reflect a bit about the hobby and see what’s on the horizon. I don’t think there’s ever a perfect crystal ball when it comes to predictions, and the ever-changing world economy can throw a wrench into any prognostication. That said, here are some general thoughts.

I think the hobby has settled into a pretty solid holding pattern. And I mean that in a good way. The excess has been weeded out the last few years due to necessity or poor management. There hasn’t been much upheaval with companies going out of business or the like. Sure, there was a major arrest at the National Convention and some more recent news of fraudulent game-used jersey sales, but you are going to have that in any multi-million dollar industry where some scrupulous fellows are going to try and make a buck the wrong way.

The new card market is alive with three main companies and far less product than in the past. Some might say there are still too many sets being released, but for the most part they are going one of two ways. Either they are cheap geared toward young collectors or they are high-end, fueled by autographs that are only being produced because that’s what more flush collectors want to buy. Let’s face it, the base cards of most sets are worth a minimal amount. The inserts and autographs are what drive the sets with collectors. So, of course, those are the type of sets that are going to be produced. Yet, as one dealer told me recently, why spend a lot of money on the new cards of players with futures unknown when you can buy a vintage card that you know will never drop in value.

Sure, some people will complain that sets are overpriced for young collectors and that’s a flaw in the system from card companies. Well, some of that is true, but with the audience for this magazine, we know it’s about “hits” and ultimately monetary value. That’s why we want to know what items are worth and where we can get the best deal.

Auctions are where the high-end items will nearly always reside going forward. Some of the recent results are mind-boggling with prices realized, and auction houses now have so many connections of buyers and proven track records, it’s hard to go anywhere else.

Vintage commons will continue to go up in price as high-grade complete sets continue to be en vogue. Once thought to be secondary fodder for the Hall of Famers, commons continue to be more popular than ever. If you think you have some good condition commons as extras in your collection, spin them for some cash to buy something else.

While I don’t always understand how autographs guests at shows draw the most attendance, this will continue because it’s simply not that easy to get signatures in person any longer. Athletes don’t care to do it for free and the number of shows in general to get signatures continues to dwindle. Those shows that offer show guests will continue to draw big numbers.

Just a few top-of-head thoughts heading into 2012. Have a great New Year everyone.

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