The Art & Science of Appraising Sports Cards
PSA to eBay, learn the tools of the trading card valuation game
Sports card enthusiasts don’t go through the effort of collecting solely in the hopes of an eventual payday: They are often driven by a genuine love of sports history, the cards, and the hunt.
That said, valuation is still a vital part of the process. Without a firm grasp of what their collection is worth, enthusiasts won’t know if they should take out an insurance policy or sell off some of their cards.From getting your card graded to picking a sports cards price guide, this is your ultimate walkthrough for the trading card valuation process.
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How Do I Find What My Sports Cards Are Worth?
Determining the value of your sports cards usually involves two steps: grading and valuation.
- Grading: Grading is when a team of experts thoroughly examines a card to evaluate its quality, providing an essential point of reference for determining a card’s worth. After you submit your card to be graded — usually by mail — graders will assign it a score based on how centered its print is, how crisp the corners and edges are, and how the surface looks. Based on the results of those categories, they’ll then give the card an overall score from 1 (poor) to 10 (pristine) and seal it in a plastic case known as a slab with the grade and other reference information.
- Valuation: Once you’ve gotten your card graded, you can use an online pricing guide to determine its value. Pricing guides use transaction data from eBay and/or auction houses to estimate the current market rate for cards by grade — which is why getting your card graded is always the first step. While price guides will be all you’ll need most of the time, there are occasions where formal appraisal is warranted, such as when your card is potentially valuable enough to merit its own insurance policy.
What Sports Cards Price Guide Should I Use?
Fortunately for enthusiasts, there are many high-quality sport card price guides out there to help them understand the value of their collectibles. To help you save time, we’ve included only the very best, most reliable sports card value guides: PSA Price Guide, Beckett OPG, and eBay Price Guide.
PSA Price Guide
PSA’s online sports card price guide is the first stop for many sports card collectors for several reasons.
- Reputation: The company is widely considered to be the gold standard when it comes to card authentication and grading.
- Cost: Unlike Beckett’s price guide, this massive database of nearly a half-million prices is entirely free.
- Premium services: The company also offers formal sports cards appraisal services for enthusiasts that want to get an official analysis and documentation to back their collectible's value.
But there are some caveats, with perhaps the most important one being that the guide only contains pricing information on PSA graded cards. The PSA name has such cachet that even identical cards with the same grade could be valued differently if one was graded by PSA and the other was evaluated by a different service.
The number two player in the trading card industry, Beckett is a well-known and well-respected organization that’s built a devoted customer base with its uniquely granular grades and aesthetically pleasing card slabs. Like its rival PSA, Beckett also offers a pricing guide that enthusiasts look to as a reliable source of connectible valuation data.
Huge dataset: Beckett Online Pricing Guide (OPG) covers nine million cards, over 300,000 sets, and 150,000 players — representing almost $200M in total value.
- First pricing data: Beckett claims that OPG is the first to get pricing information on all new cards.
- Paperback alternative: If you’d like a more traditional data source, Beckett also offers a physical monthly pricing guide that’s the number one product in its category on eBay.
The main drawback of Beckett’s pricing guide offerings is cost. Unlike eBay or PSA, you will have to cough up a few bucks to access the information. It costs around $15 a month to use the online guide and $5 or more to pick up the magazine version.
eBay Price Guide Beta
eBay has always been an excellent source of pricing information, and its data often fuels the estimations provided by other pricing guides. But the recent explosion in the popularity of the trading card industry pushed the ecommerce giant to launch its own sports card price guide app: eBay Price Guide. While currently in beta, this tool nonetheless has a lot to offer:
- Accuracy: Because eBay’s platform is a market hub for collectors, enthusiasts can be confident that the app’s pricing data represent an accurate estimate of a card’s current worth.
- Comprehensiveness: Unlike pricing guides like PSA’s, eBay’s pricing information isn’t limited to one certification company, as cards graded by every provider are regularly bought and sold on the platform.
- Cost: Like the PSA’s guide, eBay’s pricing tool is free. While all these benefits are great, it’s worth mentioning that the eBay Price Guide is not without its downsides. The most notable is that the tool seems prone to breakdowns and other performance problems. These issues are not surprising: It’s in beta, after all.
Where Can I Find Sports Cards Appraisal Near Me?
If the online guides aren’t your cup of tea, you can always use in-person methods of getting your collectibles assessed. Two of the most reliable methods are consulting experts at local stores and going to trade shows.
- Area shops: Trading card shops will often offer appraisal services themselves or be able to connect you with another business that can.
- Trade shows: The big authentication and grading brands will typically have some of their experts at trade shows for in-person appraisal