How To Be Realistic With The Value Of Your Vintage Sports Cards

I just got back into the hobby this year after a 30 year hiatus, and a wrote a book about my experience re-acclimating myself and learning about sports card collecting again. Below is a modified snippet from my book - What To Do After You Find Your Old Sports Card Collection, available at

This video updates the thoughts below.

This will be filled with highs and lows - just like being a true fan of your hometown pro team or a fantasy owner on a playoff run. To build on what we’ve talked about so far, let’s get into specifics.

Week 1: Prepare for Price Boners. The first thing you’re going to do is Google the Name, Year, Make and Model of each of your cards. Name is Player Name, Year is Year, Make is Card Company, and Model is the name of a special set or description (i.e. rookie, all-star, checklist, etc.)

Now, I know that this could be a lot of freaking cards, so saddle up baby. But seriously, here are some tricks to narrow things down and save some time...

When going through your cards, pull out Rookies, Hall of Famers, All Stars and “Special Cards” first. “Special Cards” mean “league leaders,” “team leaders,” “record breakers,” “young guns,” etc. Leave hometown heroes, fan favorites and team sets aside for now.
The most valuable will be the Rookie Cards.
The second most valuable will be the second year and special cards of Hall of Famers only.
The third tier will be Special Cards.
Note: If you think or know any of your cards are legit “error cards,” include them in the first wave.

The first thing you’ll notice as you Google, is eBay pretty much dominates all search results. Go ahead and click into a few. You’ll see prices vary from $1 to $5,999.99 for the same card. Over and over again, seriously. The results with the highest prices will likely come first, resulting in several “Price Boners” for many of the cards you have. I’m going to “go out on a limb” and say you have some Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, David Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal rookies and a shitload of awesome Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Cal Ripken, Jr. cards… you may even be blessed with the infamous Fleer Billy Ripken “Fuck Face” card, the Pro Set John Taylor “extra leg/appendage” error card or the Sam Vincent NBA Hoops Card with Michael Jordan wearing number 12 on it. How did I know, right?

It’s cool. All of these are great cards. Go ahead, take a moment to get really excited about all the money you can make from these! Pull a Clark Griswold and say - “We’re putting in a pool kids!”

Prepare for Blue Balls. Alright, don’t actually put the payment down like Clark did, because now I’m going to bring you back down to Earth. Unless you had the foresight to get these cards graded by PSA (Professional Sports Authenticators) or BGS (Beckett Grading Services) - not to be confused with BCCG (an earlier Beckett card grading failure), years ago - your cards (which we will now refer to as ungraded) aren’t worth anything…YET!

Become the Master of Your Domain. Let me reiterate. If your cards aren’t graded by PSA right now, they’re not worth shit.

But getting cards graded by PSA is freaking expensive, takes a long ass time, and sometimes isn’t even possible.

The reason it takes a long time, is because the best and most experienced, and harshest card graders in the world work for PSA, and it’s really hard to get the maximum grade, a phrase that you will read, see, and yearn after often from this point forward, a PSA 10.

Now, condition matters, and here’s why. Supply and demand. There’s a million of those Jordan cards, but there’s only 3,738 PSA 10s of that card. Limited supply. HUGE DEMAND. That card ungraded is worth around $15 or less depending on condition. That card in PSA 10 is worth minimum $550 and maximum $700 as of this writing. Set in stone.

The value will likely continue to rise for two reasons. 1. They aren’t printed anymore, which you already knew. 2. PSA is so backlogged with submissions as of this writing that they’ve literally shut down operations for months after doubling their pricing in order to grade the tens of millions of cards sitting in their warehouse ungraded - making it even harder to acquire newly graded PSA 10s and nearly impossible to even submit cards for grading.

Simply put, the DEMAND is going to do nothing but rise, and the SUPPLY will always be limited. So even though this is frustrating, it’s actually great news for the long term value of your cards - assuming you eventually get them graded.

Happy Collecting!

Paul Hickey is a Digital Creator, spending about about 60% of his work time building WordPress websites for small businesses, 20% of his work time running an eCommerce Sports Cards and Digital Collectibles business at and another 20% of his work time authoring books and creating digital art in the form of NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens).

In each of his entrepreneurial endeavors, he believes it's important to create a community. He strives to do this by creating helpful content for his audience (community members) to learn about the topics he's interested in.

This is why he creates content on the following topics:

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.