1952 Topps Mickey Mantle PSA NM-MT 8.
1952 Topps Mickey Mantle PSA NM-MT 8.

As the year winds down, we have certainly seen a change in the PSA graded sportscard market from a year ago. There are some cards that are still breaking records and climbing the charts while others have hit a standstill or softened in the market. Here’s a quick look at some areas of the market and how things differ from one year ago.

Big Ticket Items

Cards valued at $10,000 or more have taken a hit in some cases. One year ago, this was one of the hottest areas of the card market but, today, collectors are redirecting their funds into smaller, less risky purchases. At the same time, if the card is extremely rare or desirable, it still brings outstanding money. For instance, the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle PSA Gem Mint 10 ($275,000), the 1951 Bowman Willie Mays PSA Mint 9 ($109,639), and the 1915 Sporting News M101-5 Babe Ruth PSA NM-MT 8 ($60,439) all sold for records in a poor economy, proving that the sentimental value associated with high-end sports collectibles can remain unaffected by a poor stock market. In fact, a 1933 Goudey Sport King Babe Ruth PSA Mint 9 just sold privately for $115,000. Overall, though, the market for big-ticket items has softened from a year ago. Keep in mind that, when a market is slightly down, it’s probably the best time to buy if you are lucky enough to have some disposable income. There are some nice deals to be had out there.

Set Collecting

This area of the market continues to thrive and grow. I have never seen so much interest in grading commons as I do today; the premiums for high-grade common cards are tremendous right now. Remember that most collectors would at least attempt to preserve the star cards, but commons were discarded and rarely protected. With this in mind, common prices have surged consistently over the last 12 months.

Modern Cards

Well, as most of you know, this area of the market has been hurt the most over the past year. Even Barry Bonds rookie cards took a hit after he broke Big Mac’s record with 73 homers in 2001. In reality, I don’t view the modern market as a crashing market. In my opinion, it is simply correcting itself and it was something many collectors saw coming for a long time. I think the key with the modern market is perspective. While a Michael Jordan rookie card may never reach $35,000-$40,000 again (although you never know), it will always sell for a major premium in a PSA graded holder because the card has been inspected by a respected, third party leader and the seal of approval provides comfort to potential buyers. The actual sealing of the card prevents tampering and makes Internet transactions very efficient. The modern market has taken an obvious hit, but it should come around as the stock market revives and the baseball season swings back in the spring.

Low to Mid Grade Vintage Keys

Most dealers have told me that this might be one the hottest areas in the market and no one seems to realize it. While it’s true that the high-grade material is where the major premiums usually fall, the lower grade material of key players is very liquid. Even if a 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth would only grade a PSA VG 3, most buyers still want to make sure the card is authentic and certified by PSA. Internet sales have been very strong in this area according to dealers.

As we journey into 2002, I am sure all collectors will be keeping a close eye on the sportscard market and what trends evolve. What will we be seeing next year at this time? No one knows for sure but, as history has shown all of us, card collecting will rage on through good times and the bad. It’s just part of our culture and there’s no stopping it.

1956 Topps Mantle PSA GEM MT 10.
1956 Topps Mantle PSA GEM MT 10.
1986 Fleer Michael Jordan PSA NM-MT 8.
1986 Fleer Michael Jordan PSA NM-MT 8.

Joe Orlando has been an advanced collector of sportscards and memorabilia for over 25 years. Orlando attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California where he studied communications and was the starting catcher for the baseball team. After a brief stint in the minor leagues, Orlando obtained a Juris Doctor from Whittier Law School in Southern California in the spring of 1999. During the last fourteen years, Orlando has authored several collecting guides and dozens of articles for Collectors Universe, Inc. Orlando has also authored two books for Collectors Universe. Orlando's first book, The Top 200 Sportscards in the Hobby, was released in the summer of 2002. His second book, Collecting Sports Legends, was released in the summer of 2008. Orlando has appeared on several radio and television programs as a hobby expert including ESPN's award-winning program Outside the Lines and HBO's Real Sports, as the featured guest. Currently, Orlando is the President of PSA and PSA/DNA, the largest trading card and sports memorabilia authentication services in the hobby. He is also Editor of the company's nationally distributed Sports Market Report, which under Orlando's direction has developed into a leading resource in the market. Orlando also contributed the foreword and last chapter to The T206 Collection: The Players and Their Stories, a 2010 release, and to The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players, a 2013 release.