85,000 Trading Cards

2023 Sports Trading Card Market Emerging How much are 88,500 trading cards worth? Bidders are about to find out.rends and Challenges

William R. Squire loved his baseball cards, spending hours poring over them at his dining room table.

He loved his football, basketball and hockey cards, too.

All 88,500 of them.

“He would just sit and look at them, and then put them in the box and take them out and look at them again,” recalled his daughter, Coreen Squire. “This was his thing when I was a kid.”

William Squire amassed the collection over decades in a hobby that brought him happiness. Now, Coreen hopes the cards will bring joy to others. She donated her late father's card collection to the Center for Active Adults in South Lyon, Michigan, which plans to sell them in a silent bid auction in mid-May.

The donation has overwhelmed Carrie Cavanaugh, the director of the non-profit center, as well as multiple collectibles dealers and hobbyists.

“It’s daunting,” Cavanaugh said. “We are trying to find a new home for the cards, to benefit the center and whoever will have the excitement of acquiring this lifetime collection.”

The worth of the collection remains unknown; undoubtedly there are some valuable gems hidden in the binders and boxes of cards.

“I’m aware of collections in the tens of thousands,” said Leila Dunbar, renowned for her appraisals of sports memorabilia, toys and pop culture items on “Antiques Roadshow.”  “It’s not unheard of, but it is unusual. … Most of the collections I see are in the hundreds, to the low thousands. Obviously, he loved cards.”

For love of the game(s) and collecting

Squire died at age 75 in 2009, after more than 40 years of collecting sports trading cards, including baseball (50,000+), football (22,000+), hockey (8,709) and basketball (just under 7,000).

He went to card meets to trade and buy, and even took cards to the ballpark to get players to sign them. Among the cards is one signed by Detroit Tigers great Al Kaline.

William’s wife, Yvonne, tried to get him to organize the collection, which includes some of the biggest names in sports. A quick look through a sampling of cards reveals baseball stars like Cal Ripken Jr. and Ken Griffey Jr. in their rookie seasons, as well as hockey great Wayne Gretzky, football favorite Barry Sanders, and basketball biggies Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal.Some of the cards were organized alphabetically. Many are in binders. But after William died, his wife and daughter kept finding more boxes stashed in the basement and in closets.

No time for America's favorite pastime?

Coreen tried to sell the collection at Gibraltar Trade Center, where some dealers told her she had potentially “really, really valuable cards.” She was shocked no one wanted to go through them or pay her $500 asking price.

“I had a hard time with that and said, ‘Screw all you guys, I’m going to give them to the (senior) center and I hope they make a ton of money off it.’”

Cavanaugh is grateful for the donation and hopes the collection's sale will provide much-needed funds for programs and improvements at the center. 

She and a few of her assistants at the nonprofit center with 4,800 active members have sorted the cards by sport. Cavanaugh said she declined a few "five-figure" offers from collectibles dealers. She plans to sell the collection in four lots according to the major sports, with a minimum bid of $500 for each lot. There will be no sale of individual cards.

Antiques Roadshow appraiser offers advice on finding treasure

Dunbar, of "Antiques Roadshow" fame had a different recommendation: volunteers should sort through the collection and value individual cards.

“I would tell them to get the seniors involved — someone has to be into it,” she said. “Make it a project. Educate yourself on (the cards) on the internet. It’s fabulous learning.”

Dunbar said cards are valued by four major factors: who is on the card; the company issuing the card; the year of the card; and the card's condition.

The earliest cards were made by tobacco companies and are relatively hard to find, but if you have one depicting Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth or Honus Wagner, you've hit the jackpot.

The T-206 Honus Wagner card, issued in 1909, sells in the millions, with less than 70 known cards in existence. The most valuable card, however, is post-World War II: a 1952 Mickey Mantle card that sold last year for a record-breaking $12.6 million.

“Those are among the most desirable and less of them exist,” Dunbar said. “The better the condition, the higher the price.”

The Squire collection appears to mostly contain cards from the '70s, '80s, and '90s, "a junk era" that Dunbar said started when Topps lost their monopoly and other card companies including Upper Deck and Donruss got involved and cards saturated the marketplace. Still, she said there cards from that era that have value.

“The wild card is determining the gradation and condition,” Dunbar said.

For someone who hasn’t graded cards professionally, the difference between a 6, 7, 8 and 9 card on a scale of 10 is difficult to discern. The odds of finding an immaculate 10 are “miniscule,” with miscuts from the factory, blemishes, off-coloring or rounded corners from use. Still, a mint condition card is not impossible.

Make a bid, get in on the hunt

The cards in Cavanaugh’s possession won’t be appearing on "Antiques Roadshow," but she is ready to schedule appointments for potential bidders to view the collection. Those viewings will be May 16-18 at the Center for Active Adults, housed at South Lyon High School, 1000 N. Lafayette St.

Only two people will be allowed to view the collection at a time, with an opportunity to fill out a bid form, which then will placed in a sealed envelope. Bids will be opened May 19, with the highest bid for each lot getting a treasure hunt to take home.

“We know there are gems in there, but we don’t know how precious,” Cavanaugh said. “I love the idea of what they could possibly find.”

Reporter Susan Bromley collects books and cheers on the Detroit Tigers. Contact her at sbromley@hometownlife.com or follow her on Twitter @SusanBromley10.



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