The dilemma of gift giving as a collector parent with a child hobbyist

Posted in Collecting With Kids with tags , , , , on December 12, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

I always dreamed of having at least one child who followed me into this hobby, and thankfully that has come true.

Having a 10-year-old boy who understands this hobby as best as he can for his age is pretty awesome. It’s gives me someone with whom I can sit and crack a blaster with, talk about the ups and downs of the hobby, and truthfully, gives me a new appreciation for the collecting experience.

There is one side effect though: It’s the gray area that exists when making a decision to give cards as a gift.

For the last year and a half I have noticed myself buying cool potential PC pieces and some sealed blasters under the premise that they are for him to be given as a gift, only when the time comes to give it, I’ve found I’ve bought too much and complicated the situation.

It’s sort of began in the summer of 2019 when I started picking up certified autographs of Oakland A’s players for my son. He’s a fan of the green and gold and I had this vision of getting autos of the top 5-10 stars and giving them to him for either his birthday or for Christmas, which are about seven weeks apart.

Well, those A’s autographs are STILL sitting in a box because I keep finding other things to buy for him, namely blasters of products I know he likes — last year it was holiday versions of a Topps baseball and Hoops basketball, and this year it’s a Mega Box of Prizm Draft Picks basketball and a blaster of Topps Gallery baseball.

But here’s the thing. It doesn’t stop there. In the last month I also acquired the original artwork used for the 2020 Topps Gallery Matt Chapman card, a fantastic collectible in my opinion. Chapman is my son’s favorite player.

I bought this the same day that I purchased my Clayton Kershaw from 2019; the idea was this Chapman would be his Christmas gift for 2020.

But here we are two weeks before the big holiday and the Chappy is sitting in a drawer — and the A’s autographs are still in the aforementioned box — because I purchased the 2020 products for him.

All of this made me start thinking about this habit I’ve got: Did I really buy them for him, or did I acquire them for me only under the guise that they were for him?

I can honestly say that my intent was and still is to give the Chapman and the A’s autographs to him but I also realize I complicated things by purchasing the sealed product for him.

I’ve still got a week and a half to change my mind and still give him the A’s items as his gift. But part of me knows that much of his hobby enjoyment in this time also includes opening packs, and the blaster and mega box might give him more joy.

Do any other parent collectors deal with dilemmas like this?

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.

Sour card experience by day; hobby redemption by night – the story of my Wednesday.

Posted in Misc. with tags , , , on December 10, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

A 40 year old man walks into a Target on Wednesday morning after running an errand. As a card collector it’s almost a habit to stop at whatever store nearby sells cards.

And so he does what he does: He sets the vehicle in park, dons a mask due to COVID-19 protocol and heads into the store hoping there will be something to buy.

He’s a baseball collector and dabbles a bit in basketball these days, but this time it’s mid December and neither of those sports are in season. The cards at the front of folks mind these days are those of football, a sport the man abandoned as a true collector almost a decade and a half prior. But here he is, two weeks before Christmas, walking into a Target, grabbing a hand basket and heading to the card aisle.

The collector sees two heads already over there, which of course piques his curiosity. It was only a year or two earlier when the only heads seen in that area were those of kids or others of his kind. Now the collector contends with young adults half his age, more wise to technology, mostly there seeing an opportunity to profit. The collector had stopped at Target out of habit because that is what he knows. As it turns out the two heads he spotted from a distance are really three, and all of them were here because they heard in a Facebook group that new cards were being stocked today at this Target and there was an opportunity to double or triple their money.

The collector walks up with a basket in hand, and from the left the card vendor shows up with a half dozen boxes of promise, or so it seems anyway.

As the vendor eyes the shelf to make room for the newest product, one of the three heads who’d been waiting wheels his shopping cart out of hiding — it is already full of new product that draws the ire of the vendor and his other two Facebook partners.

“Did you get those from here?” The perplexed vendor asks, motioning to the seemingly sealed boxes of product he had been sent there to stock.

The man with the shopping cart plays dumb, saying a female employee had placed the cards out earlier and he grabbed them all. But all standing there already knew the fix was in; the man with the shopping cart had an insider with whom he’d been working. The game was unwinnable for all others who were there to play.

There were a dozen of one box, two dozen of another, and yet another row of unknown product beneath that. The man with the shopping cart had already won the lottery and he stuck around to press his luck a bit more.

The collector was at a crossroads. Does he stick around to see if he can get some of the leftovers — assuming the other two heads even agree to share — or does he walk away in frustration, resigned to the fact that the old ways of his hobby are antiquated to a degree?

After a brief moment of internal struggle the collector decides to bow out knowing it is not in his nature to argue in public over the ability to purchase baseball cards. After all, what exactly was he there for anyway? Certainly it was not the heartache and frustration this seemingly spontaneous trip was beginning to cause.

***

The story above was my experience on Wednesday and I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that this situation really put me into a funk for a good portion of the day. Sure, part of it was the actual happening, but majority of the depressive thoughts were due in part to the fact that the sharpened hooks of FOMO and hobby addiction had again become sunken deep into my cheek and the barb wasn’t allowing for a simple catch and release.

Realizing this, I had to step away from Twitter for much of the remainder of the day. And instead of sharing here, I’d honestly still be wrestling with this internally if it weren’t for something I saw later that night.

For one reason or another I realized that Greg of NightOwlCards was going to be on the About The Cards podcast. I’d been following Greg since 2008 when I found his work in the infancy of this blog and remarkably this east coast native made time to be on the only podcast I consume regularly, one that doesn’t start until 11 pm on his side of the country. I listened to Greg talk for about 45 minutes and he reminded me of times gone by and really about how much I used to enjoy writing here about my experiences in the hobby.

I realize that my experience in this hobby is very specific to my situation; hell, much of this is true for all of us save for the the cards themselves, those are the ties that bind us.

That said, Greg’s appearance on the podcast really hit home for me in a time when I sort of needed something to bring me back to center; that is why I chose to share the entirety of my Wednesday experience and thoughts here instead of in a format built for stream of consciousness sharing. Maybe I need to revisit this writing thing and not just condense all of my thoughts into snippets every time something pops up – after all, writing IS part of my hobby experience which I realize I’ve been neglecting.

I am an attention-seeking hypocrite … there, I said it.

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , on December 9, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

Hypocrisy is often something I wrestle with. I cannot tell you how many times a day I scroll through my Twitter timeline and either groan or shake my head at something that I see posted by one of the persons I follow. 

Every morning I can count on three things:

-Someone is bitching about a facebook post involving a card that appears to be grossly overpriced.

-Someone is posting about a shopping cart full of retail products they scored that morning; or conversely a picture of empty shelves.

-Someone stirring the pot about the collector versus investor/flipper.

It’s fucking tiresome. I stare at the stuff and wonder why folks post what they do, and almost always it comes back to one thing: Attention.

Whether you realize it or not, your decision to type 140 characters and hit the “send” button is often an act of self indulgence, an exercise to reassure that you have a space in this world, in this card hobby. Sure, every now and again your intentions are pure. Maybe you’ve got a question about a product or are seeking something. But when you’re posting random stream-of-conscious thoughts, pithy messages or even meaningful ones — particularly vague ones — or pictures of stuff you own, there is only one reason you do so: It’s because you need the attention.

And don’t get me wrong, I write this column KNOWING that I often do the same thing. I wrestle with this every day. There is indeed a desire for attention, but also an addictive quality to this whole social media phenomenon in which we participate and it’s good to call it out every now and again.

We love writing something that gets people talking; we love having a unique take or being the one to break news. We love the “like” and “retweet” notifications, and we get off on the number of followers we have.  All of this is part of what some deem a form of “social currency” — it gives us purpose, value in a world — digital or not — where it is easy to go from super popular to someone who gets lost in the shuffle. And at age 40, some 33 years into this collecting career, I fear this is where I am.

I’ve never been one to seek attention, yet here I am almost every day looking for a way to hold my space in this hobby. There is a real fear that I may in fact become irrelevant, and after being somewhat public for the last 12 years through my blog and Twitter, that is a reality with which I am having a hard time coming to grips.

And don’t get me wrong, I’ve never believed that I was/am super important in this space. I’m just a dude in California who got into cards at age 7, spent a bunch of money over the years, amassed some desirable cards, retained a bunch of information relative only to this hobby, and decided to start a blog one day to chronicle my journey. But the blog got some attention, it was coupled with the birth of Twitter, and was taken to another level a few years later with some thrift store finds that opened doors to some magazine writing opportunities. All of this created this idea that the account “cardboardicons” was worth following for some of you; and with each of the likes, retweets and follows grew this notion of importance. And with that “success” comes this incessant desire to maintain it.

Where I struggle though is realizing that some of this forces me to be something I never was or really wanted to be: An attention seeker. And while I have days where I tweet whatever I want, whenever I want, I have many other days where I self edit because I can see myself groaning and shaking my head at some of the very things I begin to write. Because I know that I am indeed a hypocrite.

Having said all of this, I cannot say this changes anything. So much of the hobby experience — at least for me — these days is dependent on sharing thoughts and experiences with persons whom we have deemed friends because we follow each other on Twitter. And I enjoy this little space that I occupy in this hobby, even if it’s shrinking in relevance given today’s market and current practices. But the one thing I will continue to be is real, and that is why I felt it important to identify these feelings I am having. Hell, maybe some of you also feel the same way about hypocrisy and need someone else with whom you can talk to about them.

Collecting Kershaw: Game Used baseball likely used for his 898th career K (Mark Buehrle)

Posted in Collecting Kershaw, Misc. with tags , , , on November 6, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

I think I found myself a gem in the rough. Today I present you with what I believe to be the ball used for Clayton Kershaw’s 898th career strikeout on August 10, 2012.

This ball bears the Florida Marlins Park 2012 inaugural season stamp and is authenticated by MLB as a third inning foul tip by batter Donovan Solano, who would end up being Kershaw’s 899th career K.

Authentication processes at the time did not detail the same way as we see these days with multiple pitches, their speeds, pitch type, etc. So I did a little research and here’s what I came up with for the life of this ball.

In the prior at-bat, Kershaw faced opposing pitcher Mark Buehrle, and got ahead 0-2, the second strike coming on a ball fouled out of play. A new ball is introduced — the ball I believe I now own — and Kershaw missed high (73 MPH curve) on the next pitch and then away with a 94 MPH fastball on the following one. The third pitch is a 93 MPH fastball that Buehrle can’t catch up to and he’s down on a swinging strikeout; the catcher throws the ball around the horn.

Video shows Kershaw circling the mound and then waits for the third baseman throw him the ball and he gets right back on the mound. No new ball is introduced.

Kershaw then faces Solano, starting with a 94 MPH fastball down the middle of the plate, then an 84 MPH (changeup?) pitch off the plate. His next pitch is an 85 MPH curve that spikes at the plate and Solano swings. The ball hits either the bat (play by play said swing and miss) or the catchers knee saver/shin pad and then ricochets toward the Marlins dugout. A new ball is then introduced and Kershaw then misses with a ball and then gets Solano to swing and miss on another curveball in the dirt which the catcher gloves and tags the batter — the catcher keeps the balls and heads to the dugout.

Given that the ball is authenticated as a “foul tip” and Solano only swing twice in that atbat, it’s likely the ball is from the third pitch of the atbat, which with a swing and an audible “thud” and ricochet could be construed by the authenticator as a foul tip. And we know that ball to have been used for pitches 2 and 1 of the Solano atbat, which I also believe to have been used for the final three pitches of the previous atbat which ended in a strikeout.

Not sure if I’d be able to get MLB to add a note to the authentication, but the evidence looks pretty strong to me and I’ll plan to display it in my collection as such. It’s NFS anyway. 🙂

Link to the YouTube video (full game) is here (https://youtu.be/-cIpHsjTmEE) The Buehrle atbat is around the 47:00 mark. This ball was in play for about 2 minutes and 30 seconds.