Matt over at WaxHeaven had an interesting post the other day about the demand and supply of 1/1 cards and whether their value is inflated because of the scarcity of the card. I found it interesting to consider that this hobby has become so reliant on the hunt of the "hit" card. Regardless of whether it is 1/1 or a super-refracto-chromo-game-cut-on-card-auto-relic-allel (and how could I forget: ROOKIE), ultimately the dollar value of a card is reliant on the number of collectors who are interested in owning the card above everyone else. Of course, the more copies of the card allows more ownership opportunities and everyone would have to pay less to own it. That's economics 101, but with card collecting there are other values to consider besides the scarcity of it.
Is it really something you would want to own? I was twelve in 1989 when the Billy Ripken error card came out. Every twelve year-old in the country whether they collected cards or not wanted a card that had that "F-orbidden" word on it. But the only cache that card held to adults was the fact that Fleer corrected it and there were less copies of it. Now, I'm not sure if there were any Billy Ripken "super-collectors" out there trying to acquire the rainbow of error card and alternate corrections, or if there even is a Billy Ripken "super-collector". I couldn't see any other value in that card.
The rest of the set outside the Griffey rookie isn't worth the "cardboard" it was printed on. Of course that was the year Junior started playing Major League Baseball. There were so many cards printed of those sets, yet the Rookie card has an extra value associated to it. There are no scarcity issues that affect the value of the Griffey card versus other cards of that set, but ask most collectors to name one card they would want to own in that set, and it's the Griffey.
(look how young he is!)
So value is not just about the scarcity of the card, it certainly is reliant upon many other factors. For instance, if twelve year-olds in 1989 had more than their allowances, the price of that card would have doubled and tripled many times over, but they couldn't afford it at the price it was going for then. If I wanted to own it today, it would be no problem to go online and pick it up for a few bucks. The internet has made the availability of cards increase exponentially. You no longer need to hunt and search for the cards you want. There is no need to gather and hold onto every card you come across. This is where the scarcity issue comes in. Even if it is easier to find cards, the fact that there are less of them printed means those collectors truly interested in the card will have to pay more to possess it.
This is where the investor/collector argument rears its ugly head. The investor is interested in the card based on scarcity, the twelve year-old in all of us collectors just want a card that we can show our buddies in recess. Now, if all the collectors held onto every card we wanted, there would be no more cards to share until the companies printed more or printed next season's set. This is where I left off in collecting. I kept every card I ever bought, except for the few I may have traded with my brother (I remember Jim Rice for Wade Boggs in 1982 to complete each other's Fleer team set of the BoSox).
I'm sure most collectors were like this in the 80's. You could buy and collect every card. Then came along Upper Deck with the other, more popular Griffey rookie card "short-printed". This brought the investor into the hobby of collecting new cards and the "pack-hit" was born. Previously, scarcity was created because of all the "cards your mother threw out" (My fathers met the fate of the furnace after getting in trouble (Thanks Grandpa!). It also meant that the collector could not just gather every card by buying packs and trading with friends. The monetary value of the card would forever be a part of this hobby.
I would like to think that now that I have matured (although I might buy that Ripken card), I would no longer want to own and keep every card I could get my hands on. Boy, I wish that were true. I don't have to keep every card and try to collect every set (there are way too many), I'm going to have to pick and choose. So I am going to make a very concerned effort to trade and be a part of the community of card bloggers. I am very thankful to Brian at Play At the Plate for introducing me to all of you card-bloggers, and thanks for the well-wishes on my new blog. I am excited to share some cards with friends who have new little collectors in their households. Thanks for investing some time with me and be sure to keep reading to see how this collection turns out!