Friday, May 31, 2019

Has Beckett Lost its Grasp of the Vintage Baseball Card Market?

Yes, Beckett is out in Left Field when it comes to vintage baseball card pricing analysis, and it would take me a series of blogs to provide all of the supporting evidence needed to demonstrate this.  In fact, I'm feeling like I need to start uploading my own pricing information here online, but I don't know how to get multiple Excel files to transfer in a readable format into a public space--I'm not a webmaster.  Beckett hasn't changed any of their vintage baseball card prices in about 20 years and their descriptions of how to use their guides are becoming more and more vague.  So, who am I to be saying all of this?  Obviously, not a webmaster.  What evidence do I have to support these claims?  Just fleeting memories of countless experiences where this guide has failed me.  I would have to start an entire series of blogs dedicated to this topic alone in order to present a convincing case, so I'll just settle for a rant here and there as I always have.

I've been collecting baseball cards since October 1987 and have always used Beckett as my primary source of pricing.  I still have just about every Beckett from 1984-1991 even after selling off all of my issues through 2000.  I began using the Beckett Almanacs in 2001, and have collected many of the older ones dating back to 1979.  I have a graduate level education in both engineering and business.  Market research, cost estimating, and contract administration are some of the normal functions of my everyday job.  I've completed nearly the entire collection of Topps/Bowman baseball cards from 1948 to present as cheaply as possible during the first go round.  I've continued upgrading that collection over the years through purchases of singles, lots, and even complete sets.  I sell my extras.  I do business both online and in person at card shows and shops across the country due to a travelling lifestyle.

I've been using the 2010 pocket-sized almanac as my primary guide for a few years now since this was the last year Beckett released this smaller guide.  I cut the thickness down from a few inches to maybe a half-inch thick so that I had only the Topps, Bowman, Play Ball, Goudey, Cracker Jack sets, etc. that I collected.  I also continued to obtain or review the newer larger guides over the years, but have noticed that the information was all the same as always.  I knew that Beckett was off on their pricing here and there, but I also knew how to apply their information to the real-world.  Usually, the adjustments involved scaling the individual pricing for a series or entire set while accounting for few over- or under-rated players here and there due to HOF inductions or seeing some post-career success or popularity.  I expected Beckett to eventually catch up, but they never did.  Over the past 2-3 years, it's been very difficult to use my 2010 Beckett Almanac for collecting 1950's-1960's cards, so decided it was time to purchase the 2018 Beckett Vintage Almanac.  What a bad move and complete waste of $26.99!!!  It's almost the exact same book as in 2010.  If fact, it has even less information.   

Beckett Almanacs used to provide guidance for adjusting the NM-MT 8.0 listing based on condition, but has decided to avoid that topic more and more so.  If they want to claim to be the leader, then they need to start leading again.  Give us a price and condition guide that actually explains pricing and condition.  Otherwise, what is the guide to be used for?   

If you look at my "Grading & Pricing" tab, you'll find a detailed price adjustment guide loosely based the vague guidance produced by Beckett in years past when they weren't afraid to lead the industry in this topic.  If not you, then who?    

Beckett's "LO" column is completely useless for the vintage almanac, and it's "HI" column is largely inaccurate at best.  They probably need to do away with the HI and LO column and stick to a single price point for 2-3 commonly occurring grades.  Buyers look for lower while sellers will look for higher.  Right now, nobody can use your prices.  

The descriptions of how to use these price guides just continue to get worse.  The above statement from the 2018 vintage almanac says that listings are for modern era cards in NM-MT 8.0 condition.  Isn't this a vintage price guide?  Is NM-MT 8.0 the highest "raw condition...most commonly found at shows" for 1950's-1970's Topps baseball?  The LO and HI columns are supposed to represent a value range for same NM-MT 8.0 grade card.  Good luck trying to find some 1951 Topps Series B (Blue Back) commons in NM-MT 8.0 condition for only $15-$30.  You'd be lucky to find them that cheap in PR 1.0 condition.  Are you serious, Beckett?  In fact, if anyone has a complete set of 1951 Topps Series B (Blue Back) cards in NM-MT 8.0 condition for $1000-$1700, please let me know.  That'll cost you $7500 or more.   Beckett must either be out of their mind, or just completely negligent.  Also, 1951 Topps cards do not say "Set A" and "Set B"; they say "Series A" and "Series B".  They are 2 series of the same set and "A" comes before "B" geniuses, but that's beside the point.  This 2018 Guide says 1951 Topps Red Back commons are worth $1.50-$3.00 in NM-MT 8.0 condition, but even PR 1.0 condition commons from this set command nearly $10.  I'll buy a thousand NM-MT 8.0 condition Red Backs from you for $1.50 each.  The poor pricing analysis only continues from Topps first set.           

I'm still missing 5 cards to complete the 1967 Topps set because Beckett says I can get a high-number common in NM-MT 8.0 condition for only $3-$8 when I can't even get one in PR 1.0 condition for $10.  In fact, I'd be lucky to find any 1967 Topps high-number cards in PR 1.0 condition for the prices that Beckett says I can find a NM-MT 8.0 condition card for.  Okay, star cards like #581 Tom Seaver RC can be found in PR 1.0 condition within the NM-MT 8.0 condition price range.  I've seen Seaver RC's bottom out at $300 in Poor condition.  $200 would be a deal.  I'm still waiting to find one at 20%-25% BV at $120-$150. 

Beckett needs to perform a better analysis of common vs. minor star vs. semi-star vs. unlisted star vs. superstar. They still haven't recognized accurate pricing for Hall of Famers like Ron Santo, Orlando Cepeda, Billy Williams, Joe Torre, Minnie Minoso, Ken Boyer, Tim McCarver, Jim Bunning, Bill Mazeroski, Dennis Eckersley, Phil Niekro, Goose Gossage, Dick Williams, Bert Blyleven, Whitey Herzog, and Bruce Sutter.  Take a look at pricing for the 1st three players/managers I mentioned in relation to other listings and see what you actually find.  I've developed my own charts indicating the highest percentage of HOF vote received by each player to help me distinguish between common, minor star, semi-star, etc.  It seems to hold fairly accurate except when you run across popular outliers like Bob Uecker, or stars that got into trouble like Pete Rose, or had their careers cut short due to early injury or death.  

1970 and 1971 Topps Scratch-Off inserts are another group of worthless listings in Beckett.  1953 Bowman listings are overvalued.  Most high-number cards from the 1950's-1960's need another look.  Topps and Bowman baseball cards make up the majority of the pricing in the vintage almanac and deserve better attention

This isn't about a desire for higher prices or favoritism for specific players. This is about seeking pricing accuracy, and Beckett not just resting on its laurels because it no longer has competition for sports card pricing.  I use these guides for buying/selling and I hold out for these prices up to years even.  At some point, it becomes time to admit a price change.  

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Another Bunt Hit for the 1967 Topps Set

It's been a long time since my last 1967 Topps acquisition.  I acquired this #578 John Boccabella in what I consider to be Fair or even Good condition (most would probably say Poor) for $9.75, which is 65% of the $15 BV.  For '67T highs, this was actually a good deal.  My collection is now at -5 cards to completion: #535, 572, 581, 605, and 609.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Hard Work Paying Off for 1959 Topps

I went ahead and added 4 new cards to my 1959 Topps collection this morning over coffee.  These new acquisitions now bring my missing card total down to only 1 card.  That's right.  Another 1950's set is now within my reach.  For the following cards, I paid 30%, 16%, 22%, and 15% BV respectively (all rounded up).  Goal was to spend between 10% for stars and 20% for commons in this set.  You can see that I splurged just little today.  Only missing card is now #514 Bob Gibson RC with a $300 BV, meaning that I'm looking to pay closer to $30 than $60.  Only problem is that the cheapest one I can find is $150 for a graded card in poor condition.  That's 50% BV.  Come on Beckett, start paying attention.  1959 Topps will probably be my first '50s Topps set completed.  1950 Bowman was my first '50s set overall.  I don't count completing 1951 Topps Series A (red backs), since I'm still missing two Series B cards (blue backs).       

Friday, May 17, 2019

The High Costs of 1953 Bowman

1953 Bowman probably has some of the most expensive basic common cards out of all the major Topps/Bowman sets of the 1950's.  They are about on par with 1952 Topps commons.  I'm not including high-number cards or star cards--just your basic common card.  Below $4 is a good deal for 1953 Bowman commons.  Here are some of my reprints that were replaced by originals. 

Friday, May 10, 2019

So close to 1959 Topps set completion

When you're a 1950's-1960's Topps/Bowman set builder, acquiring of all of a set's Mantle cards typically signifies that you're near the end of an uphill climb.  Today,  I've hit the downward slope on yet another 1950's Topps set journey.  After receiving a good deal on this high-number Mantle All-Star card last night, I went ahead and overpaid just a little on 4 other missing cards, bringing my total on the 1959 Topps set to within only 5 cards of set completion for this 572-card set.  When I say overpaid, I'm talking about an additional 5% BV on top of the 10%-20% BV that I would have typically paid.  For $15 commons, I paid $3.75 instead of $2.25-$3.00 and for a $125 W.Mays All-Star, I paid $18.90 instead of $12.50-$18.75.  The last 4 of my 5 missing cards will be fairly easy to obtain over the next few months: #530 Moon, #552 Stengal AS, #559 Banks AS, and #562 Kaline AS.  The one card that might give me some trouble is the #530 B.Gibson RC.  My Beckett lists it for $300, so I'd be looking to pay as close to $30 as possible.  I can't even find one for $45 or $60.  It is not typical to be unable to find low-grade 1950's stars for 10%-20% BV, except for Mantles.      

Thursday, May 9, 2019

How did I end up with these extra 1954 Bowmans?

I'm not sure how I ended up with these 1954 Bowman extras, but I have been chugging away fairly quickly on this set lately .

Some new 1952 Bowmans too

Here are the reprints I replaced, and now listed for sale, resulting from the acquisition of new originals from the '52B set.  I guess the reason I'm able to find so many good deals on these early Bowmans is that I still need so many of them.  It's been a while since I've completed a vintage set and I hope to get back to that soon.