I love vintage cards, and loving old cards often means you have to decide how bad of a condition you are willing to accept in order to add one of the prized pieces to your collection. Because let’s face it, good condition vintage usually means spending good money.
When dealing with mid to lower grade cards — those that usually fit into most collectors budgets — there are lots of factors to consider. What types of “damage” to a card are you willing to tolerate: Creases? Writing? Bent corners? Torn corners? Layered corners? Minor paper loss? Glue or gum Stains? And so forth.
Each collector has different things they’ll tolerate. For a long time my one and one standing rule was: I must be able to see the players face. I broke this rule once when I obtained my first 1948 Bowman Stan Musial rookie. The card had surface damage on Musial’s face, making it pretty hard to display without giving it the stink eye. I eventually moved that Musial and upgraded to a much more presentable copy.
This game of upgrading or changing a card for a different version of the same card is one that some collectors partake in quite a bit. I do it infrequently, but I’m always looking to better the collection, whether it be by adding a missing piece, or growing aesthetically. I’m an opportunist, if you will.
Such was the case recently when I logged into eBay and found a gorgeous looking 1955 Topps Sandy Koufax rookie card. The card was professionally graded by Beckett Vintage Grading and was actually graded lower than the BVG 4 I had sitting in my display case. I was very much content with the Koufax already in my collection, a card I acquired a decade ago when I shifted gears in terms of my hobby focus. The one draw back for me on the 4 was always the centering. It wasn’t horrible, but it was off. This is a classic problem with the 1955 sets. The cards are horizontal and the bottom border typically seems to be shorter than the top.
I like sharp corners. I like smooth surfaces. But above all, I really enjoy a centered baseball card. And so when the lesser-grade Koufax popped up on eBay with a Buy It Now that seemed more than reasonable, I decided I had to snag it and at least compare the cards in person. It made really ponder which of the two Koufax rookies would stay and which would hit the market. I don’t need both.
And so I pondered: Do I keep the centered copy with slightly lesser desirable corners, or the one with better corners and worse centering? Obviously the one with better corners and higher grade would probably sell for more on the open market.
I posed the question to Twitter followers without specifying which card. A total of 84 people made a selection in the poll and the results weren’t completely skewed, but the majority did say they prefer centered vintage with softer corners over off-center cards with better corners.
The poll results definitely leaned in the direction I feel, and after comparing the two cards in person — even in their respective BVG cases — I do feel that the lesser grade with better centering is best for me at this point. I mean, when I walk past my wall-mounted display case, a centered Koufax pops out at me more than one that is slightly off-center.
What are your thoughts on condition when it comes to vintage cards? What defects are you willing to tolerate? What damages take precedent when you go about purchasing a vintage card for your collection?
I feel like I sit down at the end of each year and write some column in which I “promise” to write more in the future. I do this of course with the right intentions, but the fact of the matter is that there is so much going on in my life that I can’t live up to the expectations that I set for myself. And sometimes I stop myself before I even start.
Am I the kind of blogger you’re going to look for each day? Probably not. I mean I USED to write one or two posts a day (in like 2008-2010). But that was before kids (or when they were babies anyway). And that was in a time when several bloggers were trying to pretend to be “newsy.” You know … write “BREAKING NEWS” in the headline, like the post is some uber important piece worthy of a Pulitzer Prize. Because, you know, the only place you can see the images for the upcoming release is on so-and-so’s blog, when the reality is that it’s just images that were basically
stolen copy and pasted from other sites. The practice got so bad with some bloggers that they forgot to remove the damn watermark that other sites used. Pathetic.
I never tried to play that type with this blog. I tried to keep up the number of actual posts to maintain readership, but my content has usually been somewhat different, albeit, not always of interest to others than myself. And that’s fine.
What I’ve come to learn over the years is that the only person to whom I have to be loyal in writing this blog is the person whose reflection stares back at me on the screen when I type these sentences. Do I enjoy readership? Yes. But it is my time that I am investing in forming these sentences and if I am not enjoying what I am producing then I won’t do it anymore.
And so explains much of the infrequency here.
I’ve essentially turned this into my personal diary; and used platforms like Twitter and Instagram, as well as facebook to be more involved in my circle of collectors. My diary is open to you all to read, and for those that do read when I post, I thank you.
This last year has been so physically and emotionally draining in my real life that 2016 may very well have been the least active I have been since I registered the cardboardicons.com domain. Sad, but true. Some of you really know what’s going on behind the scene in the Cardboard Icons
corporate office household.
Nonetheless, here I am on New Year’s eve writing a column that will be read like seven times: Five times by myself, and then once by a person who wants to read it and another who might stumble upon it while trying to learn about some pornographic post.
Anyhow, writing is an activity that for me has always been cathartic and an exercise that breads more of the same once I start. In other words, in order to write more, I need to write something … ANYTHING.
If you’re still reading this, thanks for sticking it out. My next post WILL be more card related. I promise.
Happy New Year, collectors.
Ask any player collector what they’re dream card is and it’s likely going to be a signed rookie card of some sorts. Or maybe a 1/1 featuring a sweet patch or button, coupled with an autograph.
Some people may not understand my fascination with this card. I was a big fan of the photography used in the 1991 set and from the outset, I had my eye on the Clemens card because it features him standing at the base of the iconic Green Monster. I’ve owned probably 30 or 40 copies of the standard card, but always wanted the Desert Shield version. For the uninitiated, the Desert Shield version features a gold stamp in the corner. These were cards that were sent (in pack/box form) to the US troops stationed abroad during the Gulf War. The fact that some of these actually made it back to the States is impressive in their own right.
(Side note: Surely some of the boxes never actually made it abroad as sealed wax can be found if your pockets are deep enough. Nonetheless, the mystique surrounding the product remains.)
When I first learned of the cards, I hoped that one day I could own one card — any card at that — from that special set. My hopes, obviously, were to own the Clemens card but I figured it would cost me a fortune. Remember, this was a quarter of a century ago.
Over time we as a hobby have found new ways to get the cards of which we’d always dreamed. The internet has made the impossible possible as we were no longer limited to just the cards we had in local shops and shows. Even so, I failed to obtain a Desert Shield version of the 1991 card until recently, when I not only located THE card, but one that had been handled and signed by the legend Roger Clemens himself. The autograph is authenticated by JSA, as noted with a sticker affixed to the back with a matching serial number on the COA.
The term “priceless” gets used quit a bit by collectors, but this one truly is in my mind.
Sometimes when I donate cards to my local thrift stores, I like to go back a week later to see what they’ve priced them at. Usually they grab a handful, stick then in a bag and then put a $3-$5 price tag on it.
And every now and again when I’m looking at these bag, often Filled with cars I owned, I come across ones that weren’t donated by me.
A few days ago I found one with a stack of Sports Illustrated For Kids cards. I buy these if I see a name that sticks out to me. In this case, I could see the name of Bryce Harper. I figured I’d buy it as I didn’t own the 2012 SI For Kids card.
The find isn’t of any great value but still a neat little haul for the price of a retail pack.
Total cost of this Thrift Treasure: $2.99.
You can see more Thrift Treasures posts Here.
Quality was the name of the game for baseball cards as we approached the end of the 1990s. Multiple companies were still in business putting out countless products each year for consumers. Sure, some were content on the basic formula of picture and design on front, and stats on the back. But some desired more. Some desired innovation. Some desired … royalty.
Pacific, a baseball card company based out of Lynwood, Wash., was a suburb of Seattle. The company started mainstream products at the beginning of the 1990s with several mediocre releases. By mid-decade the company hit it’s stride with flashy Prism — the ORIGINAL Prism brand — and then continued its craftsmanship with the Crown Royale brand, which debuted in 1995 as a football-only product and eventually crossed over to baseball in 1998.
During the decade, I was very much a collector of four sports. And when it came to football, Crown Royale and Prism were my staples. I always hoped that Pacific would cross the brands over to baseball. And in 1998 the company brought us the first Crown Royale baseball release, which featured holographic backgrounds with a gold crown die-cut design laid on top of that, and then a single-shot action photo atop all of that. To put it simple: It was gorgeous in terms of baseball cards.
But, quality doesn’t come cheap. These definitely wasn’t a $2 a pack release. Or $3. Or $4. Or $5. I recall seeing the packs upward of $6, and one Twitter follower even recalls seeing them at $9 a pack. His recollection wouldn’t surprise me. The cards were than damn good. Looking at the Beckett Almanac, it confirms the MSRP was $5.99 for the 6-card pack. Each box had 24 packs, so that would bring a box price into the $150 range.
As a teen collector I may have opened a handful of these packs, but I know it wasn’t much. By 1998 I wanted the quality, but all I really could afford was quantity that Bowman afforded me — after all, by 1998 I had started my chase for rookie card greatness.
Overtime, collecting interests changed and I went full bore into rookie cards. Anything marked with the Bowman name was mine. This was before the rookie card autos of Chrome, by the way.
Fast forward to about a week ago when I visited Peninsula Sports Cards in Belmont, Calif. This is a sibling store of my two really local shops, South Bay Sports Cards (Sunnyvale, Calif.) and Stevens Creek Sports Cards (San Jose, Calif.). Belmont is a bit of a trek for me, but the shop there recently moved into a larger space and I wanted to see the shop. Also, I wanted to see if they had any old wax for me to rip. I’ve been heavy on nostalgia recently, especially since my 6-year-old son is slowly working his way into the hobby.
I spoke with one of the main guys at the shop and told him of my interests after a lengthy discussion about other items. He took my name, e-mail and phone number and said he’d have someone check the warehouse. He called me about three days later telling me they got some stuff in. Among the items was this box of 1998 Crown Royale. The price? Less than $2 a pack, or merely a third of what the packs cost some 18 years ago.
I half debated opening this product alone as I was sort of fulfilling a card collecting dream of mine. Instead I decided to include my son. What better way to bring this all full circle. Right?
This was the best decision ever.
I told my son of the crown die-cuts and explained that the basic cards in this set were all special in that way. I showed him the crown design on the cover of the box and he was intrigued. As we ripped into each pack he said “this is fun, the design is cool!”
Hell yeah! I’d won him over. This wasn’t about hits (autographs and relic cards, which drive prices through the roof these days). Hell, I suppose it really wasn’t about the cards either. It was about living a hobby dream through my son and he appreciated the product just as I did. Sure, I kind of showed him the path, but the comments came willingly and without provocation.
So, what’s in the box?
Each box contains an over-sized Cramer’s Choice Award box topper — the large version of the ultra-premium insert for Pacific brands — and then 24 packs in each box. The packs contain six cards, including two inserts of different themes and four die-cut base cards. In some cases, one base card was subbed out for an additional insert.
The chase cards include die-cut All-Star cards which were seeded 1:25 packs (usually one per box); Firestone on Baseball 2:25 (or typically two per box), and Race to Record 1:73 (serial numbered to 374 copies each and about 1 in every three boxes).
We opened the box and found our box topper resting comfortably flat. I opened the topper and saw the name “Ken” in the large text on the reverse of the card and knew we did well. It was indeed a large, flashy card of Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr.
In the very first pack that my son opened he pulled a base card of my favorite player Roger Clemens; meanwhile I hit a basic Griffey.In my second pack I hit our die-cut All-Star card, that of Cal Ripken Jr. Not too shabby.
We took turns opening the remainder of the packs and we got many of the big stars of the day on the Crown base cards including Derek Jeter and Mark McGwire and Alex Rodriguez, but failed to pull Frank Thomas, Barry Bonds or Cal Ripken. We also pulled three of the four rookie cards in the set — “El Duque” Orlando Hernandez, Masato Yoshi and Rolando Arrojo were in it, David Delucci was not.
I’ve yet to actually sort the base cards by number, but I’d say we’re about half way to a base set. One day we will complete it.
A special thanks to the chain card stores in my area for 1) being there, 2) providing fantastic customer service and 3) making old products available at decent prices.