Card traders’ fortunes shift over time

My local newspaper, The Daily Item, published an article on one of my local card shops – Shaffer’s Trading Cards.  They have been in business for 35 years and keep on going.  I’m sure if you’ve been to any of the major shows you’ve seen Bill Shaffer and his wife Darlene.  It was an interesting read.  I thought you would enjoy.  I’ve pulled some great stuff from his shop, including a Willie Mays 2004 Topps Tribute Cut Signature Edition Auto #’ed 1/1.  Enjoy!


By Francis Scarcella
Daily Item

“LEWISBURG — You may have $2.2 million sitting in a box in your attic and you don’t even know it.

In the early 1990s, baseball cards were being produced at an estimated 81 billion cards per year with some of those cards being worth hundreds of dollars each, but more than 20 years later popularity and price have seen ups and downs, said Bill Shaffer, owner of Shaffer’s Trading Cards.

Except for the T-206 1909 Honus Wagner rookie card.

In 1979, the Wagner rookie card was thought to be one of 10 produced. About 40 that have been discovered.

The most recent Wagner card to be sold was in 2009, where a buyer fromCaliforniapaid $2.2 million for it.

“The vintage stuff has skyrocketed in price,” Shaffer said. “It’s the newer stuff that isn’t as much or has stayed the same.”

Shaffer has been dealing with trading cards for 35 years and it’s the living he and his wife Darlene chose to have.

More than 35 years ago the Topps Company was the only company selling trading cards of Major League Baseball.

A few companies came along, and in 1981 Fleer and Donruss card companies made their debuts.

“Then a bunch more started to pop up,” Shaffer said.

“One after one, companies began buying each other and in the end only one company was left standing.”

The Topps Company remained the leader in trading cards, Shaffer said.

“They never did attempt to buy anyone or do anything. They stayed doing exactly what they were doing and they are now the only licensed company to sell Major League Baseball cards.”

The Topps Company issued its first cards in 1951 and was founded in 1938 as Topps Chewing Gum. In its early years, Topps produced a popular penny “Topps Gum” from a factory inBrooklyn,N.Y.In 1950, Topps added trading cards to its product line. Baseball cards appeared in 1951 now the company produces trading cards that features football basketball players, in addition to entertainment cards and stickers and albums.

Shaffer said that even though it appears that children are the collectors, it is an adult business.

“They started with putting cards in cigarette packs,” he said.

A pack of cards in 1979 cost around 15 cents, Shaffer said.

“Now the price is at $2 per pack,” he said.

“I’ve lived through all the changes and price changes.”

Packs of cards used to have bubble gum included with them, but that practice has since stopped, Shaffer said.

Searching value of what you may have, or may have found hidden away, is as easy as buying a price guide, Shaffer said.

“You would be surprised at some of the prices,” he said.

“Most of the cards that were made in the early 90s were over made which lead to price being brought down.”

Shaffer said if you are a rookie and looking to start a collection — start with rookies.

That’s where people go,” he said.

“They get a hot rookie and collect from there.”

But if you are looking for that Wagner card and you get lucky and find one, even if its ripped it could buy you a new house.

“I saw one that was missing a piece of the card at a trade show and it sold for $150,000,” Shaffer said.

“They say there is only 40, but they just keep popping up.””


Check that seller’s item photo

Many people know that you shouldn’t buy something online without seeing a photo.  Thats great, but what if the deceptive seller posts a picture that isn’t their own.  If you find a card that you really want to buy check past auctions that have taken place.  It could be possible that the seller stole the photo from another person.  It also is possible that they stole the picture from the card company.  For example, Upper Deck, like other card companies, posts pictures of their products online.  Most of the time, when a company posts pictures of their product they will have their logo across the picture and the serial number on the card may look like this, “xx/100”.  Companies usually don’t show the first two digits of the serial number.  If you see a picture like this in an auction listing, thats not the actual item you will receive.  Here is an example of what a picture from Upper Deck looks like.