Archive for hobby

“Are we selling cards or lottery tickets?”

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , on September 6, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

I was listening to the MojoBreak podcast “The Hype” today and co-owners Dan and Doug were having a spirited conversation about Zion Williamson and the recent Panini Contenders Draft product.

During the conversation targeted mostly about Zion base autos topping $1,000, and a parallel that was at $99,000 on eBay, Dan said: “Are we selling cards or lottery tickets?”

There was a pause and then the talk continued. But in this one quote Dan really hit it on the head my thoughts on the current state of the industry.

There has always been an element of gambling in what we do. We buy an unopened pack of cards with a chance that we pull something we want, or something we think may be valuable to someone else. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. But the difference between now and 5-, 10-, 20-, 30- years ago is that the stakes have changed.

We’re not talking about lunch money being saved and then used for cards that we throw into boxes and place on our school binders. We’re talking about car, rent and mortgage payments being spent in stores and with online breakers everyday with a hope that the participant is the one who hits the jackpot card that can be resold for a handsome profit — very few are buying and/or keeping with the idea that they added a true PC (personal collection) item.

The issue of course is the industry has shifted more away from being what we’d known as our traditional hobby, and more toward being akin to gaming and an exercise in stocks or day trading, as Ben from “About the Cards” podcast like to call it.

Now, of course I am speaking in generalities. There are still plenty of people who buy and enjoy cards for what they are — the same as they had been since they were kids. But this industry is trending toward the risk takers, the ones who will put it all on the line to feel that high of watching a box be broken online (or in their own home) which is then followed up by figuring out how to either minimize their damage by immediately selling what they got (if anything) or trying to figure out when the profits are at their highest.

And this is where I struggle to reconcile how I feel about the future of this card world. Because I do feel in a sense that guys like MojoBreak, or your favorite breaker, or your local card shop, are really dealing in commodities that are essentially our version of lottery tickets. Because we all hope that one day we will pull the golden ticket — no pun intended — or pull something that turns out to be the second-chance lottery ticket if we hold onto it long enough.

And then the secondary market has become a game of high-stakes “hot potato” where we buy at a level and move items as quick as possible for a profit in hopes that we are not the ones who are stuck holding the card that is depreciating.

This is why for the life of me I cannot figure out if I like Gary Vee.

I’m not saying any of this is wrong per se. I’m saying this is a difficult world to navigate when as a longtime collector you’ve got to figure out if you’re too old school for this new style hobby and find yourself asking these questions: Am I failing to adapt? Am I doing this wrong? Or am I doing it right by staying the course? How do I teach and share this hobby to my children?

These questions, of course, are facetious because there is no one way to do this hobby. I suppose what drives me crazy is that there is so much focus on what’s new, and who hit the big card today, that much of the fun of the hobby sometimes feels like its sucked out — unless of course you’re one of the winners.

The most annoying question in our hobby: How much is this card worth?

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , on August 17, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

Raise your hand if your seen this before:

Guy buys into a break or opens a box of cards. Hits something they know is desirable. Then … they hit social media with some variation of the following:

“I just got this badboy. Anyone know how much it’s worth?”

It happens all day, every day, and with more frequency as folks blindly buy into breaks just hoping to pull the next winning lottery ticket. And as such, when someone hits a big card, their immediate thought isn’t that it’s a good addition to their collection. The question is, how much can I sell it for?!

I understand that the current state of our hobby has an emphasis on ripping and flipping, but it’s complete nonsense to see time and time again the question about how much a card will fetch on the secondary market. I seriously question how many collectors there are compared to the number of enthusiasts who are just here playing the shell game, constantly looking to move one big hit for another chance at hobby greatness, ultimately finding themselves on the short end of the stick because nothing will smooth that itch.

Additionally, anyone who is currently in the hobby knows they can find the value of their card, or get a fairly reasonable idea, by going straight to eBay and checking for themselves. The only reason you’re really asking the question on social media is because you’re looking to show off your card. And that’s OK.

So next time you feel the need to ask “How much is this sick hit worth?” first ask yourself why you’re posting that question when it can be answered fairly easily on your own. If you want people to know you pulled the card, don’t pussyfoot around it. Just show the damn thing off.

I could never own a card shop

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , on April 14, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

When I was a little kid, I had the luxury of living directly across the street from a card shop. I could peer out the window of my first-floor apartment and see the moment the shop owner flipped over the “We’re Open” sign. But who am I kidding? My friends and I –we all lived in the same building — often beat the owner there. We were often the first customers, and sometimes the last when we would return in the evening after a day of collecting bottles and cans for more cards.

I had dreams of owning a shop. In fact, I once created little business cards and slipped them under the door of my friend’s apartments. It was silly, but remember, I was 8 and fresh into this hobby. I held this dream through middle school as I had no obvious desire to do anything else.

As I grew older, this dream of course began to fade. And now as an adult — even with the ever-changing landscape of our hobby — I realize the dream was best left as it was — an imperfect heaven that appeased my immature brain.

I give a lot of credit to card shop owners who have had the ability to make a living to support themselves and/or their families in this niche hobby. It’s not like there is this endless pot of gold to which you can continue to return; there are no overtime opportunities to bridge the financial gap during tough times. Card shop owners cease to make money the moment they shut their doors at night, or on a random Tuesday or Thursday as some stores might do.

While the financials might not make sense in my head, the reason I couldn’t own a shop is because of my conscience.

Because when the mother and boy walk in seeking baseball cards, I’d almost rather give the kid some cards to get him started instead of trying a hard sale on some lower-end wax.

Because it would pain me to see a guy spend 90 minutes digging through the quarter boxes and not give him a heads up that someone else spent that same amount of time the day before pulling every card up with upside — the same purpose this newer customer were there.

And because I could not standby and watch a teenager spend his lunch money on packs from a box on the counter which you may already know is void of the single guarantee hit advertised on the box, knowledge you’ve acquired because one of your whale customers decided to open and buy pack by pack from that box until that hit was gone.

It seems to me that it takes a certain amount of selective memory, and a certain shrewdness to make ends meet. And I’m not piling on shop owners, because I understand how difficult these decisions could be at times. I’m merely saying that I know that with my personality it would make it difficult to be a shop owner … and that’s not even addressing how tough it might be to draw the line between collector and retailer.

Month of pack cleansing about to face test with 2019 Topps

Posted in Commentary, Misc. with tags , , , , , , on January 27, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

A lot of people joke they are addicted to sports cards. It’s usually said in a light-hearted manner to really describe their insatiable thirst for cards – their desire to acquire; the urge to constantly move items around to see new things in their collection.

And then there are those who truly have an addiction. Those who can’t go a day without buying something – a pack, a blaster, a spot in a break.

I’m probably somewhere in the middle of the two types described above, although I recognize I do have an addictive personality. And that is why I like to use the month of January as a respite from packs.

It’s a bit easier for me than others as I pretty much collect only baseball.  And for the most part there haven’t been any baseball releases since mid-December. And truthfully, I am not the target audience of those late-year releases – I stopped prospecting years ago, and I really don’t purchase the higher end stuff until the single hit the secondary market.

But right about this time every year – in late January – the hobby discussion begins to turn toward the release of the new Topps flagship set. The 2019 Topps cards are scheduled to be released this upcoming week, but we have already started to see some leak out.

The anticipation for these cards has caused some – including me – to check their retailers to see if the cards had hit retail shelves in their area early. It has happened before.

What’s interesting is that we all know that these cards are not rare. Hell, if you look hard enough you can still find some Series 1 from 2018 sitting at some retailers.  But it’s this urge for the newest items that some – including me – can’t resist at times. We want to be the first to have it in hand. The first to say we found it. We want that attention, that satisfaction that in 2019 – or whatever year – you were the first or among the first folks – to own cards from that year.

More than ever I find myself fighting myself on this notion. As documented here, there have been many changes in my life over the last few years and this has no doubt had an impact on the way I collect for economic reasons – single-income households are tough to maintain. And because I have been in this game for three-plus decades, it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks – or in other word, fight those urges to go out and buy a bunch of the new stuff, when really just a few packs – or no packs at all – will suffice. I mean, when it really comes down to it, I really only collect Roger Clemens and Clayton Kershaw. That’s not to say that other cards can’t have a place in my collection, but it should serve as a reminder that I do no need to clear out a retailer of a product simply because it’s new – and I’d guess I am not the only person in such a position.

The age of social media has made this tough as we are constantly exposed to the new stuff, and are usually hit with images of the good pulls because it is our nature in present times to share everything almost immediately.  And when we see those pulls, we think we could do the same by purchasing a pack, a box, a spot in a break, etc.

When 2019 Topps hits shelves this week and the images start flowing for real on my Twitter feed, I know exactly how I’m going to feel. I’m going to be excited. I’m going to be filled with the thrill of endless possibilities. But it’s important that I temper those urges to buy more than I “need.” What I should do is stay the hell away from retail shelves – those are my weakness — and just buy one hobby box to open it with my son so that we can build a set and experience the newness together.

 

 

 

The hidden shame of collectors

Posted in Project Organize with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

Funny story, last week, my ex-wife contacted me via text message and told me about this new show she was watching on Netflix called “Tidying Up.” The premise of the show being that the host had a methodology for de-cluttering one’s home and helping folks reacquaint themselves with their items. My Ex instantly reached out to me because in the second episode, they were dealing with a husband who had amassed a large amount of baseball cards.

Later that same day, my girlfriend – which feels like a silly title, but we’ve been together for almost a year and a half now – told me about the same show. And of course, the same reason she thought of me was because of the second episode, which I shall forever now refer to as the “baseball card episode.”

And so last night, while I was working on Project Organize, I took a break to watch the show. While the episode does not spend a lot of time discussing the baseball card issue, it does give a broad overview of show participant Ron Akiyama’s card collecting habit and storage. Basically, he had collected cards with his two sons for three decades and now he has amassed so many cards that the pile of boxes literally touches the ceiling.

I’m not here to judge Ron. Hell, Ron, if you read this, I thank you for sharing your story.  My family has had the same issues you and your wife dealt with before this show and I know it can be very difficult to admit the issue, let alone tell others (or the world in this case) about it and then let people inside your world to offer suggestions.

I digress, Ron’s passion for cards is one that looks like a familiar story for many of us, especially those of us who grew up or collected during the late 1980s and early 1990s – we owned everything and still own everything, so it’s a ton of shit.

This episode struck home for me because I am in the middle of my own Project Organize. I’ve been trying to determine what makes me happy, or “sparks joy” – to use a phrase from show host Marie Kondo. The idea of course is not to dump everything and quit the hobby, but to really assess what you own, think about why you own it, and determine if you still need or want to own it.

This area has been a sore spot for me because I’ve felt a lot of shame in the amount of stuff that I feel I’ve accumulated, and this idea that I am still participating in a hobby that many think – or thought – was meant for kids. And I’d venture to say there are a lot of others who find themselves in the same spot. What’s important that we understand that it’s perfectly healthy for us to have a hobby — this hobby — and not allow the feelings of guilt surrounding spending and clutter consume our lives to make us feel like we’re living under an adult-size Jenga Tower of boxes, which is how much of Ron’s collection appeared.

In the process of doing Project Organize – which began before I even heard of this show — I’ve found myself being re-acquainted with items I forgot had, and I am truly starting to enjoy this hobby again. And this joy, honestly, is more valuable than any single card I could pull today.

 

 

How long have you been writing this?!

Posted in Misc. with tags , , , , , , , on January 3, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

Funny story. Yesterday I wrote a blog post on my laptop while sitting at the kitchen table and my son saunters over after I am done and asks what I’ve been doing.

He recently showed interest in the hobby, so he notices when I am looking at cards, or reading about them. So he wanted to take a look at what I had just done. I let him sit in my chair and have a look. He starts paging down, looking occasionally at the words, but focusing mostly on the pictures of cards.

I explain that this is my blog/web site.

“How long have you been doing this?” he asks as he scans over the fourth page of posts, pointing out some cool images I have posted.

I reply: “Ten years … but I haven’t been writing much in recent years.”

Astonished, he says, “Ten years?!”

And it was at that moment that it really hit me that I have owned this domain and used it for longer than both he and his sister have been alive. I actually started this blog some two months after my ex-wife and I learned that we were having our first child. And next week, that oldest child turns 10.

People often call music the soundtrack to their lives. For me, baseball cards are essentially my timeline.

Cardboard Icons author in video interview about hobby, collection

Posted in Commentary, Misc. with tags , , , , , on August 26, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

Late last week Patrick at Radicards.com hit me up about doing an “on-camera” interview with him about the hobby. I paused initially because for years I was the one asking questions, not the one answering them. And for so long I had this phobia of being in front of the camera. But after some thought I decided to do the interview. And I’m glad I did.

It’s a 30-minute video, edited down from our hour-long discussion,  The audio on my end starts out low but does get better. We touch on my history in the hobby, why I collect what I do, some discussion about the state of our hobby and so forth.  Give it a watch (or listen) at your leisure. It was a lot of fun to do.

And if you’ve never seen Radicards, take an opportunity to check it out.  There are dozens of interviews like mine sitting there waiting to be watched, which is somewhat unique because we don’t often get to see people talking about the hobby other than when they are busting wax.

Thanks for reading (or in this case watching),

Ben, Cardboard Icons.

Reach me via e-mail at cardboardicons@yahoo.com; on Twitter at @cardboardicons, and LIKE the new Cardboard Icons FACEBOOK page