Game Cards are Ideal for High-Grade Collectors

Collectors’ best bets for high-grade sports cards are usually gaming issues

Recently, I stumbled upon an interesting listing on eBay. I started tracking the item not because I was particularly interested in buying it. Rather, I was curious about it’s ultimate selling price.

A Honus Wagner 1914 Polo Grounds game card was the object up for sale. That’s a nice card but one that I wouldn’t normally feature here in an article. But the key thing here is that the card was graded a perfect PSA 10.

What did that card sell for? More on that in a bit.

1913 Tom Barker Game - Home Run Baker Fenway Breweries - CopyAs you can imagine, PSA 10 cards from the pre-war era aren’t usually that easy to find. Many of these cards have been around for more than 100 years so that’s understandable. However, one exception to that rule is found with game cards.

Why game cards? What are those more likely to be found in high-grade condition as opposed to something like tobacco and candy cards? Two things specifically on that front.

First, game cards often went untouched. Many of us, for example, have a deck of playing cards or cards as part of a board game in our house that have gone unused. If the cards were never played with, they’ve had a great chance of staying in good condition as long as they were stored in an undisturbed area.

Second, most also have rounded corners, which allows them to avoid damage that other sharp-cornered cards endure. Both of those things make them good candidates for high-grade examples.

How common is it to find high-grade game cards. Remarkably common, actually.

The 1936 S&S Game cards are a great example of that. PSA’s population report shows a total of 3,179 of these cards graded to date. Of that number, a whopping 2,327 have been graded as a PSA 8, 9, or 10 (without any qualifiers). If you don’t have your calculator handy, that’s just over 73%. That number includes 1,142 PSA 9s and 169 PSA 10s. For pre-war cards, obviously, those are very high numbers. But other game issues probably have similarly high quantities of high-grade cards.

As you would expect, high-grade game cards really don’t sell for that much, compared to most other types of cards. PSA 10s from that S&S game set can be in the $200-$300 range.

Babe Ruth Whitman Party Stunts SGC

Keep in mind, those are game cards that feature specific players and are more desirable. There are other baseball game cards picturing generic subjects and PSA 10s for those can sometimes be found for under $100.

So what about that Wagner PSA 10 I mentioned in the beginning? Well, PSA’s population report shows five perfect 10s from that set have been graded and this one sold for a somewhat modest $2,270. That’s not a drop in the bucket, obviously, but it is far less than what something like a Wagner caramel card in that condition would sell for.

For example, the lone PSA 10 Honus Wagner from the famous E98 Black Swamp find originally sold in 2012 for about $240,000 (though, in 2017, it sold for only about $100,000). And even those cards, as I have written before, have far lesser values than they otherwise would because of the large find of high-grade cards from that set. A PSA 10 of another Wagner caramel card would have a great shot at hitting seven figures if from a tough enough set.

In other words, if it’s high-grade cards you’re after and you don’t have five figures or six figures to spend, game cards are a particularly good place to look.

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