Archive for baseball cards

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.

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.