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One Discarded Shoebox Full of Cards: $6,500

by Paul Angilly
June 21, 2005

It's an old hobby story that has become a cliché: the shoebox full of vintage baseball cards that mom threw into the trash. Now that loss, common among collectors who grew up in the 1950s and '60s, has a price tag attached to it.

According to a recent study by Beckett Media, publisher of the Beckett monthly sports collectibles magazines and price guides, the value of the baseball cards found in a typical shoebox in the late '50s would equal thousands of dollars today.

"If you take a typical kid who lived in middle-America back in 1957 as an example, we figured he'd have kept roughly 100 cards in a shoebox," says Beckett Price Guide analyst Rich Klein, in a news release from the company. "That's a fair assumption given the size of a youth shoebox and the dimensions of the cards from that era.

"Taking into account how Topps seeded cards in packs during this time, the print runs of the cards, including double-printed and short-printed versions, and the probabilities of pulling 'stars' from packs, we estimated that the average shoebox in the summer of 1957 had an 80/20 mix of common cards and stars, which would have included names like Mantle, Mays or Aaron. With those parameters in mind, that collection would have fetched about $8.65 back then. Today, in good condition, it would go for about $6,500 - a 74,900-percent increase."

According to Beth Grimsley, senior manager of web commerce for, more and more aging boomers are going online to try to reclaim some of that lost treasure.

"Our research has shown that an increasing number of our customers are between the ages of 40-55 and looking to re-connect with the items they loved when they were kids," Grimsley said. "Just like vintage toys have become hot at many online auction sites, we've seen adults who really aren't collectors but want to buy an item or two that they cherished as kids and have never really forgotten."

Following are some other tidbits provided by Beckett Media:

PUJOLS IS RED HOT: Beckett Baseball's list of the top sales of graded cards over the last year show that Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols is as hot off the field as on, with his 2001 Bowman Chrome rookie card earning four of the top five spots.

At No. 1 was a 1986 Topps Traded Tiffany Barry Bonds rookie card, graded BGS 10, which sold for $25,100 in March. It is the only copy out of 688 submitted to receive a BGS 10 grade.

At No. 2 was a 2001 Bowman Chrome Pujols graded BGS 9.5, which sold for $15,500 in January; and at No. 3 was a 2001 Bowman Chrome Pujols graded PSA 10, which sold for $12,600 in January. The same buyer purchased both cards.

At Nos. 4 and 5 were two other 2001 Bowman Chrome Pujols rookie cards graded BGS 9.5, with one selling for $12,100 in May and the other selling for $11,000 earlier this month.

BRADY ROOKIE AT $800: New England Patriots QB Tom Brady's top Rookie Card - 2000 Upper Deck SP Authentic - has moved up or down in price 16 times since it was first listed in the January 2001 issue of Beckett Football. At $800, it is one of the most valuable modern era base cards in existence. It doesn't feature an autograph or a jersey swatch, but it's part of one of the most popular products for rookie cards in the hobby.

A look pack at the card's pricing: January 2001 - $30; December 2001 - $60; January 2002 - $125; February 2002 - $135; March 2002 - $175; September 2002 - $150; November 2002 - $175; December 2002 - $150; February 2004 - $200; March 2004 - $300; April 2004 - $350; June 2004 - $400; July 2004 - $425; November 2004 - $450; March 2005 - $750; and April 2005 - $800.

CROSBY AUTOGRAPHS TOP $500: Although junior sensation Sidney Crosby has never scored an NHL goal, recent sales for a card Crosby signed for Toronto-based In The Game have topped $500 and show no sign of slowing down.

The buying frenzy surrounding the card even caught the experts by surprise, according to Beckett Hockey editor Al Muir.

"It's all fueled by supply and demand," Muir said. "This is Sidney's first certified autograph card, and the demand is reflective of that scarcity and the hype he's generating with his exceptional promise. Still, when you see prices like that, you know that it's not just self-described collectors who are driving it up. Every fan wants to get in on the ground floor with that kid."

Crosby was honored this past season as the top player in the Canadian Hockey League. In claiming the prize, the 17-year-old winger became the first player in CHL history to win it twice.

Crosby's regular cards in the In The Game Heroes and Prospects set routinely sell for upwards of $40. By comparison, the cards from the same set of 2003 first overall pick Marc-Andre Fleury and Ontario Hockey League leading scorer Corey Perry can be had for about $3, while Hall of Famers like Rocket Richard, Bobby Orr and Jacques Plante are $2 or less.

2004-05 HOOPS BREAKDOWN: With the 2004-05 NBA season coming to a close, Beckett Media offered a look at this season's top five players in terms of average trading card value.

1. LeBron James: number of cards produced - 572; value of all cards - $19,637.50; average card value - $34.33.
2. Kobe Bryant: number of cards produced - 353; value of all cards - $9,636.50; average card value - $27.30.
3. Dwyane Wade: number of cards produced - 452; value of all cards - $6,673; average card value - $14.76.
4. Carmelo Anthony: number of cards produced - 627; value of all cards - $8,045.50; average card value - $12.83.
5. Shaquille O'Neal: number of cards produced - 407; value of all cards - $4,686.50; average card value - $11.51.

Following are comprehensive statistics for all NBA trading cards produced for the 2004-05 NBA season: number of products - 52 (includes special edition sets); number of individual sets - 848; number of cards produced - 28,777; value of all cards - $143,008.80 (not including cards that are sequentially numbered to 25 or less); and average card value - $4.97 (not including cards numbered to 25 or less).

About the author
Paul Angilly is a sports reporter for The Bristol Press in Connecticut, and has been collecting sports cards and memorabilia for 30 years. He is not a dealer, nor does he make a profit from buying and selling cards. His weekly sports card and memorabilia collecting column appears each week in The Bristol Press and several other daily newspapers in Connecticut.

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