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  1. #1

    The Positives and Negatives of Beckett Price Guides

    There are many positives and negatives to Beckett Price Guides. Whether we are discussing Beckett Baseball Card Monthly, Football Card Monthly, Basketball Card Monthly or the like, there are positive and negatives aspects to the monthly price guides Beckett Publications puts out.

    Dr. James Beckett established the Beckett Monthly Price Guides in order to help collectors to determine a range of prices that their sports cards would be selling for. The places of sale that Beckett would gather information from would include card shops, card shows, well-known dealers (and some not so well-known) and of course, the collector selling his own cards. When Beckett founded his monthly price guides, he meant well. Today, the price guides are still being used and are the standard of the industry. While there are competitors (Tuff Stuff, Sports Market Report, etc.) they have little market share compared to that of Beckett's. However, today with the rapid exchange of information on the Internet and such online auction sites as eBay, Yahoo! Auctions and Bidville, positive and negatives are being clearly outlined by these now everyday occurances. So what are the positive and negatives of Beckett Price Guides? They are discussed below:

    Positives: Background
    When Beckett Price Guides were first put out and made readily available for collectors and dealers, the need for a price guide was great, and therefore Beckett aimed to fill these voids with his price guides. At first, the positives far outweighed the negatives but now we see that is rapidly changing. The advent of the computer era and other mediums for exchanging information forced card companies to either produce something collectors actually wanted, or to be forced to go bankrupt. Now the players are clearly outlined: Upper Deck, Topps, Fleer, Donruss/Playoff and in some cases (not all) Pacific Trading Cards. Long ago there were many other card companies but the information age forced some of these minimal, wanna-be "players" to close their doors. With the majors clearly outlined in the industry, Beckett found a place for his price guide in the hearts of millions of collectors around the world.

    Positive #1: A Price Guide!
    The first positive to Beckett Price Guides is that of what its name says: a price guide! Without a price guide and average selling prices for certain cards, collectors and dealers would be forced to guess at certain cards prices (remember, this is before the game used and autograph card) and it was not uncommon for some uneducated dealer to be selling a Tony Gwynn RC for $5. Believe me, I've seen it myself. Therefore Dr. James Beckett who has a Ph.D. in mathematics filled the void with a monthly price guide that would be filled with prices for almost every card imaginable. It made the hobby a better place (or so it seems) and it made Dr. Beckett a rich man.

    Positive #2: Articles & Information

    Before Beckett Price Guides were introduced to the hobby, many collectors and dealers were left clueless as to questions on certain cards, such as: "What is the story behind Billy Ripken's Fleer "F*ck Face" card?" Questions like these came up all around the hobby and without a source of information reporting regularly on these issues, many were left without an accurate understanding on error cards, and many other issues. The articles and information currently contained within Beckett's magazines (non-pricing related) they have helped the hobby greatly.

    Positive #3: Economically Important

    The Price Guides that Beckett put out back in the early 1990s were tremendous assets to the hobby and helped clueless collectors and dealers establish high and low prices for what they could expect to buy or sell cards for. If they were selling a card for $1 and it was worth $20, looking back, they may have been shafted. Similarly, if someone was buying a card for $200 and it was worth $2, that person would have been scammed. But they were not actually scammed. The reason was because people had no idea as to what prices could be established for certain cards. Granted, people in the hobby will know who is hot and who is not, but that is about all they had. Once Beckett put out monthly price guides, it was economically important because cards began selling for more and "reverted to the mean", simply meaning that cards once cheap or ones expensive that were not supposed to be, were more accurately priced because of Beckett's price guides.

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    Those are the main positives of Beckett Price Guides. Now we must take a look at the negatives.

    Negatives: A Background
    With the advent of eBay and other online auction sites and retail sites where cards were sold, Beckett has gone into a "dark phase". The once pristine price guide is now gaining some heat for a few reasons that are discussed below.

    Negative #1: Prices are NEVER Accurate
    Because Beckett price guides are monthly, the prices cannot be accurate all of the time. However, they can be almost accurate if it were for one thing: Beckett understood the real selling prices of cards. For example, because of eBay and the like, a card that Beckett has booked at $25 can be bought or sold for a mere $3. Beckett continues to price these cards in such ranges, even if they know that the true selling price may be 70%-80% lower than what they have it booked at. Beckett would never lower prices to what they actually selling for on mediums such as eBay. The reason? Nobody would buy the magazines anymore. If most cards regularly sold for 70%-80% off from what they were pricing them at, everybody would know this (because of the Internet, etc.) and they wouldn't have a need for a price guide like Beckett. Of course, everyone can distinguish what other cards may sell for (Kobe, Jordan auto/jerseys) but because the print runs are so low on these cards, we automatically know they can be sold for $1,000+.

    Negative #2: eBay and Other Mediums
    eBay and other online auction sites and the Internet as a whole hurt Beckett and therefore cause it to lessen the value to collectors. eBay is Beckett's worst nightmare (though they never admit it) and eBay acts as it's own price guide, establishing prices based on the semi-accurate buying and selling prices of thousands of cards as set by dealers and collectors who sell on the site.

    Negative #3: Old Information!
    Even though there are more negatives, I will only report on three. This negative deals with the information (prices, mainly) that Beckett has in its price guides. It's almost always old information when you get it. There is a price guide a month, and if a player turns hot or does terribly in that relatively short span, a card that was once worth $20 might now only be worth $10 because of poor performance. Therefore such information is old when you get it. However, Beckett has taken dramtic steps to put their price guides online and accessible to all collectors for free (though you're only able to look up one card at a time if you register on their site for free.)

    That does it for my report on Beckett's price guides. Just thought I'd write up a little something in my boredom ;)
    Tim

  2. #2

  3. #3
    Nice article!

    First, a price guide can never be totally accurate on a daily basis, but cards are not stocks....the prices do not need to be changed daily.

    If Sammy Sosa goes 0-4, that doesn't mean his career is down the drain.

    On the other hand, if a CEO / CFO is caught doing an Enron on its balance sheet, then that is the end of the company, right that day of the news, much like when WCOM tanked over 75% upon news of Bernie Ebbers cheating the balance sheet.

    And, if a ball player went 4-4, that doesn't mean you go out and pay 200% premium for that one day's performance. What if the player went 0-4 the next day?

    So, Beckett does a good job, price guide-wise. Even on the Internet, you are not going to see a card drop in value b/c a player went 0-4 one day.

    It takes a pattern (such as Pat Burrell not doing anything this year) of a few weeks to a few months before the prices justifiably needs to be changed.

    SECONDLY: re -- Old Information ----- well, all newspapers have old information. B/c the news that gets reported tomorrow, we can all find out tonight on the Internet.
    Again, Beckett does a fine job with its articles, which are pretty much relevant to the current season

  4. #4
    I can't seem to figure out when Beckett says they price things at what they're going for on the market yet cards sell on eBay for like 1/2 their book value most of the time. Looks like Beckett doesn't do their research like they claim they do.

  5. #5
    Very nice article, my view on beckett is that is exactly what it says a guide and it will never be 100%, but it will help a person living in California price a brian urlacher card as they will sell for a premium in chicago and not CA.

    But again great narrative

    gio

  6. #6
    Nice article, man! I agree that in most cases, Beckett prices are a fantasy, but it is a reliable "guide" to be used in approximating your card's value...

  7. #7
    Thanks pod, Ryan and bootydaddy. I was just bored and decided to write something up. Old information is a problem with most magazines, but of course they can always put their issues out online which many do. I agree pod that a temporary downturn in performance won't change prices. Iggy, I also agree with you. There's no way they would lower card prices to actual prices, because people would likely use eBay to gauge or they would simply know that a game used or autograph card sells at a 70%-80% discount off of BV!

    Glad you liked it!

    Tim

  8. #8

    Re: The Positives and Negatives of Beckett Price Guides

    Originally posted by stkmtimo

    Negative #1: Prices are NEVER Accurate
    Because Beckett price guides are monthly, the prices cannot be accurate all of the time. However, they can be almost accurate if it were for one thing: Beckett understood the real selling prices of cards. For example, because of eBay and the like, a card that Beckett has booked at $25 can be bought or sold for a mere $3. Beckett continues to price these cards in such ranges, even if they know that the true selling price may be 70%-80% lower than what they have it booked at. Beckett would never lower prices to what they actually selling for on mediums such as eBay. The reason? Nobody would buy the magazines anymore. If most cards regularly sold for 70%-80% off from what they were pricing them at, everybody would know this (because of the Internet, etc.) and they wouldn't have a need for a price guide like Beckett. Of course, everyone can distinguish what other cards may sell for (Kobe, Jordan auto/jerseys) but because the print runs are so low on these cards, we automatically know they can be sold for $1,000+.
    Um....

    Beckett and these other prices guide are just that. "Guides" Just because they say $100 for a card DOES NOT mean you will get $100.

    eBay is really a buyers market so you can't go by a value of a card that sells off of it.

    I've sold stuff on eBay for up to 3 and 4 times book value on some cards so its not just that they overprice cards its just that they are dealing with a different atmosphere.

    If you walk into a cardshop or cardshow or even people selling/trading on here NOBODY is going to get rid of an autograph card that is worth $100 for $10 but on eBay people do.

    Tip Alert: Cards that come out before they are priced in Beckett can sell for 3 to 5 times what they will be priced in Beckett. If you ever pull an expensive card out of a new product and Beckett does not list it yet PUT IT UP ON EBAY AS FAST AS YOU CAN.
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  9. #9
    See, I wouldn't even have to write that if eBay wasn't in existence. It would be totally different if the Internet was never made available to the public.

    Tim

  10. #10

    Am I the only Beckett Supporter?

    I agree that you have made some valid points. The advent of the internet has taken the supply/demand thing to a whole new level. Once the internet got going and people started using the tool to trade/sell, the supply of cards around the world became available. Now, the Minnesota dealers are competing with people in Texas and Florida etc to sell those Randy Moss cards they have. They may be worthless to the people in other states, but valuable to those in Minnesota. So, basically I believe that the internet has changed the supply of cards. The same number of cards are out there that there were years ago, but the internet has made the distributon to the people that want the cards much easier.

    Another form of inaccuracy (in a way) is some of the inserts that are put in card sets. Inserts that are ceeded 1 per 8 packs or so have some high book values, but I generally disagree with those. Sure, the supply is low, but unless you are a set builder, the demand is also pretty low.

    This is what I think people do not understand though and are not taking into account. When you bid on a card on ebay or trade it online, there is always the possibility that the person will take your money or card and dart, leaving you with nothing.

    Also, when bidding $3.00 on a $20 card, that happens as well. Lots of $20 cards sell for a few bucks. But after you pay the bid price for the card, you also have to pay the shipping charge, so you could be looking at another $2 or $3 bucs for shipping, so that $3 card turned into a $6 card.

    Also, unless you are bidding on a graded card, you never know what condition it is going to be unless you specifically ask. Yo could be duped that way, in fact I just was. I bid on a card ($60 book) won the auction for $20 and was happy, but when the card came, it had a large scratch on the front surface that I could not see on the scan on ebay. So there is always the possibility that the condition will not be good. So there is a good deal of risk involved on online purchases.

    I also think the prices beckett puts on cards are very regional. I bet I could get a sweet Culpepper in New York for 25% of the book price, but would pay 75-100% of book value here on the same card, so I really believe the prices to be regional.

    So, I have stated above many reasons why the internet has hurt prices. I agree that sometimes Beckett is way off, but when you look at all of the factors, it all comes down to supply and demand and a new factor, risk and shipping.

    This is my 2 cents.

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