Advanced sportscard valuation: Pricing one of one cards

Posted on September 24, 2015 by Collect TheHobby | 0 Comments

We always get questions from collectors and dealers looking for help on sportscards valuation and pricing.  One of the most difficult aspects of this is pricing one of one cards (1/1).  You may have seen these cards on eBay or Amazon

Valuation on commonly found cards can be confusing, but because there are many examples to look at, you can trend their historical prices to figure out a fair value.  When you have a card that is the only one, the value is often an opinion of what anyone will pay at a given moment in time.  In this post we will cover how to identify these cards and some frameworks to help value them.

What are one of one cards?

There are several types of one of one cards in today's market.  The first kind are cards that are produced to be the only one.  In most cases, the truest one of one cards are serial numbered with a "1/1" or it will say the words "One of One".  In some sets these cards are not numbered but it will be known in collecting circles that only one was made. 

The second group of one of one cards are based on condition.  You may see cards that are the only one in existence for their grade.  A BGS 9.5, an SGC 98, or a PSA 10 may be the only one that is in gem mint condition out of all the copies of that card that were made.  It can be any year or any grade, if the population is one, then there is often a premium in the price.  If the population increases by one, then the status is lost after that.

The last group of one of one cards is a very debatable area.  These are cards where the serial number may be attached to the player.  The best example are "jersey number" cards where the serial number is something like xx/50 and the player wear xx on his uniform when he plays.  Another example are cards that are the only one on a venue.  Cards in this group are losing their appeal as one of one cards as time passes and the premium is declining. 

The true one of one's in the first group are the one's that collectors are most likely to recognize year's from now.  The other groups are softer examples of one of one's and their values can change easily.

How to value them?

The comparison or trending method of pricing is so difficult on one of one cards that this is also why there is almost never a book value in any of the price guides.  They cannot possibly track all of the sale prices on one of one cards.  These cards can swing in price very fast because ultimately the price is simply an agreement between a seller and a buyer.  Even still, there are several ways based on the types of one of one's to get a fair ballpark for both parties if they want to take the time.

  • By player

One of the most relevant ways is to compare by player.  What are other one of one cards of that player selling for?  One of one's are in many sets today and comparing by player has become easier and easier as more cards like this have been made over the years.   Be careful to compare apples to apples, such as high end sets to high end sets to be as fair as possible.   Licensed cards will outsell unlicensed cards that seem to have similar attributes.

  • By set

Sometimes there isn't as much data for a player.   Maybe they are a new rookie and they do not have many cards yet?  Maybe they were excluded from some years and now have newer cards because they improved their performance over time?  Valuing by set can be trickier if two people do not agree, but you can use this method to see what comparable current players have sold for that are from the same set.   You can compare players who may price similar by using a regular base set and comparing the prices of two players with similar skill sets.

  • By grade

When trying to price cards by condition, you would compare other cards in a similar set in the same grade.  You will need to still use as similar a player type as possible.   For example, a common player is less likely to sell for similar prices as a superstar in most sets within the same grade. 

These are the top ways to categorize and value one of one cards.  It's certainly not an exact science and there is some level of subjectivity when dealing with these types of cards.  At times the values can be somewhat random if there is impulse buying or a very hot player being sold.  Make sure to consider those factors when determining a value as well.

If you ever need help with your sportscards or non-sportscards collection, feel free to contact us.  We would also welcome some comments below if you have any other questions or thoughts on this post.  For more general information on sportscards and collectibles, like us on facebook, follow us on twitter, instagram, or pinterest!

Posted in Buying and Selling, Collecting Tips


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