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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Sport Cards
If you’re a sports fan, chances are you collected trading cards as a kid. You might remember spending your allowance on a pack of baseball cards with pink, stale gum at the corner store. You tore through the packs in search of your favorite star, then trade with your friends or carefully slip a few cards between the spokes of your bike wheel and listen to them click as you pedal.
If you were a card collector, you probably had binders full of neatly sorted cardboard gems lying around your room – until you discovered some girls. Once the fairer sex entered the scene, the cards went to the garage sale, the attic or the trash.
In the years since you dumped your cards without a second thought, the industry has exploded. Although prices have skyrocketed, trading cards have never been so popular.
Here are 5 things you didn’t know about sports cards. However, be warned: after hearing how far the hobby has come, you might want to stop on the way back and grab a pack or two.
1- The value of rookie cards is artificially inflated
There’s little doubt that Wayne Gretzky is hockey’s best skate-lacing player, and his 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee rookie card sells for between $600 and $900. Sidney Crosby may be touted as the best thing since The Great One, but he’s got a lot to prove. Still, Sidney Crosby’s 2005-06 Upper Deck The Cup rookie card sells for over $10,000. We have nothing against Crosby, but the fact that a largely unproven star’s rookie card can sell for more than 10 times the value of Wayne Gretzky’s is mind-boggling.
It all comes down to supply and demand. In the late 1990s, card companies introduced serial numbering, the antidote to mass-produced cards such as Gretzky’s Rookie. Cards were printed in limited quantities and marked with a unique number. There are only 99 copies of Crosby’s The Cup card, which means if you want The Next One’s top rookie, be prepared to pay for it.
2- Babe Ruth always signs cards
If you pulled an autographed card from a pack in the late 1980s or early 1990s, you’d tell everyone you knew. Now autographed cards are so popular, often with one or more per box (and in some sets, one per pack) that they don’t seem exciting anymore. However, what may inspire you to call your friends is finding an autographed card from a deceased athlete.
To create these “cut-out” autograph cards, card companies buy authentic sports star autographs, often from documents or canceled checks from the deceased athlete’s estate, then cut out the player’s signature and the paste into a new map. So even though Babe Ruth has been dead since 1948, it’s possible to get her autograph in a 2008 product – and that goes for other big names in the game, such as Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams, for n to name a few.
3- Barack Obama has a baseball card
No, the likely future US president didn’t have a short stint in the big leagues. Card companies reacted to the popularity of politics in American society, and political figures began to appear on special insert cards. This year’s Upper Deck baseball features a set of Presidential Predictor inserts, featuring cards from Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain and more.
Taking the popularity of souvenir cards used in the game one step further, some relic cards from recent years have included samples cut straight from American history. It is possible to get a card that includes a small square of fabric from one of John F. Kennedy’s suits or a card containing a piece of George W. Bush’s tie.
Other American legends (Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, etc.) are represented with souvenir cards in today’s products. It might seem odd to get a Marilyn Monroe card in a baseball card pack, but these rare inserts are popular sellers among history buffs.
4- Celebrity body parts are now on sale
Topps created waves in the industry in 2007 when it produced three cards, each featuring a lock of former President George Washington’s hair. The card company obtained the hair of John Reznikoff, the owner of the largest collection of hair of historical figures. Despite the shock of many collectors and ordinary citizens (and some people’s ominous desire to find the maps so they could clone Washington through strands of DNA), Topps’ products caused a stir, and collectors responded by showing that there was indeed a market for these bizarre, yet intriguing collectibles.
Topps acknowledges that DNA maps are difficult to make due to the difficulty of tracing locks of hair from deceased public figures, but the idea has already caught on. Hot inserting this year’s Upper Deck SP Legendary Cuts baseball cards is a Hair Cuts series – cards featuring cut autographs and a lock of hair from characters such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Babe Ruth, Andrew Jackson and Geronimo.
A 2008 Topps baseball product contains cards with hair not only of Abe Lincoln, but also of JFK and Beethoven.
5- Your son’s allowance won’t get him far in the hobby
If you collected decades ago, you’ll remember when Upper Deck products hit store shelves in 1990 for the seemingly extortionate price of $1 per pack. Almost overnight, the days of 25- and 50-cent decks of cards containing a piece of pink gum for good measure are over. The price of consumer goods has risen over the past two decades with inflation, but card prices have risen due to increased demand as the hobby has boomed.
With very few exceptions, card packs cost at least $4, and some high-end products cost over $500 per pack – not per box but per pack. And these packs can contain as few as five cards. What, did you expect to find that $10,000 Sidney Crosby card in a package that costs $1?
Each sport only offers a few brands at 99 cents per pack each season, meaning youngsters with pocket money to spend don’t have much of a chance to dabble in the hobby. However, adults with higher disposable income have a wide variety of choices.
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