Taking My Hacks

The Graded Card Market - Where it's Been and Where it Might Go

Joe Orlando

As we look ahead in 2010, I thought it would be a good idea to discuss current trends and how they have affected the graded card market. This past year has been a rough one for many people. We all seem to know at least someone who has lost their job in recent times and I am not sure when or how this will all end.

All things considered; the market has performed remarkably well. Great material continues to generate great prices. This can be seen in virtually all areas of the market, from sports to non-sports, from cards to memorabilia. The best of the best seems to always perform no matter how the general economy is doing.

As far as trends are concerned, over the past few years we have witnessed a strong surge in prewar E-cards and similar, slightly more obscure but scarce baseball issues. Cards that were once considered afterthoughts have broken the six figure barrier on several occasions. That surge started to calm a bit in 2009 but, as a result, there seems to be much greater awareness and appreciation of those issues than in the past.

Surprisingly, there seems to be buying opportunities when it comes to some classic baseball issues. The market for staple issues like the 1933 and 1934 Goudey sets and Play Ball releases of 1939-1941 have been fairly stale. Logic would tell you that this trend couldn't possibly last much longer as the these sets are built on legends like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio but the market can be unpredictable at times.

Commons from the 1950s-1970s have softened to some degree, with the exception of the tougher, low population examples. This might be the segment of the graded card market that has been hit the hardest, but this is one of the areas that will probably benefit most when the economy improves. The modern trading card market has, for the most part, been sliding since the early-2000s. This decline, while certainly not helped by the economy, has all sorts of issues to deal with.

Vintage football and basketball cards, at least when it pertains to the high-end, performed quite well in 2009. In fact, some unprecedented prices were paid for top notch examples last year. Cards in non-sports continued to gain in popularity in 2009. Generally speaking, it is a very fun and relatively affordable area of the market, which is especially appealing when you have less money in your pocket.

While the financial aspect of collecting should never be of the utmost importance, I also don't want to downplay it. Money is important to all of us. I think it is important to view your collection like a 401(k). This is a marathon, not a sprint. Sure, some hobbyists are obsessed with making a quick buck but, if the idea is to enjoy the experience of collecting over a long period of time, then it is senseless to worry about losses or gains in the short term.

What other things can people buy in this world that actually have a decent chance and a real track record of maintaining or even appreciating in value? It is extremely rare to find a place where you can invest your money that fits this description but that is why tangibles appeal to so many people. You cannot enjoy a share of stock in the same manner, or your ownership in mutual funds, but you can touch and feel this endeavor.

As they say, good things come to those who wait so keep the big picture in mind in 2010.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
Editor In Chief


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.