Mike Trout card sells for more than Honus Wagner T206

brandonchristensen

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Call me nuts, but I hate this.

A 1 out of 1 card which is just forced rarity sells at auction for over $3M, eclipsing the endless record set by the famous T206 Honus Wagner card.

I grew up in the late 80's/early 90's collecting cards, and buying the monthly Beckett price guide, fantasizing about owning a 1952 Topps Mantle. In the Sixth Grade, we had a speaking class and I did a speech about the Honus Wagner card. It was such a great part of the baseball mythology, it's sad that to beat it they had to force scarcity of a card. Cards should be able to be collected and enjoyed.

I'm only 35, but I feel like an old man right now.
 

jon abbey

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it's sad that to beat it they had to force scarcity of a card.
But wasn’t a big part of the reason the Wagner card is so ‘valuable’ that it was very scarce to begin with because Wagner made them stop making them? What’s the difference?
 

brandonchristensen

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But wasn’t a big part of the reason the Wagner card is so ‘valuable’ that it was very scarce to begin with because Wagner made them stop making them? What’s the difference?
There's still more than one of them in the world (50 to 200) so that it's super rare, but...not what they did here.

This is Topps or whoever going "just one so it's an ultra unicorn". It's not a historical artifact that has a legendary following (Gretzky's famous sale, etc.).
 

Marciano490

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But wasn’t a big part of the reason the Wagner card is so ‘valuable’ that it was very scarce to begin with because Wagner made them stop making them? What’s the difference?
I get where BC is coming from. There’s a difference between scarcity from a century’s worth of careful shepherding and scarcity because only one example of something was made to bypass that historical gatekeeping.

You see that with watches a lot now. Old, mint Rolexes and Pateks were super valuable, so brands started making limited editions of their new models to capture that same scarcity tax, but it doesn’t feel the same.
 

LogansDad

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Yeah, I'm with the "this is kind of dumb" crowd. Part of the reason the T206 is so valuable is the history behind it. There's no story here, other than "Topps decided to only make one card", which kind of sucks.
 

bankshot1

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So there’s no chance I could come across the Trout card stashed in the walls while renovating my house?
True story-my ex-brother-in-law was renovating his home and tore down a bathroom wall and found a Play Ball 1941 Ted Williams card along with several other cards from the era. Knowing I was a Sox fan he gave me the Williams card, which was awesome, but the dolt threw out the rest of the cards.

I'm with Team BC on the issue of fabricated "rarity".
 
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brandonchristensen

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I get where BC is coming from. There’s a difference between scarcity from a century’s worth of careful shepherding and scarcity because only one example of something was made to bypass that historical gatekeeping.

You see that with watches a lot now. Old, mint Rolexes and Pateks were super valuable, so brands started making limited editions of their new models to capture that same scarcity tax, but it doesn’t feel the same.
This is what I wanted to say, but articulated far better.
 

djbayko

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Call me nuts, but I hate this.

A 1 out of 1 card which is just forced rarity sells at auction for over $3M, eclipsing the endless record set by the famous T206 Honus Wagner card.

I grew up in the late 80's/early 90's collecting cards, and buying the monthly Beckett price guide, fantasizing about owning a 1952 Topps Mantle. In the Sixth Grade, we had a speaking class and I did a speech about the Honus Wagner card. It was such a great part of the baseball mythology, it's sad that to beat it they had to force scarcity of a card. Cards should be able to be collected and enjoyed.

I'm only 35, but I feel like an old man right now.
I have a feeling this is a short-lived record, for the reason you state. The T206 will reclaim it's #1 spot eventually, and this Trout card might even become a bad investment.
 

Ed Hillel

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Sports card have absolutely exploded into another atmosphere since covid. I've never really seen anything like this in collectibles. Retro video games are also exploding.
 

staz

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The cradle of the game.
Besides a handwritten signature, do these new, highly valuable cards have security features? Because a $100 note is loaded (watermarks, security threads, color-shifting ink, planchettes, etc.), yet folks still try to produce counterfeits.
 

brandonchristensen

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Besides a handwritten signature, do these new, highly valuable cards have security features? Because a $100 note is loaded (watermarks, security threads, color-shifting ink, planchettes, etc.), yet folks still try to produce counterfeits.
Typically their worth comes after being graded by someone like Beckett or PSA.

My nightmare was back in 2002, me and my brother spending $600 on boxes on '93 SP in search for the A-Rod rookie:



In one of the final packs, there it was. Looked pristine. We were so excited, we shipped it off for grading. We were anxiously awaiting the grading, sure that we were going to have a card worth $10K+.

Finally, the email comes.

YOUR CARD IS RATED 6.

Devastated, our return was less than if we didn't grade it at all. Sure enough when we got it back, there was a fingernail stabbed into the corner of it. We definitely did not do that...but can't really blame PSA either as they probably know what they're doing.

Was a mega bummer.

The cards of my youth that I always loved are...
The Roger Clemens Fleer Update rookie:
33642

Griffey's 89 Upper Deck:
33643

And the Frank Thomas misprint:
 

Marciano490

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Yeah, I thought I’d be retired on my Griffey ‘99 upper deck. That was the Ferrari/gold Rolex of the playground.
 

shaggydog2000

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What's the theory behind this?
Alternate investment opportunity. Lots of people still have money, but don't feel great about stocks or real estate at given points in time, like right now. That is when collectibles can go up in value. Art, cars, watches, and whatever people who have money liked when they were 12.
 

bankshot1

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I remember visiting my nephews (they were about 10-12) in Baltimore around ''88 or '89 and they were showing off their unopened boxes of entire sets of that year's cards, and telling me they and all their friends who were doing the same thing were going to get rich.

I was going to tell them of tulip bulbs, but thought better of it.

I missed bit coins too.
 

LogansDad

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So what cards should I be buying? I'm not really looking to "invest", but I love collecting stuff (especially the pack opening part, see my Twitch streams for OOTP), and have definitely been considering getting back into the card buying game, I just don't know where to start. The WalMart special doesn't seem to be it, though.
 

YTF

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Alternate investment opportunity. Lots of people still have money, but don't feel great about stocks or real estate at given points in time, like right now. That is when collectibles can go up in value. Art, cars, watches, and whatever people who have money liked when they were 12.
And in their greed the companies will eventually out supply the demand as they did in the late 80's. There will be a glut of untouched cards in plastic cases that will decrease in value because there is no shortage of cards in "fresh out of the pack" condition. IMO the grading process coupled with the abundance of product is going to price out many true collectors as it did in the 90's. Sure the lure of manufactured scarcities will attract a fair amount of interest, but at the end of the day it becomes exclusionary for most.
 

NJ_Sox_Fan

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So what cards should I be buying? I'm not really looking to "invest", but I love collecting stuff (especially the pack opening part, see my Twitch streams for OOTP), and have definitely been considering getting back into the card buying game, I just don't know where to start. The WalMart special doesn't seem to be it, though.
Graded vintage cards. But if you’re interested in ripping packs and selling some off. Topps flagship is hard to beat. Series 1. Series 2. Update. Chrome. Assuming there are some good rookies, which lately there has been plenty.
 

Marciano490

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Man, the amount of time I took taking all 500(?) cards out of the 1989 UD box and putting them in protective cases only to lose them all... is the set even worth the $179.99 I paid?
 

Pablo's TB Lover

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I remember down at the card store in my NH village in the late 80s the Upper Deck basketball cards were one of the first packs without bubble gum. Bought the hell out of those. And for some strange reason the store was clearing out unopened 1981 Topps football cards. You did NOT want to chew the bubble gum in those packs!
 

Max Power

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In the late 80s I'd buy some early 80s packs and "chew" the gum from them as a joke. It would shatter and turn to some crumbly mass in your mouth. I bought a pack of cards from 1976 on Ebay a few months ago to celebrate my birth year. I considered chewing the gum before I opened it, but the weird, brown, spotted stick in there made it clear that was a bad idea.

The best card in the pack was a Lymon Bostock.
 

Marciano490

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Wait wait wait wait wait. Are these prices legit, cuz I’m about to drive home and dig through my mom’s basement. $3,500 for Griffey and $20,000 for the set?


 

E5 Yaz

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Any bids on my 1969 Topps Mantle white variation?

original, not reprint
 

The_Powa_of_Seiji_Ozawa

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Wait wait wait wait wait. Are these prices legit, cuz I’m about to drive home and dig through my mom’s basement. $3,500 for Griffey and $20,000 for the set?


Back around 91, right before I got out of the game as a teen, I traded the UD Griffey rookie and a few other very good cards but nothing super valuable today (I think maybe the next best one was a David Robinson Hoops rookie), all in very good to excellent condition, for a Wayne Gretzky Topps rookie in good condition. Been wondering if I made out on that deal.
 
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The_Powa_of_Seiji_Ozawa

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Got to find my Billy Ripken Fuck Face cards. Bet I can retire on those babies!
I think the white airbrush version is more collectible, though less interesting.

Go to billripken.com for a cool overview of the story of that card and all its iterations. It seems that Billy himself wrote that on the knob of the bat, rather than it being a prank pulled by a teammate as has long been thought,
 
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Fishercat

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So what cards should I be buying? I'm not really looking to "invest", but I love collecting stuff (especially the pack opening part, see my Twitch streams for OOTP), and have definitely been considering getting back into the card buying game, I just don't know where to start. The WalMart special doesn't seem to be it, though.
(A lot of this below is more general knowledge i know Logansdad likely knows but may be useful overall)

Up front, I'll say I've moved on to buying singles of things I really want, but my tastes are weird and singles was the most cost efficient way to get what I'm looking for. If there's something you really want specifically it's almost always better to buy the card than rip looking for it.

Depends what you're really looking for IMO. The first thing to probably note is that for baseball Topps is the only brand that has actual MLB Brand Licensing. You can find Mike Trout cards in other brands, but the only one you'll see Mike Trout in an Angels uniform that is logoed as that is Topps (this is one of the many reasons that Trout went for 4M, as absurd as that price is. Collectors tend to put a premium on these cards over other entries (primarily from Panini but also Leaf and others). I personally think is somewhat overblown as I often prefer the aesthetics of the other brand (Upper Deck's Hockey Offerings destroy, visually, anything Topps puts out to me, and often Panini releases more striking cards as well. Hell, when the field was open in the 90s I think most companies were releasing more adventurous, better looking, more fun cards than come out today). If you're collecting just for the fun of ripping wax open, seeing names, different designs, I think even the base series of Topps on up are all fine. If you're looking for potential money back or money in the future or things like autographs, relics, etc., more below.

Once you decide that, there's really two main routes of procuring packs/boxes first hand. There's retail (Target, Walmart, etc.) where the packs are cheaper but inserts/autos/parallels are usually quite a bit rarer. Then there's Hobby (Local Card Shops, Online) that are more expensive for packs but you have either a guarantee of or better chance of one of these different, expensive cards. There's also numerous releases that are hobby only that are truly high end and, yeah, some super low end retail only releases. Finding retail boxes/cards have become very difficult as the pandemic has both led people to get interested in the hobby again and people who have lost their sources of income to make a reasonably risk free/cheap/easy buck by flipping these blasters/boxes third party. Super easy to turn 200 in retail cards to 300+ on the secondary market with an eBay listing .I can't blame 'em. I think Hobby is a better bang for the buck long term but retail is better to fulfill that "I have an itch to rip a pack and get some fun looking cards". I probably spent ~$100 or so on Allen and Ginter cards last year and I would have been way better off buying as box of it instead. Finally, a third (and IMO most reasonable) approach to it are box breaks. This is where one person buys a box/case of something pricey, a bunch of people split the cost and the teams or players, and then the opening is via a stream. You still get most of the thrill, a cheaper entry for a preferred team chance, etc.

Anyway, my general advisement for anyone looking to get into the game in terms of where to start without just throwing money away in terms of what cards to buy? I'd probably focus on Hobby and focus on the second tier main brands. I think that's a good mid-point for potentially getting better long-term value without a ton of base cards and without dropping a ton of money on a pack with little hope of seeing your money back. So like, I really like the Bowman Chrome product. The checklists are usually really good with younger players, a mix of top prospects and those who can develop into it. The price isn't off the tops prohibitive, cards usually come out in really good condition and grade well, and if you get a hit it can be big money quick. When I was more into breaking I bought into one and snagged a few Orioles, including a really nice Austin Hays (before he kind of disappeared). Very nice looking, sleek cards. For the more fun wax-ripping aspect, I love Allen and Ginter. A lot of super goofy cards to get a laugh out of the box, usually a lot of celebs and a few that may interest anyone, and I think Hobby boxes guarantee a few autos/relics/etc. which is nice. I did a lot of retail last year and pulled a mini card to a low number and a Pujols relic but generally had a lot of fun opening them. It's one of the better looking sets too. I also have a soft spot for Bowman/Topps (High) Tek - a lot of really good looking cards on good card stock that often grades well and not a ton of fluff. Topps will cycle set designs in and out each year

Really a lot of it is comfort level with cost and tier, Bowman/Topps isn't exactly insanely creative with how they release their cards and sets. Using the 2019 listings, this is how I would personally classify them. Others will disagree. Dashes between my clear breakpoints in card types. I'll bold my favorites and where I would probably say to jump in at each major tier. Also, I'm going to focus on Topps. If you like the look of Panini or Leaf or the like, 100000% go for it. They hold less value but are often cheaper to get and can look great. Spoiled below.

Base Heavy / Intro Level
(Lots of cards, low price, low likelihood of anything valuable but good for potentially getting cheap/available high demand rookie cards that could age decently)
Topps Series 1 and 2 (this is the Topps mainbrand set, the kind you buy the complete set for 50 bucks for your kid to see every player)
Topps Opening Day
Topps Update

Throwback Style Releases (Low-mid tiering price wise, older/retro designs, decent insert sets/autos but harder to get than other sets, usually good looking cards)
Topps Heritage and Heritage High Number and Heritage Minors (not a fan personally, Heritage High Number is often a better investment for rookie hunters but that varies by annual checklist)
Allen and Ginter (my preferred throwback style product due to the oddities)
Archives (a blast of fun for those who collected in the 80s and 90s, a lot of styled cards from that era with some players from those times re-appearing. I'll usually grab a few packs every year just for the nostalgia. Huge fan of this set for casual ripping)
Gypsy Queen
Stadium Club

Rookie/Prospect Heavy Releases (These are generally the best long-term bang for the buck if you hit the right prospect)
Bowman (this is the Topps Series 1 and 2 of Bowman but collectors will often stock up on preferred prospects here and hold & hope, especially variants/autographs)
Pro Debut (not super familiar)
Bowman Draft

----------

Chrome/Enhanced Series - These are later releases of existing sets, a tiering higher cost wise but better quality cards with generally better hold value and better odds of getting keeper card
Topps/Bowman Chrome
Topps/Bowman Finest/Best
Topps/Bowman High Tek
Topps Gold Label

Sapphire - Chrome on steroids usually - very pretty cards, very pricey cards, same game with higher stakes.
Topps Sapphire
Bowman Sapphire

Sterling - I feel like these usually skew more towards autographs but think a mixture of Chrome and Sapphire
Topps Sterling
Bowman Sterling

-----------

Single Card Entries - These "boxes" are usually single, encased, autograph cards. Huge boom or bust. I don't really see the point IMO collecting wise unless you got the itch, even if some of them look amazing. More made for the box breaks where you can get a single team you like and a ton of shots at the cards)
Topps Signature Series (varying kinds)
Topps Dynasty
Topps Clearly Authentic
Topps Five Star (this could be more high end guarantee)

High End Guarantees - These series are often sold in mini boxes at huge prices but guarantee an auto or relic or multiples
Topps/Bowman Inception
Topps Definitive
Topps Museum Collection
Topps Tribute
Topps Diamond Icons

Topps Transcendent - Absurdly priced mega set at end of year, guaranteed 1/1s and huge cards at a hilarious price
 

Fishercat

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Oh and the Trout thing is effing nuts. The forced rarity thing is true but Trout is probably the most collectable player in baseball and his true rookie auto was always going to be insanely priced. That's not weird...but someone is going to end up having this card when the bubble bursts again and eat a ton of money.
 

tonyandpals

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Wait wait wait wait wait. Are these prices legit, cuz I’m about to drive home and dig through my mom’s basement. $3,500 for Griffey and $20,000 for the set?


Best to check completed items. Looks like sets sell just over $100 and you can get the single rookie card as a PSA 10 in the $1.2k - 1.5k range, while a 9 sells for <$200.

 

tonyandpals

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It's still cool that the card was made 2 years before his MLB debut. As much of a sure thing, he had to pan out. I don't know how many 1:1s they made of players that year, but just the fact that it all came together for Bowman is an absolute HR for them.
 

Ed Hillel

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Oh and the Trout thing is effing nuts. The forced rarity thing is true but Trout is probably the most collectable player in baseball and his true rookie auto was always going to be insanely priced. That's not weird...but someone is going to end up having this card when the bubble bursts again and eat a ton of money.
I'm not sure this is the kind of card that stays in the bubble, honestly. It'll be the highest population stuff like Jordan PSA 10s going for 60k that'll crash hard.

Please note, I say this is someone with a PSA 10 Brady Season Ticket rookie (known pop 13), who is holding and desperately hoping this is the case...I go back and forth every month on whether to dump or keep, but I'm pretty firmly in keep right now. It's basically the only sports card I own, outside a Montana I pulled from a $20 pack 20 years ago.
Alternate investment opportunity. Lots of people still have money, but don't feel great about stocks or real estate at given points in time, like right now. That is when collectibles can go up in value. Art, cars, watches, and whatever people who have money liked when they were 12.
Yup, and then usually they continue to slingshot forward once the economy picks back up, because so much money is already in, people are addicted, and people are more confident in the collectible market and their own economic circumstances. In 2008, it was vintage cars and comics, this go-round it's sports cards, vintage video games (a new market, really), and Pokemon. Sports cards I think is at fairly high risk of a bubble, retro games is just getting started and have far, far lower populations, so should be good for a long while, maybe life. Pokemon, I have no clue. It actually appears a significant number of card collectors are looking to move into retro games, from what I'm seeing.
 
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Fishercat

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I'm not sure this is the kind of card that stays in the bubble, honestly. It'll be the highest population stuff like Jordan PSA 10s going for 60k that'll crash hard.

Please note, I say this is someone with a PSA 10 Brady Season Ticket rookie (known pop 13), who is holding and desperately hoping this is the case...I go back and forth every month on whether to dump or keep, but I'm pretty firmly in keep right now. It's basically the only sports card I own, outside a Montana I pulled from a $20 pack 20 years ago.

Yup, and then usually they continue to slingshot forward once the economy picks back up, because so much money is already in, people are addicted, and people are more confident in the collectible market and their own economic circumstances. In 2008, it was vintage cars and comics, this go-round it's sports cards, vintage video games (a new market, really), and Pokemon. Sports cards I think is at fairly high risk of a bubble, retro games is just getting started and have far, far lower populations, so should be good for a long while, maybe life. Pokemon, I have no clue. It actually appears a significant number of card collectors are looking to move into retro games, from what I'm seeing.
You're probably right that this isn't as prone to the burst, I just think the price itself is so absurd for something that has so many other alternatives that it is baking in hope for the hobby with it. A 1/1 RC Trout Superfactor is still a once-in-a-generation card of course I think unlike Wagner there are cheaper alternatives of the card for high end collectors that aren't the super. I'd probably but your Brady Season Ticket in the same category - maybe even moreso since Brady doesn't sign a ton and as a 6th round rookie even his rookie cards are sparse nevermind the signed items. I just think when I say eating money, I mean it in more gross terms. I wonder 10, 20, 30 years down the line after Trout is retired and possibly signing on the legends circuit how much appeal a card will have at the premium when he has thousands of signed cards out there and even a decent number of signed rookies.

And yeah, to add on, we're also seeing this in smaller scales in other collectibles. My moderately sized/low end Funko collection has seen a marked increase when it seemed to be dwindling last year (very few are losing value, some holding steady, some stark increases). Vinyl is absolutely booming as some records that recently went out of print are seeing 2-3x price spikes in short timeframes. People are both really diving into collecting in the environment they're in and I feel like as Ed suggests we're not at the peak of this yet. I think Funko is very bubble-y, vinyl a little less so given the utlity involved and advent of streaming leaving the phyiscal, emotional gap. The main point remains though, it's psychologically a lot easier for someone with a moderate amount of cash to invest $100 in something tangible that they can re-sell later without huge effort, hopefully for a profit, and have something to enjoy in the interim.

Edit: I also think we're seeing a lot of the Sneakerverse sneak into other hobbies now driving up demand and prices as well as some fraudulent bumps to artificially raise value. Anecdotally, the 2020 Funko comic-con process was a night mare and I've been seeing some...suspicious price-spikes on items that I think are linked to buyer's clubs.
 
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Trautwein's Degree

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You're probably right that this isn't as prone to the burst, I just think the price itself is so absurd for something that has so many other alternatives that it is baking in hope for the hobby with it. A 1/1 RC Trout Superfactor is still a once-in-a-generation card of course I think unlike Wagner there are cheaper alternatives of the card for high end collectors that aren't the super. I'd probably but your Brady Season Ticket in the same category - maybe even moreso since Brady doesn't sign a ton and as a 6th round rookie even his rookie cards are sparse nevermind the signed items. I just think when I say eating money, I mean it in more gross terms. I wonder 10, 20, 30 years down the line after Trout is retired and possibly signing on the legends circuit how much appeal a card will have at the premium when he has thousands of signed cards out there and even a decent number of signed rookies.
There are a lot of people with a lot of money in the world. And this auction took the card from valuable to iconic. People will want it more. It's not his signature they're buying. Nor a card with his name on it. They are buying the status.
 

Ed Hillel

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Vinyl is absolutely booming as some records that recently went out of print are seeing 2-3x price spikes in short timeframes.
Right now, sports cards and video games are really in a class by themselves. Sealed Mike Tyson's Punchouts have gone from $750 to $45,000 in the course of 15 months, Marios from $500 to $30,000, Zeldas same thing if not moreso. It's really been a sight to behold. Thing is they should hold and grow because population is so low and the impact of video games on society so massive. This is really a correction for what was massively undervalued for decades.
There are a lot of people with a lot of money in the world. And this auction took the card from valuable to iconic. People will want it more. It's not his signature they're buying. Nor a card with his name on it. They are buying the status.
Yes, correct. I deal with many of these people often because I have a large vintage game collection (I've collected for myself for a decade and turned it into something with this craziness the past 18 months), and ego is a massive part of the game.
 

Fishercat

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Right now, sports cards and video games are really in a class by themselves. Sealed Mike Tyson's Punchouts have gone from $750 to $45,000 in the course of 15 months, Marios from $500 to $30,000, Zeldas same thing if not moreso. It's really been a sight to behold.
Very true at least on cards. Video Games I had no idea on and that's just blowing my mind to be honest. I got into the wrong hobby.
 

Fishercat

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Will today's superstars who made $50 million or $500 million or more in their careers actually end up signing on the Legends Circuit? I think the days of meeting your childhood heroes are done
I meant more limited to sports cards. I don't see Trout signing at card or memorabilia shows but early indications are that today's retired superstars are still very happy to sign for high end products. You probably won't see them in your garden variety retail pack too often (Jeter signed in Series 2 this year at least) but when you get to products that run several hundred dollars a pack, Jeter, A-Rod, Griffey, etc. are not uncommon at all. Still very collectible but not uncommon. Some stars won't and that'll be a very different story. If someone like Trout decides to just stop signing once he retires this alters that equation a ton.
 

LogansDad

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(A lot of this below is more general knowledge i know Logansdad likely knows but may be useful overall)

Up front, I'll say I've moved on to buying singles of things I really want, but my tastes are weird and singles was the most cost efficient way to get what I'm looking for. If there's something you really want specifically it's almost always better to buy the card than rip looking for it.

Depends what you're really looking for IMO. The first thing to probably note is that for baseball Topps is the only brand that has actual MLB Brand Licensing. You can find Mike Trout cards in other brands, but the only one you'll see Mike Trout in an Angels uniform that is logoed as that is Topps (this is one of the many reasons that Trout went for 4M, as absurd as that price is. Collectors tend to put a premium on these cards over other entries (primarily from Panini but also Leaf and others). I personally think is somewhat overblown as I often prefer the aesthetics of the other brand (Upper Deck's Hockey Offerings destroy, visually, anything Topps puts out to me, and often Panini releases more striking cards as well. Hell, when the field was open in the 90s I think most companies were releasing more adventurous, better looking, more fun cards than come out today). If you're collecting just for the fun of ripping wax open, seeing names, different designs, I think even the base series of Topps on up are all fine. If you're looking for potential money back or money in the future or things like autographs, relics, etc., more below.

Once you decide that, there's really two main routes of procuring packs/boxes first hand. There's retail (Target, Walmart, etc.) where the packs are cheaper but inserts/autos/parallels are usually quite a bit rarer. Then there's Hobby (Local Card Shops, Online) that are more expensive for packs but you have either a guarantee of or better chance of one of these different, expensive cards. There's also numerous releases that are hobby only that are truly high end and, yeah, some super low end retail only releases. Finding retail boxes/cards have become very difficult as the pandemic has both led people to get interested in the hobby again and people who have lost their sources of income to make a reasonably risk free/cheap/easy buck by flipping these blasters/boxes third party. Super easy to turn 200 in retail cards to 300+ on the secondary market with an eBay listing .I can't blame 'em. I think Hobby is a better bang for the buck long term but retail is better to fulfill that "I have an itch to rip a pack and get some fun looking cards". I probably spent ~$100 or so on Allen and Ginter cards last year and I would have been way better off buying as box of it instead. Finally, a third (and IMO most reasonable) approach to it are box breaks. This is where one person buys a box/case of something pricey, a bunch of people split the cost and the teams or players, and then the opening is via a stream. You still get most of the thrill, a cheaper entry for a preferred team chance, etc.

Anyway, my general advisement for anyone looking to get into the game in terms of where to start without just throwing money away in terms of what cards to buy? I'd probably focus on Hobby and focus on the second tier main brands. I think that's a good mid-point for potentially getting better long-term value without a ton of base cards and without dropping a ton of money on a pack with little hope of seeing your money back. So like, I really like the Bowman Chrome product. The checklists are usually really good with younger players, a mix of top prospects and those who can develop into it. The price isn't off the tops prohibitive, cards usually come out in really good condition and grade well, and if you get a hit it can be big money quick. When I was more into breaking I bought into one and snagged a few Orioles, including a really nice Austin Hays (before he kind of disappeared). Very nice looking, sleek cards. For the more fun wax-ripping aspect, I love Allen and Ginter. A lot of super goofy cards to get a laugh out of the box, usually a lot of celebs and a few that may interest anyone, and I think Hobby boxes guarantee a few autos/relics/etc. which is nice. I did a lot of retail last year and pulled a mini card to a low number and a Pujols relic but generally had a lot of fun opening them. It's one of the better looking sets too. I also have a soft spot for Bowman/Topps (High) Tek - a lot of really good looking cards on good card stock that often grades well and not a ton of fluff. Topps will cycle set designs in and out each year

Really a lot of it is comfort level with cost and tier, Bowman/Topps isn't exactly insanely creative with how they release their cards and sets. Using the 2019 listings, this is how I would personally classify them. Others will disagree. Dashes between my clear breakpoints in card types. I'll bold my favorites and where I would probably say to jump in at each major tier. Also, I'm going to focus on Topps. If you like the look of Panini or Leaf or the like, 100000% go for it. They hold less value but are often cheaper to get and can look great. Spoiled below.

Base Heavy / Intro Level
(Lots of cards, low price, low likelihood of anything valuable but good for potentially getting cheap/available high demand rookie cards that could age decently)
Topps Series 1 and 2 (this is the Topps mainbrand set, the kind you buy the complete set for 50 bucks for your kid to see every player)
Topps Opening Day
Topps Update

Throwback Style Releases (Low-mid tiering price wise, older/retro designs, decent insert sets/autos but harder to get than other sets, usually good looking cards)
Topps Heritage and Heritage High Number and Heritage Minors (not a fan personally, Heritage High Number is often a better investment for rookie hunters but that varies by annual checklist)
Allen and Ginter (my preferred throwback style product due to the oddities)
Archives (a blast of fun for those who collected in the 80s and 90s, a lot of styled cards from that era with some players from those times re-appearing. I'll usually grab a few packs every year just for the nostalgia. Huge fan of this set for casual ripping)
Gypsy Queen
Stadium Club

Rookie/Prospect Heavy Releases (These are generally the best long-term bang for the buck if you hit the right prospect)
Bowman (this is the Topps Series 1 and 2 of Bowman but collectors will often stock up on preferred prospects here and hold & hope, especially variants/autographs)
Pro Debut (not super familiar)
Bowman Draft

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Chrome/Enhanced Series - These are later releases of existing sets, a tiering higher cost wise but better quality cards with generally better hold value and better odds of getting keeper card
Topps/Bowman Chrome
Topps/Bowman Finest/Best
Topps/Bowman High Tek
Topps Gold Label

Sapphire - Chrome on steroids usually - very pretty cards, very pricey cards, same game with higher stakes.
Topps Sapphire
Bowman Sapphire

Sterling - I feel like these usually skew more towards autographs but think a mixture of Chrome and Sapphire
Topps Sterling
Bowman Sterling

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Single Card Entries - These "boxes" are usually single, encased, autograph cards. Huge boom or bust. I don't really see the point IMO collecting wise unless you got the itch, even if some of them look amazing. More made for the box breaks where you can get a single team you like and a ton of shots at the cards)
Topps Signature Series (varying kinds)
Topps Dynasty
Topps Clearly Authentic
Topps Five Star (this could be more high end guarantee)

High End Guarantees - These series are often sold in mini boxes at huge prices but guarantee an auto or relic or multiples
Topps/Bowman Inception
Topps Definitive
Topps Museum Collection
Topps Tribute
Topps Diamond Icons

Topps Transcendent - Absurdly priced mega set at end of year, guaranteed 1/1s and huge cards at a hilarious price
This is a seriously awesome post, thanks so much. Those Allen and Ginter cards look outstanding, I think I might buy a retail box and open it.
 

Fishercat

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This is a seriously awesome post, thanks so much. Those Allen and Ginter cards look outstanding, I think I might buy a retail box and open it.
Good luck and happy hunting!

2019 retail blaster boxes may be hard to find (I see them on the secondary market for 35-40, they were 20 at retail for the blasters for eight retail packs). I have to think 2020 will be out fairly soon though in mid-September.

A&G is an acquired taste: I love it for the goofiness and non-baseball stuff you can get (and the set is just the right size: all the major players and retro players), others may not. I know I bought some singles on Ebay last year of cards I really wanted. Not sure if it's really a money maker but a lot of it hits my preferences. I hope you enjoy it. If not, pivot to something else. :)
 

Fishercat

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Since when is Topps the only one with the MLB license? Wtf?
2009, currently extended through 2025. As a collector it's really unfortunate. I really like the Panini, Leaf, etc. designs more than most Topps items. Upper Deck is largely not in the baseball game but they're stuff still looks better in other sports.
 

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My understanding is only the highly graded cards command the crazy prices. Even minor defects like slightly misaligned framing can drop that down on a card that's otherwise perfect, and prices really drop precipitously for the non-perfect stuff. How many 10/10 graded Griffey rookie cards are really kicking around? Or any of them? Is the perfect stuff actually rare?
 

edoug

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Why did Bowman print only one? Plus it was a rookie card two years before he played a game in the Major Leagues?
 

Fishercat

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My understanding is only the highly graded cards command the crazy prices. Even minor defects like slightly misaligned framing can drop that down on a card that's otherwise perfect, and prices really drop precipitously for the non-perfect stuff. How many 10/10 graded Griffey rookie cards are really kicking around? Or any of them? Is the perfect stuff actually rare?
From what I've seen that varies by card. I think collectors are generally much more lenient on older cards and ultra rare/high demand cards for being imperfect. For instance, one of the biggest, non super limited cards right now is the Jasson Dominguez Topps Sapphire base card. Tons of them on eBay and tons of hype. Recent eBay sales (last ten days) generally put it as a 200-300 dollar card "raw" (ungraded). A PSA or BGS 10 (perfect) is applying a 2x+ multiplier on these sales. A 9.5 generally gives a small premium on the raw card. A 9.0 sold for less than every raw card I saw. However, that's for a card type that generally grades really well + hyped prospect. For instance, another card kind of like that is the Mike Trout 2011 Topps Update base card. These are giving big premiums for 9.5 (2x+) and 10 (3x) off of the 9.0, but the 9.0 is still consistently a bit above Raw. You go back to Griffey ('89 Upper Deck) and you have PSA 9s selling at 3x raw in many cases. A BGS 9.5 sold for over 1k when raw ones are less than a tenth of that. Once you get back to vintage cards I think a lot of people are just hoping for something resembling cards at that point to where even a 2 or 4 can be desirable.

Likewise, I think it becomes less important for cards that are otherwise really desirable on their own merits or are super limited. Like was alluded to here, the 4 million dollar Trout is a 9 grade. Would there be a multiplier on that if it were a 9.5? Not sure. Would it be severely diminished as an 8.5? Again unsure, When you look at Superfractors on eBay, a lot sellers don't even get them graded since there's only one of them anyway, it'd be more for protection than anything unless it's a premium player. They know that if there's a dedicated personal collector out there or someone is trying to make a rainbow for a type of card, it won't change a ton.
 
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Fishercat

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Why did Bowman print only one? Plus it was a rookie card two years before he played a game in the Major Leagues?
Mike Trout's 2009 Bowman Chrome autograph run was nearly 1000 autographs assuming he signed every variant as well in addition to base autographs which are un-numbered. That is a lot but they run a ton of parallels for these. This particular one is a 1/1 Superfactor, which command a premium given that there aren't others printed like it.You can go on eBay right now and drop five digits and get a 2009 Bowman Chrome Trout autograph numbered to 500 or 225 or the like. It's considered his first professional card, if not his rookie card officially (he had a 2011 rookie card technically). It's artificial scarcity but real results, it's kinda weird. Chrome is one of their premium products (at least then) so the variants matter a ton to a lot of folks in the hobby.
 

edoug

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Mike Trout's 2009 Bowman Chrome autograph run was nearly 1000 autographs assuming he signed every variant as well in addition to base autographs which are un-numbered. That is a lot but they run a ton of parallels for these. This particular one is a 1/1 Superfactor, which command a premium given that there aren't others printed like it.You can go on eBay right now and drop five digits and get a 2009 Bowman Chrome Trout autograph numbered to 500 or 225 or the like. It's considered his first professional card, if not his rookie card officially (he had a 2011 rookie card technically). It's artificial scarcity but real results, it's kinda weird. Chrome is one of their premium products (at least then) so the variants matter a ton to a lot of folks in the hobby.
Thanks, for clearing it up in a way I could understand.