By Kevin Lee aka gosens151911

It has become one of the most discussed and probably hated issues discussed by many members of the sports card community: the price guide. However, is all the criticism received by price guides really justified? In my opinion, I do not believe so. Price guides are essential to the hobby, especially to newcomers who usually will have no clue to what cards are valuable or worthless.

The biggest issue I have is how the price guide itself is used. Most price guides usually provide a range, with a LO column, representing the lowest price one could expect to find with extensive shopping and a HI column which represents the full retail selling price. However, for some odd reason, 99% of collectors just quote book value from the high column only. They then go on to rant about how much the book value is off from actual selling prices. To compensate, sellers will then sell their cards usually around 30-50% of the HI book value. What they don’t realise most of the time though, is that they are actually still following the price guide, and are usually selling it at the LO book value. Therefore, it appears that the LO book value is much more accurate for a selling price, whereas the HI book value is more often used for trading. From what I see, there is no justification for criticising price guides.

Another major issue in the hobby is eBay. Many people use the recent prices of auctions to determine a card’s actual value. Is this accurate though? I don’t believe it is. There are way too many factors to consider eBay a reliable source for pricing. A major factor is that not every collector owns an eBay account. There are probably many collectors who would be willing to pay more for a card that sold cheap on the auction site (i.e. many printing plates sell for under $10 on eBay, but I guarantee they could have sold for considerably more if one would take the time to find a buyer). Another factor is shipping, some sellers only ship domestic, limiting the amount of prospective buyers even more, likely lowering the price the card is bought at. There is also the issue with the extremely serious player collectors who pay a large premium on cards they are missing (i.e. a Rob Brind’Amour Be A Player Gold Parallel #/15 selling for $55). Then there’s the issue of shill bidding; those who bid on their own cards in order to increase the selling price. There are likely many more factors, which contribute to eBay not being a very reliable source, leading back to price guides being more reliable.

Nevertheless, I will admit price guides aren’t perfect. Some cards can end up selling above HI book value, especially the shorter print runs. This is why most price guides will not release book values for extremely low print runs, as sale prices for these can vary depending on when/where the card is bought. However, price guides do make a point of stating that certain cards may have a pricing premium if “cards of players who became hot since this issue went to press, regional stars or fan favorites in high demand locally, and memorabilia cards with unusually dramatic swatches or patches”. Overall though, the majority of book values in price guides appear to be quite accurate and I see no reason to believe otherwise yet.