vintage vs. modern – value

This is an ongoing series on the differences between collecting vintage and modern cards. The previous installment discussed the affordability of vintage and modern cards. This installment covers value.

This post is a little tough because value is a subjective term. When I say value, I am thinking long-term value. A card is available at a price that it may be sold for again at a later date. In other words, the market for the card is firm, if not rising.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am very new to the modern card scene. Just having a blog does not make me an expert. However, in watching various blogs, I have read almost nothing about resale. People do write about some cards being a good value in the sense that they are cool cards available at a good price. An example is a post by Cardboard Icons on a very cool, inexpensive insert from 1994 Select Series 2. A comment on the post backs up the idea that 90s inserts are cool and very affordable. My conclusion is that modern collectors do not think about resale. For the most part, they are collectors first and foremost.

Riveting stuff – modern collectors are collectors. What else would they be? For a contrast, look over on the vintage side of the table. Vintage collectors – some, but by no means all – regularly talk about value. Can a card be sold down the road for a profit or at least no loss? Has the economy dropped vintage prices enough to make now a time to buy (or at least not sell)? Prices for caramel cards have gone up; will tobacco cards follow or stay flat? Some vintage collectors even refer to their cards as investments. I think this is preposterous, but they don’t care what I think.

So, which has more value or holds its value better – vintage or modern? No surprise here, it is vintage. Look no further than this blog. I buy boxes of cards from the 1990s for around $20 or less, and I’m having zero trouble finding boxes at that price. These cost a lot more than $20 in their years of issue. In contrast, vintage cards were free as promotional items to sell other goods (candy, tobacco, gum, etc.). For the most part, vintage cards have steadily climbed in value over the years.

Why do vintage cards do so well compared to modern cards? I think it’s just supply-and-demand. The population of vintage cards is approximately fixed. New finds might come along, but these are small compared to what is already out there. With modern cards, the collecting world constantly turns its eye to the products coming out in the current year. This steals demand from the previous years. Unless a set catches the fancy of modern collectors, a set’s prices will drop as new material hits the market. As Janet “Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty” Jackson said, “What have you done for me lately?” Modern collectors want what is hot now, and last year’s (or last decade’s) material sags in cost.

Just because the price of modern cards often drops and vintage cards’ price rises does not mean modern cards are junk. It does, however, mean that vintage cards have better value.

Winner: vintage


4 responses to “vintage vs. modern – value

  1. john bateman

    Very Few Modern cards will hold their value unless they are an rookie and/or autograph or Mem or Low Number.

    Everyone knows what George Brett defining rookie card is and look like – But What is ALex Rodriguez’s rookie card.

    Albert Pujlos 2001 Bowman Auto is one of the more defining rookie cards of the last 20 years.

    However also in the last 20 Vintage Cards have not really gained any value (but have not lost any value)

    Today for the Modern cards the value is similar to a New Car – there is an initial value maybe even increasing but almost always decreasing as time goes on as you mention with the 1990s wax.

    (With Vintage being pretty much pre1980s. )

  2. If you are talking future value, significance is the name of the game. Whether it’s modern or vintage, the cards that are going to carry the most resonance with card collectors and investors alike are cards that mean something. It just so happens that many times it’s a RC, but there are definitely cards that are significant in their own unique way as well. That’s why I do the Significant Cards features on my blog.

  3. Great write up but you forget to touch on the main difference between modern and vintage value and why there is value placed on vintage. And that is because many collectors back then had their cards thrown out/lost/destroyed making fewer copies with a high demand. Where with modern cards everyone bought and held on to the cards expecting to be rich and now the market is flooded with plenty of modern product and not much demand because everyone still has them. If everyone would have just trashed their collections when they left home/grew up, just like vintage cards they would have seen increase value, but obviously that didn’t happen, so we are left with lots of cheap cards.

    • I don’t think scarcity explains everything. Yes, modern cards are way overproduced, but the number of modern collectors is huge. Vintage cards are rarer, but the number of vintage collectors is pretty small. Some vintage cards are very common. There are far more examples of any given T206 common than there are vintage collectors for that card. There are dealers out there who sit on heaps on inventory of the more common vintage cards.

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