A Hidden Treasure

One thing a being a nerd is that I collect nerdy things. I started off collecting sports cards in my early teens. As I got older, I started collecting more things. Over the years, I've collected tons of TCCG like Magic the Gathering, Star Wars, Pokemon, and more. I've collected Funko Pop figures. I have a cabinet full of models, Lego sets, and even some old school PS1 games that are worth a small fortune.

My point being that over the years, my collection has grown from a smattering of sports cards to an absolute small store's worth of "stuff". Just to give you an idea, I have roughly 41,000 Magic the Gathering cards catalogued, probably close to as many as that in my sports card collection, and then thousands of cards that don't fall into either category. My card collection alone fills up 2 bookcases that are 5 shelves measuring 6' tall and nearly 3' wide and then some. I have boxes and books of cards stacked on top of the bookcases, stacks of cards all around my desk, boxes of cards in my floor, and who knows where else. If I tallied up every card I own, I would probably find 100,000 cards or more.

And that's just my cards. That doesn't include figurines, Lego sets, signed jerseys, or anything else. I mean, I could pretty much open a card shop of my own with nothing but my collection. But here's the thing, I have NO clue what all is in my collection OR how much most of it is worth. I know I have some specific Magic cards that have some value to them but in a collection of over 40,000 cards there is no way for me to know off-hand if a particular card is among them or not. Only by consulting my catalogue can I know what might be lurking in my office.

Well, the other day I was bored. I started questioning if there was an easy (and cheap) way for me to figure out how much my sports cards were worth. Most of them are from the late-80s to mid-90s and haven't been out of their books since probably the late-90s when I put them in their books for the last time. This means that for the better part of 30 years that I have had thousands of sports cards just sitting in books on shelves and in closets with no clue of what I had or what it was worth.

The last time I priced a lot of these cards was when I put them in their books. This was back in the day when you could go to your local store and buy that month's issue of Beckett's pricing guide for whatever sport you were interested in pricing. These days, you pretty much have to subscribe to their online price guides and pay a monthly fee to see how much your cards are worth.

I honestly can't imagine how much the prices would vary from month to month that would warrant a continuous subscription. Maybe if I were steadily collecting and adding new cards to my collection then maybe but as someone who hasn't bought a sports card in nearly 3 decades it just doesn't make sense.

Luckily, a quick online search revealed a few places that offer free online pricing and even cataloguing services. I created some accounts and started testing them out. There was one that stood out real quick to me though, Sports Cards Pro. Mainly because the name is misleading. Not only can I price and track sports card through their website but I can also price and track a number of CCG games like Pokemon and One Piece.

Not all of the CCG games I own are listed through their service but they do have the main ones that I was curious about. But because I own far fewer Pokemon cards than pretty much anything else, I decided to use those cards as my test case to see how well their site worked and what value I might have in those few cards.

I grabbed the handful of cards out of my cabinet and started plugging away into the website. The first thing that I noticed as really being valuable information on this website was that the price guide not only showed the standard "ungraded" price but it also showed what known prices for different grades could fetch.

For those who don't know, a graded card is one that is sent in to a professional grading service. They scrutinize the card for any damage, bent corners, grease spots, whatever. They apply a score to the card to mark its condition quality. These scores can be anywhere between 1 and 10 with 10 being the absolute best quality like it just rolled off the printer. The higher the score, the higher value the card can fetch at sale.

Usually, if i want to see what graded cards are going for I would have to search eBay and try to figure out what is accurate and what isn't. With the Sports Cards Pro website it shows the expected price per grade and even lists known sales so you can see the history of sales for each grade. I can see if a card's graded value is going up, going down, or holding steady over time with this history. A very handy bit of information for anyone looking to maximize their card's value.

As I go through my few dozen Pokemon cards, I see a few that have some value as graded and ungraded. Most are a few dollars ungraded and maybe $15-$20 graded. Nothing worth shouting about but it shows that the cards have some value to somebody out there.

When I get to the last card in the stack, I know something good is about to happen. I had gotten a shiny Charizard card several years ago. I don't remember exactly when or how I got the card only that I had it. At the time I got it, I knew from my Magic cards that the shiny ones were more valuable so I promptly put it in a protected sleeve (a flimsy one inside a rigid one to be extra safe). And for the last 20+ years that's where the card has been. I looked it up on eBay one time a few years back and it priced around $100. Knowing that card was in my stack, I was curious to see what it priced now on this website.

Y'all, I about fell out of my chair when I punched in the details of this card.

The ungraded price hadn't changed much but the graded price was insane! If, and this is a BIG if, you found a grade 10 version of this card, recent sales ranged from $2,000 to $15,000!!!

Now, I seriously doubt that my card would score that high on a grade but it wouldn't be far off (I hope). But the bummer is that the price difference between an average $8,000 card at grade 10 and a card at grade 9.5 (the next best thing) is A LOT! The price drops, on average, from $8,000 for a grade 10 card to only $1,000 for a grade 9.5. Of course, I'm not in a position to turn my nose up at $1,000 but damn, that $8,000 (or higher) would be real nice!

But the only way to know what my card's true value is would be to send if off to be graded. Grading cards can be a risky maneuver though. Not only do you have to pay for the card to be graded but you have to pay to have the card shipped to the grader and then pay to have it shipped back. Return shipping is NOT typically included in the grade pricing. Maybe that's because if you send multiple cards in together then you only pay to have the lot shipped back instead of paying per card?

After a little research, I found a reputable grading company. Their prices seem to be the same as everyone else's. I've setup for my Charizard #4/130 Holo from 2004 Base Set 2 to be graded. That grade will determine the card's maximum potential. Anything less than a 10 would just be some nice spending money but if I manage to get lucky enough to get a score of 10 (doubtful) then we are talking enough money to do some major impact on something. Just think, what could you do or pay off with an extra $8,000?

We could pay off multiple credit cards. My wife wants a new car (again) and we need a down payment. This could be a big cut in our mortgage principal which cuts our interest payments. We could take a nice vacation. Or we could invest it with a reputable and responsible broker to let it grow and work better for us later. The possibilities of what that sum of money could do is infinitely more than the likelier amount of money the more probable grade will fetch.

The shipping label is printed. The card is packaged. It will be on a truck to the grading service soon enough. It shouldn't take long after that to know the card's true value. While I can hope and dream for a 10, I know the reality of that score is low. But I do know that the card has been kept in near pristine shape since I got it so I do expect a decent score. Only time now will tell though.



After about a 6 week period, I finally got the grade report back. My shiny Charizard did not receive the magical 10 grade. Instead, it only received an 8. While an 8 is still pretty nice and shows that I've taken decent care of the card in the 20+ years I've had it, the value difference between an 8 and a 10 is immense. At grade 8 the card is only worth between $300-$500 currently. And while that still isn't an insignificant amount of money, its not enough to tempt me into selling it just yet.

I did reach out to the grading company to see if I could get a detailed report that showed what areas the card was deficient in but they declined. I've been told some companies can/will provide that information but it seem the grading service I chose does not. I knew it was extremely unlikely that the card would receive a grade of 10 but I'm not sure what made it an 8. I have stacks of other cards that have potential for graded value but its hard for me to estimate which ones are more likely to get the higher grades without that feedback.

I guess I'll just hold off on grading more for a while and see what else I can turn up that might help to further my education on this subject.

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