vintage vs. modern – affordability

This is an ongoing series on the differences between collecting vintage and modern cards. The previous installment covered the players on the cards. This installment discusses affordability.

This comparison seems like a no-brainer. Vintage cards are clearly more expensive than modern cards. This is a short post. End of discussion.

I can’t wrap up the post that quickly. Let’s see just how inexpensive modern cards can be…

In a couple days I am going to post a preview for a box break of 1991 Ultra. Boxes of 1991 Ultra go for around $5 (not including shipping) on various websites. Each box contains 504 cards. That is 1¢ per card. It is hard to get less expensive than that. If you really want to hype it up, let’s call these 504 cards “pack fresh” and mention that nobody on the PSA registry has gone for a 400-card 1991 Ultra set. With $5 (plus shipping and lots more for grading) you could instantly have the top registry set for 1991 Ultra. For $5 in cards you are an instant collector with credentials.

Are there more expensive modern products out there? Yep. Boxes of 2010 Allen & Ginter currently run in the range of $80 to 100 on eBay. That is 192 cards at 40-50¢ each. Boxes of 2010 Topps Series 1 with 360 cards are around $50 for a per card cost of nearly 15¢.

I think it’s clear that you can get into modern cards with very little money down. How about vintage cards? Perhaps surprisingly, vintage cards can be picked up for not that much money. I consider $10 to be about the minimum for a vintage card. Here are four different vintage cards that recently ended on eBay for less than $10 (including shipping). All four cards have clean, intact backs.

1909-1911 T206 White Border Ira Thomas ($6.79)
1909-1911 T206 White Border Peaches Graham ($8.09)

1933 Goudey Walberg ($6.75)
1933 Goudey Schulte ($8.49)

What do you get for $10? Obviously condition suffers – a lot. Still, these are very cool cards that have much more mystique than a common from 1991 Ultra. Higher condition cards and stars/HOFers will set you back more, even a lot more, than $10. The point is that if you prefer vintage cards, they are available for a reasonable price – affordable.

What do most collectors spend on cards every month? I have no idea. Since I don’t have the Topps marketing department on speed dial, I’ll take a stab at $100 per month. I spend less than this figure. Among bloggers, the average is probably quite a bit higher. Still, we will stick with $100 a month. My budget is closer to $50.

For $100 a month, a modern collector may be able to pick up a box a month along with some odd packs when at Target, depending upon the product he likes. In contrast, a vintage collector with some patience would be able to buy ten T206s a month. That is not the quickest way to build a set, but most vintage sets are long-haul projects. At ten cards per month, you would pick up 20% of the T206 set each year. Well, 20% per year until you started getting into the Southern Leaguers and HOFers. Regardless, that’s not bad considering most people (including me) never complete the set.

So, are vintage cards more expensive than modern cards? Absolutely. Can a person on a tight budget collect vintage cards? Absolutely. Should cost keep anyone from collecting whatever he prefers? No.

Winner: neither

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One response to “vintage vs. modern – affordability

  1. john bateman

    I recently bought Topps 1988, 1989, and 1990 Baseball sets and paid less than a penny a card including shipping.

    It is best to buy in Bulk – you may have a budget of $50 a month but if you spend that all at one time ($600) you will get more bang for your buck (but it might make the rest of the collecting year boring)

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