(Editor’s Note: As many in the hobby are already well aware, www.sportscardforum.com is one of the most popular collecting websites the Internet has to offer. Each month, Tuff Stuff’s Sports Collectors Monthly will share one of the best message board posts with our readers. This month’s topic explains how a trip to Cooperstown transformed a young man into a collector for life. )
At times, working out the details of a trade can be a tedious process. Each person wants to feel sure that they are getting a fair deal when parting ways with a piece of their collection. Though some deals are finalized very quickly, others can take a considerable amount of effort. Some even collapse just as it looks like they are about to be completed. Collectors can invest significant amounts time negotiating a deal, some of which can include major disagreements between those involved in the trade.
Over the years, one of the biggest issues that I have come across in my experience of working out deals has been establishing the value of the cards involved. In general, collectors tend to rely heavily on the ever-popular “book value” of a card when moving forward with a deal. From my experience, this can be a very narrow-minded approach, as it fails to adequately take into account a number of other factors and issues that can arise.
When inquiring about a potential deal, I always make it a point to ensure that I am getting what I feel is the absolute best return for the cards that I am sending the other way. Early on in trade discussions, I try to establish what each card potentially involved is worth to me and make an educated decision on the value the other collector feels will be coming to him/her.
Below is a brief outline of five factors that I take into account when determining what value a card has to me in an ongoing effort to maximize my return in my own trades.
The White Whale Effect
This applies to those select cards that elude a collector, seemingly forever. Commonly referred to as the “white whales” of our want lists, the effect these cards can have on a collector is best described as maddening. We know they are out there but we just cannot seem to find them. The desire to obtain these cards builds over time and can greatly affect the value we attach to them, occasionally driving us to extremes when they are finally found. When you have a card that is another collector’s white whale, it offers you significant leverage in a potential trade and provides ample opportunity to maximize your return.
It is also important to take into account the personal attachment that a collector can have with a card in his/her collection. More often than not there is either a player or team featured on the card that makes it particularly special or there is a personal story or tie to the card that will make it especially difficult to part with. When personal attachment comes into play, an inflated sense of value is commonly attributed to the card in question, making this another key factor to consider when determining what that card will be worth in a deal.
Location of Your Trading Partner
A third factor to consider is the location of the person you are looking to make a trade with. Cards featuring players who are favorites on a regional level can help get a deal done in a way that trades based solely on book value oftentimes cannot. If you are nearing a deal, but seem to be coming up a card or two short, it might be useful to consider including a cards of players on the team nearest to the location of your trading partner even if they are not on that person’s specific want list.
Though I generally dislike everything about the Toronto Maple Leafs, I have taken cards featuring Maple Leafs players to get a deal done. Because I live in the Toronto area, cards of Maple Leafs players provide greater value to me than they likely would to someone living in the Edmonton region since they could prove useful in any trades or sales I’m working on with collectors in this region.
Playing in the Big Leagues
This factor can work both ways; either increasing or decreasing the perceived value of a card based on which direction the player’s career is headed. Knowing the status of a player’s career can be useful in getting the most out of a deal. Identifying prospects currently in the minor or junior leagues that you feel are undervalued and including those players’ cards in your deals can reap tremendous long-term benefits. This is, of course, a bit of a gamble when it comes to unproven talent, but the cases of prospects seemingly coming out of nowhere to have solid careers (and subsequently solid values with their cards) are numerous. Do your research and the benefits could be substantial.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are the players whose value in a trade is diminished based upon their career choices. You would be hard-pressed to find a collector in North America (where the bulk of sports card collecting takes place) who honestly believes that Alexander Radulov’s move to the Continental Hockey League or Josh Childress’ signing with Olympiacos of the Greek League will actually increase the worth of their NHL and NBA cards in a trade.
Not Priced Due to Scarcity
This is particularly applicable to the idea of looking beyond a card’s “book value” because these cards literally do not have one. Over the past decade there has been a proliferation of cards produced with print runs so low that the guides cannot accurately price them because they change hands so infrequently. In the case of these cards, the previous four factors are of increased importance because they will be the elements determining the value that the card will hold in a proposed trade. A good idea with these cards is to get an idea of what similar cards have either sold for or traded for by searching auction sites and trade manager pages on the online trading forums. By doing your research on what values these cards have been realizing in other transactions, you will be better equipped to maximize your return in trades involving cards of this nature. SCM