Archive for the Commentary Category

What message am I sending to my kid collector

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

Over the last year and a half I’ve enjoyed perhaps the greatest thing any card collecting father could want: My son enjoys and wants to participate in my hobby.

There was a point where things were a bit touch and go early. I was not sure that my hobby, one I’ve enjoyed since I was 7 years old, would be one on to which he would latch. But here we are in 2020 and at age 9 he is learning things I am teaching him.

But this learning point is exactly what’s concerning me at the moment about the relationship between cards and my son and I. I came into this hobby with no hobby role model. My dad wasn’t a big sports guy during my youth, and while my mother is the one who really introduced me to collecting in general, she did not really provide a structure. All I knew is that she would buy several boxes of Topps Garbage Pail Kids — I have this vivid memory of us plucking boxes off a pyramid dysplay in the center of an aisle at a store like Woolworth — then we’d sort them and put them in a box. I never learned why we did that, or what we would do. In fact, I later took them (without permission) and traded them for baseball cards.

With my son, I feel I have this opportunity to present him with a foundation for a collection. To this point I have introduced him to cards in general, taught him all about the rookies and prospects, how to store the good cards and how to sort his other cards by team and store them in binders. This kid is organized and that is lightyears ahead of where I was when I was 9. But I am wondering what MY actions with my collection are teaching him.

I have a bad habit of buying too many baseball (and now basketball) cards. It’s a problem a lot of us have. Over the last year and a half, however, I have reconciled this in my brain as being OK as long as its an experience I share with my son. We open together, announce the player names and share excitement (and disappointment) together — it’s an experience. And the way it works with us, any base cards we need for the set are for the set, but anything else he pulls from packs are his to keep if he wants. He’s hit some big cards (relatively speaking) and usually accepts them, but every now and again he refuses … it’s not that he doesn’t want them, it’s that he’s being modest.

I digress. Over the last five years I’ve had a lot of fluidity in my collection. Don’t get me wrong, I have my foundation of stuff that I do not intend to move unless circumstances dictate. But I am always selling and sorting stuff. And over the last year specifically I have been liquidating (or preparing to anyway) a lot of items that I have deemed as items I no longer have a desire to keep.

This is important for me as the sheer amount of cards I own often put me in a place of depression. The volume alone can be daunting and overwhelming and can actually cause me to not appreciate any of it. And so I have been pillaging box after box for items to send to COMC to re-purpose, and then sorting other stuff to sell off in team lots (look for an announcement soon).

Having said all of that, I am not sure what message my son is receiving through all of this. I talk about moving items out, but am constantly bringing stuff in. Am I doing this wrong?

I’m pretty open with my son about this hobby. He knows this hobby is expensive, but that we can enjoy it even on a small scale. He knows there are terrible people in and around it, but knows there are some great ones as well. He also knows it takes a lot of work and desire to keep things organized and has seen first hand (read: me and my mess) what happens when you let things overrun your life.

I am a sentimental guy and can find a reason to keep just about anything, especially when cards are involved. Hell, cards are what kept my head straight when my parents split; when I witnessed ugly domestic violence; when my friends got caught up in drugs and other nonsense. The cards are also what’s kept me connected to sports at times, what’s helped me remember not only the aforementioned bad things, but also the great things.

That said, we cannot possibly keep everything. And so it has been a constant struggle lately to purge things and almost hit the reset button in a way. With these actions my son has been involved — he’s helped me sort teams in recent months — and has heard me say things like “It doesn’t matter,” “I don’t care,” “I don’t need it in my collection,” and “I want them out of the house.”

These phrases are a coping mechanism for me to sever ties with items that I really don’t “need” with hopes of being able to remove some of the weight from my shoulders. I explain to him my thought process. I just hope that he understands, and that these help shape his future in the hobby to determine what he enjoys. As I’ve said already, his collecting skills and collection are advanced for his age.

The Waiting Game has made me come full circle on Project 2020

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

Just a few months ago I sat in front of my computer going on and on about how great Project 2020 was. It really was a joy to wake up each morning wondering which two cards we would see released through the Topps web site.

I admittedly entered the series not completely understanding it, but luckily I joined early and picked up the iconic — for this series — Mike Trout by Ermsy and the Ken Griffey Jr. by King Saladeen direct from Topps. Every day afterward was like an art appreciation class — I got to tap into my senses and determine if a certain card “moved me.”

Then the hype train came and I began looking at things slightly differently. Instead of looking at things with my art appreciation goggles on, I began to look at them as a bit of a FOMO situation — a fear that if I did not grab anything that remotely pleased me, then I might have to chase it later at a much higher price. This is not to say I do not enjoy the cards I have purchased, rather this is admission that I bought many more cards than I really should have.

For a few weeks we know how hot that series was. Trout by Ermsy reaching $3,000 and Griffey by Saladeen eclipsed the $2,000 mark, and many more — including many that I own — continued to fetch nonsensical coin. It was literally like Topps was printing gold and consumers were lining up each day to grab some at pennies on the dollar. Many went head over heels and bought multiple copies every day hoping to see continued huge cash returns; personally I stuck to one copy for most cards unless I saw there was an opportunity to gift a few to friends and/or family.

So when the bubble burst with the Keith Shore Griffey, I didn’t worry too much. I was still into the cards for my personal collection. However, what happened right about that time was Topps had to adjust its shipping dates due to increased demands, and the Shore Griffey (and Joshua Vides Nolan Ryan cards also released that day) completely overwhelmed the system. Shipping had already been behind due to the COVID-19 issues impacting manufacturing and shipping — and I was OK with that; I preached and continue to speak of patience — but the newer delayed times really started to hit home several weeks later as I continued to make purchases and the delivery envelopes stopped arriving. And even though I knew a delay was coming, it was hard to rationalize spending the money each day when the reward (delivery of a physical card) was still a long ways away.

To some degree I say the delivery delays have hampered my enjoyment, but I should clarify that this doesn’t mean I don’t still like the cards or the project as a whole. In fact, what the delays have done is really make me more critical of my purchases — which to some extent is a blessing in disguise.

When you jump into a collecting project — whether it be Project 2020, or decision to PC a player, team or a certain card — there can be a tendency to be blinded and stubborn. And for some of us, this could mean forcing an issue — do you really need all of the cards, or are you OK with just owning the ones you really like? It’s a personal question with no right or wrong answer.

At this point, I’m still buying Project 2020 — even though I’ve got like 50 cards that have yet to be delivered. I’m still a fan of much of the artwork, and I absolutely feel the need to buy every version of certain players or every release by a certain artists. However, I also find myself operating from a slightly different point of view, which is a bit more in line with my original perspective: Buy the ones I actually like, not the ones that I sort of like and fear I might have to pay more for later if I change my mind.

This feels like a bad time to be investing in unknowns …

Posted in Commentary, Misc. with tags , , , , , , on July 27, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

This surely is an interesting time in our hobby. Money is flowing like water for some folks and many are willing to take more chances than ever.

You do you. But if you ask me … this sure seems like a horrible time to be investing in unknowns.

Major League Baseball returned to action this week after having the season delayed due to COVID-19. And after three games we have our first major outbreak with more than a dozen Miami Marlins players and personnel returning a positive test.

The result has been at least one canceled game, which immediately reignites the talking point that some have had for months: How the are they going to play a completed “season” during a health crisis like this?

You can believe what you want about COVID. Fact of the matter is that it’s real, people have died — and yes many have not — and we don’t know how each individual is going to react if they contract the disease so safety protocols are enacted all over the world t slow the spread until a vaccine is produced. In the sports we’ve been introduced to a term like “in the bubble,” and we frequently hear about mandatory testing and quarantine.

So how does all of this relate to card investments? Well, here: If games can’t be played, then players can’t prove or disprove their relative worth to their sports or teams, and thereby collectors/investors have nothing to really gauge their value.

Don’t you find it odd that during a 100-day period where none of the major sports were being played that values of young players — and a fair amount of stars — skyrocketed?

It’s because much of the investing side of this hobby/business is built on “promise.” It’s built on the idea that today’s big prospect is tomorrow’s next Mike Trout, who of course is still in the midst of being the next Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays. This is the baseball analogy, but there are similar arguments in other sorts.

And if this 60-game baseball season can’t have a proper conclusion — all games being played and a playoff — how are those guys going to show their worth?

Luis Robert had a really good weekend, Kyle Lewis did as well. But if the season got called off today, or in a week or month, is that going to be enough to keep your interest longterm?

And how on earth is Jasson Dominguez ever going to show us how he performs in a game with professionals if the Minor League season has been canceled? I mean batting practice homeruns can only keep the pilot light on for so long.

Investing, or maybe flipping is better term, is an art. I realize that. None of the aforementioned players have to become a Hall of Famer for YOU to have done well on your particular investment, after all the key is being able to capture the money between buying low and any higher price. But for the ones who keep buying at the high end, doesn’t the uncertainty of games even being played scare you away?

Again, you’re going to do what you do with your money. I’m no financial guru. But for me, I just don’t see how this is an optimal time to be buying on the high end for any player whom I can’t sit and at least think about their good years simply because they’ve not been able to have them.

Sticker shock could be scary sight for some

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , on July 25, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

There was a time a decade and a half ago when I walked into a card shop and wondered what the hell happened to my hobby. I had collected cards for 17 years (from 1987 to some point in 2004) and then took an 18-month break. When I returned, I found that rookie cards — which made up most of my collection — had been somewhat placed on the back burner for autographed prospect cards.

As a result, the stuff I knew was worth collecting had fallen out of favor to a degree and prices reflected that as a new wave of collecting had begun. True, $2-$3 packs still existed, but much of the hobby had turned to bigger and (maybe?) better things. I never felt so out of touch. But I powered through, and got caught up on the information and trends that I missed during my hiatus. I vowed at that point to never let the hobby leave me behind.

It was at that point that I welcomed the new style and dabble in signed cards, but I also doubled down on rookie cards by buying older ones as well.

Over the last decade and a half I have meandered through this hobby in various ways. Along with that have been many life changes which also have impacted my participation. While my level of activity has varied, I’ve never felt I was out of touch.

And then Saturday happened.

My son and I walked into a card shop — one at which I had been visiting on occasion for more than three decades — and I was absolutely floored by the prices. I legitimately had sticker shock, almost as if I were seeing boxes and blasters for the first time, which of course is not the case.

I’m fairly active on Twitter, and listen to a podcast or two. I’m not ignorant to the recent surge in our hobby. I know prices have been skyrocketing in recent months and they’d been trending up for almost two years. But there was something about this specific trip that really made me feel … lost.

I see the posts all day long on social media, the ones offering blasters at double the MSRP; and of course the seemingly endless supply of OnDemand product that’s being priced anywhere from five to ten times as much as they cost direct from the companies. But seeing these prices today in person made me stop and think about where we are right now and where we are going.

Again, this isn’t new territory. I swear this is not just another post chastising flippers and businesses for profiting where they can. Hell, I feel for card shops like the one of which I speak. This specific shop has been around since the 1980s. I’m sure they enjoyed the surge of “the good ol days” and are making good coin now with the hobby hotter than ever, but they also had to live through the times when things weren’t so profitable; an era in which shops had to shutter doors because it didn’t make business sense to stay open.

So while the sight of a $49.99 2020 Bowman blaster is drawing my ire, I know that the shop probably has close to $30 or $35 into each one — so they have to turn a profit to stay in business.

There are lots of ways I can go with this post. I actually hope to cover many of these things in the near future as I return to writing. But I want to focus really on the feelings I am working through, specifically those of being a father raising a kid who likes cards.

It’s a bit disconcerting to look at the prices and wonder how we expect another generation to enter this market. This hobby ceased being “for the kids” about two and a half decades ago — I get that. But even when I was paying $0.75 to $2 for a pack between ages 9 and 12, it was still something I could figure out how to finance. If my 9-year-old wants to buy anything these days, he’s going to need a week’s worth of lunch money … and that’s if he’s lucky.

My son is fortunate that I’m in such a place in my hobby career that I get more out of his enjoyment and experience than I actually do from the cards these days. So I’ll buy a blaster that guarantees a hit and let him open and keep the pack that clearly is three times as thick as the others, or that I’ll order stuff and let him keep everything if he wants them.

But can you imagine yourself being a kid trying to break into the hobby these days?

Again, this isn’t new territory. I’ve expressed some feelings around this before on Twitter and may have covered a bit of it here, but today just felt weird — it took me back to 2006 when I returned to the hobby and felt as if I was a newbie all over again, only this time I was dragging my son into some financial foray with little fun involved because the stakes are so high.

Project 2020: Now a collection now driven by FOMO?

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , on May 27, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

When Project 2020 launched in March I had zero intention to purchase any of the pieces. I had not done any research about the project, was not familiar with the artists, and as a whole am not overly intrigued by Online exclusives.

Then I saw the mock up of the Ken Griffey Jr. piece by King Saladeen and everything changed. It felt like a must-own item and the style was appealing to me. That day I purchased the Griffey, and just before checking out I added the Mike Trout by Ermsy. It’s not that I loved the Trout, but conventional wisdom told me to grab it as well because … it’s Mike Trout. Also, I liked the idea of having them shipped together.

That was exactly two months ago today.

Today I sit here with 10 cards in hand, another 22 different ones on the way and am daily on the Topps site checking for new releases and spending a fair amount of time tracking the secondary market for these cards as they have become a national talking point.

That initial $40 purchase (or investment if you prefer that term) could in theory net me about $4,000 on the secondary market today. That’s for the first two cards that I bought. And although I did not get into this for the money, I’d be a damn fool if I didn’t at least entertain the notion that I could make a handsome profit.

The economics around these cards changes daily, and for different reasons. What’s important to remember is these are not merely like every other baseball card on the market. I mean it is a picture printed on card stock like other cards, but the vast appeal and demand of these far exceeded the expectations of anyone. While a print run of 1,500-2,000 of a normal card seeded in packs may seem high, such numbers here has proven to be extremely low.

After purchasing my Griffey and Trout, I fell in love with the Roberto Clemente by Mister Cartoon but balked at making the purchase. I backtracked and wound up buying it a week later on eBay for a small mark up. At that time, the Clemente cost me $30 shipped, which was a palatable penalty for me since I missed the window to buy direct.

From that day forward I really used a simple adage to help make my purchase decisions: If I liked it, I bought it. In theory the $20 price point had proven to be a mark at which I could not really lose. And so I did. I looked at the site each day to judge the art. If the art work grabbed me, I made the card mine. Others merely did not appeal to me and I marked them as “not for me.” Now, at this point I was looking at this as art … not as a card investment opportunity,

Of course as we know things changed. I still log onto my device each day to see the newest release and to judge the artwork for myself. But I find more and more that my decision to buy or not has been increasingly driven by FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out, as the act of checking the secondary market has almost felt like following a sport.

There had been pieces I passed on before, and the resell market has had me banging my head against a wall, as I am sure many others have as well. But over these last three weeks my judgement has been clouded by the almighty dollar.

I routinely am asking myself if I am actually enjoying the art, or enjoying the idea that I might be getting in on the ground floor of something that may just now be taking off.

As a card collector for 33 years there is a part of me that wants to jump off this ship with as much gold as possible before it sinks into the ocean. This feels very unnatural. But it’d be foolish of me to not at least think that this may actually be bigger than baseball cards and some of the logic in that hobby may not fully apply here. There are people outside of our hobby circle who have taken an interest in this, and that is a factor for which I cannot fully comprehend.

Will this trend of increasing prices continue? The answer to that question shouldn’t matter to me if I am collecting; if I am sticking to what brought me to this point. The decision should be simple: Buy what I like and pass on what I don’t. But it’s not that simple. It’s just not. And every day my judgement and decision-making is put to the test. And when that happens, the bigger questions start to be asked internally: Do I enjoy these that much that I am passing on crazy money being thrown at some of the early ones I own, and could I be missing out if I pass on something today solely because it did not hit my pallet the right way?

The struggle continues today with the release of Mariano Rivera by JK5 and Cal Ripken Jr . By Don C.

Over the weeks I’ve taken a liking to JK5’s pieces — they’re so complex and there is so much to see and interpret. Don C’s two pieces to date have fallen into the “not for me” category right off the bat.

Today I marked myself as “out” on both, but there is a part of me that is still on the fence for the Rivera. And when you’re in for one card, you have to consider the other as well since there is a small discount when buying the daily pair.

Money shouldn’t be driving my decisions with these; it should be about enjoying the piece. But clearly, money is always factor, no matter how you look at it.