Juggling editor duties for SCD and some editing duties with the upcoming 2012 Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards has brought on many long days – and nights – these past few weeks. Jumping between the two has provided many reminders that vintage baseball cards remain the backbone of this hobby and continue to keep this hobby moving forward.
Don't believe me? Check out which collecting category takes up the most lots in any given sports memorabilia auction that is conducted. Aside from the high-end game-used memorabilia and trophies, guess which category gets the most money? I don't even have to answer the question.
Vintage baseball cards remain the most coveted area of collecting, from those looking to secure high-end singles to boost set ratings to those who buy commons to fill out a set. What's going to get the most money? The high-grade pieces, of course, but you'll always find willing buyers for vintage cards as long as they don't look like the dog mistook them for treats.
While working on the data for the Standard Catalog (it's flowing in from a new database program this year which has led to some interesting moments), it's interesting to see which sets have seen increased values and which have gone in the opposite direction in the past year or so.
The hobby staple, 1952 Topps, is still the set to collect. Prices continue to rise for these cards, especially the high numbers, and high-graded samples continue to set new trends.
Other sets to keep an eye on are the rare T-card backs, the 1920s Exhibits, anything Bowman and regional issues from the 1950s and 1960s.
Now regarding some of the high-value cards that bring six-figures at auction, well that market is changing a bit, with the battles for these cards not being quite as strong. Let's explain.
According to the Standard Catalog Editor, Bob Lemke, here is the situation. While these cards are still highly valuable, what you are seeing in this market is fewer elite collectors going after these cards. That doesn't mean the high-end stuff is falling off. However, the items underneath those cards is being impacted.
Here is an example. Let's say there is an auction with two high-end cards in the lineup, both could attract six figures. While two elite collectors might be driving up the price of one of the cards, there are less elite collectors participating overall in the auction to drive up the prices of other higher-end cards in the auction like there has been in the past. So the truly great cards get the money they deserve, but the second-tier cards, so to speak, aren't necessarily getting the results expected.
When it comes to specific players, the usual suspects are near the top of the list: Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, and Roberto Clemente. of course, but on a smaller scale, Bert Blyleven and even Ron Santo are seeing boosts. Who might surprise you on the "falling " list is Mickey Mantle. That's not to say he still isn't the most popular player for collectors, but he isn't getting the prices across the board he would in the past. But if you have a 1952 Mantle, don't worry, you'll still find plenty of buyers.
The 2012 Standard Catalog will be available next month – we'll have some more "preview" material in the coming weeks.