What Should I Grade?
Question: We all know the value of grading and sealing recognized cards from the major manufacturers but what is your thought on grading specialty cards of recognized stars that are not produced by major manufacturers? How does one even determine their collectible value if any?
SMR: That is a very good question. The first thing we need to determine is whether or not the card is licensed. Unfortunately, in the mid-to-late 1980's, an epidemic of sorts occurred in the hobby. Many unlicensed sportscards were being manufactured and flooding the floors at shows. As a youngster, I too fell victim to these cards. Many of them were actually better looking than the cards put out by the major manufacturers; that was part of their appeal. Soon thereafter, these cards were exposed as unlicensed issues and their value plummeted. If you are referring to cards of this nature, not only do they have little to no value; they are also cards that cannot be graded at this point in time by PSA. Second, even if the cards are licensed, we need to determine if they are valuable enough to grade. Most obscure issues like these are not highly valuable like modern cards found in food products, etc. On the other hand, some cards can be highly valuable, especially vintage issues. Wilson Franks, Dan Dee and Red Heart baseball issues are examples of very popular cards not produced by mainstream manufacturers. The key is to ask around at shows, card shops and the Internet. Again, with most modern issues, the values are fairly low but, occasionally, you might find a valuable prospect for grading. First, let's hope they're licensed.
Fleer versus Topps versus Upper Deck... ...
Question: I am just getting involved with card trading and one question has continued to escape my understanding. I know that cards that are graded higher (a PSA 10) are worth more than let's say a PSA 8. What I don't understand is why a card is more valuable than another card if they were both made in the same year and feature the same player. The only difference is the card manufacturer. Why is there a difference?
SMR: Card valuation is a product of many different factors, not just player, year and grade. Here's a brief list of factors to consider: Popularity of the issue, rarity of the issue, condition sensitivity of the issue and visual appeal of the issue. All of the factors you mentioned are important but there's much more to it. For example, a Ted Williams rookie card (1939 Play Ball) is great but his 1941 Play Ball card is actually worth more in NM-MT because it looks nice (colorful) and it's considered a tougher card overall.
Was Mickey a Tiger?
Question: My son has a 1968 or 1969 Detroit Tigers baseball. Some of the signatures are Al Kaline, Willie Horton and Mickey Mantle. It looks like the whole team signed the ball and we know that his grandfather was at the World Series in 1968. How can we determine a time frame or value for this piece? Also, we have the ball in a plastic case, is this the best way to preserve it?
SMR: The Yanks did not play the Tigers in 1968 or 1969 so I am trying to figure out why Mantle would be there (maybe part of the pre-game ceremonies, etc.). If it is a 1968 Tigers team ball, it might be worth a significant amount of money (maybe $750-$1,500 depending on condition of the ball and signatures, etc.). The best way to find out is to do more research within your family and to look up the team roster for those years. Maybe, you can match the signatures (assuming they are legible) to the roster. The more research, the better. As far as preservation goes, a plastic case is a good start but make sure it is UV coated and you must keep the ball away from direct light in a cool place. Direct sunlight will fade the signatures even if the ball is placed in plastic. The UV coating will help prevent fading but keeping it stored is the key. You can display it, just make sure the lighting isn't too strong.
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