If the opening of baseball season this month inspires you to start up or grow your baseball card collection, Public Storage is here to help, with tips on how collecting works and how you can safely store and organize your tiny treasures. We talked to the owner of a sports memorabilia shop who’s been selling cards since he was 12. Mike Sablow held on to his first pack for just a few hours, until he realized he could turn a profit on players someone else wanted.
In fact, when people come through the doors of Mike's Southern California shop, aptly named Cardboard Legends, it is usually because they want to make the same gamble, that what they buy today will have more value to someone else at sometime in the future. Experienced card collectors also usually have a system for how they store their goods. And they aren’t as careless as we were decades ago, when old collections were routinely trashed. Now the thinking is, “let’s buy this and put it away. Let’s protect it,” Mike said.
Coincidentally, Mike does use Public Storage for extra inventory of duplicate cards he’s also got in the shop. He stores them raised off the ground in plastic storage bins. Items in the shop are kept in various individual clear card sleeves. Mike double protects them in very thin “penny sleeves” within thicker sleeves. The best are acid-free so that they don’t degrade your collection.
He then stores them either on shelves or in baseball card boxes.
You can also buy other card protectors such as page sleeves that store multiple cards in a notebook. Regardless of their storage choice, customers also like to organize the cards, often by year and alphabetically by player.
Hard-core collectors wear white cotton gloves when handling the cards outside their polyester protectors. After all, the most valuable card sold for $2.8 million in 2007. That card featuring Pittsburgh short stop Honus Wagner was sold in packs of tobacco in the early 1900’s but is rare because it was discontinued shortly after production began.
Mike has seen baseball card collecting change dramatically from when he was a kid. There are still parents jumping in as an activity with their kids, but starting in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, money became a greater focus, especially with the production of an increasing array of premium versions featuring pieces of signed uniform fabric or holograms. “Therer’s more hype,” Mike said.
The increased popularity is also driving up competition for the all-important rookie cards. Unfortunately, if a new player is destined for greatness, everyone already knows about him and is paying top dollar. The internet is also now a major marketplace for Mike and other sellers and buyers, who bid top dollar for what they want. It’s a tough game out there!
Mike's top pick for card pricing websites is Beckett.com But he said a search on eBay for current auction prices is probably even more accurate.