Business Valuations Blog

Financial Reporting Valuations: What Baseball Cards Can Teach Us About Fair Market Value

As a kid, baseball and football trading cards were my life. I would absorb the stats on the back of each card and rattle them off at school like it was a homework assignment. I have boxes and boxes of cards that I accumulated over the years, as I am sure that may of you do (if your mom hasn’t tried to throw them away yet). What do baseball cards have to do with the value of your business? More than you think.


Magazines such as Tuff Stuff and Beckett quote estimated prices for nearly every sports trading card available. These prices are representative of what we in the valuation world would call “fair market value”. This is the price at which a willing buyer and a willing seller, with all material facts about the card known to them, would likely transact. A majority of business valuation engagements, including those for IRS gift and estate tax reporting purposes, divorce proceedings, and as directed by many operating agreements, require fair market value to be used as the standard of value. Fair market value typically contemplates that the purchaser is a “financial” buyer (someone who is making an investment in the business with no means to create synergies or other economies of scale), unless certain circumstances dictate otherwise.


When many business owners contemplate the value of their business, however, they often think of a larger company similar to their own paying a premium for their business. The assumption made by the business owner is that the purchaser will be able to recognize certain post-transaction efficiencies, which will allow the acquirer to pay more for the business than a “financial” buyer. This is called “strategic value” or “investment value” (the value to a specific buyer), which is not the standard of value required to be adhered to in many business valuation engagements.


For example, I have a 1994 Kenny Lofton Upper Deck card that has a quoted value of $.10 according to Beckett. Someone who has the entire 1994 Upper Deck set except for the Kenny Lofton card that I own may be willing to pay a premium above the card’s $.10 “fair market value” because that owner can derive additional value by completing their set. This premium price is the “strategic value” or “investment value” to that specific owner, but is not reflective of the card’s “fair market value” in the general marketplace. 


While a business’ underlying assets are the drivers its value, the perspective from which that value is determined can have a significant impact on the final number. When business owners are in need of valuation services, it is important that all of the parties understand what standard of value is being used, whether it is “fair market value” or something different, so that the value of the business is considered in the correct context. 


Looking for business valuation and fair value valuation assistance in Cleveland or Akron? Contact our Business Valuation Services group at 440-449-6800 for more information.

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