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Mint Vintage Cards Might Attract Some Lookers

Bill Wagner - Babe Waxpak by Bill Wagner, "Babe Waxpak"
October 2, 2005

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Dear Babe: I have a collection of sports cards purchased at New England auctions over a number of years. They were for my son who was very sports oriented, but he was in a horrible auto accident. It left him unable to participate in sports. I realize someone might appreciate these nice old cards. The funds could help me assist him with a more independent life. He is in college, taking longer than most and needing modifications for testing and learning due to his head injury. But he is a hard working kid, and I am so proud. Someone recommended selling on the Internet. It seemed complicated, and I have heard about rip-offs where you get sent fake checks or your items are not returned or a duplicate, damaged item is returned instead of your original card. I also know the market is not what it used to be. I attended some small sports card shows, but the attendance did not seem to be worth the fee and time.
Eugenie Eaborn, Durham, N.C.

I can understand your pride, and I'm happy to hear that your son is working toward a college degree.

The big question for anyone with a collection of cards to sell is determining what they have and how much the cards are worth. In your case, we need to know how "old" the cards are. If they're from the 1980s, let's say, they may not have much value even though they are 2 decades old. If we're talking vintage cards from the 1960s or earlier, then that's another story.

You're not going to get anyone to come look at them unless you have a lot of "mint" cards from the 1950s or before. Your best bet is to start with a Beckett monthly baseball guide, paying close attention to the page that explains how to grade your cards, because condition is the key to value. Then you can do the same for other sports, using Beckett or Tuff Stuff. Once you have an idea what's extra special, you can check out online auctions, especially eBay, to see what cards are bringing. It's important to check out completed auctions, because those show final prices paid and not prices asked. You have to register with eBay to see completed results. Anyone can browse through items for sale.

Da Babe doesn't offer advice on how or what to buy or sell. If you try to sell the whole kit and caboodle, whoever buys the cards is going to pay for the good ones and pretty much try to get you to throw in the commons. If you have sets or near sets, you have a good shot at selling them, especially via Internet auctions. If you have some really nice older cards, you probably want to consider having them graded.

As for problems with Internet auctions and checks, you simply do not send out merchandise until the check clears. If you use PayPal or another online payment system, you have payment as soon as the buyer completes the transaction. I did have one reader, who said a buyer canceled a credit card payment after receiving the sports card. I'm not sure how that was supposedly done. I know that anything is possible and that folks could switch cards and try to return something different than what they bought, but I have not heard of that happening, so I have to assume it's not a major concern at this point. And yes, thanks to the Internet, shows have dwindled because of that lack of interest you noticed.

Dear Babe: I have a number of pins (photocopies enclosed) that I have had for a number of years. One has Babe Ruth and says "Sultan of Swat." Another round pin says "Washington Nationals" and has a red ribbon attached. The Nationals were the Washington team from 1894 through 1900. Finally I have 70 pins, including Hall of Famers Joe Morgan, Willie Mays, Jim Palmer and Carl Yastrzemski. These are from a T.C.G series of 153.
Ken Best, Loganville, Ga.

If the Ruth pin is an original, it's from the 1930s and worth $100-$150, said Mike Heffner, president of Lelands.com auction house in New York. However, if you got it around the same time you picked up those 70 "pins," which are really 1971 Topps coins, then it's a reprint with little value. Your pin should show signs of aging - rust spots - if it's an original. The Nationals stadium pin might fetch $25, Heffner said. Remember the team in Washington was called the Senators most years, but it was also referred to as the Nationals or the Nats at times throughout the last century.

As for the other "pins," they're actually Topps coins from 1971. The most valuable coin is Roberto Clemente (No. 71), which The Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards from the editors of Sports Collectors Digest and Beckett's Almanac of Baseball Cards both list at $25. Other high value coins in the set include your Mays coin (153) $17.50-$20, Henry Aaron (137) $15-$17.50 and Pete Rose (101) $12-$15.

About the author
Bill Wagner is a veteran journalist with 37 years in the newspaper business as well as being a former Army combat correspondent in Vietnam. He developed the Babe Waxpak sports card column in the 1980s and took over authorship in 1993, expanding into sports memorabilia and autographs as well as answering questions on cards.

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