Archive for the Commentary Category

Hey card show guy: PRICE. YOUR. STUFF.

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , on July 10, 2021 by Cardboard Icons

I live in a pretty populated area of California and we’re lucky recently to have a few card shows in various areas. My son and I went to one two weeks ago in Fairfield and did pretty well in a short amount of time. Then today there was a show at a mall just 15 minutes from where I live so I felt like it was a good way to spent the afternoon doing our card thing.

I’d not been to a cardshow in this mall since at least the mid 1990s, which is the last time I recall there actually being one. That was a time when mom would drove me off with a $10 bill and come back for me in two hours. I would also supplement my money with a few trades and then come away with a stack of items from the dime boxes and maybe trade a few things for other things that I wanted in my collection.

And so we went today and I was simply hoping to find a few cards to buy, and hope that my son could also find some stuff to carry on the good vibes he had from the last card show. Sadly, this was not the case.

Mall shows are always hit and miss. There were a good amount of slabs, and most of it was basketball stuff, which doesn’t surprise me given the area I live in, and the items that had been hot in recent months. But I rarely go to a show to even look in the showcases. I usually go looking to pillage the boxes marked at set prices.

Just two weeks ago I spent about $75 and walked out with a few things for my PC and a few things I figured I could flip on COMC. But it’s sort of hard to so this kind of buying when the cards aren’t priced at all.

It was a common theme at this specific show. In all there were a reported 70 tables — and that doesn’t include the rogue dealers who set up their sad stashes on the tables at the Food Court — but in all there were probably a dozen dealers. And of those dozen dealers, maybe half of them had a box or multiple boxes of cards in sleeves and top loaders for sale. And of those three dealers, only two of them actually had prices. Spoiler: The prices were not good.

One dealer had no less than four two-row shoeboxes with toploaded cards packed. I asked if they were all different prices and he said that they were. “There could be cards up to a $100 in there,” he said, noting that I should build a pile and that he’d make me a deal.

Is that supposed to be a selling point? The fact that the first card I saw was literally something I wouldn’t pay $0.50 for leads me to believe that this seller doesn’t know his prices, and that any “deal” he was likely to give me was not going to be worth my time fretting over whether the card I actually want will be made available to me at a price that I’d be comfortable.

I shook my head and just walked away, not really caring if I missed anything because odds are if I had unearthed a gem it’d be offered to me for too much, or he’d ask me to make an offer, which also isn’t usually an affective way to sell items.

As I checked out another dealer — one of the guys who actually had his stuff prices — I thanked him for putting prices on the cards and then proceeded to tell him how frustrating it is as a buyer to not know how much something is going to cost.

His response: “They don’t want to make mistakes and price something too low,” he said, adding that they’re afraid of a player performing well and someone would get too good of a deal.

I realize that not all of us collect the same, and therefore our objectives when we attend a show could be entirely different. But whether you’re seeking bargains in a box or looking at stuff in showcases I think we can all agree that we want people to price their items.

There were a few dealers who had all of their stuff marked with prices. But about half of the folks at this show did not. Instead I look like a jackass asking how much you’re asking on your PSA Slabbed “altered” Michael Jordan rookie and then I shutter when you tell me $4,500. If you price the damn thing I can just walk away and just laugh about it somewhere else.

So, what did I end up walking away with? A 2020 Topps Chrome Pink Refractor Ronald Acuna Jr., which I found apropos given that less than an hour before we showed up to the mall Acuna had been carted off the field with his knee injury. The cost: $1.

CardboardIcons the blog is a teenager

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , on July 2, 2021 by Cardboard Icons

There was a day 13 years ago when I woke up and said, “Screw it, I’m starting a blog.” So I thought what better way than to start with a blog post featuring a 1951 Bowman Phil Rizzuto card that always caught my eye when I opened Beckett Baseball as a kid.

I had no real structure, I just figured I’d post a single card each day and write a little something about it. Well, as you may or may not know, things morphed from there and a few years later this blog and some thrift shopping — as well as Twitter — helped get my foot in the door to write about cards professionally for Beckett, for a few years anyway.

My involvement at that company at this point is none. Aside from a single piece published last year — I actually wrote it for this blog and then they wanted to publish it after the fact — I’d not had a byline in the magazine in well over five years. I have nothing negative to say about the magazine; it was an amazing experience that I absolutely trace back to the day I started writing about cards right here.

My passion for writing hasn’t been the same since 2010 when I left my career as a journalist. It’s easy to write for fun when you write for a living. But now that I work in a more structured setting with 11-hour work days I find my desire to sit and type full paragraphs and thoughts for un to be much less. Plus, I’ve got two kids and a bunch of other adult stuff I have to do. So I do what most other people do — give away their content on Twitter.

That said, I keep the domain active and post on occasion. I keep wanting to come back to this blog and keep things up as I’ve maintained that this is really my diary in this hobby. It’s always fun to recall something about a card or cards and then do a quick search to refresh my recollection.

In a perfect world I’d spent 10-20 minutes a day posting something here, but reality is Twitter is so damn easy to use and the interaction I’ve had with others far surpasses any of that I’ve experienced here, even when I was more active. So if you’re reading this, and don’t already follow me on Twitter, give me a follow there @Cardboardicons I’m pretty active there, and in some ways I’ve gotten back to the roots of this blog by participating in the #CollectableADay posts that some folks have been doing for months.

Anyhow, as I’ve said in recent years, I make no promises about how active I’ll be here, but I do intend to use this space to chronicle some thoughts in a longer format, and to document parts of my collection.

Thanks for reading,

Ben – Cardboardicons.

“I heard this card might be about $5,000 …”

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , on May 7, 2021 by Cardboard Icons

My son and I were at one of the local card shops the other day. It was our first time to this shop in a few months. While we were debating what to buy a man walks in and one of the clerks advises him to holler if he needed anything. The man said he had a question, then pulled something out of his pocket. He sheepishly said he’d purchased a re-pack item at Target recently and pulled something he believed was worth about $5,000 based on recent eBay activity.

This caught my attention so I glanced over from across the shop and immediately placed my hand over my face. The man was holding a 1988 Topps Jose Uribe in a Card Saver I, the type of holder one would send to a grading company.

The clerk got a gander of the card and went into a diatribe about how the sales for the card were a hoax and the card wasn’t worth much of anything. A second clerk had not seen the card but saw my reaction and immediately asked me: “Is that a Uribe?”

I nodded my head and fought back tears as I had never seen this question asked in real life, only online.

The man took the news like a champ, although he continued to question how on earth the completed sales were false. He of course then questioned why anyone would do such a thing. The clerk gave him several theories, all of which basically came back to people are assholes and the Card Saver I was worth more than the Uribe. The clerk asked me to confirm, which of course I did.

The man placed the card back in his pocket and said he was going to just rip it up. At this point I almost wanted to buy the Uribe because I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff. I mean how funny would it be to own that card, the actual one involved in this story. Worthless to everyone else, but priceless for me. I didn’t ask though, partly because It’s actually frowned upon for two customers to be striking a cash deal inside an establishment like this.

For those unaware, Jose Uribe was a MLB player in the late 1980s and 1990s and his 1988-1990 cards in recent years have been a running joke in this hobby. Someone somewhere posted a 1990 Fleer for sale at $5,000 a few years back and a sale appeared to be completed through eBay. Since then the 1988 Topps and 1990 Fleer cards for Uribe keep popping up with high price tags. There are a few theories that include folks just running up the price as a joke or scam hoping that others will start under cutting and buying, praying that a few actual sales get completed and someone ends up making a good chunk of money on a common. And then there are theories that the card and many others like it — commons from the era — are being used as a vehicle for money laundering.

In a nutshell, there are very few commons from the era worth the paper they are printed on these days. The memories and nostalgia attached to them, of course, can indeed be priceless for some folks. The actual Uribe in this story would’ve been worth $5 to me … but absolutely worthless to everyone else. Again, I’m a sucker for memorabilia, even if the item is merely a piece of memorabilia belonging to a specific experience.

Upper Deck captured the fun of the ballpark in 1992

Posted in Commentary, Misc. with tags , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2021 by Cardboard Icons

A few weeks ago my son and I opened a pair of 1992 Upper Deck baseball boxes in search of one of the legendary Ted Williams certified autographs. While we did not pull any of the signed cards, we did complete a full Baseball Heroes insert set (sans the short printed Header card) of the Splended Splinter.

Over the last two weeks, the boxes of base cards had been sitting around and earlier today I decided to take another look at them before putting them into another box I’ll likely donate. While checking the contents, I started to noticed that 1992 Upper Deck captured something other brands from the era seemed to routinely gloss over. Upper Deck captured various fun moments at the ball park, specifically the interaction with fans and players signing autographs.

This is not to say that other sets didn’t even capture this. But Upper Deck’s design allowed for two photos to be used per player, the dominant image on the front, and the one on the back. And while looking at the fronts and backs, enjoying various images I came across 18 different cards from the boxes that showed this pre-game interaction between fan and players, and I couldn’t help but wonder if this type of thing would ever be common place again given the way COVID-19 has changed the world.

What’s sort of fun in these images is to see which players were captured signing, what items were being offered and in one case it looked like someone was trying to give a $1 bill for a signature.

We start with a pair of Hall of Famers in Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn.

Ripken was still about three of so years away from breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played streak, but he was an established star and on the front of his card he is shown signing a large poster that’s been rolled up and brought to the ball park.

The front of Tony Gwynn’s card is a action game image, but the back is where we see Gwynn signing for fans, several of whom appear to be offering an Upper Deck promotional piece.

One could argue that Dale Murphy deserves to be in the Hall of Fame however he still remains on the outside looking in. But if there was an autograph HOF, Murphy would be a first-ballot member as his flowing, loopy signature is a favorite among fans. Here we see Murphy signing autos with his left and — which is opposite of his throwing hand — and there is no shortage of demand. My favorite person here? The person in the center in the Hard Rock Cafe shirt, totally geeking out as he looks to be placing his signed card back inside his binder page.

At the start of 1992, Darryl Strawberry was still a major star in the game, coming off a 28-homer performance in his first season as a Dodger. On the rear of his card, he’s shown signing a few autographs down the right field line. It’s worth noting that Darryl appears to be signing baseballs with a black marker, which is not really the preferred method. But would you complain? Not I.

The following 14 cards showcase MLBers who weren’t exactly of the same caliber of those mentioned above, but it’s worth noting that fans are fans, they’ll seek a signature from whomever is in uniform offering to ink their collectibles. The first seven will be cards with signing occurring on the front, while the second set will show the interaction on the backs.

Here’s Brewers pitcher Chris Bosio signing what appears to be a baseball.

Former prospect Ben McDonald is shown on his card conducting an interview while signing a baseball in blue marker. What’s comical here is the fan shouting in the background and the Diet Pepsi logo in the foreground as it was on the side of what looks to be a promotion Orioles baseball cap.

Phillies pitcher Mike Hartley is shown here signing the underside of a Phillies cap with some sort of marker.

Mets pitcher Anthony Young appears to be signing some sort of flat — probably a card — as it rests on the wall along the first base side of the field.

Angels reliever Mark Eichhorn appears to be enjoying himself as he signs for several members of the US Military. I wonder if those guys ever learned they were featured on a baseball card.

Braves reliever Marvin Freeman took his signing session to the next level and sat on the dugout pregame signing for fans using the ever popular blue ballpoint pen to make memories.

White Sox pitcher Melido Perez is shown signing autographs, specifically what looks to be a game-day lineup sheet from a Program. What caught my eye here is the fan in the background holding a $1 bill. It’s not clear if the fan is offering to pay him for a signature or if they wanted him to sign the money.

Blue Jays star pitcher Dave Stieb looks to me making friends as he sits on the tarp at what I believe is Angels Stadium.

Brewers closer Doug Henry is shown on his card preparing to sign a glove with a collectible team ballpoint pen.

Cubs catcher Rick Wilkins is pictured using a purple Sharpie to sign a program. It’s worth noting that the autograph probably turned out upside down.

Phillies shortstop Kim Batiste was captured signing autographs at Spring Training.

Cubs starter Frank Castillo is shown signing before a game at Dodger Stadium. A couple fun things of note: Castillo is going to sign a baseball with what looks like a scented (blueberry?!) blue marker and someone is holding a poster featuring Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan, possibly offering for that to be signed by Castillo.

Orioles relief pitcher Todd Frowirth was captured pausing between signatures at the old Memorial Stadium … and there are those pesky Diet Pepsi logos again.

And lastly t here is veteran outfielder Mike Deveraux returning a hat after signing it. And given by the looks of things, it is probably one of those promotional Diet Pepsi/Orioles hats. Fitting.

I don’t own every card of this set, but that seems to be a lot of fan interaction for the 72 packs that my son and I opened. It’s an 800-card set so there’s probably more that I’ve missed.

Have one from this set that I missed? Leave it in the comments, or share it over on Twitter.

Cautionary tale of jumping back into the hobby – a quick “L” for a returning hobbyist

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , on December 11, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

I was sitting in my car the other day when I received a text message from a relative who wanted to put me in touch with someone who needed some direction in this hobby.

I’m always down to help of course so I offered my assistance. And within seconds I was linked up to a 30-something who like many others collected during their youth and for one reason or another left the hobby but now find themselves coming back.

He’s into football and basketball and loves Panini products, which of course is no surprise given products for those two sports are produced by that company.

During the course of our conversation this person told me he was interested in more information about the current state of the hobby, and told me just a night prior he had already made his first purchase.

“I’m into the autographed stuff,” he said as he sent me a picture of his buy – two boxes of Panini “One on One” basketball from his LCS. The allure of a big-ticket auto of course came with a whopping price tag of $1,700 for the pair.

I cringed. I had a feeling it didn’t go well. What did he get for his money? Four cards highlighted by a Jarrett Culver rookie patch auto and a signed Mike Conley relic card.

What a brutal break. I joked that his return was about $17 in cards, which of course isn’t completely accurate but it’s not too far from.

I told him I wouldn’t blame him if he just walked away from the hobby after that kick to the groin, but alas here we were talking about the hobby and he was as interested as ever.

I schooled him up on some basics and got permission to share this story as it seemed like a good cautionary tale for new comers or folks returning to the hobby. It’s a lesson that spending big money will not always get you a big return, or even cards that you’re pleased with.

Not everything is going to yield a card worthy of TMZ reporting. Please seek information before spending money, especially if it’s going to be a significant purchase like those two boxes. Yes, the market on those specifically is hot, but the contents as you can see can be frigid.

Here are five quick tips for people returning to the hobby:

-Identify WHY you’re coming into this hobby. Do you like cards, the gambling aspect, or just want to revisit some old feelings? None of these are wrong. Just identify your purpose and then figure out how to chase success.

-Compare prices online versus your Local Card Shop (LCS) to make sure you’re at least in the right ball park if you decide to buy something today. Cost at the LCS will almost always be more since there is overhead and of course the convenience factor, among other things.

-Seek information: Who is actually in the product? Wondering why there are no Michael Jordan cards in Panini? A quick internet search will tell you about his Upper Deck exclusive.

-Pace yourself. This hobby can be exciting, but it also has addictive qualities, especially if you’re info opening packs and boxes. There’s a constant chase of the euphoria felt when opening a package of promise. Once you get a taste of it there’s often an urge to again meet or exceed the feeling. This feeling probably will never go away.

-Find a trustworthy ally who can help when you have questions, and preferably someone who is not trying to make money off your decisions. Card shop employees can be great sources of information, but remember their job is to sell product in the store and I’m sure some of them work on commission so realize there could be an ulterior motive.