Thursday, July 5, 2012

The curious case of book value

Over the last week or so, there's been some good debate on the topic of "book value" across the blogosphere.

Unlike most of the other bloggers out there, I grew up in the "Era of Beckett". The magazine was in full swing once I started to get into the hobby, although I didn't know of its existence until I hit my teenage years. (Thankfully, neither did my card-collecting friends.)

I can only imagine how much of a shock it was to those who collected in the 1970's and '80s, when trading cards on the sidewalk was like a rite of passage. And all of a sudden, "the magazine" rears its head on the hobby.

While this is purely speculative on my part, I'm sure it ruined trading for a lot of collectors at the time. I know a couple bloggers have told me that stories of their friends all of a sudden pulling out a Beckett once the topic of trading came up, an experience which left a sour taste in more than one collector's mouth, I'd bet.

For years, I made thousands of simple BV-for-BV trades on trading forums, and pretty much took the values to heart.

I lost touch with what trading was really about.

The blogosphere has shown me that "book value" doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. Nowadays, I view Beckett purely as a guide, at most, and nothing else. I wouldn't go as far to say it "ruined the hobby", but it definitely changed things, and not all for the better.

If both traders are happy, that's all that matters.

That's really the only main goal of a good trade, isn't it? It's one of the main things the blogosphere has taught me during my time here thus far.

Plus, Beckett can just be plain crazy sometimes. Take that Jack Cust card, for instance. It's a 1998 Stadium Club "One of A Kind" parallel, numbered to 150 copies. (Kind of ironic, isn't it?)

What would you guess its book value is? A couple bucks, five at the most?

Try forty dollars.

That's right, forty smackers. And yes, I did actually have to give up forty bucks worth in "book value" to get it into my collection. (The only reason I did so was because all the cards I gave up were dime box finds that I bought for the sole purpose of trading.)

According to Beckett, a numbered card of Jack Cust is "worth" as much as this card. That's just absurd.

Yes, Jack Cust is a favorite of mine. Yes, it's from his rookie year. Yes, it is a nice card.

But should it be worth forty dollars, as Beckett would have you believe?

I highly doubt it.

This pair of cards left me scratching my head.

These are both former dime box finds of mine. (The one on the right came from Saturday's show.)

Both of these are Daryle Ward "prospect" cards from 2000 Fleer Focus, numbered to 3,999 copies each.

Same player, same set, same serial numbering. With all that taken into account, it should mean they're the same price, right?


According to my Beckett, the one on the left carries a "book value" of four dollars, while the one on the right is a ten-dollar card.

I don't get it.

Then there's the other side of the coin.

It's something that I've mentioned a few times on this blog, and the reason I love digging through dime boxes so much.

In a perfect world, personal value is all that should matter within the hobby. I love my copy of Mario Mendoza's rookie card, even in its less-than-ideal state. There's something to be said for a rookie card of a man who has a well-known baseball term named after him.

I doubt this card would ever leave my grasp. It's a "keeper", for sure.

Most of the time, however, "book value" doesn't light a torch to what my personal attachment to a card may be.

Beckett would tell you that Mario Mendoza's 1975 Topps rookie card is worth...fifty cents.

That's not even taking into account the condition of my copy.

Here's another good example.

I'd go on the record by saying that is the creepiest smile I've ever seen on a baseball card. It's the type of thing you'd see in a bad yearbook photo.

Not to mention that it has that weird tilted picture thing going for it.

But Beckett says it's only worth twenty cents.


Here's one that I accidentally left out of my "unexpected dime box" post from a couple weeks ago.

There's a lot of action going on here. I like the fact that Joe Girardi is firmly planting a tag on the Cubs player. That's not something you see on a baseball card a whole lot. Plus, any photo taken at Wrigley Field is okay in my book.

And am I the only one who thinks that Cubs player looks a whole lot like Jose Bautista?

If Beckett had anything to say about it, I made a cardinal sin when I bought this card.

Because Girardi's 1995 Collector's Choice card is "worth" just a dime, I actually paid "full book" for it.

Oh, the horror!

I guess what I'm saying is that personal value is the most important thing. (Although that sentiment is already alive and well in the blogosphere.)

If you're happy with the price you paid for a card or a trade you made, that's all that matters. Don't worry so much about what Beckett might have you believe.

Sometimes "book value" doesn't tell the whole story.


Mark Kaz said...

Amen, Amen! I also grew up in the Beckett era and I actually enjoy the hobby more now as an "adult" (cough, cough) than I did back then. I looked at cards in a dollars and cents sort of way when I was younger, whereas now the only value I care about is how much fun I have collecting.

Matt Pederson said...

Like both of you, I also grew up in the Beckett era, and I was a BV-for-BV trader in my younger years. I tend to enjoy it a lot more now that trades tend to be more of, "You send me some stuff, and I'll send you some stuff." It's a whole lot more fun, and every now and then, you get some fun surprises.

Zayden said...

LOL at the creepy smile...I didn't think it was so creepy at first then I stared at it a while longer and tiles its almost as if day Vinci painted that one himself

CaptKirk42 said...

Another excellent post. I also think trading by BV is absurd but many people on the forums trade that way. I've never really been one for remembering what my cards are actually worth book wise. I just know most of them I enjoy and want to keep. It wasn't until I started joining group breaks in card forums that I started aquireing some of the higher end cards that were worth the BV for a trade of some card I wanted.

Also it is sick that the asking prices for any Bryce Harper card "Demands". He has fast become a favorite player of mine on my Homie team but I'm not going to pay over $30 dollars for a brand new spankin card. My personal limit for any card is about $30 up to about $40 for older cards and bigger stars. Some of the Classic Vintage stuff I want someday I'll probably have to pay an arm and a leg for but. Not for something that hasn't even come out yet, or is still in current boxes.

Jess said...

I agree with most of this post. When I buy a card on eBay, I never look up its book value before bidding, I just bid whatever the card is worth to me! On the other end, if I'm trading game-used cards or autographed cards, I like to look at book values, at least to get an idea of what I'm trading (I'd be pissed trading a card which I could have SOLD for $40 for a card that has a BV of $10).