July 17, 2008

The Numbers Collector


Been thinking about this for a while:

These days, it feels like there are more cards with serial numbers on them than those without. This leads to a number of questions. Like, how many are there, really? Do there need to be this many? And finally, are serial-numbered cards the current hobby's equivalent to the common card from fifteen or twenty years ago?

I've long felt that the hobby's mantra is that the base set is for suckers: the real action's in the inserts. So what happens when there seems to be as many inserts as base cards?

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is that I'd like to know if there are collectors out there who specialize in serial-numbered cards with the same serial number. For example, a collection made up of cards on the number 15 or 133 or 500, like 15/559, 15/1952, 15/150, and so on.

Also, are there collectors who go for a serial-numbered set of cards (like Topps Heritage Chrome) that all fall on the same number? Like checklist card #1 (15/1959), #2 (15/1959), etc.?

Finally, do numbers collectors assign a higher value to a card with a more glamorous serial number? Like would you expect to pay more for a card on number 0001/1959 than say, 1388/1959? Or is that irrelevant?

9 comments:

Drew said...

I know that some collectors place a premium on the number one card and the player's jersey number. Some also place a smaller premium on the last card in the run. For me, those might be a bonus, but I wouldn't pay anything more for them...

capewood said...

I like the serial numbered cards and I'm happy to get them in a pack. I'll go after them on eBay at times. If there are parallel inserts with serial numbers, I'd like to get one of each parallel and if I can get them with the same player all the better. But as for the numbering, I don't card what the number is (although I admit, I'll get a little thrill if its the first card of the series, but I wouldn't pay any more for it).

tastelikedirt said...

Can you inmagine if there were two high rollers out there who both collected...say #15 for example. Bidding on eBay would get all stupid, and people would think "whatever" cards were worth more because of how much certain "random" ones all of a sudden went for big dollars.

Christopher Muir said...

Oh yeah, I also wanted to say that I love your blog. I haven't touched a baseball card in years and just happen to stumble upon this site, but every post I've read has been great. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I have been trying to collect, ever so slowly, all of the numbered cards from a certain set for 5 years now. I will probably never them all, but it is fun to try.

deal said...

There are ebay postings stating the serial number matches the players uniform number to bump up the interest in the card.

I have tossed around the idea of collecting a set of cards of all the serials numbers up to 100. The 'of' number would not matter. just the lower number. the cards could come from a variety of sets.

Windier E. Megatons said...

As mentioned, I've seen many eBay auctions where "special" numbers - usually either the first of the print run (1/50 or whatever) or the player's jersey number - are given "TRUE 1 OF 1!!!!" status by sellers who clearly don't seem to realize that they're using that word for the opposite definition, like saying "I *literally* peed my pants laughing!" when of course you did nothing of the sort.

The fact is that enforced scarcity is pretty much the last way for card companies to maintain a hold on the marketplace. Regular cards died long ago because once everyone started holding onto them for possible value, there were always going to be way too many for that potential value to ever materialize; note, for example, how base set rookie cards, even of future Hall of Famers, stopped having more than a few dollars' worth of value around 1994. The only alternative left was to enforce the scarcity of the cards by stamping numbers onto them. It's completely artificial, of course - I've seen sets where you'll still have tons of the same card, but because the red one is stamped with "1/1" it's worth ten times as much as the blue one stamped with "1/100," even though besides the color of the card and the number there's no qualitative difference between the two. And if money-making is the game, as it is for money on eBay (including myself at times in the past), you're pretty much screwed nowadays unless you're rolling in cards numbered to 25 or less. Company-created scarcity feels like the only thing propping the industry up at this point; even memorabilia cards are already never worth more than what you paid for the pack they came in unless they're short-numbered. It's kind of a joke, really.

Bryan W said...

I tried to collect a heritage chrome set all the same number one year. Way to hard, as there always seems to be one guy on ebay who outbids you for the ones you need. People seem to pay a premium for numbered cards especially the first and last number and the number that matches the players number.

Spike Glidden said...

On the (very rare) occasion I open a pack and turn up a serial numbered card, the number doesn't do much for me other than #5, since that's already a collecting fetish of mine. I understand the people who go for the uniform number and other "special" numbers. It's an easy hook to hang your hat on.

The numbering topic reminds me how Topps favored certain players with round numbers like the 100s, 50s, 25s, and so forth. It's fun to look through past sets and see how "good" players were, at least according to the company.