I've collected sports cards pretty much my entire life. I started around the age of 3. I started with hockey and baseball and then basketball and football. Then in 1994 this thing called the World Cup was hosted in the U.S. and Upper Deck released a set to commemorate the event. That is when I started collecting soccer cards. Unfortunately, with no league there wasn't much to do after 94. MLS started play in 96, but there wasn't another major set until 97 (I believe, pretty sure, not 100% sure this was the first year) when Upper Deck released their first MLS set. Then I believe that they took a break in 98, came back and released a set in 99 and have been releasing them every year since.
I've always collected cards for fun and never really spent much money on them. I would get a pack when I went to CVS or Bradlees with my parents and they'd buy me a pack when we'd get to the check out line since back then they kept the cards by the registers like they do with the candy these days. I've never tried to make a profit with them and I doubt my collection of Dana Barros and Sherman Douglas cards is going to put me through retirement (Damn, I should've really focused on Dee Brown and Dino Radja as well, I think that would've gotten me there). Even so, I always got a Beckett every now and then to look up my cards and see what I had in case I wanted to sell some or make some trades, to make sure I didn't get ripped off, which is really the purpose of this post. For those of you who don't know, Beckett is pretty much the standard in card pricing. How it pretty much works is like this, Beckett puts out a few magazines each month, one for each of the major sports (basketball, baseball, and so on) as well as one that is a summary of all the major sports and some of the more minor sports out there like golf. In each magazine you'll find pricing information on all the major sets out on the market. They survey the market and report the lowest price for the card as well as the highest price for the card that they saw in their last survey of the market. For many years MLS cards were not included in any Beckett magazines. Well, today I went to the bookstore and saw one of the Beckett's that covers multiple sports. I picked it up to take a quick look and in the table of contents noticed that soccer was listed. I flipped to it and saw that MLS was now being covered by Beckett and there was a lot of detail for the MLS sets that have been released since the late 90's. I'm not sure how long Beckett has been doing this for, but I have a feeling it started at some point around the 2010 World Cup. To me this shows that MLS is gaining a following in terms of people who collect MLS cards. There is a demand for the services that Beckett offers for MLS cards. If Beckett felt that MLS didn't have a future in the hobby then they wouldn't waste their time or resources on it, or waste any of their magazine space on it. As a collector and fan of MLS I'm very happy to have Beckett covering the league's cards. I'm not sure what the MLS license is like with Upper Deck, if Upper Deck's contract with the league makes Upper Deck the exclusive producer of MLS cards, if it isn't then perhaps Topps will enter the market in the near future and release its own sets.
The last 2 Upper Deck sets have been very good, I think I have a post outstanding on the 2010 set and someone keeps reminding me about it and I keep telling him I'm going to do it and then never do, but that's another story. Anyways, Upper Deck has recently released a second set for 2011, the SP set. The SP set for other sports is a high end set and for MLS it is also a high end set, the first high end set the league has seen (as well as the first time the league has had more than one set come out in the same year). A typical normal pack for a base set will sell for something around $1.99 and contain around 10 cards. In a high end set such as this one, you can buy a box for $180. Each box will contain 6 packs of cards which contain 3 cards each. You're paying $10 per card. The reason for this is that on average each pack will contain either an autographed card or a card with a patch of a game worn jersey. To go with that, most of the cards in the set are numbered, meaning that if a card is numbered to 500, then only 500 of those cards were made. Some of the autograph and game worn cards are numbered as low as 7 which make the cards pretty rare. Again, I see this as a positive for the league as Upper Deck must be seeing demand for MLS related products if it's going to release an expensive product like this. In the Beckett I saw today, it included a quick run down of the set and even included it in its annual great gift ideas for collectors list.
If you're a fan of MLS and enjoy collecting MLS cards this is great news. We now have the most reliable source for card pricing and information covering the league. Good stuff.