Mint and slabbed: 1985 Clemens Topps rookie finds new home

Posted in New Addition with tags , , , , , on January 14, 2018 by Cardboard Icons

True story: When I was 11 years old I entered the sixth grade with a binder decorated in Roger Clemens pictures. I was that hardcore of a fan. And my collection at the time consisted of damn near every copy of every Roger Clemens card I could find.

Hell, during one trip to card show in the mall I purchased some 60 copies of a 1989 Classic Travel Orange Clemens card one dealer had for sale.

I digress, one of my prized possessions was a single 1985 Topps Clemens rookie card I purchased from a local card shop in 1990. I forget how much the card cost me, but surely it was in the $15 range — which was about the same price as a box of packs from the current year at the time. So there was a debate: a single card versus a whole box of cards.

That card was THE Clemens card for me. The 1984 Fleer Update XRC was a figment of my imagination really. I figured there was no way on earth that I’d ever own the card as it was valued at the time in the $350 range.

So the Clemens Topps rookie was something I never wanted to let out of my sight. So what did I do? I placed it into a Card Saver I and taped the Card Saver to the inside of my binder.

And so there it sat every day. When I got sick of listening to the teacher I opened my binder and looked at the Clemens, an escape from school work and a journey to baseball card land, where all things were positive and fun.

Fast forward to 2018. I have the Clemens Fleer Update rookie — two in fact; although it should be noted they’re worth about a third of what they went for in 1990. But I hadn’t owned a GRADED version of that beloved 1985 Topps Clemens.

The original one I owned is still in my collection. Remarkably it isn’t thrashed, but it was never mint, always near-mint at best.

And so one day recently while perusing the Clemens stuff on eBay I came upon a BGS Topps Clemens rookie, a solid Mint 9. It’s not rare, but I had to make this one mine. And so I did — for a whopping $15, the same price I paid for my original Clemens rookie.

Ben Aguirre, Jr.

Former Beckett Baseball columnist and writer.

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

Deuces Don Drysdale rookie …

Posted in Hall of Famers, Misc. with tags , , , , , , , on January 13, 2018 by Cardboard Icons

If you’re not familiar with the primary focus of my collection, I’ve been acquiring the Rookie Card or a tobacco-era card of every member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Wagner. Ruth. Mantle. Etc. And on top of that, the card has to be stabbed by Beckett Grading Services because I like uniformity.

This week I added to my collection a 1909-11 t206 John McGraw already stabbed by BGS/BVG. Low grade, but still wonderful to see.

It’s so much fun adding these century-old cards to the wall display. It’s a lot more fun adding these baseball icons than chasing something new and flashy. But that’s just my opinion.

So now the McGraw will be inserted in the top row — to keep things chronological — and since the Drysdale is the last card in the case it has to be moved.

So what happens with the Drysdale? It’ll get bumped to the second graded card display which presently houses stabbed HOF rookies from 1958-1991.

I’ll need another case eventually as I have a half dozen more ungraded HOF t206 that need BGS/BVG cases. This will eventually force the move of Jim Bunning and Bill Mazeroski as well.


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

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

Self Reflection: A New Beginning for Cardboard Icons?

Posted in Misc. on January 11, 2018 by Cardboard Icons

As I sit down to write this, I think back to nine years ago. This blog was such an important part of my life at the time that I sat in a hospital room and wrote by hand — by hand! — the words that would become a post, dedicated to my daughter, who’d just been born.

I remember it clearly. My then-wife lying in bed recovering from giving birth. My daughter receiving the typical newborn treatment in another room. And me, scribbling away on a legal pad the thoughts about how my life had changed.

What did fatherhood mean for me and my hobby, one that had kept me out of trouble when I was a kid?

What would come of this blog, which to that point I had spent more than six months building and it was gaining readership, thanks to a few people who had plugged it along the way.

The answer, as it turned out, was not much of a change at all. Sure, there were a few minor tweaks to my buying habits, but this blog continued to give me something else to do — especially at 2 am while bottle feeding my newborn daughter, who if you haven’t figured it it turned nine years old today. NINE!

In cardboard terms, Joba Chamberlain and Tim Lincecum were the hobby darlings. Think on that. Feel old yet?

I still collected after her birth, albeit as haphazardly as ever. My focus had not fully taken place. And as I mentioned, this blog gave me something to do in those wee hours as her heart beat against my chest after being fed.

I was all about readership, and page views. This was in an age just before Twitter blew up — that really started toward the end of 2009. I had something to say damn near every day — I’m not saying it was important, but I had something to say. It was important for me to share thoughts about current cards, stuff I was chasing and what not.

Life continued in this fashion for years. I was happy. People saw me and my family and saw we were happy.

But we’re we really happy? Was my balance of card life and real life even?

About two years later I had a career change, and in that same time frame, my second child was born.

Two kids, a boy and a girl, a wife, a dog and a hobby with which I seemed to be having loads of fun.


Or was it?

In late 2011 I unearthed at a thrift store a game-used Earl Weaver jersey, (Google it, brother!), which as it would turn out would lay the ground work for me landing a dream gig — writing for Beckett Baseball/Beckett Media.

By this point, the Beckett name had been sullied. The price guide for which the company had become famous was pretty much obsolete. And for new-age collectors the mere mention of the company name seemingly gave them jumping-off point to bash writers — one specific one in particular, a good guy whom I have come to know really well and would defend to the end. The same guy — whom many trashed based on allegations or opinions of a handful — who would help me accomplish a boyhood dream: Write something for the magazine.

That one-time, first-person article was eventually parlayed into a longer gig that would last through 2015.

Happiness … I think.

That gig, along with the ease of Twitter, left this blog to sit fairly stagnant with the exception of a dozen or so posts a year. Readership dwindled as my sense of urgency to blogging long-form had been replaced by microblogging, which is, or was, what Twitter is often referred.

I’ve “given away” my thoughts and opinions on Twitter so often that it’s left me feeling as if I didn’t have to write — which is counterproductive for a guy who loves writing. And another problem with microblogging is there’s no way to really archive my stuff — at least not in favorable way.

When I started this blog it was always meant to be something I did for myself, but also something I could share with others. Additionally, it helped me see where my head was in the hobby at certain points. Self reflection is fun … and can be positive, even if it takes you to dark places along the way.

Over the last two years, life has changed again as I am going through a divorce. It’s not an ugly one, but it’s a divorce nonetheless. I’ve not really divulged details or chronicled it here, but it’s also opened my eyes to several things, including certain aspects of this hobby.

Remember that self reflection I mentioned a few paragraphs ago? Yep, this is where this comes in.

As I sit here, nine years to the day after my daughter was born, both of my kids are in school and I’m writing this blog on a phone as my car’s oil and other fluids get changed.

I’ve got a lot of thoughts about this hobby — some good, some bad — that I want to share. But I want to do it under MY circumstances: I want to WRITE them, not pass them out on Twitter so they can get lost among all of political stuff.

That said, I’m also wondering how often I can allow myself to take a break from life to do it.

I’m in a really good place in my life. And I want to pursue writing again. And while readership will likely never reach what it was, I still want to do it because getting my thoughts out makes me happy.

Thanks for reading,

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

In Memoriam: Bobby Doerr (April 7, 1918 – Nov. 13, 2017)

Posted in In Memoriam, Misc. with tags , , , , , on November 14, 2017 by Cardboard Icons

1939 Play Ball Bobby Doerr Rookie Card

In Memoriam: Don Baylor (June 28, 1949 – Aug. 7, 2017) 

Posted in In Memoriam with tags , , , , , on August 7, 2017 by Cardboard Icons

1971 Topps Don Baylor rookie (with Dusty Baker and Tom Paciorek)

In Memoriam: Darren Daulton: Jan. 3, 1962 – Aug. 6, 2017. 

Posted in In Memoriam, Misc. with tags , , , , , , on August 7, 2017 by Cardboard Icons

Darren Daulton, 1985 Fleer Update XRC