Vintage Expensive? Think Again!!

As a card collector in the UK who predominantly collects vintage, one thing I’ve heard so many times from fellow Brit-based collectors is “Oh, I’d love to start a vintage collection, but its just too expensive!”. Well friends, I’m here to tell you that its not! To illustrate that point, I’ve included scans of some of the cards I’ve picked up over the years, along with their NM Book Value and the price that I paid for them.

1957T Ted Williams

1957 Topps Ted Williams #1 – BV $600, purchase price $18

If you fellow the hobby at all, you’ll no doubt hear occasional stories of a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle RC selling for a 6 figure sum, or even a T206 Honus Wagner (the current Holy Grail of vintage cards) for a **SEVEN** figure sum. The thought straight away is to imagine that this is commonplace in the world of vintage collecting, The truth is, its not.

5960TSawchuk

1957/58 Topps #35 Terry Sawchuck – BV $250, purchase price $4.76

Building a vintage set to a budget can be as cheap – or cheaper – than building many new sets. How much would it cost you to build a set of 2013 Topps Heritage Baseball including all the SPs (just cards 1 to 500)? £200? £300? A quick browse of eBay shows a complete 1979 Topps Baseball set including the Ozzie Smith RC currently available for $80 (£55) on Buy It Now. If you’d prefer to build a set rather than buy it all in one fell swoop, baseball, football, hockey, and basketball cards from the 1960s and 1970s can be bought in group lots at prices which work out at less than 10c (6p) per card.

For the most part, its a question of condition. If you aim for graded or high condition cards then yes, you almost certainly will run into some very expensive territory, especially when it comes to stars and short prints. To stay within a budget, you really need to get past your fear of a small crease or two, or maybe a pencil mark or hole punch. Look on these as part of the character of a card and think about all the hands that its been through since it was liberated from its wax cocoon all those years ago. Low grade usually means low price, and it means that almost anyone can start to build vintage collections. My own tactic is to buy whatever I can in order to fill a gap in a set, regardless of its condition. I can always upgrade later and pass on the replaced card by way of trade, sale, or even better as a gift to a fellow collector in need. Bargains are out there to be had. Its just a matter of putting in the time to search for them. It also helps to get lucky now and then by being online at exactly the right time, or throwing in a lowball bid which somehow manages to succeed.

6364PHowe

1963/64 Parkhurst  #55 Gordie Howe – BV $450, purchase price $15

COMC remains one of the best sources for vintage on the web for UK collectors (they ship direct at a reasonable cost). If however, you are able to use relatives or friends in the US as a go between, you’ll find yourself able to take advantage of great online dealers and auctions who ship exclusively within North America. In addition to eBay, check out Kevin Savage Auctions, Sportlots, and Beckett Marketplace for great vintage deals.

1967TJohn

1967 Topps #609 Tommy John – BV $80, purchase price $5

Vintage card collecting offers you a terrific window into the history of your chosen sport. Its a great way to learn about the stars and teams of the past. And I can assure you that the excitement of adding that final card to nail down a vintage set is really an amazing feeling!!

7071TOrr

1970/71 Topps #3 Bobby Orr – BV $75, purchase price $9

So, as an older friend of mine once advised me when I was a plukey youth – “Lower your standards and have some fun!”

ps In case you were wondering, the second part of my look at the Wonderful World of Short Prints will appear in print…..err……shortly.

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11 thoughts on “Vintage Expensive? Think Again!!

  1. I was always put off vintage because I thought I needed the better quakity and obviously most expensive ones but this article has made me rethink this, especially like the thought of the card having character having been passed through different hands. Thanks Glenn for the insight

    • You’re very welcome, Adie! One thing I neglected to point out in the article was the fact that when it comes to commons, better condition cards are available for much less than you might think. Among older stuff (up to about 1973) there are usually a plethora of 1st and 2nd Series cards from any given year out there in VG to EX+ condition for the equivalent of 10p-40p. You’ve just got to have the dedication to look for them, the patience to wait for the right deal, and (probably the toughest thing) a method of getting them to the UK at a reasonable cost. If you’re thinking about giving vintage collecting a trial run, I’d advise you to pick out one or two sets from the 1974-1980 era – any sport – and give it a bash. Have fun!!

  2. Gone for 1975 Topps Baseball, picked up a few from a seller on sportlots, let the challenge/fun begin, any one have any dupes get in touch haha

    • Hey TAO! Thanks for you’re input. I didn’t say that low grade cards are for everyone, and I can certainly understand that a minimum condition requirement is important to many collctors. I was just trying to show that if you ARE prepared to compromise on condition, a lot of expensive star cards can fall within your reach. As far as the cards that I showed are concerned, the most important thing to me is that I actually own them. There isn’t an empty space in the binder where there should be a card. And as I point out, I can always upgrade when the opportunity presents itself. I’d definitely like to upgrade that 1967 Tommy John for example, but I can afford to wait until the right deal comes along.

      And I DO have several early 20th century cards in similar condition!! They’re gorgeous!! :-)

      • Yep you’re right :)
        I want to begin a new set too. But don’t know what. Shouldn’t be too many cards.
        Maybe under 200 in the set. Any recommendations ? I have the 1979 set completed and now i want some more. I like the 1961 design or maybe the 1977 … But 587 and 660 cards :D

  3. Why not try an insert set from the 1960s? Some of them are small and reasonably inexpensive. Check out the 1964 Topps Giants set (60 cards), the 1968 Topps Game set (33 cards) or the 1969 Topps Deckle Edge set (33 cards). If you’d rather stick with a mainstream Topps set, 1961 could be tough. Lots of stars including several Mickey Mantle cards and a fairly expensive high series with lots of short prints. Of the 1960s sets, 1965 or 1969 might be your best bet. You might also consider 1973. Not the greatest design but inexpensive with Mike Schmidt the only significant rookie card. Even the high series cards are cheap. Lastly, as a wild card you might look at the 1961 Fleer Baseball Greats set. 154 cards of players from the 19th century through to the 1950s. The 3 biggies in the set are Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth but even they can be found at a reasonable price. You’d probably be able to find group lots of commons at less than $1 per card. Let us know what you decide!!

  4. Pingback: “Squirrel!” | The Wax Fantastic
  5. Late to the party, but just wanted to add that I love the old hockey as it’s rare to see it on non-hockey blogs.

    The benefit of collecting old hockey is that the sets are significantly smaller than baseball sets of the same era. Individual cards can cost more, but that’s mainly in top shape. In the 1950s and 1960s, if you collected both Topps and Parkhurst, it’s rarely more than 130 cards between them.

    I’ve recently been into vintage UK football. As you say, it’s a great way to get into the history of a sport.

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