There comes a point in every collector’s journey when their thoughts turn to determining baseball card values.
Maybe you’ve been collecting for a few years and your spouse or kids or mom and dad are giving you a hard time about the “clutter” you’re building up. If only you could show them how much your cards are worth!
Or, maybe you’re ready to sell your collection, or at least “thin the herd” as a friend of mine says, and want to get a handle on the value of your cards.
Or, maybe, card values have always been top of mind for you, or they are top of mind as you’re entering the hobby, and you want to find a way to stay on top of the market.
Heck, there can be any number of reasons for card values to be important to a hobbyist, and they’re all valid. Especially now, in the years after the 2020 hobby boom, money is a big part of the cardboard game, and you owe it to yourself to at least know how to figure out how much your cards are worth.
(This post is part of a complete series on How to Sell Baseball Cards.)
That’s what we’re here for now — to give you the tools to do just that!
What follows, then, are four of the best ways to determine baseball card values in the current market, mostly from the comfort of your laptop or cell phone.
And, if you’re interested in weekly updates on the market, along with in-depth analysis of various aspects of card values, you might be interested in our Sports Card Market Report newsletter.
Now … on to the card value tools!
(Note: The following sections contain affiliate links to eBay and Amazon listings for the cards being discussed.)
Most of the time, and for most cards, eBay will prove to be a rich source of information about the value of your baseball cards in the current market.
And, by “current,” I mean CURRENT — from real-time back to the last 90 days. That’s because the base eBay website (no fancy tools or APIs) lets you study sales on the giant auction platform over the previous three months.
That’s key, because “sold” cards mean people have actually spent money on them, and eBay gives you a chance to see how much collectors are spending on specific pasteboards.
The process is pretty simple, but let’s run through an example.
Say you’re sorting through a box of old baseball cards and run across a 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco Rated Rookie card. When you see that little pencil mustache of his, your heart skips a beat — maybe you remember when that card ruled the hobby, or maybe you’ve heard about some of Canseco’s exploits, or maybe you’re just intrigued by the age and “specialness” of the card (Rated Rookie designation).
Whatever the case, you want to find out what that Canseco rookie card is worth. So … let’s find out !
First, head over to eBay, and you should see a screen something like this one:
Now, just type your card name into the search bar …
… and hit the “Search” button. That will bring up a list of 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco cards currently for sale …
These results are interesting and just might entice you to buy a Canseco RC, but they don’t mean a whole lot from the standpoint of figuring out the actual current value of the card.
Because sellers can ask whatever price they want, but a card (or anything) is worth only what someone will pay for it. And, while “for sale” listings can be helpful in this regard if you’re watching live, active auction listings, many or most cards in these results don’t meet that criteria.
What we want instead is to look at the “sold” listings among these results. To do that, scroll down and look for the “Sold Items” checkbox in the left-hand column:
Click that box, and the page will refresh with JUST the ’86D Canseco’s that have actually sold on eBay in the last 90 days.
And this is where the gold lies, information-wise.
Now we know that. here in April of 2022, that 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco card is selling in the $10-20 range … right?
Well, yes. And no. Sometimes.
Those first several results are all “raw” cards, meaning they’re not graded. That’s probably true of the card you found, too, considering you uncovered it in a box of other stuff, but maybe you want to know what the ceiling is for this card.
That is, if you were to get your card graded, and it came back with a “perfect” score, what would it be worth then? Well, eBay can help us answer that question, too!
To get there, we just need to refine our search a bit more. And to do that, just scroll to find the “Grade” section of the left-hand menu, and click “10”:
Then, behold the results …
And here, finally, we have our answer: a graded GEM MINT 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco Rated Rookie card is selling in the range of about $425-450 in the spring of 2022.
(That BGS card is an outlier because the rest of these results are PSA-graded and, mostly, because it’s autographed, and it’s the sig, not the card, that is graded.)
From there, you can start to decide things like …
- How does your card measure up, condition-wise, to those that are selling?
- Is it worth getting your card graded?
- Do you want to sell your card?
… and many others, no doubt.
The answers to those questions are going to be up to the individual to a large extent, but we can start getting at them with a methodical approach — but not in this article. Those are for another day and scope.
For now, it’s time to leave eBay behind and dig in to the …
PSA Price Guides
There are actually (at least) two versions of the PSA price guide — their Sports Market Report Price Guide and their Auction Prices Realized (APR) tool. We run down the relative merits and details of both in this article.
For our purposes here, though, the APR tool is a better fit because, as the name implies, it’s based on real auction sales of real cards. The SMR is, too, to an extent, but the methods used to calculate the prices there are a bit more opaque, and the results are less obvious and immediate.
So, let’s head over to the APR …
There, you’ll be presented with a front page featuring a search bar:
We’ll stick with our 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco and type that in to the search, then click the magnifying glass. That will yield a results page that looks something like this:
You can see there were multiple Canseco cards issued across different sets by Donruss in 1986, and you can also see how many sales of each PSA has tracked, in the last column (“FOUND”).
The card we’re interested in is the first one on the list, so we’ll click that link:
Here we see the card name and number, along with the number of sales PSA has tracked (again) and the total money that exchanged hands for those cards (“Value”).
Now, if we scroll down, we’ll see a summary of sales of this card by PSA grade:
The columns are:
- Grade – the grade of the PSA card(s) sold
- Most Recent Price – the most recent price PSA has recorded for that card (1986D Canseco, in our case) in that grade
- Average Price – the average price for all copies of that card sold in that grade that PSA has tracked
- PSA Price – the price as listed in the PSA SMR Price Guide
- Population – the total number of copies of that card that PSA has graded to be in that particular condition; not the number sold in that condition
- Pop Higher – the total number of copies of that card that PSA has graded to be higher (better) than that condition
In many cases, this is exactly what we’re looking for — a snapshot of card values, broken down by condition.
In the case of our Canseco, and of many older, now “stagnant” cards, you’ll probably see good agreement across the three value columns here since there’s not a lot of month-to-month or day-to-day change in market prices.
For a current player, like Mike Trout, you might see wide gaps between those values. If, for example, Trout goes on a tear and challenges the single-season home run record, you can bet that “most recent price” column will rocket upwards, while the average price and PSA price columns will move up more gradually.
In cases like that, you might want to click on the “Auction Prices” link toward the top of the page …
… to get a full listing of the PSA copies of the card sold — that PSA knows about, at least — over the last decade-plus:
Scroll down again, and you get the complete list of sold, PSA-graded cards in all their gory detail:
- Date – the date the card sold
- Price – how much the card sold for
- Grade – the PSA grade of the card
- Lot # – the lot number of the sale (as generated by the auction house)
- Auction House – the venue through which the card sold
- Auction/Seller – the username of the seller at the auction venue
- Type – the type of sale (Auction, Best Offer, etc.)
- Cert – the PSA certification number of the graded card
For eBay sales (and some others), the lot number links to the actual auction listing so you can drill down for more details and see images of the card that sold.
Finally, you can clean out some of the clutter of the full sales list by filtering on the card condition you’re most interested in. For instance, if we click on the “10” in the first box under “Grades” toward the top of the page in that last screenshot (above), we get *just* the 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco cards that sold and were graded PSA 10:
So, between eBay and the PSA Auction Prices Realized tool, you should be able to get a really good idea of current values for most cards running around out there in the wild (or in your own monster boxes).
(You might also enjoy our full guide to baseball cards price guides.)
But what if you either can’t find the card you’re looking for on these sites, or you want another opinion?
Well, luckily there are plenty of other resources you can visit to help fill in the gaps.
For instance, you could head over to one of the biggest card marketplaces on the web …
The PWCC Marketplace is an online auction platform dedicated to sports cards, which means you get a slightly different flavor and audience than those that populate eBay. (PWCC also offers up fixed-price listings.)
Now, we could just search the PWCC Marketplace for our cards, and that would get us part way where we want to be, much like searching “for sale” listings on eBay.
One of the cool aspects about PWCC, though, is that the Marketplace website offers you the chance to research historical sales.
To do that, head over to the PWCC Marketplace:
Then, click Research and PWCC Sales History …
That’ll bring up the search interface, where we can enter our standard query:
Click “List” or “Grid” and you’ll get the results:
(Note: you need to create a free PWCC account and log in to see actual sales amounts.)
You can also play around with the filters to limit by particular grading companies and sale types, and you can sort by various criteria.
Now, if you’re REALLY not in a do-it-yourself kind of mood, you can avail yourself of …
Sometimes, you need help figuring out what cards you have and just how much they’re worth.
Or, maybe you’re ready to sell your collection, or at least a portion of your baseball cards, and want to see how much someone will pay you for them — the ultimate measure of your cards’ value.
In those cases, there are several large dealers who offer card appraisal services online, with many of them being free. So … why would a dealer help you figure out the value of your cards?
Usually, it’s because they are interested in buying cards, in general, and working with you on valuation gives you both the foot in the door to a working relationship. It’s a potential win-win.
You can get started with an online appraisal service by googling something like “baseball card appraisal online.”
We cover various baseball card appraisal options in a bit more detail in this article.
So there you have them — four great methods to start determining your own baseball card values right away.
Some of these tools may take a while to get the hang of, but once you do, you’ll always be read to answer the question: “How much are my baseball cards worth?”.