If you don’t care about anything I have to say in great detail, and just want to know if your baseball cards are worth anything, here’s a summary of options to price out your collection.
- Card Mavin: Simple, clean interface; powered by eBay results. Makes searching enjoyable!
- Sportscard Database: Requires a free account to view prices based on market data and a value algorithm.
- eBay: Easy, familiar. True source of value given cards sold. (Disclosure: This is an eBay affiliate link, and I will receive commission if you follow and make a purchase.)
- PSA: Best source for graded card “book value.”
- Beckett: Actually not free, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. Reasons below.
Regarding Beckett, when I was a kid, if you wanted a baseball card price guide, it had to be Beckett; in physical magazine form.
Yes, that’s it. But while It was all we had, it was also all we knew, and there was nothing like getting a fresh monthly edition in the mailbox. (And now that I’m thinking of it, remember Sports Illustrated for Kids? Magazines—one of my favorite sources for free baseball cards!)
Of course, today presents more options. More importantly, card value has meaning, because it’s determined by a pretty hefty market in eBay. Not to say that’s the end all, be all by any means, and I’ll let you attach your own definition of “value,” as we go through this, but a card is really only worth what somebody is willing to pay for it.
The same can be said for what you might find in a baseball card collection appraisal, where the “value” might change as you talk to one appraiser like a card shop owner who wants to buy your collection on the spot versus an impartial third party with no interest in making a purchase.
With all of that, let’s get started!
Where to Look Baseball Cards Up for Free
What is it: The free guide from Card Mavin is powered by eBay, and offers a nice interface and additional options. Rather than having to sift through filters and completed items, Card Mavin presents a list of recently sold cards, and options to easily see average prices for a group of cards, and more.
How it Works: No frills, just a main call to action, which is a nice change from other, cluttered websites, and even eBay itself. Simply input your baseball card information, including anything from player name, year, brand (Topps, etc.), and card number found on the back, usually.
After doing so, you’ll quickly be whisked away to the results pages. Pretty self-explanatory, which is nice no matter your level of collector. But to explain, the “average” at the top right changes as you select or deselect cards down the right side of the results via the checkboxes.
The link, when clicked, will take you to more details, and from there you can click through to the eBay listing. If you wanted the sales info, you’re presented with the selling price and when the card was sold. The link will also present similar cards still available for sale, if you were inclined to do some shopping.
Creating an account with Sportscard Database appears easy. From the looks of it, users will gain access to the following features:
- Card Reference Library
- Comparison Shopping
- Real Time Pricing
- Deal Finder
- Card Tracking
How it works: As for how the prices are derived, they index and normalize online marketplace data and then employ a formula that considers a number of pricing indicators to determine price! Sounds pretty cool, and the dedication to bringing you true and real-time value is a plus.
More of a true market value guide rather than a baseball card price guide, the main benefit of using eBay is the real-time data, and vast amounts of transactions from which to draw.
One other great perk is that you can more easily price by condition, given that when sellers post on eBay, they must do their best to describe a card’s condition. The price, usually, will reflect the stated condition.
Now of course, you rarely want to look at the “live” auctions for price indicators, because you’ll run into a few issues:
- Auctions can go days without bids, and then shoot up astronomical amounts in the last 10 seconds.
- For many “Buy it Now” listings, sellers might jack up their prices out of fear for selling too cheaply.
- Last, sometimes a card appears to be the one you’re trying to price, but is actually a different variation.
Thus, if you’re looking to price a card, these issues serve as roadblocks. Your best bet is to look at “sold” items only via “Advanced Search.”
How it works: After plugging in your keywords, you’ll see a list of results. You can look at “All Auctions” or only “Auctions” or cards sold via “Buy it Now.” You can also sort by date or price, and of course have all of the drill-down options you’re accustomed to seeing from eBay, Amazon, etc.
Last, you’ll only be able to view the last 90 days of data, which is fine, usually. But, as specific card popularity comes and goes, you might have trouble finding a rare card over the last 30 days than you would prices for a 1990 Topps Frank Thomas RC, etc.
Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA)
Again, very easy to use, but potentially confusing if you’ve never dealt with graded cards before.
How it works: Simply start by searching for your sought after set and year (not player name). You’ll be presented with matching options, as shown below.
Click your desired set and you’ll see that set’s checklist, sorted by card number, and presented with five different pricing columns. We will talk more about graded card pricing, and you can find more on PSA’s grading standards here, but quickly:
- EX 5: Excellent condition
- EX-MT 6: Excellent-Mint condition
- NM 7: Near Mint condition
- NM-MT 8: Near Mint-Mint condition
- MT 9: Mint condition
So, for the 1968 Topps Hank Aaron (disclosure: this is an eBay affiliate link, and I will receive commission if you follow and make a purchase) that we looked up, you can see just how much the value increases as you move along the scale…$30 for a card that’s in excellent condition, and $750 if graded to be mint, and so on.
As mentioned above, Beckett isn’t a free baseball card pricing service, but I need to include it for nostalgia purposes, and because for many years, it was really the only source of book value.
Now, as you can see, there are many other, better, less costly options to price your cards. If you’re like me, the old Beckett magazines have actually become collector’s items themselves!
While everything above covers your major players in the free price guide game, there are many other options to consider. If you’ve had luck with any of these, I’d love to hear about it:
So, hopefully that covers it. Happy pricing!