All I need to know about 2018 Topps I learned in three retail packs

Posted in Commentary, Misc. with tags , , , , , on February 7, 2018 by Cardboard Icons

The release of the latest Topps baseball set used to be cause for celebration for me.

I was like many of you, pining for something new after a winter of hearing about draft baseball products and numerous football and basketball releases.

But what’s funny is that I’ve never fancied myself a set collector, and Topps in and of itself has never been the object of my desire.

Now, before a I start down this slippery slope, I will say that I am in a different place on my life than before. And the focus of my collection is such that the latest product — of anything really — doesn’t quite jive with what truly makes me happy.

I like that old smelly cardboard, the ones that reek like my grandfather’s ashtray, the ones that look like they thrown around the house like a ninja star, the ones featuring the true icons of the sport, not the youngest kid on the block who gets labeled as “the next (insert superstar name here.)” In a nutshell, I want the cards that I never could have imagined owning — and not because they are rare due to manufactured scarcity like we get today.

That said, opening packs of cards is part of my being; it’s been a part of this hobby of mine since I opened my first wax pack on 1987.

So it’s impossible for me to say that I’ll never open another pack again; especially while I continue to collect.

And so there I was last week when 2018 Topps hit the shelves with Twitter abuzz over every card, good or bad. I was fighting that urge to buy a box — or three — which isn’t uncommon for a guy who at times does show an addictive mentality. So I stayed out of the conversation, avoided my Local Card Shop — sorry, guys, I had to — and tried to steer clear of the card aisle at Target.

After a few days, when I felt I could handle buying a few packs, I decided to do so. And in those three packs I learned — or should I say reminded myself — why I shouldn’t be buying much of this product.

The first item I unearthed in my very first pack of Topps was a blank security card, which I found apropos since the card literally said nothing — kind of like the cards within the pack did nothing for me.

And it’s not that there’s anything wrong with the product. It’s the same formulaic stuff that works for most people. It’s that for me the blank card, along with the contents of the three packs, just felt like a waste of time.

I didn’t care much that I now owned Salvador Perez as my first true card of a 2018 Card set. Or that I also got a Charlie Blackmon home run National League League Leader Card after he finished THIRD in that category. Hell, I got two Derek Jeter insert cards and really don’t care because neither he nor that insert set are my cup of tea.

Topps baseball has been fun for me in the past, and I suppose it could be again on the future. But right now, I’m not feeling it. And unless my kids show some interest in ripping with me, I’ll stay away because that’s what’s good for me. In those three packs, I learned the two important things about the set — it’s just not something I NEED, and I had no pleasure at all from opening the packs. And those lessons — if you want to call them that — were important to experience because I sometimes fail to realize them until I’ve already lost control and bought too much.

I leave you with this thought today:

If you aren’t finding joy in your hobby …

If you find your hobby spending to be out of control …

If you feel you’re lacking focus …

… it’s OK to step away and regain whatever control you need so that you can maintain a healthy balance of life and hobby. Your hobby shouldn’t rule your life.

Are your card packages being received? A reminder for buyers and sellers.

Posted in Commentary, Misc. with tags , , , , , on January 27, 2018 by Cardboard Icons

A few weeks ago I had two eBay purchases arrive on the same day. As soon as I got notification via eBay that they were delivered I went straight home to retrieve them. When I arrived, I found them sitting on the porch, atop a box of Similac samples my relative had received.

These packages were pretty standard card packages — bubble mailers that could have been shoved into the secure mail slot in the garage door. However, the postal carrier decided to leave them on the step, in plain view of the street — available to any person who wanted to take the items.

Fortunately for me I got to the cards in time. But not less than a week later I received a message from a buyer who claimed that he did not receive a card I sold him last month.

The buyer told me that he never received his card, which he had purchased for more than $150. I promptly checked the delivery confirmation number and it showed that it had been delivered some 30 days before I received this message.

The buyer and I went back and forth, and the buyer opened a EBay case against me, which automatically tied up my PayPal account until the case was resolved.

I provided the buyer and eBay any documentation I had. And after calling eBay myself, the auction site took my side and agreed that I followed the right steps. I won the case and my PayPal account and funds were unlocked.

While I had come out on the positive end of both cases discussed above, it is unfortunate that things even had to get to this point. Mail theft is so rampant these days that it’s common for pieces to go missing, and sometimes the bad guys winds up with someone’s $150 Card.

But these examples prove that it’s a good time to share these precautionary tales with fellow collectors.

If you’re buying something, keep an eye out for mail. Use the tracking numbers, and if it’s expensive ask the seller to consider using a signature confirmation service — at YOUR expense. And do all you can to provide a secured area for a postal carrier to safely deliver your package.

And If you’re a seller, make sure you document your tracking numbers and keep your records (I.e. postal receipts and customs forms, etc) for several months. If you can show eBay that the item you sold was delivered to the confirmed address you should win your case should one be opened against you. Whether or not it actually was received by the buyer isn’t your problem.

Obviously this system would work better for everyone if thieves didn’t exist, but that’s not the case. And whichever side of the buyer-seller relationship you fall on, you have to do what you can to protect yourself.

Ben,

Former Beckett Baseball columnist.

———

Collector of Hall of Fame tobacco era and Rookie cards.

Collector of Roger Clemens and Clayton Kershaw.

You can reach me on Twitter and Instagram @cardboardicons. You can also e-mail me at cardboardicons@yahoo.com

Thrift Treasures 113: Circumstantial Evidence

Posted in Thrift Treasures with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2018 by Cardboard Icons

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, today I will show you evidence that even in 2018, anything is possible when it comes to thrift stores.

Please direct your attention to the photographs shown here as they depict the evidence — the circumstantial evidence — that led to the purchase of the “Treasure Chest” brought forth in the previous case of Thrift Treasures.

The bag in which these items are contained is not original to these collectibles. It is a Wal-Mart brand food storage container used by a Goodwill in San Jose, Calif., to hold these cards for sale. The cards themselves, as you can see, are at least two decades old, some of them three decades.

At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss this bag as containing commons — items no one would want. But a closer look reveals that some of the commons are 1985 Chong Modesto Athletics minor league cards, about 20 of which bear the signatures of the player or coach pictured.

While most of these guys never made it to the Majors, the fact that their signed cards exist, and that they were saved from a trash can, is a amazing. The basic set is best-known for housing an early Mark McGwire. However there was no McGwire to be found.

Here are the signed cards:

Twayne Harris // Paul Bradley // Kevin Stock

Jim Jones // Steve Howard (MLB) // Oscar De Chavez

Stan Hilton // Dave Wilder // Damon Farmar

Antonio Cabrera// Doug Scherer // Bob Loscalzo

Joe Strong (MLB Debut at age 37 in 2000 – Marlins) // Eric Garrett // Allan Heath

Mike Fulmer // Kevin Coughlon // Jim Eppard (MLB Debut, at age 27 in 1987 – Angels)

Pete Kendrick // George Mitterwald (Spent parts of 10 seasons in MLB) // Joe Odom

There also were a handful of unsigned A’s minor league cards …

One of the first cards I actually noticed when I picked up the bag was a 1985 Topps Tim Belcher Rookie Card which is signed in ballpoint one and personalized “To John, All The Best!” Belcher was a solid MLBer who spent 14 seasons in the Majors. He placed third in Rookie of the Year voting in 1988, and sixth in Cy Young voting, both seasons with the Dodgers.  He won 15 games three times during his career.

In addition to these cards, there was a partial set of these 1987 Fleer Award Winners — including this Tony Gwynn card, which is epic for two reasons: First — he’s wearing a single earbud.

And Secondly …

Made you look!

The remainder of the bag contained little more than commons. But there was a nice flashback when mixed in with the newer press lock baggies was this old school — thinking 1990/1991-ish — nearly full pack of penny sleeves. I’m not sure about you, but seeing the original packaging on supplies from the junk wax era brings about all sorts of memories. In my case, I distinctly remember rummaging through a relative’s bedroom for coins so that I could secure my first pack of soft sleeves.

Speaking of nostalgia, within this food storage bag there were two of these “Sports Card Collector’s Guide” books that give a very broad over view of collecting in the early 1990s. These things were all over the place, usually packaged with what we would equate to a card collector’s starter kit usually sold at retailers like Toys R Us.

The items within this food storage bag aren’t worth a ton, but certainly they are worth more than the  price tag. And when you consider that they were found with the aforementioned Treasure Chest, they certainly added value as circumstantial evidence for the purchase of the box, which as I noted in my previous post, had contents unknown to me at the time of purchase.

Total cost of this Thrift Treasure: $3.99.

You can see more Thrift Treasures posts Here.

Thrift Treasures 112: I found a treasure chest!

Posted in Thrift Treasures with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2018 by Cardboard Icons

Once upon a time, a Yahoo Sports columnist wrote that I, Ben Aguirre, must consider myself a “real, live Indiana Jones” (read here) after I unearthed the mother of all Thrift Treasures items, a game-used Earl Weaver jersey, that I later had signed and authenticated by Weaver himself.

Well, what should I consider myself today after finding a real, live “treasure chest?”

The answer: perhaps nothing more than a fool.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written a Thrift Treasures posts. In fact, it’s been 11 months. Which if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time you’d know that’s an asinine amount of time for me, an avid thrift shopper, to write about something I’ve found.

Well, truth be told it’s been slim pickings for a while. Anyone with a cell phone — which is to say that everyone who walks into a thrift store — is an expert, or can at least quickly learn enough to know whether or not to buy an item.  Also, while I still pop into thrift stores, it’s definitely been with less frequency.

I digress, this week I decided to set aside some “Me” time and do something other than laundry, or other adult chores such as run errands and pay bills. I decided to be Indiana Jones — I decided to go hunt treasure.

I walked into a few stores and walked out empty handed. But at one Goodwill in San Jose, Calif., I found something promising: A Baseball Collector’s Treasure Chest. See, it says “treasure” right on the box.

The box, as you might be able to see in the picture, is taped shut.  And while some would say rip the box open and review the contents before purchasing, I found that to lack class — yeah, I used class while writing about a thrift store visit. Also, there was nearby evidence suggesting there may be something worthwhile inside. Beside, it was $5.99 for this big box of cards, or about the same price of three retail packs of 2018 Topps Baseball — which I know releases next week and I will be sure to steer away from as much as possible so as to not get sucked into that rabbit hole.

So, what is this nearby evidence of which I speak? It’s actually a clear, gallon-sized food storage bag also containing cards, including what i could see to be a handful of mid 1980s autographed minor league cards, as well as a personalized signed 1985 Topps Tim Belcher rookie card. The bag was priced at $3.99. The presence of these autographs created this notion in my mind that there could be anything in side the box.

And so the “Treasure Chest” left the store with me and in the car I sliced open the tape and I could immediately see three things:

First, there was a 1968 Topps card included here. That was promising.

Secondly, the cards did not appear to be recently sorted since they were packed fairly tight and in a uniform fashion. That’s also promising.

Thirdly, there’s an awful lot of colored borders here. That’s NOT so promising.

As it turned out, this treasure chest was a real turd.

I immediately grabbed the 1968 Topps card (Jim Merritt, a common) that was sitting on the side of the row and found that there was a 1979 Topps card (Ken Clay, also a common) behind it, as well as a 1990 Topps Special Nolan Ryan card as well. I then thumbed through every card in the box and found that the box contained an assortment of 1986 through 1991, what seemed like opened packs or bricks removed from complete sets, or partial team sets, void of most of the big names. The one highlight from the box was a 1988 Topps Tom Glavine rookie card.

I sat there a second and thought about what exactly this “Treasure Chest” was.  I’d never seen these for sale before, but it was not uncommon in the early 1990s to find random baseball cards for sale either on television shopping channels, or in various magazines. And based on the items that were IN this box, I’m guessing this was a “Treasure chest” offered for sale via one of those avenues, and the description likely pitched this box as containing roughly 1,000 cards, a random assortment from multiple manufactures including Topps, Donruss, Score, Fleer and Upper Deck. Additionally there was likely a guarantee that the box included a card from the 1960s and 1970s, as well as a card of Nolan Ryan, who was at the peak of collectibility in 1990 and 1991.

Needless to say, the Treasure Chest was a dud. But thanks to the box I learned about pitcher Jim Merritt, the subject of the 1968 Topps card. He was an all star in 1970 with the Reds, who three years later would be fined as a member of the Texas Rangers for throwing “spitters” in a three-hit shutout against the Cleveland Indians.

And I learned about pitcher Ken Clay, the subject of my 1979 Topps card. Clay apparently was a top pitching prospect who never made it at the MLB level, and was traded by the Yankees after a handful of seasons in which he bombed, but his team still managed to win a pair of World Series rings. Wikipedia also notes that Clay’s struggles at the MLB level was the reason why Yankees owner George Steinbrenner shifted away from building through the draft and rather through free agency and trades.  Additionally, Clay also apparently had some run-ins with the law, all of which you can read on the link added above.

As for the Ziplock bag that I labeled as evidence for this purchase earlier, I’ll break that down in the next edition of Thrift Treasures coming up later. I assure you it’s better than this.

Total cost of this Thrift Treasure: $5.99.

You can see more Thrift Treasures posts Here.

I love COMC, but …

Posted in Commentary, Misc. with tags , , , , , on January 21, 2018 by Cardboard Icons

For the better part of eight years I have been a buyer and seller on COMC. The service offered it pretty amazing. Yes, other sites also offer singles for sale via consignment from collectors. But this site, in my eyes, changed the game.

As a buyer, you get scans of each card for sale, get to combine shipping, and usually get rock-bottom prices. As a seller, all you really need to do is box up your cards and their service sorts and label everything for you. You then set your price for your item. No hassles with shipping and handle. That’s also what they do.

But as the years have gone by, there have been a few things about COMC that have really started to irk me. The first of which is inconsistency in terms of what they will take for consignment, and what they reject.

COMC has the right to reject cards. I get that. But what I don’t get is the grounds under which they make that decision, and that is what is frustrating. COMC labels some cards based upon their condition — they do it for old and new. If a card is in poor condition, they often label it that way. But in my experience, the service simply returns my cards to me instead of also giving my cards the same treatment.

And while I’d agree that no one is in the market for some common poor condition cards, the ones that really irk me are the rarer ones, late 1990s basketball inserts,early 2000s football serial numbered inserts, and even some tougher releases, such as these 1986 Carnation Major League Wrestling cards. The wrestling cards usually go for $50 on eBay even in low grade condition. And some of the cards that have been rejected on my end are ones that could sell for $5-$15 even in their condition simply because they aren’t available on COMC or eBay. Heck, even autographs have been rejected.

Along these same lines of frustration is the fact that more and more of my cards have been returned to me for being damaged, even ones that weren’t damaged before I packaged them up.

When I send cards to COMC, I place every card into a penny sleeve, and then place the sleeved cards into 500-count boxes. This helps keep the surface safe, and reduces movement within the box during shipment. However, in some orders I have some 20-50 cards returned to me because they’re “damaged.” And when I look a the cards, they all have damage in the same spot, almost as if they were placed haphazardly into a card sorter during the process. The damage usually consists of a ding to the bottom left corner, and some edge damage on the top left … which would be consistent with setting the left side down into a card sorter.

Then there are the cases of mystery damage, like these dents that wound up on the top of these cards here …

And then perhaps the most baffling of all are the ones that are rejected because they’re supposedly damaged, yet I see no damage when I review them, Granted this 2017 Topps Museum Victor Martinez patch card isn’t lighting the hobby world on fire, but it’s still got some value. and most importantly … it’s not damaged.

I don’t expect an apology or special treatment from COMC. I will not boycott their services over this issue. I’ve shared some of these sentiments on Twitter before so this isn’t something we should be calling “breaking news.” But I do expect COMC to be a little more consistent with everyone’s cards.

Ben,

Cardboard Icons

Collector of Hall of Fame tobacco era and Rookie cards.

Collector of Roger Clemens and Clayton Kershaw.

You can teach me on Twitter and Instagram @cardboardicons. You can also reach me via e-mail at cardboardicons@yahoo.com

Collecting Goals for 2018

Posted in Commentary, Misc. with tags , , , , , , , on January 18, 2018 by Cardboard Icons

Every year for the last decade or so I’ve sat down in late December or early January and penned a piece in which I declared goals for the upcoming year.

Well, I’m kind of off to a late start here as we are closing in on Week Three of 2018. Nonetheless, collecting has been on my mind lately, and thus it felt appropriate to declare my goals for the upcoming year in hopes that it will help keep me focused.

Without further delay, here are Cardboard Icons’ top five collecting goals for 2018.

GOAL #1: No more duplicates*

A reoccurring theme in recent years has been this ideology of thinning out the herd. In other words, stop hoarding stuff that doesn’t matter to me. If you buy packs, boxes, spots in breaks or whatever, then you’re likely to at some point come up on some duplicates. For me, this has sometimes led to owning two, three, or four … or 15 or 20 of the same card — and usually without doing it on purpose. So, it is my intent to get rid of extra stuff – with few exceptions of course. I own three of four 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. rookies and all will stay with me.  But any extra 2017 Aaron Judge rookies shall be moved.

GOAL #2: Buy packs in moderation, if at all

I can’t say that I’ll never buy a pack again, but in 2018 I plan to stay the hell away from the card aisle at Target. Why? Because nothing that I pull from those packs really conforms to the standards of my collection.  Most of the time those purchases are made out or boredom, to help suppress feelings from other aspects of my life, or simply because I’m getting caught up in the internet hype of products or prospects.  I won’t declare that I’ll go pack free – buying cards has been in my blood for three decades. But I will exercise restraint and buy only in moderation; not because something in trendy or a product is hot. It’s so easy to dump $20-$40 into products that ultimately wind up as clutter. I refuse to do that in 2018.

GOAL #3: Buy 10 new HOF rookie/tobacco era cards

In 2018, I shall regain the focus of my collection and return to the icons of the sport, the icons of cardboard. Too much time has been spent in recent years chasing hot players who ultimately wouldn’t be able to sniff the cleats of the guys whose cards I REALLY enjoy. And so this year I will find 10 new Hall of Fame members whose rookie card or tobacco-era cards I do not own because these are the cards I love. These are the cards I will pass onto my children. These are the icons; they are the namesake of this blog.

GOAL #4: Get raw HOF rookie cards/tobacco-era cards slabbed

At this time I have roughly a dozen tobacco-era cards of HOFers that are not encased in Beckett Vintage Grading slabs and the lack of continuity in my collection is bugging me. These include Chief Bender, Adie Joss, Mordecai Brown, Miller Huggins, Hughie Jennings, and so forth. The fact that they’re just resting in my collection outside of a uniform slab is driving me insane. And so, when the time and money is right, I shall do what I do and send them to BGS for encapsulation. And when they’re slabbed, they can be properly displayed with the rest of their HOF brethren.

GOAL #5 Have Fun

So much has happened in my life over the last few years that I’ve lost sight of the joy that this hobby has brought me over the last three decades.  I enjoy collecting – it’s fun. I enjoy chasing cards that I never dreamed of owning. I enjoy obtaining a card that my grandfathers or great-grandfathers would have owned if they loved baseball. I enjoy sharing hobby experiences with my children. And so I shall do only the things in this hobby that make me happy and that are fun.

Ben,

Cardboard Icons

Collector of Hall of Fame tobacco era and Rookie cards

Collector of Roger Clemens and Clayton Kershaw.

You can reach me on Twitter and Instagram @cardboardicons. You can also e-mail at cardboardicons@yahoo.com

Saying goodbye to another grandfather …

Posted in Commentary, Misc. with tags , , , , , , on January 15, 2018 by Cardboard Icons

I’ve kind of been kicking this around for the last day or so, trying to sort my feelings. Over the weekend I learned that another one of my grandfathers had passed away. This is third in about eight months. He was the last of the grandfathers in my life.

Grandpa Jerry and I were never close, but that’s not to say I didn’t care. I just never really knew how to breakdown the perceived wall. And if you know me, I’m not exactly the out-going talkative type anyway so this wasn’t a situation ripe with conversation.

There were two rules I lived by when we visited him and grandma in their Fairfield (California) home back in the day: 1) Make sure you say hello to the grandparents before settling in, and 2) DO NOT sit in grandpas chair. The latter was something I deemed as a sign of respect. No one had told me not to sit there, I just assumed that as the Man of the House, he had claimed that one spot — THAT ONE — as his. And unless he offered it to someone else, the seat shall remain empty so that he could sit there when he returned from his nap, his watering of the grass, his trip to the store to buy Lottery tickets, or whatever. Besides, it was grandma’s house. She had like three couches — including a massive sectional — in the converted garage that acted as a giant living room and addition to the home. There was no reason to take HIS spot.

There were times we often were left alone in the room and it was awkward a bit, reasons stemming from our mutual lack of talking. But we often watched sports together during the holidays, especially football. Collegiate or professional, Grandpa Jerry loved to watch. At times he sat there silent, then he’d make a quiet sucking-of-teeth noise when he grew disappointed in a play. And then the word “shit” would be said in a long, drawn out way almost the way you’d imagine John Wayne saying it.

If you knew me as a kid, I always had some baseball cards with me, not unlike the way kids these days take their electronics with them. I’d often flip through the same stack of cards, memorizing stats and details and from time to time Grandpa Jerry would peer over and ask what it was that I was looking at. We never shared a lot of talk about collectibles. I secretly hoped that one day he would tell me about his stash of cards from his youth, or tell me a story about sports and cards. But no such conversation came up. The closest I think we ever got to that was him telling me that he had collected a lot of the first two years of the Kenner Starting Line-Ups, which would have been 1988/1989 or so. I forget the exact the circumstances that would have lead to him buying them, but I think it had something to do with him being some sort of retail deliveryman/merchandiser.My contribution to the conversation was that those toys had gained some value at the time.

I can’t say that I knew a lot about the man, which in hind sight is kind of sad. I had’t seen Grandpa Jerry in about 15 years, ever since he and grandpa packed up their California home and moved to North Carolina, a place I’d never visited. I have a Polaroid picture I took with Grandma and Grandpa in front of their home just before I bid them farewell in 2003, but I’m not entirely sure where it it at the moment.

But as I sit here working through these emotions, there are three distinct items for which I shall remember Grandpa. 1) A trucker-style University of Kentucky hat that hung on the wall just inside the front door. I’m not sure I’d ever seen him wear it, but it was always there. I’m somewhat recalling that he may have been from Kentucky. 2) His powder blue 1980s Chevrolet Silverado that had a scene of horses galloping through an open field emblazoned like a window tint for the cab window. I’d gone with him once or twice to buy lottery tickets in the truck and I recall thinking how different it felt to ride in a truck instead of a sedan. And 3) The round silver ashtray that sat on the table next to his recliner. Grandpa was a smoker. There was no doubt about that. Thinking about that ash tray reminds me of a time, shortly before he and grandma moved, when I saw two of my grandfathers — old US Air Force buddies who wound up foes for a long while and then were seemingly on good terms before the departure to the east coast — and my uncle Frank sharing coffee, conversation and cigarettes together on the driveway. It was an odd sight at the time but I recall making a conscious effort to remember that moment and take a snapshot in my mind. All three of them have since passed away, all within the last 18 months or so.

It’s a really weird feeling to go all through childhood without really having to deal with death in the family, and then suddenly get slammed with a series of deaths as we get older. It’s not something we have control over, and each time I am reminded of it. And every time we say goodbye to a loved one, I think about my time with my kids and what messages I want to convey and experiences I want to share with them.

I’m not much of a talker; I chose writing as my preferred method of communication. If you were to ask me about Grandpa Jerry I might not have verbalized any of this. But if you’re still reading at this point, I thank you got taking the time. It means a lot.