The Death of Price Guides
By Linda Mankefors
Are the days of Card pricing obsolete? I find myself complaining a lot about Beckett’s ways of pricing these days. Not that they were any better 5 years ago, at least now newly released cards are somewhat accurately priced. However, there is a big, no rather a huge problem with modern cards. Many collectors don’t even bother buying the price guides anymore.
The two biggest problems are:
1) Print run
Many cards are limited to a mere 25 copies or less. So many cards actually, that a player’s card numbered to 10 might be worth less than a hamburger, I recently saw an Iginla game used jersey card /10 sell for $11. Yet Iginla is a star player with quite loyal fans.
So what is the problem with the print run? Not only that they are too scarce to price, which too many collectors try to take advantage of and automatically assume they are worth tons more then their “limited to 25″ brothers. The bigger issue comes when a card that is one year or older still has the same book pricing. After a product is released, you see an enormous activity on eBay, thousands of cards being sold. If a card of a certain player is limited to 50 or 25, it’s easy to get hold of it in the weeks following the release. But as the months are passing, most of these few copies have found their ways and are locked in personal collections. Thus, they rarely turn up again for sale. The consequence being that price guides have no way of actually updating their pricing. When a card finally is for sale again, the value has likely drop considerably, or in rare cases the opposite – increased a lot.
So here we are with cards in our collections whose book value is completely off the wall. It’s a bizarre situation. We can’t trust the price guides, nor can we always check on eBay for recently sold copies. We are simply lost without real fair references.
2) The patch cards
There is a never ending hunger out there for fantastic patch cards. The better, the merrier when it comes to their appearance. Even a card of a slacker like Doug Weight, Yashin or Vokoun can gain quite the sum if the patch is truly unique. Closing in on a more normal average multi patch and you are closer to the book value. Anything less than a good patch though, and the value dumps to bottomless prices. For instance, I’ve been looking lately at the ever popular sub-brand 08 The Cup Limited Logos. Steve Shutt is a semi star vintage player; even if he isn’t one of the old timers people are standing in line for. The Logos card in question was 2 colors, white, with about 20% red in one corner. Collectors have become so picky that this was apparently not good enough, not even for the most average Joe. The final price? Below $4 and that’s for a multicolor card in one of the most popular insert sets. An average price on 08 the Cup Shutt Limited Logos is between $15 and $25, whereas the most expensive one has sold for $41.
How is the situation with the hottest names the game has to offer? How are you to act as a trader if you have an Oveckin 08 the Cup Limited Logos card? Normal selling prices for regular good patches vary between $150 and $300, whereas the most expensive ones climb beyond $600. If a single color patch would turn up (I’ve failed to see one so far), I bet it would sell for around $50 to $70. So a pattern emerges, no matter the player name, it seems the highest priced patch cards sell for 10 times the amount the lowest priced patch card sell for. After investigating further, I see a similar pattern in most brands and most patch cards, but the differences can be even more absurd then what I have mentioned above.
Don’t misunderstand me, I am not blaming the price guides, there is no way they can deal with this really. The market has developed in this way on its own making it impossible to get a fair and just book pricing. Someone can own a patch card that books at $200, yet only have a real value of $20, or a real value of $600. How do you act as a trader if you want to acquire the card, especially if for the moment you have no sales to compare with?
It’s a difficult situation, in which the price guides are becoming obsolete. The only thing for which price guides still come to somewhat use are rookie cards. Even then, the situation is escalating there too as the hottest rookie cards often includes game used jersey or patch pieces. For cataloging reasons, especially of vintage cards, there is a necessity of at least an annual price guide, but I do wonder if we soon won’t see the death of the price guide as we know it.
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