Archive for the Commentary Category

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.

I’m going to the store just for supplies… I think.

Posted in Commentary, Misc. with tags , , , , , on January 12, 2018 by Cardboard Icons

After I wrote yesterday’s post, I finished up with the car maintenance and headed over to the card shop to buy nothing more than supplies. Just a few new little plastic cases to help protect some of the items in my collection.

And while that was my sole intent, I thought it’d be fun if I found something to add to the collection. To sort of mark this place in my life.

The thoughts and emotions that ran over me. They were familiar.

What was I going to buy? What would I find? Was this hypothetical card purchase really going to be something I wanted/needed, or merely something I was buying to soothe an itch?

When I waked into my local card shop I was greeted by the secondary guy — it was Thursday, the sole day off for the primary guy with whom I usually spark conversation .

I said hello and went straight to the supply area. I needed a 180-point one-touch to protect and display a specific card I recently added to my collection. And after grabbing two of those (because that’s what we do, right?), and two packs of soft sleeves specifically designed for tobacco cards, I decided to have a look around the shop.

I looked and looked. And looked some more. I looked high and low and didn’t see anything that sparked my interest. Not even the vintage case — which was pretty barren on this day — had anything that enticed me, partly because I owned most of the stuff that was in there.

I then saw lots of high prices for packs, priced way above retail for products that didn’t interest me.

Yes, NBA Panini Prizm is hot. But guess who doesn’t collect basketball? This guy. And I sure as hell was going to pay $35 for a blaster box that costs $19.99 at Target … when /if you can find them.

And all baseball released in 2017 has been marked up so much it’s disgusting. No fault of the LCS of course.

And so I reached familiar feeling: There was nothing that struck my fancy and I was leaving without any cards. Hey, it’s baseball’s off season, I’ve been here before.

So I went to pay for my cases, and there next to the register stood a stack, about 8 inches tall, of cards left behind by other customers. The shop always offers customers a chance to take whatever they want from the stack. Sometimes I indulge. Today it appeared to be 90% basketball and football, but I found a small stack of 2017 Panini Contenders Draft Picks, baseball of course. The clerk said I could take them all — so I did.

I knew there were no “hits,” but this was a cost-effective way to soothe an itch that I could feel growing. Plus I knew Roger Clemens has a few cards in the set so I was hoping to find one.

The funny thing about seeing this stack though, is that it instantly reinforced the idea in my kind that this hobby has become so much about the hits that there are people who simply don’t care about the standard issue items. Some of the. Simply discard practically anything that doesn’t bear a swatch of fabric, a smudge of ink, or a serial number.

But after thinking about that reaction for a minute, it made me feel a certain way — like I’ve been looking at this hobby lately through such a prism of negativity that I couldn’t appreciate this instance for what it was worth: someone made a conscious effort to stack the freebie cards there and offer them to others instead of actually tossing them in the trash, which many collectors see as sacrilege. And on this occasion I was the one benefiting from this … this … generosity.

I still see a lot of negative aspects to our hobby right now, but perhaps I need to allow myself to see the other side of things and understand why things are the way they are.

By the way, I spend less than $9 on supplies and in that stack of cards I got for free there was indeed a Roger Clemens card I did not yet own.

Ben Aguirre, Jr.,

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

Cardboard Icons author in video interview about hobby, collection

Posted in Commentary, Misc. with tags , , , , , on August 26, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

Late last week Patrick at Radicards.com hit me up about doing an “on-camera” interview with him about the hobby. I paused initially because for years I was the one asking questions, not the one answering them. And for so long I had this phobia of being in front of the camera. But after some thought I decided to do the interview. And I’m glad I did.

It’s a 30-minute video, edited down from our hour-long discussion,  The audio on my end starts out low but does get better. We touch on my history in the hobby, why I collect what I do, some discussion about the state of our hobby and so forth.  Give it a watch (or listen) at your leisure. It was a lot of fun to do.

And if you’ve never seen Radicards, take an opportunity to check it out.  There are dozens of interviews like mine sitting there waiting to be watched, which is somewhat unique because we don’t often get to see people talking about the hobby other than when they are busting wax.

Thanks for reading (or in this case watching),

Ben, Cardboard Icons.

Reach me via e-mail at cardboardicons@yahoo.com; on Twitter at @cardboardicons, and LIKE the new Cardboard Icons FACEBOOK page

 

A Flawless Diamond added to my collection

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

Gem stones and baseball cards. This is hardly a new concept.

There were some “24 karat gold” cards (made my Bleacher if I remember correctly) sold via television home shopping channels during the 1990s that also had stones — rubies if I remember correctly — but as clear as I can remember, Pinnacle Brands was the first company to incorporate actual pieces of stones (diamonds) into mainstream baseball cards when they brought us The Diamond Club inserts in 1996 Pinnacle Zenith.

It was cool in theory. I mean aside from putting cash into cards, actual gem stones are the only other way to ensure that a card in your collection has some real value outside of just this hobby. But those early cards were poorly produced.  They were the same thickness as regular cards and the stone was in a small metal mount that easily came off some of the cards. Furthermore, the size of the stones was tiny. Think smaller baby earrings.

Fast forward a decade and a half and Topps brought us some special 1/1 Diamond parallels with gem stones to coincide with the company’s 60-year anniversary. The design was much approved over one of the rival companies from 15 years earlier. But they were 1/1’s Good luck finding a card of your guy.

And then in recent years, Panini America seems to have taken a liking to the idea of gem stones and cards and the company has used diamonds and what appear to be rubies in some of its higher-end brands.

Watching from a distance, I really wasn’t overly impressed with the cards, or really the notion of the gem stones in the cards. Truth be told, my sour experience with the inserts from 1996 and the difficulty actually obtaining one of the 2011 Topps cards really put me in a negative mindset as it pertains to such cards.

And the more recent Panini cards to me looked more like a way for the company to justify the price point at which the MSRP was being set rather than something collectors actually wanted. While it’s completely unfair of me to make such a broad assumption, it’s pretty clear that there is at least some truth to my thought as the secondary market on these cards remains relatively soft given the quality of card, the fact they contain actual stones, and the limited serial number nature of the cards.

Side note: I’m assuming these stones are real as there is a statement of guarantee on the reverse of the cards. And yes, I have seen some of the videos on YouTube calling their legitimacy into question. But it should be noted that while some didn’t pass the test of jewelers reviewing the cards, many did.

That said, I decided to buy one. Why? Because I found one of my all-time favorite player, Roger Clemens, … and the price seemed cheap.

This 2015 Panini National Treasures Multi-Sport Flawless Diamond card shown above is limited to 20 copies and shows Clemens in his University of Texas Longhorns garb. It has a few factors that might keep it out of the hardcore Clemens collectors, which kept the price low I think, but for $30 it seemed like a good addition to my collection.

So, do I feel any differently now that I have one of these nice, shiny Flawless Diamond cards in hand?

Yes and no. The quality on these cards is fantastic. Thick card stock and flashy foil help the “bling” factor if you will. I do think this one is a cool addition to my collection. But are they for everyone? No.

For the rippers and flippers, these are merely the equivalent of pocket change — nice to have as they are better than a pocket full of lint, or premium base cards, because they’ll eventually decrease the net cost of your break. But they are hardly the chase cards that collectors will hunt with an open wallet, which in turn would make a flipper a small fortune.

For player collectors, I think they present an interesting opportunity especially with prices for most guys being relatively cheap. And by relatively cheap I mean in the $20-$60 range for a hit that hails from a product that commands several hundred dollars sight unseen.

For everyone else it just depends if you want to spend your money on a piece of cardboard with a small diamond. Bottom line, that’s all this really is. There is no significance to the stone, or the paper in which it has been embedded.

Black Friday: THE most humbling day for a card addict

Posted in Commentary, Misc. with tags , , , on November 27, 2015 by Cardboard Icons

Black Friday is a shoppers paradise. For card collectors it means big savings on regularly priced items at any of the large online dealers. For members of COMC.com it also means you’re able to load up on singles at deeply discounted prices.

As a buyer, it’s great.  I buy a bunch of singles every year. But there is the flip side to this … As a seller, this day is the most humbling of all as it shows me how much “nonsense” I actually buy.

Look at this recent sales activity:

  
Those are Topps Heritage SPs being sold for somewhere in neighbors of $1. I’ve probably sold three dozen of these things on the last 24 hours, which is sad considering how much money I actually spent to pull them from packs

I need to pump the breaks on my pack/box buying. While it’s nice to have the ability to move assets and acquire other cards, it’s also counter productive to essentially pay someone to take some of these cards off my hands.

This needs to be said about our hobby and card “values” in wake of Rousey loss

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2015 by Cardboard Icons

I’m not an MMA fan per se. I don’t buy Pay Per Views, seek Online streaming of events or even care really about who’s the champ of their weight class in whatever promotion.

But unless you were living under a rock last night there was no chance you were going to avoid the hot topic: Ronda Rousey getting knocked out by Holly Holm with a kick to the neck and a succession of punches to the face and head to end the fight and Rousey’s reign as baddest woman on the planet.

You’ve all seen the video or still images. No need for me to go there.

I watched this madness unveil on Twitter via countless reactions and a seemingly endless barrage of bandwagon jumpers.

But what started to upset me, as a card collector, was when discussions started to center around how a Ronda Rousey 2012 Topps Finest autograph sold on eBay for $1,300 before the fight and how blazing hot Holly Holm’s rookie cards immediately after the fight.

   
Rovell is not a hobby guy.  He’s a sports business reporter, so he’s always looking for a numbers angle. I don’t fault him for that.

While what he tweeted is true if you believe what you see on eBay, the perception of actual worth of a card gets misconstrued before, during and after big events such as the Rousey-Holm fight.

The reaction to Rovell’s tweet included mostly discussion about how the Rousey card is seemingly worthless now and how dumb collectors are.

Additionally, this conversation about the Rousey card then leads to a discussion about Holm’s card(s).

During the minutes that made of the entire fight, Holm’s card went on eBay from just a few dollars to one hitting triple figures.

While this is all true, what you won’t hear from the mainstream media outlets or via their reporter’s Twitter streams is that many of the immediate high sales on eBay for cards of people involved in significant events often go unpaid and the “worth” or “value” ends of being incorrectly reported to the masses. 

True, Rousey cards lost value generally speaking and interest for Holm’s card increased based on the outcome of UFC 193. But they surely are not to the extreme that some would have you believe based on the immediate numbers shown on eBay.

Collectibles by nature are volatile and what’s important for everyone to understand is that the value of a card is determined in the exact moment a transaction is actually completed. And a deal it’s not actually complete until cash or goods are exchanged and the items is delivered.