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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.