Saturday, August 17, 2019

When did the Baseball Card Boom turn into a Bust?

The 1986 and 1987 Topps sets were the last sets of the Boom Era to rise in value by more than $1 after the sets were listed in Beckett.  The 1986 Topps set entered the market valued at $18 and eventually rose to $45 in October 1990.  The 1987 Topps set entered the market valued at $22 and eventually rose to $42 in September 1990.  The 1988, 1989, and 1990 Topps sets entered the market at $24 and each rose to $25 in their second month.  The 1991 Topps set entered the market at $24 and never rose in value.     

In September 1990, the 1984, 1985, and 1987 Topps sets reached the highest value they would ever obtain.  The 1988, 1989, and 1990 Topps sets had already maxed out in value.   

In October 1990, the 1986 Topps set joined the rest of the 1984-1990 Topps sets to reach the highest value it would ever obtain.

In November 1990, the 1984-1990 Topps sets continued to remain climaxed at their all-time high value for the second month in a row.

In December 1990, the 1988, 1989, and 1990 Topps sets all dropped by in value, which signified the start of a crash that these 3 sets, as well as the next couple of releases, would never recover from.

In January 1991, the 1986 and 1987 Topps sets began to drop in value from their all-time high.

In February 1991, the 1991 Topps set was listed for the first time at $24 and would only drop from there. The 1984 Topps set would also begin dropping from its all-time high.  The 1985 Topps set would start experiencing its great descend by August 1991 resulting in 8 consecutive "modern" sets de-valuing at a significant rate.  The following year, the 1992 Topps set would also experience the same de-valuing trend. This would start the sobering reality for collectors that new baseball card releases were not the great investment that they were led to believe throughout the 1980s.

Between 1993-1994, most of the rest of the pre-1984 Topps sets would all begin to climax and then fall in value.  The great baseball card Bust Era began in 1991.  I will eventually follow up with a post on the falling trends of the older sets and the ending of the Bust Era.  

You Never Heard of Baseball Cards Magazine?

I have to admit that I don't remember Baseball Cards magazine.  I was a serious baseball card collector in Hawaii between 1987-1991.  We had almost everything out there at the Aloha Stadium where card dealers came from far and wide to sell at one of the country's largest swap meets.  I probably just wasn't paying close enough attention because from what I remember, it was all about Beckett with everyone.  I couldn't even spare the $2.50 it cost to buy either magazine anyways because I was so poor at 10 years old.  I did a lot of window shopping and I don't know how I was able to purchase any cards outside of a small allowance.  Looking at both magazines from 1984-1987, Baseball Cards was an outstanding magazine that paled Beckett paled in comparison.  To date, I have most Becketts from 1984-1994, and have just started a decent collection of Baseball Cards magazines from 1981-1988.  This magazine really takes me back into a 1980's collecting mindset way better than Beckett does.  This isn't to say that old Becketts have no value because they certainly do.  

The pricing seems a little more modest opposed to Beckett, but Baseball Cards is pricing in EX-MT condition, not MT like Beckett. Back then EX-MT was more like NM.  I like how Baseball Cards uses grades instead of a HI and LO columns but I don't like how it doesn't tell you how to price cards outside the 2 grades given.  I'd prefer price guides to list 1 standardized column and then provide a chart on how to adjust price based on condition.  These days, the old pricing doesn't really matter too much to most people.  What does matter is everything else in the magazines.  Many of the stories are timeless and there are plenty of cool ads that show the type of hobby stuff available for sale at various prices.  These are interesting magazines even for reading today.  

Baseball Cards magazine produced 2 issues/year between 1981-1983 and then about 4 issues/year between 1984-1986.  From 1987-1992 there were 12 issues/year.  In 1993, Baseball Cards changed its name to Sports Cards in either May or June.  To date, I've completed 1981-1984 and working on finishing off a couple missing issue between 1985-1986.

Fed up with modern pricing negligence, I started uploading my own price guides to this site but its a lot of work typing everything out for the first time and then having to go back and re-analyze everything.  It also gets in the way of buying, selling, blogging, and living life in general, so needless to say, it's a slow work in progress.

Beckett has changed their grading & pricing standards numerous times over the years.  When they first started producing a monthly magazine in 1984, Beckett stated that their pricing all reflected MT condition (both HI and LO columns), which they continued to stand by in 1986.  A difference was that in 1984-1985, they would caveat their statement by stating that many will think of their HI column as EX-MT condition and their LO column as VG, which would have put them in alignment with the way that Baseball Cards magazine presented their listings.  It also hints that Beckett recognized Baseball Cards as a competitor.  In 1985, Beckett even made direct comparisons to the grading standards of Baseball Cards magazines by printing both standards in the Beckett magazine to show how they were different.  These days Beckett states that all of their listings represent NM condition (HI and LO) unless stated otherwise.    

So although Beckett was listing the 48B set between $425-$525 in MT condition, Baseball Cards was listing the set for $410 in EX-MT condition and $185 in VG condition.  Since Beckett didn't have an EX-MT condition back then, a direct comparison would be to fill in the gap between EX at 75%-90% and MT at 100% (lets say 95% BV, or $404-$499 compared to $410).  Becketts values were definitely higher.  At VG condition (50% BV) Beckett would have this set at $212-$262 which is also higher than Baseball Cards value of $185.  Maybe that's why Beckett was so popular back then.  By 2011, it was reversed.  Although Baseball Cards was no longer produced under the same name after 1993, successors like the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards were way outpricing Beckett by the start of this decade but it didn't seem to work--Beckett had already taken over the industry.      

  I never liked the HI and LO column format.  I find the LO column useless.  It's already hard enough to buy and sell according to the HI column prices.  I can't imagine anyone trying to buy and sell at the LO column prices.  In the 80s people were looking at the HI column as the selling price and the LO column as the buying price, but dealers didn't seem to be adjusting prices for condition much back then.  I wish that Beckett, or somebody else, would focus more on developing just one good column, and then including a grading standard for adjusting the price based on condition like the one I have available on my grading & pricing tab.  Let the users determine if the single column value is too high or too low.  Also, there need to be more consideration given to the grade represented by the single column value.  All 2000s cards should be listed in MT condition, 1980s cards in NM-MT condition, 1960s cards in NM condition, and 1940s cards in EX-NM condition.  

Focused on 1953 and 1958 Topps

My 1950's collecting is currently focused on the 1953 and 1958 sets right now.  Here are a few new purchases that really boost each of my sets.  My 1958 set really jumped from less than a 100 cards to over 450 cards in less than a year.  This appears to be a set that I can reasonably complete in just another year.  I continue to pursue just 1 more card to complete my 1959 Topps set, but I don't foresee that problem with the 43 cards I'm missing from the 1958 Topps set.  So how is Beckett doing in pricing the cards in this set?  I think book values are high for Willie Mays and Rocky Colavito.  Book values appear to be low for Sal Maglie, Roberto Clemente, Don Zimmer, Dick Williams, Warren Spahn, Minnie Minoso, Hoyt Wilhelm, Braves Fence Busters, Yogi Berra, Whitey Herzog, Milt Pappas RC, Nellie Fox AS, and Luis Aparicio AS.  This is just a quick list of proposed book value changes that I marked as either up or down in the HI column of my 2018 Beckett Vintage Almanac.         

The 1953 Topps set is not something I intend to complete in the near future, if ever.  My collection currently sits at 190 out of 274 cards for a completion rate of 68%.   I'm trying to get to 206 for 75% completion.  Everything after that will be considered a bonus as I continue to chip away at 53T little by little.  I don't ever expect to get the Mantle or Mays.  Robinson and Paige are future possibilities.  Everything else is game.  The last 54 cards in this set are priced high and will be difficult to obtain.  I currently have 14 of those highs and will continue to chip away at them as I look for deals under 10% BV.    

Monday, August 12, 2019

Transitioning between Baseball Cards and Beckett Monthly price listings

I just received my first issue of Baseball Cards in the mail and I was simply amazed.  This magazine blow Beckett out of the water.  Unbelievable.  Now, I'm just comparing monthly magazines (not annuals) from the 80's decade.  I'm building a monthly database of Topps card set values and was concerned that there'd be no correlation between the values of both magazines but they appear to correlate well.  There are 4 issues between the Fall 1983 Baseball Cards magazine and the NOV 1984 Beckett Monthly magazine.  The listed prices between the two were very close, so I am extending my price database beyond Beckett's 1st issue using Baseball Cards magazine prior to NOV 1984.           

In 1983, Baseball Cards magazine listed their pricing in EX-MT condition, which came after MT according to their standard at the time.  Baseball Cards used 3 price columns, which also included VG and G pricing.  

Beckett has always gone by a HI and a LO column.  In the first issue Beckett correlates the HI column to EX-MT and the LO column to VG, which correlates to the first 2 columns of Baseball Cards magazine.  I never liked the HI and LO columns and wish they would pick 2 grades.  Today, the HI column would represent NM condition.

Here's a clip from my database.  I put all the values from the Fall 1983 Baseball Cards issue between OCT83-MAR84 since there was only a Spring and a Fall issue from 1981-1983.  Beginning in 1984, there were 4 issues each year.  I'm using only Beckett pricing beginning from NOV 1984 onward for now.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Before There Was Beckett Monthly, There Was...

I never knew life before Beckett Monthly because by the time I had started collecting baseball cards in 1987, Beckett Monthly had already become the industry standard for baseball card pricing.  There was actually another big name monthly magazine out for before Beckett Monthly called Baseball Cards.  By the time Beckett Monthly came out in NOV 1984, Baseball Cards had already released 10 issues, and would continue releasing magazines under the same title through the early 1990's.  Honestly, I don't ever remember seeing this magazine for sale growing up.  If I did, it was largely overshadowed by the much more prominent Beckett Monthly.  I'd be interested to hear the perspective of others who were already collecting baseball cards prior to 1984.  Nevertheless, my curiosity made me purchase the first 6 issues of Baseball Cards, which were released in the Spring and Summer of 1981, 1982, and 1983.  I haven't had a chance to review them yet, so I'm excited to see how they compare to early Beckett Monthly issues.          

Baseball Card Boom Era Topics: 1950's-1960's skyrocket in early 1988

So when exactly was this so-called Boom Era for baseball cards?  What does Boom Era even mean?  When I hear talk ofboom and bust cycles, I'm thinking stocks.  In the 1980's, baseball cards were like the stock market.  Beckett began coming out with annual price guides on a national scale back in 1979, but it probably wasn't until Beckett came out with a monthly price guide in NOV 1984 that baseball cards really started to become more like stocks.  The various brands and eras of baseball cards boomed and busted at slightly different times, but I can pinpoint exactly when the 1950's-1960's era of baseball cards skyrocketed-- at least according to Beckett Monthly values.  In the MAR 1988 issue, every set from 1948-1969 increased in value by about 50%-100%.  Here's a chart showing Beckett set pricing for 1951-1961 between the OCT 1986 and MAR 1988 issues.  I just ran out of room to show the rest of the years.

Here's a graph of 1954 Topps set values listed in Beckett from 1984 to present.  Note that the majority of the movement occurred between 1987-1991, which I consider to be the heart of the boom era.  Later on, I will show how "modern" card prices began to peak by 1991, and then start dropping off afterwards.    

Monday, August 5, 2019

2008 Topps Complete Base Set #1-660

The 2008 Topps set included a #7 Mickey Mantle card for the 3rd year in a row after 10 years without a #7 card produced in Topps base sets.  The set also consisted of 660 cards for the 3rd year in a row, which would remain a standard for 9 consecutive years through 2014.   Actually, 2006 was a 659 card set due to the Alex Gordon card fiasco.  The 660-card set format was also the Topps standard from 1974-1977.  This will be the last set that I'm truly okay with getting rid of.  Although I would like to keep 2008 to present, I've just run out of space to store them, muscle to move them, and trust to allow movers to handle them.  When I had considered settling in my big house on the little farm, I had plenty of space for storing this stuff.  When I'm finally settle down again, I'll be too old for hoarding and will probably be cutting back further.  For now, I'm focused only on 1948-1999 Topps sets, everything Mariano Rivera, and 1984-1991 Beckett Monthly.  My 2000-2007 Topps sets will be making it onto the market shortly.