Do Baseball Scandals Affect Trading Card Values?

Do Baseball Scandals Affect Trading Card Values?

The sports world has its fair share of scandalous events--even in Baseball. From Barry Bonds caught using performance enhancement drugs in the early 2000s to the Houston Astros Scandal in 2017 and the Pete Rose Scandals, baseball players don't always have the cleanest reputations in the public eye.

In any professional sport, fans love to collect memorabilia of their favorite teams and favorite players. Baseball cards are a trademark of highly collectible merchandise for fans and collectors. Baseball card enthusiasts might be wondering, do scandals affect Baseball card values?

Baseball Card Value

1985 Topps Tiffany Mark McGuwire

Baseball card values usually come from three factors: the player in the picture, the card's condition, and the card's rarity. Sellers and collectors weigh these factors in determining to buy and to sell price points.

Collectors like to get graded cards to determine how authentic a card is and the card's condition. PSA graded cards consider the corners, edges, centering, and surfaces to determine their condition. There are also factors like if the card has errors in its printing or has corrected errors that might affect the price.

For baseball cards, a tremendous amount of value comes from how well preserved the card is, but there are also reasons why a baseball card will rise or fall outside of its physical characteristics.

Another contributing factor for baseball cards is recent player performance if they are still active. Some sellers liken baseball cards to stocks because their value can rise and fall with player statistics. The card's price can also go up or down depending on if the player is established and performing well in the league.

Scandal Effect on Memorabilia and Baseball Cards

Scandals affect card value because a player's involvement with that scandal can affect their baseball cards' demand. Buyers are more reluctant to buy cards depicting players who are known for playing unethically.

Essentially, how fans and the general public perceive the player is also a factor determining how sought after his cards are for the market. This public opinion can be collective, or it can be personal for fans of a specific team.

A card's value can also rise or fall after a scandal if the public perceives a player as being involved in a scandal or not. Though an organization might be guilty of a scandal, some of its players may not be associated with the unfair play--and so the value of their cards remains high.

In that way, scandals in baseball can have different effects on the value of baseball card value.

Research on the baseball card market and observations from collectors indicate scandals cause different supply and demand patterns. The change of supply in demand depends on who the collector is selling to, as other baseball fans can react differently after a scandal.

In general, the value of memorabilia for a baseball card with a scandalous player tends to go down. Depending on how solidified the player's career is can affect how much the price will fluctuate, if at all.

Scandals and the Market

Scandals are big news for the media, and with the internet, word gets out faster than ever when one breaks out. When Baseball scandals come to light, the price of the baseball cards of players involved or potentially involved can drop significantly.

This is primarily in the case of players found using performance-enhancing drugs. Still, some scandals that involve a team can retain playing cards that keep a high value due to the direct player not benefitting from the scandal in the public eye.

If one looks at how the baseball card market behaves after a scandal, they will see several factors determining if a baseball card will keep its value. Some of these factors include:

●The type of scandal

●The public perception of the player and their career

●The market that is buying the cards

Performance Enhancing Drug Scandals

Performance Enhancing Drugs

Scandals involving players using steroids are particularly detrimental to their baseball card values. With events like the 1980's Steroid scandal, the demand for cards of players who used steroids dropped significantly after their scandal came to public light.

Baseball cards and other memorabilia of players caught using performance-enhancing drugs in the 1980's steroid scandal and players like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Alex Rodriguez, usually drop the most in terms of value and demand.

These players' merchandise is nearly dead inventory and is very difficult to move. All merchandise of Rodriguez, Bonds, and McGwire lost 80% of their value from their career high peaks after their scandals. Baseball cards and other products made around these players must sell at significantly lower prices.

Fans are especially reluctant to forgive players who deny the allegations after being accused of using these drugs. These plummet in demand as collectors and card traders can no longer compare players' statistics in different generations. The use of these drugs distorts who is part of the 500 home run club and who isn't.

The value of these baseball cards depicting such players seems to drop and stay there. While it's possible there are still buyers for these cards, the price tag for them is much smaller than before the scandal broke out.

2017 Astros Scandal

Houston Astros Logo

The 2017 Astros Scandal was one of the more recent scandalous events in Major League Baseball, and it might surprise some collectors that there is still an existing market for the Baseball cards of the 2017 Astros team.

The demand for the 2017 Astros baseball cards has gone down significantly in some ways. On Instagram, sellers who displayed baseball cards for Jose Altuve and Alex Bergman used to see fire emojis and other encouraging engagement. Still, now those cards are commented with the trashcan emoji and the word "cheater."

These cards' demand and value dropped significantly on social media, but they remained the same for casual MLB fans and Houston's home field fans.

Public Perception

Still, though, players like Justin Verlander of the same 2017 Astros squad have kept his merchandise value after the scandal. As the pitcher clinching the 2017 ALCS MVP without help from the ongoing sign-stealing, Verlander keeps a positive reputation in the public's eyes. Another pitcher, Gerrit Cole, has also not seen a drop in his cards' value or his merchandise for sellers.

Though these players were in the same organization who used unethical tactics, their performance was unaffected by the scandalous events, so fans and other Major League Baseball collectors still hold them in high regard.

For players using performance-enhancing drugs and those who benefitted from the sign-stealing, the public and fans saw them as cheaters who padded their impressive statistics. For this reason, the value of their cards plummeted, and selling them became more difficult.

The Consumer

Baseball Cards For Sale

The effect that certain scandals have on baseball cards also depends on the market that is buying those cards. Generally, the value and ability to move those baseball cards will go down, but it is still possible for collectors to find outlets to move them to.

There are collectors who buy and sell to make a living. Others sell simply because they like baseball. In the same way, different people buy baseball cards, and some of them are still willing to pay for baseball cards even after the players are involved in a scandal, so the products can continue to have value depending on where a seller might look for buyers.

In the Astros case, sellers found that the demand for Baseball cards from the 2017 squad was still around, but it existed on different platforms that were more specific than Instagram's broader reach. By switching to these platforms, they were able to move these cards.

Auction Sites and Memorabilia Shows

Sellers found that they could still sell merchandise of the 2017 Astros on auction sites. These are websites that usually contain more casual baseball fans who just want autographed material.

Collectors of baseball cards also found that 2017 Astros baseball cards and merchandise moved in Houston's Memorabilia Shows. These were places where proud Astros fans came to get their hands on inventory from their favorite team and still were willing to pay collectors for baseball cards from the 2017 Astros team.

While baseball cards' value can go down after a scandal, collectors can still find ways to move those products to willing buyers. Though social media might not be good platforms to try to sell on after a scandal, baseball cards can still be precious to home-based fans and more casual baseball card buyers.

Heritage Auctions

Baseball Card Sellers

For Baseball card sellers, scandals can pose a threat to the baseball cards of a particular team. It might become difficult for sellers to find buyers for particular cards, and beyond that, it can become hard to get a fair price compared to the money they spent on the cards originally.

The good news for full-time sellers or people who have already spent money buying these cards is that these baseball cards have value in the market. They just have to look in the right places to move those cards. Some buyers would want those cards despite the team's actions. It all depends on the perspective and being in the right place with the right clientele.

When making any investment, it's important to understand the demand for the product you're buying. Having context with the public opinion will help sellers make informed decisions because how the public perceives the player indicates how easy the card will be to sell.

Know the Demand

As seen in the case of Baseball cards for Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, it's possible baseball card value does not necessarily rise and fall collectively per team. Sellers should observe the market for the demand of cards for certain players. Team scandals might not affect the value of some individual player's baseball cards, so they could be great investments.

Short Term vs. Long Term Sellers

Sellers looking for quicker turnarounds on baseball cards should consider refraining from purchasing baseball cards with players known for a particular baseball scandal, especially those known for performance-enhancement drugs.

Other sellers report that these cards are much harder to sell, and the markets that are looking for them are fewer and further between.

These cards' prices are a fraction of their original worth, so the profit potential is much smaller for sellers who acquire these players' cards. Some consumers still want these as parts of sets or as parts of collections--but sellers looking for smaller transactions might have a more challenging time finding these buyers.

Finding the Market

As other sellers have seen, the market for baseball cards of players involved with these scandalous events might be on sites outside of social media. Sellers can look for websites for more casual baseball fans who just want baseball cards or other merchandise. There are also trade shows that might celebrate a particular team where these cards will sell.

Social media platforms like Instagram have a broader audience that encompasses all kinds of baseball fans. In the case of scandalous events, popular opinion can help or hinder how well or how much a card can sell for. People with cards of these players should consider smaller and more niche audiences to sell to.

Sellers can look to auction websites for buyers. They might also consider memorabilia and trade shows in the team's hometown, where local fans might want those cards. Die-hard fans might just like a piece of merchandise from their favorite team and are still willing to pay for Baseball cards.

Final Thoughts

Scandals generally harm the baseball card value of players involved with them. The demand for these cards largely plummets along with the people's public opinion of those engaged in the scandal. Sellers should take caution when acquiring the cards of players associated with certain scandals like the Pete Rose Scandals or the 1980's Steroid Scandal.

Players who use performance-enhancing drugs see a significant drop in their baseball card value due to this. Sometimes, the scandals of a team does not affect the value of the baseball cards of some individual players if they weren't directly involved.

Dec 31st 2020 Staff Writers

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