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The valuable lessons learned from collecting baseball cards

The valuable lessons learned from collecting baseball cards

I sold part of my childhood at the end of the year — my baseball card collection.

But I’m not sad. While I was pleasantly surprised by how much my 6,500 cards fetched from a private collector and an auction company, the money won’t cause me to shift gears into permanent retirement mode. Not by a long shot.

No, I sold my collection because it was time — the market is strong for the 1960s-era cards that made up most of my collection, and I was working with a highly knowledgeable broker who is also a friend. I was also tired of having my treasures collect dust in my closet.

And call it an astute estate planning move, but I didn’t want to leave eight notebooks of baseball cards encased in plastic sleeves for my kids to sort through down the road. (That’s an upgrade from when I was a kid and stored my cards in my mother’s wedding dress box.)

Starting with my first Kids & Money column nearly 20 years ago, I’ve frequently written about all the fun my collecting brought me as a kid growing up in the 1960s. I went from a casual buyer of a few packs when I had a quarter or two to an obsessed collector on a quest for the whole set of cards each season.

My hobby also taught me many lessons about money, such as saving for a goal, deferred gratification, wants and needs and doing my research before making purchases from friends and straight from the manufacturer, which was Topps in my day.

I learned a few more of the finer points of the market from my yearlong sales process. Among them: Three companies dominate the market for grading cards for their quality and condition, bad cuts on the border of a card during the printing process can destroy its value, panty hose can remove the wax buildup on cards, and checklists that came in packs and let you track what you owned can be worth a lot of money.

These days, card collecting — like a whole world of things — is different for kids compared to my era. For one thing, buying a pack costs more than the nickel I used to pay for five cards and a stick of gum, and there are fewer places to buy cards, although Target and Walmart are reliable sources. There are also more companies in the market and more varieties of cards being produced.

Whether it’s sports cards, Pokemon, coins or stamps, collecting is still a great way for kids to learn early, valuable money lessons. Encourage them to collect for fun and to buy what they like. Also, consider sticking with one type of card produced by just one company.

If you have a collection that you want to preserve and pass down to your children, make sure it’s something they’re interested in. Or consider selling your collection and using the proceeds to help fund a college 529 savings account.

When it comes time to finding buyers, you can shop your collection at card shows that are held all over the country, use eBay or work with an auction house that typically deals with deep-pocket buyers.

As for me, I couldn’t part with about a dozen or so gems — my Mickey Mantles, which reside in a bank safe deposit box. Maybe they’ll cover the cost of a semester of college someday.

Questions, comments, column ideas? Send an email to sbrosen1030@gmail.com.

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