History of Sports Cards
Sports trading cards may just be pieces of cardboard splashed with printed
images of sports figures on one side and their profile and statistics on the
other, but their history can be traced back over 120 years. They have
stood the test of time.
Sports trading cards were first produced and offered in the 1880's by tobacco
manufacturers who would include them as a free accompaniment to purchasers of
their products. Gum and candy makers soon employed the same marketing
strategy and by the 1930's, the collecting of trading cards, along with other
sports memorabilia, was rather commonplace.
It was not until the 1950's, however, in what many still think of as "The
Golden Age" of sports, with the emergence of television and the rise to fame of
athletes like Mantle, Mays, Unitas, and Russell, that sports card collecting
began in earnest, taking its place as the favorite hobby of millions of
Professional sports has since evolved beyond entertainment into what is today,
one of the nation's biggest businesses, and its trading card industry has
undergone similar transformations. Local trading shows have become a
weekly routine in virtually every community and the literally minute-to-minute
trading of cards via national audiences has exploded by way of the Internet
Some popular individual cards now regularly sell for mind-boggling dollar
amounts. The average price of the most actively traded cards hovers
around $150 -- as you will see on thePit1 exchange.
The trading of sports cards now makes up a multi-billion dollar industry.
It is dominated not by children flipping cards during recess, but avid,
knowledgeable sports fans seeking wise investments.
The Recent Sports Card Investment Phenomenon
The Internet has revolutionized the sports card marketplace.
It isn't about school children looking for free bubble gum anymore. It is
now a multi-billion dollar industry. For many, it's no longer about
collecting for sentimental value or nostalgia. It's about earning a
profit. Collectors are now investors, and vice versa.
Sports cards have always presented opportunities for long-term capital
appreciation. Ask early investors of Kurt Warner, Randy Moss, Pedro
Martinez, Alex Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrerro, just to name a few. But
you better know your sports and do your research--just ask those who bought
Ryan Leaf instead of Peyton Manning or Ricky Williams instead of Edgerrin
The prices of many cards actually fluctuate game to game, especially in
football's short season. When Peyton Manning blitzes the Jacksonville
Jaguars with 4 touchdown passes and over 400 yards passing on Monday Night
Football, his card price may increase noticeably. When he struggles with
three interceptions or loses a playoff game, the value of his card may dip.
The Internet auction is largely responsible for creating this exciting,
previously unseen trading phenomenon. thePit.com now revolutionizes the
experience altogether by launching a much more advanced and efficient business
model: a dynamic, sports card stock market that delivers transparent, live
market prices and absolute liquidity so that you can always buy
and/or sell instantaneously from one single trusted source. You can
refuse delivery, avoid shipping costs, and trade in and out of your
account. We like to say it is where eBay meets E*Trade -- a place where
every avid sports fan can finally put his or her sports knowledge to practical
use and for the first time ever -- meaningfully and tangibly invest in sports
What was once fantasy is now reality.
Factors Affecting Value
Many wonder why sports cards command any value whatsoever. After all,
they are just pieces of cardboard. Nostalgia, artistic merit, and even
just the simple popularity of a particular sports figure appear to make many of
them some very sought after commodities.
More fundamentally, however, the inherent value of sports cards lies in their
scarcity, just like diamonds, gold, or any other precious commodity.
It is exciting to many, including the founders of thePit.com, to have in their
possession one of the limited production, first ever manufactured cards of
Michael Jordan, fresh out of the University of North Carolina, back when he
still had hair. Who knows what this gem minted card will be worth in 25
years. It currently trades for over $40,000. A Honus Wagner T206
Sweet Caporal Cigarette baseball trading card was auctioned off for a
staggering $1,100,000 on eBay in July of 2000.
In pure bottom-line economic terms, just like the stock market, what ultimately
determines the market price of a particular player's card is popular demand --
the price people are willing to pay. As the public analyzes,
predicts, and sometimes gambles on which company (whether it be a high flying
Internet stock or a telecom sleeper) will become the next Microsoft, so too
does the sports card trader try to figure out who will be the next Michael
Jordan. It is often not about a company's current profits or a player's
current stardom, but about its or his future potential and future growth.
Some of the other more important factors that distinguish one card's value from
Rookie cards - Card manufacturers distribute a
new card for each current player or prospect each year. More often than
not, however, a player's rookie card commands the most value. A rookie
card is a player's first year of issue in a particular manufacturer's
card set. For example, manufacturer Upper Deck produces a card for Ken
Griffey Jr. each year. It produced its first card of Griffey, however, in
the set it distributed to retailers in 1989, this is Griffey's rookie Upper
Deck card. This is also his most valuable Upper Deck card.
Quality of Manufacturer - Countless
manufacturers have popped up over the years to produce cards. Even
McDonald's has given away its own sports cards. As a general rule, only
those cards produced by time tested, "brand name" manufacturers have any real
value. These include Topps, Fleer/Skybox, Upper Deck, Playoff, and
Card Condition - Mint cards are
obviously worth more than cards in lesser condition. Grading companies
have recently become an overarching, dominant force in the industry, and
collectors usually pay for these services to enhance their cards' values.
Highly graded cards command substantial premiums. More importantly,
grading has helped to commoditize cards, making them the perfect subject of a
stock market like thePit.com. Read more about grading and
"investment grade" cards.
Quality of the Sports Athlete - Of course, the
prices for cards of star athletes are much higher than those for average or
mediocre players, whose cards often command no value whatsoever. Most
interesting, however, is collectors' interest in emerging players whom they
predict might one day reach hall of fame status. Cards of these
individuals are usually in high demand as collectors seek wise
investments. Prices of these cards are also among the most volatile as
they are determined by ongoing player performances. Read more
about the Recent Investment Phenomenon.
Historically, no rational collector would have ever purchased a trading card
without first physically examining its condition. All descriptions
usually took the form of general terms (mint, near mint, very good, etc.),
condition was always in the eye of the beholder, and haggling, time consuming
buyer/seller negotiations inevitably ensued.
All of this changed in the early 1990s with the advent of neutral, third party
professional grading companies. These services employ state of the art
technology and highly trained professional personnel to assign a numeric grade
to the card (e.g., a 10, 9, or 8, etc.). The company then forever preserves
this certification by encapsulating the card in a sturdy protective,
sonically-sealed holder prominently revealing the grade.
Not only do parties dealing in graded cards no longer debate condition, but
they can now trade, with absolute confidence, without even having ever
physically seen or touched the card. There is now no difference
between identical cards graded identically, for example, one 1989 rookie
Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck card, graded PSA 9, is the same as another-- and can
be traded as such. A graded sports trading card is, effectively, a true
sports commodity, an interchangeable item. Note that thePit.com does not buy or
sell cards that have qualifiers of any kind.
Predictably, the Internet revolution, and its need for sight unseen trading,
has coincided with what has become a recent industry wide acceptance and
meteoric explosion of grading companies ago.
Today, ungraded cards, even those which might appear to be in clear mint
condition, are quickly becoming outdated and of much less value than their
graded, certified counterparts.
To learn more about PSA and how to get cards graded by PSA, go to
Description of Grades
10 Gem Mint: A card with virtually no flaws. It offers perfect
registration, color, gloss, four sharp corners, and very slight printing
impressions, if any. The card front is centered no worse than 60/40 left
to right and top to bottom. On the back, there is allowance for 70/30
centering, but no worse.
9 Mint: Such a card may have very minor printing and color
imperfections, such as printer's dots and off-white borders. Centering on
the front maybe slightly less than 60/40 left to right and top to bottom, but
no worse than 65/35 with allowance for up to 90/10 on the back. The card
has four sharp corners.
8 Near Mint-Mint: One of two corners may have very slight fraying, minor
printing and color imperfections, such as printer's dots and off-white
borders. A slight wax stain may be present on the reverse. The card
front is not centered less than 70/30, and the back can be no worse than 90/10.
7 Near Mint: A card that features most of the original gloss, but has
slight surface wear and slight fraying on more than one corner. The photo
may be slightly out of focus and the card may contain minor printing
imperfections. Minor wax stains are acceptable only on the card
back. Centering on the card front must be no worse than 75/25 and can be
up to 90/10 on the back.
thePit.com vs. Internet Auctions
thePit.com was conceived of as a more efficient, much faster, more reliable way
of trading than the Internet auction. Below is a comparison.