Would You Rather: Own 1964 Topps Stand-ups that are “used” or intact?

Posted in Would You Rather with tags , , , , on February 8, 2022 by Cardboard Icons

As I look through my collection of vintage baseball cards I often become enamored with condition, and not in a way everyone does.

I can appreciate poor condition cards because they often can tell a story of a time in this hobby by where cards were entertainment and educational, and not an expenditure one can write off on their taxes. On the other hand, finding a mint copy of a card more than a century old is another story in and of itself.

One thing that always intrigues me when thinking in this head space is how we look at alternative cards, meaning those that had a purpose: Some cards were meant to be part of a game, some are legitimately checklists, and others were made for decor.

Take for instance the 1964 Topps “Stand-up.” These were inserted into packs, and they were perforated and made to be bent and stood up in a way that the depicted player looks to come to life on a bookshelf or desk.

I own a few cards from this set, specifically Sandy Koufax and Hank Aaron. And they are quite different. My Koufax is intact and in really good shape (save for a wax stain in the reverse) and the Aaron was enjoyed the way the cards were designed.

It got me wondering how collectors of today look at these cards. Which of the two conditions — intact or “used” would you chose for your collection and why?

Collecting Carney: I waited a year, what’s an extra week or so?

Posted in Collecting Carney with tags , , , , , on February 6, 2022 by Cardboard Icons

Way back in December 2020, Sporting News reporter Ryan Fagan was opening some packs for Twitter — a practice that had been around for a while but picked up popularity during the Pandemic — and unearthed from his 1984 Donruss Action All Stars pack a card of Carney Lansford.

Lansford is a local guy for me, and is someone I’d turned some collecting focus to in recent years. When Ryan pulled the card I reached out to him and had two requests: I wanted the card he pulled and I wanted Fagan to sign the reverse with the date that he pulled it.

Ryan returned my message, and seemed somewhat shocked by my request:

“For real(?) If you want me to do that, I’d be happy to,” he said.

I offered to pay, but Ryan said it wasn’t necessary. I thanked him and provided my address.

A few days after the pull, he tweeted that he had taken a Hal McRae from the same set into the local card shop and jokingly asked if the owner wanted to buy it. Ryan obviously was kidding; he had in fact merely taken it there to buy a top loader for MY Lansford.

And so I waited.

About a month later nothing had arrived and I was concerned that it had gotten lost. So I sent Ryan a message asking if the card was ever sent and he apologized as something had come up. No big deal, I replied.

I waited. And waited. And then waited some more.

After about two months I just assumed the Lansford was never coming. And I was not about to message him again asking where the card was. That’s not really my style. Afterall, this was a gift that wasn’t costing me nothing.

And then out of the blue, almost a year to the date after our previous message, Ryan messages me apologizing for the delay and said it was going out soon. A day later he sent me a tracking number — it was set to arrive January 25, just three days later.

I thanked him and was super appreciative the card was still heading my way so the anticipation built.

And then … nothing. The 25th came and the Lansford didn’t show up. Another week passed and nothing. So I decided to check the tracking and it was showing “In Transit” with no updates for more than a week.

And then, seemingly out of the blue, a photo mailer arrived with a rigid Top Loader inside. I knew exactly what it was. The Lansford had in fact arrived, and just in time for Carney’s 65th birthday which is today!

“Ha. OF COURSE it got stuck. What’s another week in the postal system after it took me more than a year to mail it.” Ryan said when I advised him of the delayed arrival.

And so here is the Carney in all it’s glory. Gotta love that bright yellow pull-over Oakland Athletics jersey on the front; a close-up of those round-frame “Coke Bottle” glasses and sweet ‘stache on the rear. And there, at the very bottom, just as I requested, the signature of reporter Ryan Fagan along with a pull-date inscription of “12.15.20” and “#RFPOD.”

Here’s my public thank you to Ryan for the card, and I’ll take this opportunity to say “Happy Birthday” to Carney who took our league to the Little League World Series in 1969.

If you’re not following Ryan on Twitter you can catch him on one of his two accounts: @ryanfagan for his professional and @myjunkwax for his card-related tweets,

And if you’ve got a stash of Carney Lansford cards that need a new home, I’m your guy. I’ve got almost all the base ones but will happily take what you’ve got and probably end up re-gifting them to the kids in our Little League.

Walgreens repacks will likely run hit and cold – I happened to catch a heater

Posted in Box / Pack Break with tags , , , , , , , on February 6, 2022 by Cardboard Icons

As I’m sure you’re aware by now, Walgreens sells sports cards. It’s something they’ve been doing for a few years, and over the last 18 months it’s become a place to potentially find hit product.

Sometimes they have rack packs, cellos and hangers, other times it’s mega boxes and blasters. But the constant has always been some sort of repack product that offers a sealed pack and a stack of various cards often not worth much.

Well, the chase for such repacks often gets rekindled when someone shares on social media some amazing card they pulled. Sometimes it’s unbelievable and leads to a slew of memes or silly posts, but all it takes is one such post to spark the next mad dash to the retailer.

A year ago it was someone finding a 2011 Topps Update Mike Trout rookie in a $5.99 repack; and just a few months ago it was folks finding good sealed packs in their baseball “Mystery Boxes.” And in recent weeks attention had turned to football repacks as modern packs of Football had made their way into football repack boxes.

Not all of these repacks are a winner. You pay $5.99 and take a chance. Sometimes you hit the Select pack, and other times you end up with a junk wax era turd product that probably cost about a quarter per pack. But, that chase is what piques the curiosity and causes us to spend.

I have a theory about the repacks. I think majority of them such value wise but they can be fun. But my theory is that the ones containing good packs are released in bunches that are distributed together. So, if you open one repack and see it has a Select pack, then you should buy the rest. However? If your repack doesn’t then you should leave them alone.

I have no proof, but my thought is this: If you’ve got a room of folks making the repacks, one or two people will be packing out the good products while everyone else is packing out more common stuff. And they’re not mixing up the batches when they send them out. So they stay clumped together until it gets to a region and then it’s broken down for various stores in that area. This would explain why folks in the sticks of Wyoming keeps running into Select while people in a populated area of Georgia may be pulling some 1991 Notre Dame college packs.

Anyway, this latest craze led me into two Walgreens lastnight in the way home from work. It was a low risk, high reward situation for a guy with a card habit. The first store had nothing worth buying; the second store had three baseball “Mystery Boxes” sitting on a peg hook inside a secured case.

My son and I opened a dozen of these around Christmas time and mostly saw nonsense. We did have one or two repacks that contained a 2018 Topps Series Two pack, the chase there of course being Ohtani rookies and the Super Short Print “Bat Down” Ronald Acuna Jr. Most of them contained multiple packs of 2019 Topps Series One and one retail Heritage pack. My son did pull a base Ohtani rookie from his sole Series Two pack about two months ago, but for the most part our experience was akin to scratching an itch with a Kleenex.

So when I saw this batch of three lastnight in a locked case I almost walked away. I didn’t really feel like finding an employee to open the case and then wait in line. In the end I decided to take a shot and bought the things.

As the headline here suggests: The boxes had good product. Each contained two 10-card 2019 Series One packs — these are from a blaster and contain only base cards — and then had two other packs. The highlight was two repack boxes had 2019 Topps Series Two (looking for Fernando Tatis Jr, Pete Alonso and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. No Number SP, and the other has a single pack of 2018 Topps Series Two. The mere presence of the lacks already made these a win since individually some of these cost more than the entire stack of repacks.

The very first 2019 Topps Series Two pack was a banger. About halfway through the pack I unearthed a Tatis Jr. rookie, and just a few cards later in the same pack was the Alonso. The other Series Two packs were uneventful.

If you’ve got access, the means and desire to rip these repacks it could be worth your effort, but it’s also important to know many of them will not contain anything of much value and you may end up hating yourself for the purchase.

That said, if you hit a streak like mine — or like folks are with the football ones — it could also be worth the effort to possibly chase down more. Just keep your expectations reasonable and try to enjoy the journey.

Just because a card is hot doesn’t mean it is time to sell

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , on February 4, 2022 by Cardboard Icons

The other day I was at one of the local card shops and they happened to still have two 2020 Topps Stadium Club Chrome blasters for sale. I’m still working on the set and had been eyeing the overpriced retail boxes for a year. But on this day I decided the blasters were coming home with me partly because the secondary market for these blasters has gotten worse in recent weeks as folks chase the Juan Soto “shuffle” card.

I mean, who can blame them. It’s a cool ass card showing Soto mid shuffle during a World Series game. The base card has been popular among collectors for more than a year, but over the last few weeks demand for the card has intensified. Sales prices for base cards have doubled and parallels of the card have been much much more.

I asked the employee to grab the blasters for me, and in the exchange he quipped: “Chasing the Soto, eh?

I told him that I already had one in my set, and then told him that my son actually had found an XFractor version of the Soto in a box of cheap singles (3 for $5 specifically) at a card show this summer. The employee was taken aback; his eyes lit up. He inquired what they’d been going for, and when I told him there had been sales recently between $300 and $500, he replied “I’d move that as soon as possible.”

The employee was not wrong per se. The market has seemingly peaked and is currently falling back to a more stabile place. However, my decades of hobby experience have left me in a place where I’m realizing something that others had learned long ago: If a card is in high demand and you’ve got a chance to make some money or turn that card into something else you like then you do what makes sense for you. But if the card makes you stop what you’re doing and enjoy it for more than just the dollar signs attached to it, then maybe it’s something that was meant to stay with you, regardless of how much interest has increased.

In the case of this Soto XFractor that sits in my son’s collection, I remember the exact spot we were standing when he located it, turned to me and said “Oooh!” His reaction wasn’t because it was worth a lot, it was because the card is super cool and is from a product that we often discuss. In other words, he bought it because he enjoyed it, not because it was a means to an end.

This brief interaction with the store employee sat with me for several hours because it made me think about how many cards we as hobbyists have sold because the market was hot, only to later regret for one reason or another. I’ve actually got another related post coming sometime in the next week or two on this very topic, which I think you may also enjoy.

CSG is the top grading company for my needs; PSA or other services may be best for you, others

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , on February 3, 2022 by Cardboard Icons

More than 20 years ago I decided to dip my toe into the waters that make up the world of third party grading. At the time PSA was the top dog, but I decided to bypass them and give Beckett Grading Services a shot, mostly because I enjoyed the idea of not having to pay an annual membership fee to use the service.

There were other grading companies, but for me BGS was the choice. My first submissions were met with mixed reviews. In fact, my first experience involved BGS’s encapsulation process damaging a handful of my cards, including a 1992 Topps Traded Nomar Garciaparra, which was still a big deal at the time. But I stuck with BGS. I loved the cases, I loved the four-category sub grades and I loved the idea that it seemed BGS was relatively seen as the toughest grader among the most popular companies.

Over the course of 15 or so years I sent several submissions. I was not a big user per se. I did, however, send the majority of my vintage baseball hall of fame/tobacco-era cards there for encapsulation. And over time I amassed a good size collection of BGS slabbed cards, old and new. I still enjoy those cards, and those cases, but for multiple reasons – mostly the increase in costs and the reputation that BGS had gotten softer on grading — I’ve not been a submitter of cards directly to BGS.

I’m not your prototypical user of grading services. I don’t bust a ton of sealed product and most of the stuff I submit for grading is for my personal collection. The last thing I want is soft grading standards.

Fastforward to the spring of 2021. The hobby, as you know, has experienced a bit of a renaissance since COVID-19. Waves of newcomers or returning hobbyists have taken to cardboard for pleasure, profit and pain. This renewed interest has also caused an uptick in grading services. One new service to hit the market was CSG, or Certified Sports Guaranty. I usually laugh and start looking the other way when I see new grading companies hit the market, but this one immediately caught my attention because former BGS lead grader Andy Broome was involved. Broome, in my mind, is someone I associate with excellence in this hobby. And his departure from BGS was sort of in line with when I felt that the grading at BGS became softer. So this felt like a natural progression for me. So I looked further into CSG and loved that the sports card grading service is an arm of a parent company widely respected in other hobbies, specifically currency and comic books. To me, this lent credibility and immediately shut down the notion that this was just a “fly-by-night” operation, the same types I’d been laughing at for more than two decades.

To date I have sent four submissions to CSG. I tested the graders with a small submission that included a 2001 Bowman Chrome Ichiro rookie, a 2011 Topps Update Mike Trout and a 2011 Bowman Draft Blue parallel rookie, and then followed it up with two bulk submissions of 60 cards and 50 cards. I then submitted one more two-card batch earlier this summer that included a 2018 Topps Chrome Update Refractor Shohei Ohtani. In all I have submitted roughly 120 total cards and to this point I am very pleased with the return. The grades have been fair, and there is some uniformity among the items in my collection.

I understand that we all grade cards for different purposes, and to be honest, CSG may not be a good fit for you depending on your reason. However, there are three areas in which persons seem to be hung up when it comes to CSG. Folks complain that CSG grades too tough; that the cases are ugly, and the secondary market return does not make the service worth using.

I’ll address these concerns based on my experience. Again, this is MY experience and opinion.

Complaint: Grading is tougher

Based on my submissions, I’d concur that grading is tougher than I experienced in the last decade with BGS, as well as the perception of those services rendered by other grading companies. I received a fair amount of Mint 9 and NM/MINT+ 8.5, and did receive an occasional Gem Mint 9.5. Only one card in all of my submissions received the Pristine 10 grade. * It’s worth noting there is a Perfect 10 but that grade is reserved for cards submitted with the sub grades option and the example having received 10s in all four categories.

While the grading is tougher, I find this to be a good thing. No one wins when the standard by which we grade cards softens, or a card gets a grade that is not deserved. It’s worth noting that BGS also had a reputation for being tough during the early days and now BGS has been around for more than 20 years.

Complaint: The labels are ugly

One of the main complaints early on about CSG was the look of their label. There was a sentiment that when the card is graded without subgrades there is too much empty space. I understand the argument, however I enjoy the look of the label the way it is. I’ve submitted cards for grading with and without sub grade options (there is an upcharge unfortunately) and enjoy the look both ways. For me, the label is distinct and in a good way. It’s easily readable, it’s clean and it’s photographable. I’ll say that the cases CSG uses are THE BEST in the industry in terms of clarity. I’ve not put one to the test for durability, but they seem to be light years ahead of PSA and more sleek than BGS. I know everyone loves “Tuxedo Time” from SGC, but I’ll take these over any iteration of holders SGC has used over it’s decades of service.

Complaint: Poor Returns on Secondary Market

This is really the big one. And to be honest, I think it’s time we all understand something: PSA IS king when it comes to secondary market prices. However, this does not mean that PSA is better than CSG. Yeah, you read that right.

The fact that PSA cards sell for more than CSG is not indicative that they offer a better service. It’s more so a statement about market share and consumer trust due to familiarity. Longtime hobbyists and new comers know that PSA has been associated with some of the most expensive cards in recent memory. Additionally, there are PSA loyalists who collect nothing but cards in PSA slabs. There also are folks who participate in the PSA registry system to show off their collection. So those individuals are more likely to put their money directly into a PSA slab than buy a card graded elsewhere. And this is where I was, only my money was going into BGS slabs.

The loyalty aspect of things is something we often forget in this hobby. I’m struggling with this aspect as I write this because I have hundreds of BGS slabs and now roughly 150 CSG slabs to go with them; so the uniformity is now split mostly between two grading companies.

Choose The Service That Suits Your Needs

As I wrap this up, I keep coming back to a question that folks ask me on Twitter: Which grading service should I use?

The answer really does depends on your needs.

If you’re grading for flipping, it’s probably PSA.

If you’re looking for the best evaluation of your card’s condition, it’s probably CSG.

If you’re new to the hobby and are looking at things aesthetically, SGC may be your choice. And yes, I know I said I like CSG, but I cannot hate anyone for loving those black inserts in the SGC cases.