What exactly does “book value” mean in 2008? Let’s take for example a 2007 Bowman Chrome Joba Chamberlain, seeing as it is still the hot card of the industry at least until Spring Training starts. I can find his autographed Bowman Chrome for $140 on eBay, $180 at a baseball card shop, and $150 at a bi-monthly card show. Beckett Baseball issue #274 shows that very same card for a high of $175 and no matter how cheap you can find it elsewhere people are still living & dying by the book value. While you may think this works well for the everyday collector that busts one or two boxes per year, think again. In my small but growing collection I have a signed, game-used jersey that books in Beckett for a high-value for $150. I have been doing my research and four out of seven times it has sold for close to $200 on eBay in the last month alone. Does that mean I have a card worth two Benjamin’s? Of course, not—because it is written in stone by someone from Texas that it is a $150 card and no more.
How do you price your cards? Let’s look even deeper for a moment. Let’s say your favorite baseball player for some reason is Walt Weiss. Collector A. has 20 Walt Weiss cards; 3 rookies, 10 game-used, 5 autographs, & 2 parallels. The total book value on those cards is $175. Would you trade your Joba Chamberlain ’07 Bowman Chrome for the Weiss lot? It seems almost unfair, doesn’t it? On one hand those Walt Weiss cards are pretty rare & very hard to find and worth more than just $175 to you but that Joba rookie is the top card in baseball at the moment. What a predicament you have on your hands.
I will be honest and probably alone when I say that book value means absolutely nothing to me. Back in 1997, my final year collecting, I pulled an Andruw Jones rookie out of 1 pack of Bowman (100% true story). Of course, that means nothing today but back then it was a pretty huge deal because his cards were on fire at the time and also because my neighbor happened to be a die-hard Braves fan. I was still a pretty avid Jose Canseco collector which meant that I wanted nothing but Jose for the Andruw and ended up spending an entire Friday night going through close to ten 5000 ct. baseball card boxes pulling every Jose Canseco card I could find. In the end, I found close to twenty that I didn’t have in his entire collection and made the trade for a card that had a $50 book value at the time. Want to know what the most expensive Canseco that exchanged hands that day? It was a 1993 SP Holoview FX insert which you can find on eBay for less than one dollar %95 percent of the time it is listed. It is such an obscure card you can’t even find the value in Beckett anymore. You know what? In the end, I am happy for that trade. I may have lost what back then seemed like a lock for the Hall of Famer’s rookie card but in return I received several cards I needed for my collection.
I think we all know Beckett is on its final legs these days. They are no longer a monthly publication, plus the last seven issues I have bought have been paper thin with informative articles. From this point on instead of rushing to the latest issue of Beckett to find the price of a card for a trade, I will send out the average price of completed auction listings for that specific card. It may be a little more work than flipping a few pages but in the end you might be able to add an extra $10-15 dollars on the value of your card. Of course, no one can ever tell you your card is worthless if it is the card of your dreams to you.
photo courtesy of Bryan the “Canseco King”