Archive for baseball cards

The Man is finally a Champion: Kershaw now pitching with a lead instead of from behind

Posted in Collecting Kershaw with tags , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

For all of the regular season accolades Clayton Kershaw has achieved during his 12 seasons in Major League Baseball, detractors of the lefty have always had one major gripe: How’s he going to screw up in the playoffs.

But after a stellar performance in the 2020 playoffs, including two key wins for the Dodgers in the World Series (Games 1 and 5), Kershaw may have been able to re-write the narrative on his own career as he is now a champion.

As a collector of Clayton Kershaw memorabilia — namely his baseball cards and his game-used baseballs — this has been a hell of a roller coaster ride. I took a liking to the lefty around the time of the 2006 MLB Draft. I’ve always been a fan of pitching and while that’s not where folks advise to “invest” your time and money in this hobby, such advise has never dictated what made me happy. Around the time of the draft I had seen many a clip highlighting the lefty’s knee-buckling curveball. It was then that I felt this urge to own something of his. As fate would have it, I came to own perhaps one of his most coveted baseball cards: his 2006 Bowman Chrome Draft Refractor autograph.

At the time, Walmart had begun selling blaster boxes of the product. And unlike with everything being sold today, the stuff didn’t always immediately sell. I opened one blaster and pulled a blue refractor (non-auto) of then-prospect Travis Snider. That success made me go seek out more of the product, and a day later I came across another blaster in a Walmart in another city. It was then that I hit the jackpot. In one of the packs from the blaster was the card that would be the foundation of a player collection of a guy who’d eventually become one of the baseball’s finest.

I’m not going to lie. I was not always considering myself a Kershaw collector per se. My PC, or personal collection, at the time revolved heavily around rookies (and first prospect cards) of anyone who had cards. Really.

I enjoyed Kershaw cards early on but was not holding them as an investment. In fact, my mentality was about obtaining the aforementioned rookie cards because they felt like good monetary buys in a relatively volatile market. Collecting isn’t all about the money, but sometimes you can’t help but at least consider it. Besides, I had just taken my foot off the gas pedal a bit with my other player collection: Roger Clemens. While I enjoyed collecting single players, I really wanted to achieve bigger goals – I wanted the icons of cardboard.

For years I focused on that rookie collection, and at times I missed the simplicity of player collecting. It was at that time I decided to really dive into the Kershaw collection. It started with every base card I could find in my boxes. And then with the ease of COMC and eBay I acquired more. Then through trades the collection continued to grow. Sometimes I focused on quality, other times quantity. And to date I have more than 1,200 unique cards in my possession and another 300 or so on the way. By the time those cards are catalogued, the Kershaw collection may very well outnumber the Roger Clemens collection, which is right around 1,500 unique pieces.

Cards are my first hobby love, and at some point I intend to photograph and post each of the Kershaw cards either here or on another platform. But my hobby desires over the last half-decade have shifted and now include game-used memorabilia, specifically baseballs.

***

The very first time I saw Clayton Kershaw pitch live, he was involved in a battle with Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. I live in northern California, so up until Sept. 29, 2015, I had only been able to see Kershaw pitch on television. And then that late-season matchup was announced and thre NL West crown was on the line. Kershaw — the guy who I could not wait to see pitch live — was facing off a local lefty whom I had seen pitch plenty and also enjoyed. The battle, in my mind, was going to be epic. To some degree the real outcome was epic. Kershaw tossed a 1-hit, 13-strikeout complete game masterpiece as the Dodgers clinched the title that night in San Francisco. After the game I located the game-used memorabilia booth hoping to get a piece of the action, but learned quickly that obtaining game-used items isn’t always easy , even if you’re caught up in the moment and willing to spend whatever you’ve got. Typically the home team controls any used items, including bases and balls, however since the Dodgers had clinched the NL West title they worked out some sort of deal and the Dodgers took possession of it all. In short, that night I left with no physical memorabilia, just a smile, great memories and a bunch of photos I took from the field-level seats my sister and I had along the third baseline.

A year or so later while searching eBay I found a ball from the game for sale. Needless to say I made it mine — it was a pitch in the dirt thrown by Kershaw to Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford. And about a year after buying that I found another from the same game involving the same players from another at-bat in the game.

The first of those balls was the first Kershaw-used item (non card relted) I owned. And to date, the collection of Kershaw-used baseballs is now nearing two dozen, the biggest two in my mind being a 2018 ball used by Kershaw to strikeout former NL MVP Ryan Braun, and one thrown by Kershaw in Game 5 of the 2018 World Series, the contest in which the Red Sox would rough up the lefty and win their fourth title of the century. This ball is valuable to anyone who collects game-used balls since World Series memorabilia has a lot of desire. This ball for me, however, is literally priceless because I was at the game.

I’d written about this experience before — about being a kid from the San Francisco Bay Area who as a youth chose Roger Clemens as his favorite player and then latched onto the Boston Red Sox; about sticking with the Sox even after Clemens went to Toronto, then Boston, then Houston, and back to New York. I’d chronicled how the night of Game 5 of the 2018 World Series I wept while standing at Dodger Stadium watching my team celebrate a championship — something I’d hope all fans would be able to claim.

While the baseball from that night is something I’d never willingly part with, there are other items I’d also have a tough time moving, including a single game-used cleat from Kershaw’s 2009 season.

***

If you follow me on Twitter, I’d been discussing this cleat in vague terms for almost half a year, or pretty much since COVID changed the routine of our lives. I’ve yet to share the full story. Now is as good as a time than any other, right?

In early March while doing an eBay search for Kershaw items, I got frisky and looked for “better” items, meaning not just cards or baseballs. I wanted something more substantial – I wanted something that I could display.

During the search I found a listing for a signed and authenticated Clayton Kershaw used cleat. Not a pair of cleats, but a single cleat — one dirty right shoe that was caked with mud but was emblazoned with a Steiner Memorabilia sticker/COA. The asking price was much higher than many of the other items I usually purchased, but this was to be expected, especially since I was looking for a substantial piece.

I did a bit of research and saw more modern cleats sold in pairs were well into the four digits. This single shoe from early in his career looked like a deal. And when I photo-matched it to several games, including a a few from the playoffs in 2009, I knew it had to be mine. A bit of haggling ensued and a deal was struck. The overtime I had worked that week was going to fund a special item in my collection and I wasn’t mad at all.

Now, here’s where the story gets a bit funky. Remember the context of the time. The deal was struck in the first week of March, and it was shipped pretty quickly using USPS Priority Mail. At the time the United States was still fully functioning. The discussion about COVID-19 was still somewhat of a international story, not exactly one that had turned into the giant mess that we know it now to be. On March 16, it was announced that the Bay Area — where there had been a high concentration of presumed positive tests — was one of the first areas in the state to go into a “Shelter In Place” order. This was new to everyone, we had no clue what we were getting into.

That day I had an emergency dental appointment and my sister was home all day, so she would have been there to receive the package. When I got out of my appointment, I checked the shipping status and found that USPS had tried to deliver the package but left a notice behind. As I drove home the SIP order was just being leaked and I feared I would NEVER receive the cleat I had paid for. Remember, we had not had an SIP order before and had no clue what we’d be allowed to do, if mail would be delivered or what. For all we knew, we could have gone into a full military lockdown state.

I rushed home to confirm there was no package, and was furious because my sister was literally inside the house all day working from home. There was no knock at the door — the postman left a silly note on the door without even really trying to deliver the package.

So I drove through our neighborhood looking for the guy, I drove through the next neighborhood and didnt seem him either. I spotted a letter carrier at a local park to ask if he had any idea where the guy was and he said he should still be around. So my search continued and just as I was about to give up, I located the guy eating his lunch — I had zero shame bugging him for my package seeing as how he didn’t even knock on the door.

In the end it turned out well. I got my shoe, and I did thank the postal worker for his service and wished him safety in this time of uncertainty. The package indeed contained a single shoe inside a massive Ziploc bag — mud, gravel and even what looks to be a piece of gum is stuck to the spikes. The cleat is signed by Kershaw, even identifying it as “2009 game used.”

***

The collectibles market is a crazy business and prices fluctuate greatly, as by now I am sure you’ve seen. Just in the last eight months we seem to have experienced intense growth, increased interest and a swell in “value” for some pieces. And with the Dodgers winning their title this week, there surely is another boon to Dodger items, particularly those associated with Kershaw.

For more than a decade, baseball fans have known Kershaw and his domination. He’s the winner of three CY Young Awards, an MVP, a pitching triple crown, author of a no-hitter, and holds various records and is quite possibly the best all-around pitcher the sport has seen this century — others who could also lay claim would include Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.

But now, Kershaw is a champion. I’m happy to have been along for the ride — to this point I’ve seen him in person pitch about a half dozen times, including in Division title-clinching setting and on the sports’ biggest stage. I’m thrilled that I personally pulled one of his most desirable cards and that it later led to me collecting his items. And really I am elated for Kershaw as his postseason faults are no longer highlighted with such a heat lamp that it sears the accomplishments of his stellar career.

The pressure is gone. He’s now pitching with a lead. I’m curious to see what he does from here even though his legacy is now firmly solidified.

Collecting Kershaw: EBay $25 coupon aids in landing this beauty

Posted in Collecting Kershaw with tags , , , on September 12, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

Auction site eBay has been sending out thanks to longtime customers, offering them $25 off any purchase of $25.01 or more. The offer was specific to certain accounts with the use of code lHAPPY25. It’s no secret; hell it’s probably worth trying if you have an account.

I love offers like these. It’s essentially “free” money. But I tend to make them a bigger deal than I should because aim always looking for the “right” deal.

Was I supposed to find something that costs a tad over $25 so I can say I essentially got something for free?

Was I supposed to use the $25 as an investment and see what I could get and flip?

Was I supposed to use that money toward something I wanted on my watch list but was overpriced?

There were so many ways to go with it. I contemplated buying another MLB authenticated Hit By Pitch ball for my Wall of Pain but wound up using the free $25 to knock down the price on something I really wanted: this 2019 Topps Big League Rainbow Foil Clayton Kershaw, serial numbered 022/100, which is his jersey number.

I’m one of those collectors who likes the serial number when it matches the jersey number. I won’t pay crazy money for it, but knocking $25 off the price made this a $12 card, which I absolutely could get with. The kicker? It was shipped in this one touch which is in good condition, that’s another added value.

In Memoriam: George Thomas Seaver (Nov. 17, 1944 – Aug. 31, 2020)

Posted in In Memoriam with tags , , , , on September 3, 2020 by Cardboard Icons
1967 Topps Tom Seaver Rookie Card

“This is the first basketball I’ve opened since February!”

Posted in Box / Pack Break with tags , , , , , , on August 24, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

I’ll never forget the look of joy on my son’s face Sunday night when I presented him with a bag of unopened current product that we had been unable to find on store shelves.

2019-20 Panini America NBA Chronicles and 2020 Topps Chrome baseball have been two of the hottest sellers in recent weeks as they are some of the most recent retail releases. We’ve seen numerous photos on Twitter showing groups of people standing around the card aisles in retail stores just waiting to pounce on the shelves once items become available. The result has been the near impossible task of finding items “in the wild” and having to resort to the secondary market where items are priced out of some folks’ budgets.

For me as the father of a 9-year-old who collects it has left really two options: 1) Use this as a lesson in appreciating what we have and what we’re able to find. 2) Know to what degree we are willing to chase a product and how much we are willing to spend to get it.

To date we have found none of the aforementioned cards in the wild. Shelves here in the Bay Area have been relatively void of “new” product since at least February. We’ve found some Topps Series 2 fatpacks, and even a few Select baseball blasters on shelves, but certainly no basketball, which has been hot all season, but more so since Zion made his debut and the seemingly new interest that has entered our hobby.

It’s been frustrating, and in some cases maddening, but I really can’t blame folks when the profits are there to be had, especially on Chronicles. The blasters at one point were bought to about $20 and resold for seven times as much. If I saw a full shelf I’d clear the damn thing too.

On Friday night, I received a text message from a friend of mine who happened to find some of the aforementioned products near his home about an hour and a half away. I congratulated him and told him that if he ever found a stash of stuff, I’d be more than happy to pay above MSRP for a blaster or two of the products so that I could open with my son. It was a low key ask of a great friend, Rod, but told him I understood if that wasn’t an option as I would never expect anyone to turn away massive profits in a case like this.

My friend had some great luck. He and another friend split the findings of one of their local WalMarts and out of his haul he opened the cards — he’s a collector NOT a flipper — and pulled a Zion Williamson autograph from Chronicles. It’s like a $2,000 card.

The next day I was at work and received another message from Rod, he was telling me he was coming to town that day and he had a bit of a surprise — he had found a few more products at another store along the way and wanted to get them to me as I had asked.

I repeated my line about not wanting to be greedy, just wanted a few things to open with my son. At this point in my collecting career the experience I share with my son is worth more than anything I could get out of these packs. My friend showed up with a bag of unopened product and he agreed to sell me a blaster of Chronicles, a hanger of Chronicles, two fat packs of Chronicles, a Blaster of Topps Chrome baseball and a Value Pack of Topps Chrome baseball. There were three conditions: I pay him MSRP only; accept a second Topps Chrome blaster as a gift for my son; and if we pulled a $10,000 card we agree to kick him something. That last part was said as a joke, but if we did I totally would.

The boxes and packs sat at my place until Sunday evening when I got my kids back from their mother. I placed the bag on the table and pulled one item out at a time and explained how these came into my possession. The last item I removed from the bag was a Topps Chrome blaster which I told him was his as a gift from Rod.

Rod is retired. He and I became friends at work about eight years ago when he found out we shared a common hobby — sports memorabilia, specifically cards. He has told me about his father who used to sell 1986-87 Fleer basketball cards — yeah, the Jordan rookie year — from his ice cream truck and how he has found amazing items at thrift stores and flea markets, which is also a method I love doing during healthier times. He has two adult children, including a son who likes sports but never really expressed an interest in cards. Rod has said how happy he is to see my son interested in my hobby, his hobby, and loves the idea of growing it through the kids. And so this blaster was for my boy, free of charge.

The look on my son’s face when I showed him everything, and told him about the gifted blaster was priceless. He’s sort of a shy kid, just like I was and still am even at age 40, but he graciously accepted the terms of the break. He knows how hard this stuff is to find.

So we divvied up the products as follows: Each got one Topps Chrome blaster, each got two packs from the Chrome Value pack; each got a Chronicles fatpack and then I let my son chose the Chronicles blaster that contained 40 cards or the hanger that had 30. He chose the blaster, which I was more than happy with since I always let him keep whatever he pulls and the packaging method offered more excitement and 10 more cards that he’d appreciate more than I.

We opened our Chronicles fatpacks first and each took turns reading names. I got Lebron, Giannis and Steph, as well as a Zion Threads design rookie card. My son pulled the same stars except Giannis, as well as a Zion in Prestige design. We were off to a good start.

Next we opened the Chrome baseball. My son’s gifted blaster and two packs from the Value Pack collectively included a sweet Decade of Dominance die-cut refractor design Ted Williams insert, some second-tier rookies including Dunstin May, Nico Hoerner, AND Trent Grisham. His other inserts and parallels included a Christian Yelich base ref, Keston Hiura Future Stars and Shohei Ohtani and Pete Alonso 1985 inserts, and a Sepia Refractor of Albert Pujols.

My pink pack from the Value Pack contained two A’s rookies, and the blaster wasn’t nearly as satisfying, except for a 1985 Luis Robert, which of course is a great-looking card.

While the Chromes were fun, we both knew Chronicles has been the real unicorn product. As mentioned above, he chose the blaster, thereby leaving me with the hanger box. I opened the hanger first and netted two of the lesser Ja Morant rookies, a green parallel of Luka Doncic, and a great-looking Airborne autograph of Josh Okogie.

My son ended the session with a blaster that definitely lived up to the Main Event billing as he pulled a Luka pink parallel and four Ja Morant rookies from the box, including two from the same pack. The highlight of course is that flashy silver prizm parallel of the Flux branded card … copes of this have sold recently between $125 and $250 and reportedly are super tough to pull.

“This is the first basketball I’ve owned since February!” My son exclaimed.

So the boy did it again. With his somewhat limited opportunities, he pulled from a pack another great card for his PC, and we have my friend Rod to thank for this experience.

Is It Time To Buy or Sell? Answer: Both

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , on August 19, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

The current state of the hobby is an interesting one. In some ways this feels unnatural since things that were irrelevant now matter (again), but at the same time there is a familiar feel of days gone by, a time when lots of people were talking about trading cards and telling stories about how they collected when they were young.

It’s a fascinating thing to witness as a middle-aged man, considering the last time this market was booming — early 1990s — I was an impressionable youth trying to find my way.

For those who’ve been here a bit, this quick-paced market now leaves some confused about about how to feel about things. Will this last? Is this a fad? Are were still on the upswing or are we peaking? Is it time to sell what I own, or is it time to keep buying?

None of us should be telling others how to feel about this market, our cards, or anything else. But in terms of reconciling the the latter part of that series of queries, I do have a recommendation: It is time to sell AND buy.

Yes, this is typical me, kind of being neutral, but hear me out. In my 33 years of collecting I cannot recall a time when this hobby was hotter. More eyes are on this field than ever, and social media has given us access to so many more potential selling/buying/trading partners than we ever had before. And what this means to us who have loads of cards just sitting around is that this is an opportunity to turn some of that stuff into something we want … or re-purpose that money.

Two and a half decades ago it was easy to take your unwanted cards and find trading partners, whether it be at the card shop, a card show or with others you knew. Trading still exists, but since a lot of it is done online there are associated costs, specifically shipping. You might have once agreed to trade your 1989 Donruss Don Mattingly for that 1988 Topps Kirby Puckett, but would you have done so if you knew the transaction would cost each of you the price of a stamp? Probably not. The result is that a lot of the stuff we owned became dead stock for us; it sat and sort of became useless and in some ways worthless.

But what’s old is new again. While the Mattingly for Puckett swap mentioned above still may not make since today’s market — they’re both worth about a dime each — there are surely other examples of items in your collection that have just been sitting for years and suddenly they are relevant again. This is the time to seize that opportunity and dig out all of that stuff and find someone who will appreciate it; someone who will give you a few bucks for a card that has been sitting in your closet for a decade.

Forget seeking the next flip online when your closet, basements and storage units are full of items that had been carrying little to no value for you. If you look at it the right way, that’s all “found money.”

In terms of buying, I’d say this is also a time to seek the items you always wanted. Take all that money from the aforementioned sales and sink it into an item (or multiple items) you once thought was (were) unattainable. And even if you’re coming into this era of the hobby with no card cache but with a wallet or account full of cash, don’t follow the trend and buy the new shiny hotness, unless of course that is all you know. Bottom line: If cards talk to you, find the ones (new or old) that make YOU happy and give them a new home.

And if you’re here just to flip? Then you keep doing you, and accept the results, both good and bad. There is room for us all.