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Marino63's Blog
The Hobby From A Retailer's Perspective
entry Nov 22 2006, 06:28 PM
Greetings Folkses!

It's been a while since my last entry. If you've ever worked retail, you'll know that most vendors (such as I am) do approximately 40% of our yearly business from the day after Halloween to Christmas Day. I'm right in the middle of what constitutes my "Silly Season".

Anyway, the topic for this particular rant is/are Price Guides.

While I realize that there needs to be some sort of authority by which the relative value of this item or that item can be determined, I think a compelling case can be made that eBay is a far more accurate reflection of the actual value of a sports collectible than is Beckett or Tuff Stuff.

Simply put, the actual value of about 99.5% of all sports collectibles is less- in most cases, far, far less- than what the various price guides show. Beckett and Tuff Stuff are grossly inaccurate reflections of the actual market.

I do applaud Beckett for one thing they do, and that is admitting that, when it comes to ultra-short-print (less than, say, 25 or so) items, they refuse to put an arbitrary value on an item and wait until they have actual, verified market activity on that exact item or one very similar to it before they print a price. In a perfect world, they'd do that on ALL values they list and update them when the market changes. Sadly, we aren't in that perfect world.

I can't tell you how many collectors over the years I've talked to that are disappointed, bitterly disappointed, to find out what their cards are really worth. they carry a card that Beckett shows as being worth $30 into their local card shop, only to be told by the dealer that the dealer would give them $3-$5 for it or that they don't want the card at all. Or they put the same card on eBay and it sells in that same $3-$5 range. So how did Beckett arrive at that $30 figure when the real world selling price is $5? And why does that value never change in the Beckett, even if you report the real value to them?

Well, according to Beckett, the value that they print is what a dealer- somewhere- actually sold the card for. It is supposedly an actual transaction that took place in that amount.

OK...but what about the multiple transactions that took place, verifiable transactions, when the card sold for far less than that?

I've never seen that question asked of Beckett or Tuff Stuff, so I have no idea how (or if) they'd answer it. I suspect that having to verify literally thousands of transactions- maybe even millions- on a monthly basis would tax their staff. Fair enough; I can accept that argument. But would it kill them to overhaul values on a, say, yearly basis to try to more accurate reflect market value?

You'd think so...but they don't. Case in point: when I was working on my set of jersey cards from a particular Pacific release, I was able to get commons and semi-stars pretty much all day long on eBay for 99 cents. I worked on that set for a bit over two years. the Beckett value for those jersey cards was $8 each when I started and $8 each when I finished, this despite the fact that I didn't pay over $3 for ANY common/semistar I bought. Also, during that period, hundreds, if not thousands, of similar cards from that same set were sold for the same prices as I paid for mine. Yet Beckett never adjusted the prices accordingly. Why?

We know that Beckett does monitor eBay sales on low print run cards because they will print eBay sales prices to try to give you an idea of what the same or a similar card is worth.

My guess- and it's only a guess- is that casual collectors would give up the hobby in droves if they knew what the REAL value of their collectibles were. If Beckett and Tuff Stuff were to correct their price guides tomorrow to reflect eBay and Craig's List sales, I'd venture to say that well over 99% of all card prices would be adjusted down, some to the point of being virtually worthless. I can't say that that would be good for the hobby, though it might go a ways towards reining in some of the incredible (and incredibly ridiculous) prices we've seen cards going for lately. But it would be a much more realistic reflection of the market and would put down some of the false hopes collectors, especially the youngest ones, have about what their cards are worth. Dealers frequently get a bad rap when they have to break it to a potential seller that their cards are worthless or nearly worthless, even though the price guides say their cards are worth hundreds of dollars. More accurately, that bad rap should lie squarely on the shoulders of the artificially inflated values put out by those who publish price guides.

Part 2 up soon. Thanks for reading!

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