Why Beckett Helps the Industry

I know, I know.  The title alone is a controversial stance.  Before you get all huffy about it, just know that in the next week or two I plan to post the opposite side of the issue.  For now, I want to focus on the positives.  Beckett takes a lot of flack on the message boards and blogs, and sometimes I think people lose sight of the big picture.

This isn’t a list designed to speak to Beckett’s relevance in the industry, but instead to outline the ways in which it benefits the card collecting industry and collectors in general.


Diversity — Beckett releases magazines and guides for the four major sports as we know.  But they’re also print publications dealing with racing cards, which seems to be growing in popularity, as well as various TCG/CCG and kid oriented releases.  Just about anyone starting out in the hobby is going to want to dive in head-first if they enjoy it.  That means not only buying the cards and hopefully interacting with friends to either get them involved to play or trade or show off the goods, but also reading up on what’s going to be coming out, strategies for collecting and playing the games, and all the other things that go along with the collecting side.

It’s easy for adult bloggers like us to dismiss the importance of these publications since we rely so heavily on each other for our news and to filter out all the stuff that we deem to be garbage, pandering or trite.  But how many blogs are out there run by 10 year old Pokemon players?  The fact that there is a place for these new entrants to go to get their information, or any information at all, is a big positive which carries over into the sports card side of things.

Name Recognition — As a continuation of my previous point, how many parents are going to think of pointing their children to the blogging world or the message boards when their kids gets interested in football cards for the first time?  For that matter, how many returning adults would even think about going with that path?  The numbers are probably smaller than you think.  The general public doesn’t know Cardboard Junkie or Wax Heaven/Morgue or Community Gum, but you can be virtually certain that they’ve heard the name Beckett and associate it with sports cards.

You may think that this recognition would only really benefit Beckett, but I believe it does help our hobby in general.  One, the magazine will get new people involved more deeply with the cards that they are buying, which should fuel the passion and could possibly end up leading some returning or new collectors to our little club.  Two, it lends more credibility to the hobby and industry.  This may seem like a strange thing to say, but hear me out.  It all goes back to the theoretical parents and their interested kids.  Put yourself in the mind of a non-collecting parent trying to make sense of your child’s new interest.  Should you really be encouraging them spending their money on this cardboard?  Sure you’ve seen how valuable a Jordan/Mantle/Gretzky rookie card or a Honus Wagner can be, but those cards are incredibly old and rare – certainly not like today’s cards.  Beckett’s tenure in the industry should lend validity to any concerns that it may be a passing fad or that it’s just for kids.  They’ve been able to stay in business with these magazines detailing silly little pictures of people, so maybe there is something to this.  Looking at the price guide in the magazine could possibly ease some concerns about wasting money, too.

Price Guide — I know that this is the main point of contention in terms of the Beckett is ruining things argument.  I’m going to try to counter that to a degree.  First, let’s go back to end portion of my previous, and admittedly weakest, point.  Say that person, not just non-collecting parents but anyone unfamiliar with the hobby’s ins and outs, takes a look at the price guide.  To us, the prices are inflated and unrealistic.  To the new faces, those prices are a source of optimism and rationalization.  If someone bought a $3 pack of Heritage and saw the real values in the price guide they’d never stick around.  If that relic they found in their box actually only helps them break even on that specific pack, if they’re lucky, do you think that they’d buy any more?  Some would, but most wouldn’t.  Instead, seeing higher than ebay prices in the price guide for their Topps series 1 inserts gives them hope that what they are buying is an investment or that they can get something they personally collect in return for it.  This will keep newer bodies interested in the hobby longer.

I can see the comments lambasting this kind of thinking already.  Do you want to know why I think people would act this way?  Because I did.  When I came back to the hobby in late 2009, I bought a Beckett to look up my packs and see what my inserts were worth.  That actually gave me the fuel to keep going.  I know that I wouldn’t get high BV for my cards if I tried to sell, but I also got the feeling that my collection wasn’t completely worthless and I was wasting my money.  It didn’t hurt that I was able to show my girlfriend the values to help rationalize my collecting to her.  How many of you can say the same about any of that?  Did you buy a Beckett upon your return?  Translate that to a smaller child than myself and you start to get the idea.  The key thing to keep in mind is that it isn’t a Price Bible, it’s a price guide.  Let’s move on to the sophisticated adult collectors.  Like I said earlier, I knew I wouldn’t get high BV for my inserts, because I had previous collecting experience.  I also knew that I typically wouldn’t have to pay high BV at card stores and shows.  Internally, I was able to devise a worthwhile percentage for selling and buying.  My personal scale will vary depending on the player, product, and rarity, but I can still use Beckett as a guide.  I take a percentage off of that value and that’s my limit, or that’s what I use to determine how good of a deal I’m getting.  I’m not naive enough to think I’m getting 100%, and I think most adults are in the same boat, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use those prices to make purchasing or even selling decisions.  Sure we can complain about those sellers that look stuff up in Beckett at the card show and quote you full BV, but that’s not really Beckett’s fault in my mind.  That is the seller’s ignorance of market conditions and his own industry.

Video Box Breaks — This could go into the category of manufacturers helping the industry as well.  I don’t doubt that the boxes that Beckett receives are sometimes, if not always loaded.  Hell, some of the boxes we got from Panini may have been purposefully better than average.  We did get some pretty nice stuff, after all.  This goes hand-in-hand with the inflated prices in the guide to me.  Sure it’s not ideal nor is it always completely representative of what you will find in a typical box.  Regardless, the video box breaks they show on their website do work as a promotion.  It does get people excited to open certain products.  We all recognize that collecting is some form of gambling.  Think of it like this, you’re at a casino and you see someone hit a jackpot on a slot machine.  You just may want to start playing some slot machines so that it could be you next time.  The same thing applies to these box breaks.  I don’t think even younger collectors expect to get a Pujols 1/1 out of their box, but they see it happen to Beckett and they get excited thinking “maybe I could be that lucky.”  It’s a strategic move to be sure.  But it’s one that enhances desire to open cards and for people to collect.

A lot was made last year about that Pujols 1/1 that was found in a Beckett box.  I understand that a lucky random person didn’t get a chance to find it in their box and sell it on ebay and people got upset about that.  But, just like with a lot of the higher value cards that Beckett finds in their boxes, they gave the card away did they not?  It’s not like it went into Brian Fleischer’s personal collection.  It still found it’s way into the general public’s hands.  And also in a manner that was cheaper than most people who wanted a chance at that card could afford.  I’m okay with this.

Insurance — How many of you have considered insuring your card collection?  I know I have and probably will at some point.  Many people don’t realize that most homeowner’s policies don’t cover loss of collectibles, or only reimburse up to $1,000.  For those that have a lot of cards or would like to insure them, you’ll be thankful for the inflated price guide.  The steps you take to insure your collection is to catalog what you want insured and to submit it with your valuations of those cards.  Which values do you think you would choose when filling out your application?  Ebay or Beckett?  If you’d want to rebuild your collection with your insurance money, you’ll want to choose Beckett.  This is also where the name recognition comes into play.  The leading collectible insurance outfits recognize Beckett valuations as valid.  This to me, is a very big positive, even though many of us won’t actually be insuring our cards.  It’s good to know that their perceived values could actually benefit you personally should a tragedy strike.

Checklists — The last point I’m going to make is about the checklists.  There are several sites out there that provide checklists in one form or another.  Unfortunately, most collectors have to use multiple resources in order to get all the information they need.  As it currently stands, I feel that Beckett’s online checklists are still the best and most complete database available.  I compiled all of my player collection want lists using their data.  It could use some improving.  I would love to see more scans.  I’d love to see better cross-referencing and filtering abilities.  I’d love to see more accurate team listings.  Also in their new system, a lot of the product specific information you used to be able to find is now missing.  For any info about how a product was packaged or released or where you could find certain inserts, you better hope baseballcardpedia has that set covered, because you won’t find it on Beckett anymore.  Still, with all it’s flaws, it currently is the most comprehensive resource for the all important checklist.

I’m sure there are some other positive points that I’m missing, so please feel free to comment with any of those.  Feel free to comment and debate some of these points as well.  I may very well agree with you about a lot of them and you’ll see that in my negative post coming soon.  Simply put, it’s not a black and white situation.  Very few things are.  I’m hoping that I can at least get people to see or recognize that there are always good things to consider along with the bad.

4 comments to Why Beckett Helps the Industry

  • I’ve thought about insuring my cards a few times, never really thought about using Beckett values to appraise it though!

    I buy Beckett almanacs every few years as the previous gets worn and torn beyond usability. What I use them for are for set information and odds on inserts and parallels. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a Piazza card in a trade or seen one on ebay with 0 bids, looked it up and learned that it’s a 1:72+ card. Doesn’t mean I’m looking at the price to see how much it’s “worth”, but now I know that either I may not see this card again for a while, so I’ll be aggressive on bidding or if it goes over a few bucks then I’ll let it go if it’s a more common pull.

  • I never could get fired up over Beckett, pro or con. I didn’t grow up with the magazine. I bought only the annual book price guides. Today, I have no reason to use Beckett for anything at all, and it’s been that way for awhile. I suppose Beckett could be useful to others. It just has so little meaning to me that I don’t value it enough to even think about its “worth.”

  • Christopher Y

    Hi – you note that “The leading collectible insurance outfits recognize Beckett valuations as valid.”…could you please let me know to which companies you are referring? Thanks!

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