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What Makes a Baseball Card Valuable?

    Sports card collectors and investors are always trying to figure out who the next Mike Trout or Ronald Acuna Jr. is going to be. Obviously, there is no exact way to determine this. But what if there was a combination of stats and features that a player has that could determine a player’s cards worth? These stats/features can determine which players are going to be chased in the coming years or which player’s cards will be filling up the dollar bin. Well, I have come up with a formula that shows what makes a player’s cards more desirable than others. 

             Above is a graphic that was on Beckett.com after the 2015 season, in an article stating that Paul Goldschmidt cards were undervalued when compared to Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. This was before Mike Trout had won three MVP’s and is being considered as one of the great players of all time. So why were his cards so much more valuable when the stats displayed were so similar to Goldschmidt’s? I decided this would be a good place to test my formula. To see if it proved that Mike Trout’s cards should have been so much more desired in the baseball card world. To my delight it did just that with Trout scoring a 69, Harper scoring a 63, and Goldschmidt scoring a 51.

What did I use to make my “Formula”?

Swagger

In today’s game the young fun players are getting the most attention from the media and likewise, in the baseball card world. For the clutch category for the scoring I used baseball reference’s clutch stat and whether the player was negative or positive.

Scoring:

Cocky – 2pts

Haves Fun While Playing – 2pts

Clutch – 2pts

Athletic Look – 2pts

Age of 1st Season

If a player is going to be considered one of the greatest of all time they need to play as many years in their prime as they can and one way to guarantee that is by coming up early. Also, speed and stolen bases decline with age so for a player to have the best shot at a 30/30 or 40/40 year they need to be young.

Scoring

20 or younger – 10pts

21 – 9pts

22 – 8pts

23 – 7pts

24 – 6pts

25+ – 5pts 

Position

Players defense is often just seen as how many great plays they make, especially by someone who doesn’t do deep dives into their defensive statistics, and the positions that offer the most opportunity to make those plays are the outfield and shortstop.

Scoring

OF – 10pts

SS – 9pts

2B/3B – 8pts

1B/C – 6pts

DH – 4pts

Home Runs (Per 162 games)

Barry Bonds – The Home Run Leader at 762.

Home runs are more popular now than ever and are being hit more than ever so you have to hit home runs to be popular in the sports card market.

Scoring

45+ 10pts

40+ 9pts

35+ 8pts

30+ 7pts

25+ 6pts

20+ 5pts

Stolen Base (Per 162 game)

Alfonso Soriano – The Last player to have a 40/40 season

Stolen bases show a player’s athleticism and bring the hype of a 40/40 season and are especially important for a young player.

Scoring

35+ 10pts

30+ 9pts

25+ 8pts

15+ 7pts

10+ 6pts

0-9 5pts

Batting Average 

Ted WIlliams – The last player to hit .400

Batting average is one of the most popular stats and is seen very often by fans with it showing up on TV every time a player comes up to bat.

Scoring

.320+ 10pts

.300+ 9pts

.290+ 8pts

.280+ 7pts

.270+ 6pts

.260+ 5pts

Market

Playing for the New York Yankees will get you much more publicity than playing for the Oakland Athletics and publicity affect card prices. I used a bleacher report ranking team markets to score this category.

Scoring-

NYY, BOS, PHI, NYM, LAA – 10pts

CHC, LAD, TEX, WAS, CHW – 9pts

ATL, DET, TOR, SF, HOU – 8pts

MIA, ARZ, MIN, STL, COL – 7pts

CLE, PIT, SEA, BAL, CIN – 6pts

SD, MIL, TB, OAK, KC – 5pts

Record

Similar to playing for a good market team, playing for a winning team will get you lots of publicity and opportunities to shine on prime TV.

Scoring

WS Champ 10pts

Playoffs or 95+ 9pts

85+ 8pts

80+ 7pts

70+ 6pts

60+ 5pts

50+ 4pts

To make sure that this formula didn’t just work for one situation I tested it again with the 3 most popular cards from the 2018 Topps Update set, Ronald Acuna Jr., Gleyber Torres, and Juan Soto. These players have all played two seasons and their card values have had enough time to find their value, so it is a good test subject.

PlayerStyleAgePositionHRSBAVGMarketRecordTotal
Acuna810109978970
Soto6101076791065
Torres69986610963

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Acuna

Raw – $40

PSA 10 – $200

Soto

Raw – $30

PSA 10- $130

Torres

Raw – $15

PSA 10 – $105

Once again, the formula proved itself based on the sold eBay prices for both raw and graded. Now let’s look at players who have just broken into the major leagues or are going to do so soon and whose card prices might not be at the point they will be one day. To make things fair I am going to compare players who played at the same level for the majority of last season. For example, Pete Alonso and Wander Franco will not be compared to each other. I also have not included any pitchers because in my opinion they are not good investments and it would be hard to compare them to hitters.

2019 MLB rookies (rookie cards in 2019 except for Alvarez)

PlayerStyleAgePositionHRSBAVGMarketRecordTotal
Tatis Jr.61099995663
Hiura4888795857
Jimenez 48109559656
Alonso656105510855
Laureano47106775955
Alvarez28410598955
Guerrero61085568553
Arraez28845107953
McNeil058561010852

Fernando Tatis Jr is easily the highest with Keaton Hiura and Eloy Jimenez following behind him. Vladimir Guerrero is the biggest guy who seems to be overrated from this group but it could be because of a big drop in his power numbers after being called up, and I can see him rebounding in his second year. The table seems to show that Keston Hiura and Eloy Jimenez may be underrated, with their card prices being lower than Alonso and Guerrero but their scores being higher. Ramon Laureano also falls even with Alonso and Alvarez but has much lower prices. 

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2019 AA/AAA (rookie cards in 2020 series 1 or 2) 

note: no style category because of lack of knowledge for minor league players

PlayerAgePositionHRSBAVGMarketRecordTotal
Robert810910109662
Lux8977109959
Bichette9951078553
Aquino41010686650

Robert and Lux seem to be the two favorites for the class so far being well ahead of Bichette and Aquino but it is also good to keep in mind that these stats are based off of the players minor league stats and Bichette had much better numbers in his short time in the majors.

2019 A/AA top prospects 

note: age is if they made debut in 2020

Player AgePositionHRSBAVGMarketRecordTotal
Dylan Carlson9107887958
Drew Waters9104798956
Wander Franco10948105955
Jarred Kelenic10107886554
Jo Adell91057710654
Christian Pache9104668952
Julio Rodriguez101055106551
Royce Lewis994847950
Nolan Gorman1085547948
Joey Bart757668645

The two top players on this list both seem to be very undervalued when compared to the top prospect Wander Franco who is behind them. Dylan Carlson and Drew Water’s raw 1st Bowman chrome autos selling for $110 and $90 respectively and Franco’s is selling for $700. The player that I think this list shows may be overvalued is Julio Rodriguez whose 1st auto is going for $300 while his teammate Kelenic, who has better numbers than J Rod has, has been seeing sales around $150.

Although we can not predict what is going to happen in the future, we can look at trends from the pass and make smart guesses as to what will happen in the coming years. Hopefully this formula will prove itself to be successful in predicting card values with the three groups we have looked at so we can continue to use it. Although this formula has proved itself before it does not mean it will continue to do so and I am not recommending you spend thousands of dollars on these players but if you are looking to find a couple of guys to invest $50 or $100 in this list may

About the Author

Billy Lewis

Billy Lewis is currently a sophomore at his high school in Georgia. He has been collecting cards since he was 7 years old.

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