I will always be a proponent of high quality sports collectibles and cards. They are the type of items that remain in high demand, they are truly scarce in comparison to the average or lower grade material and they are seemingly invincible when the general economy wanes.

This has been proven over time as dozens of high quality sports collectibles have sold for record prices during the past year at auction and on the retail market. During this time, the overall market has been described as "soft" and most would agree with that statement.

What about the low-to-mid-grade material, particularly vintage sportscards?

While I will continue to praise high-end material, collectors should not ignore the lower grade items. Why? While the lower grade cards may never bring home a PSA Set Registry Award, break price records when they sell or outshine the high-end PSA cards, they just might offer something that the high-dollar items cannot -- lower risk.

Just think about it for a second. If you buy a vintage PSA EX 5 card today, what possible downside could there be 10-20 years from now? Yes, of course there is always the chance for downside with any sports collectible because, in the end, it's worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it.

On the other hand, the potential downside is so minimal that it is not even worth worrying about. How far could a 1957 Topps Ted Williams in a PSA VG-EX 4 plummet -- 10%? What about a 1955 Topps Sandy Koufax in the same grade? I think you catch my drift. While you may never make tons of profit (although, if you buy anything right, you can), you will almost certainly not expose yourself to major loss.

When some of my friends ask about collecting and, more directly, ask why some people pay so much money for sports collectibles or cards, I always respond the same way. With almost anything else, a car, a television set, a stereo, a watch, etc., the item severely drops in value the moment the item leaves the store. Gradually, the item will continue to lose value with each passing day.

Not so with sports collectibles and cards.

Think of it this way. How many items can you purchase in the retail market today where you can enjoy the item and handle it for decades and the item retains the vast majority of its value and sometimes it actually increases in value? Not many, but sportscards and memorabilia fit that description. It may not always be the case but, in most cases, vintage sports items tend to at least retain most of their value over time.

What about the risk factor?

That's where the PSA 6 and lower market comes into play. The higher end sportscards, as we have seen over the past year or so, can fluctuate in price dramatically based on population numbers and competition. The lower and mid-grade market is generally very steady in terms of pricing. In some cases, a particular card may be incredibly rare in any grade so lower grade material may fluctuate, however, the market is more stable because the pricing isn't tied so closely to rarity, etc. We know that there are 1955 Topps Koufax rookies available in PSA EX 5 condition so the demand, while solid, is stable.

Sometimes, I think we forget about the beauty of collecting these types of cards. Personally, I always wanted high-grade cards in my collection but I can not only understand the love for lower grade material, I can honestly say that it may be one of the more overlooked areas of card collecting due to its affordability and low risk nature.


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.