By Kevin Lee

Here’s my top ten tips on what I wish I knew when I first started collecting cards.

10: Redemption Cards are brutal
- Card companies insert redemption cards into packs for rookies who have yet to play, or for players who have yet to autograph their cards. You have to go online, register with the site and then usually type in a redemption code to have your card mailed to you when it’s produced. Sometimes the redemptions can take months to arrive, or are never even produced. It’s a pain pulling one and not knowing if you’re going to get the actual card.

9: You can never have enough top loaders and penny sleeves
- When you bust packs and make trades you’ll discover that your cards need to be protected. You can never have enough supplies. Place your cards into a penny sleeve and then into a top loader. You’ll see how quickly you’ll run out of supplies.

8: Early 90’s cards are worthless
- The early 90’s were not a good period to be collecting cards. Card companies overproduced them, which in turn lead to the majority of cards having a low value. So if you have any of the cards from when you were younger, go ahead and use them as paperweights.

7: Trading is a great way to obtain new cards
- Instead of buying new cards to add to your personal collection, trade the cards from your packs breaks. This can be done through online web sites such as sportscardforum.com, or through sports card shows/shops with dealers. It’s a great way to improve your collection while at the same time getting full value out of the cards you pulled.

6: In person (IP) and Through the Mail (TTM) autos are worthless on the open market
- That giant collection of personally autographed cards you have are worth nothing to most collectors. Unfortunately, without any authentication, there isn’t that large of a market out there due to the large amount of fake autographs.

5: Base Cards are pretty worthless
- Starting out some people won’t realize that base cards differ from inserts. Base cards are the main set of cards in a brand featuring players from every team. You always get them in a pack, and except for the big stars, they do not have that large a value in the collecting world.

4: Some jersey and auto cards aren’t as rare as I thought
- When you first saw a jersey or autographed card, you must have thought they were quite rare and worth a fair sum of money, at least around $30? Those days no longer exist. Card companies now insert jersey and auto cards into mid end products at a fairly high rate (e.g. 1:24 UD Game Jersey for Upper Deck Hockey). Additionally, they have created higher end sets guaranteeing a jersey or auto card in each pack. The end result is the lower end players jersey/auto cards being overproduced and finding their way into card dealers’ dollar bins.

3: A price guide is essential to collecting cards
- Want to make a trade? Make sure you have a price guide on hand such as Tuff Stuff. They are essential to know which cards on the market are the most popular and rare. Before you trade a card that you may think is worthless, check a price guide; you might be surprised.

2: A price guide isn’t everything to everyone
- Although price guides are extremely helpful, not everyone is fond of them. Most price guides do not truly reflect the market, and most cards sell for only ½ of the high book value (BV). Many people use eBay as a guide to how much a card should sell for. Nevertheless, the price guide is most likely the most useful tool when making a trade.

1: Packs from Wal-Mart and Targets are different than those from the local card shop
- Who knew! The packs you buy from your local chain stores are different than your local hobby shop. Chain stores carry what are known as retail packs, while hobby/card shops usually carry what are known as hobby packs. The difference is retail packs are cheaper, but usually do not contain the big hits that hobby packs do. Additionally, all hobby packs have better odds for pulling a hit compared to their retail pack counterpart.