Archive for Sandy Koufax

Breaking Barriers: The vintage rookie cards that shaped the last 15 years of my collection

Posted in Cardboard Porn, Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 17, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

Have you ever believed that certain things were impossible and then suddenly you accomplished a feat once deemed so insurmountable that it allowed you to rethink everything you believed?

These barrier-breaking moments can have huge impacts in your personal life. And in the right context, these accomplishments in our hobby can lead to reaching amazing collecting goals.

I’m a first-generation baseball card collector who broke into cards at Age 7 because two brothers in my apartment building took me under their wing and led me directly across the street to the card shop where I learned about the pictures of players printed on cardboard.

I collected a bit in 1987 and really leaned into things in 1988, and then 1989 blew my mind with the introduction of Upper Deck and that famed Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card. I’ve been here ever since, save for a gap from the middle of 2003 and most of 2004, and this is where I pick up the story.

Upon my return in 2005, the hobby landscape had changed, and I had to adapt, so I really began looking at the things I enjoyed — rookie cards, which I had been collecting hard since 1997 — and seeing glaring holes from 1979 and earlier. This of course isn’t completely abnormal because vintage cards always seemed a bit out of reach for me as a kid, teenager and eventually as a young adult. The common theme for these ages is lack of resources.

By my mid 20s I had completed college and entered my first career. And one of the first goals I had during this “new era” of my collecting history was to obtain a rookie card of two players who cards seemed a bit undervalued by comparison to their peers.

I spent a few months going through the collection I had built to that point and sold off a bunch of inserts and the like. And in 2006, I acquired the two first big vintage rookies for my collection, the 1951 Bowman Willie Mays and the 1955 Topps Sandy Koufax.

In my mind, both cards were underrated. Mays and Mickey Mantle were two names often discussed together and both have their Bowman rookie cards in the same set. However, the prices for the two were vastly different, and the Mays felt like an incredible bargain so I chased one down. Sure it, was a low-grade copy, but it was real and it was mine. This is a mantra I still preach to this day when someone wants to knock the condition of anything I own.

And the Koufax? Well … c’mon, it’s a Koufax rookie. I’ve always been enamored with footage of the lefty and owning that card, which had a $1,200 book value (when that was important) for like a decade, seemed grossly underappreciated.

Sadly I do not remember which of the cards came first. Hell, they may have come in at about the same time, because I remembering making the purchases and having this moment of overwhelming joy: “You finally did it!”

I still own that same Mays rookie today, about 15 years later, but the original Koufax I owned has since gone into another collection as I upgraded to a better-looking card.

When those purchases were done, it tapped into the addictive personality that I have. They were a gateway drug for me as the euphoria I felt when I held those cards in my hand made me seek a new high. I set my eyes on more players whose rookie cards were in the same price range (about $250 market value based on condition) and came up with two legends: Hank Aaron and Jackie Robinson.

The first Hank Aaron rookie I owned was graded by some off-brand company and while it was clear the card was real, it was also obvious the right border was wavy as if it were cut with a pair of scissors. And the only Jackie Robinson rookie I could afford at the time was a 1948/49 Leaf card that had major damage and was ungraded. Both cards came into my collection and served as placeholders for about a year until I upgraded to the 1954 Topps and 1948 Bowman that currently live in the showcase across from my desk.

For about 18 months I felt like I had built a solid foundation of vintage rookie cards, so I started to look to the future and dabbled a bit in Chrome and signed prospect cards. (Insert major groan here.) My next major vintage rookie is really what got me thinking about this journey.

On Sunday night I tweeted a picture of my 1933 Goudey (high#) Lou Gehrig. Along with the photo I explained how that card made me believe anything was possible again. While the comment wasn’t wrong, it also wasn’t an entire thought as it neglected to mentioned all of the aforementioned, which is what lead to me writing this piece this morning.

I wasn’t feeling well on July 29, 2008, and decided to stay home from work. This was about four weeks after I started this blog and as such this is why I have this date documented. At some point that afternoon I sat in front of my computer looking at stuff on eBay and there was this auction for an SGC graded Gehrig. The card wasn’t as pretty as others available, but the price for the auction was trending low so I threw a nonsensical bid — $1 for every homer Reggie Jackson hit — and to my surprise I won. As you can see I’ve since had the card crossed over to a BGS/BVG slab for continuity in my collection. (Side note: I am a BGS/BVG fan and you can read about that here.)

To that point, the amount I spent on the Gehrig card was the most I had spent on any single card and that is why I see it as such a monumental acquisition for me. Buying this card raised the bar for me and led me to believe that if I really wanted to get to the next level — owning a famed Mickey Mantle Bowman rookie — it was possible.

I added several cards to my collection after the Gehrig, but I kept tabs on Mantle rookies all along. And in 2010, after liquidating a bunch of unwanted items in my collection, I used the money culled from that sale and acquired the Mantle 1951 Bowman rookie card that currently resides in my collection. Mint it is not. In fact it’s not even close. There’s some paper loss on one corner and the register is off … but as the saying goes: It is real and it is mine.

I won the Mantle rookie on Opening Day 2010 just as then-rookie sensation Jason Heyward hit a walk-off homerun. To date, the price I paid for that card is still the most I’ve paid for any single card. But that acquisition changed my mindset and furthered my goal of getting a rookie card (or tobacco era card) of every player member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. And in 2012 I acquired a handful of them including my 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth, because you can’t own Gehrig and Mantle and not own a Ruth. And once the Ruth was in hand, it lead to me chasing Joe DiMaggio, who is embodied in my collection through a 1938 Goudey Heads-Up card.

Having this idea of Four Pillars or Mount Rushmore of a certain team led me to do the same with others, and I’ve continued ever since, although I also dabble in a bunch of other things as well.

Over the last half decade, life has thrown several curve balls at me. I’ve swung and missed at some, fouled a bunch off and even went with a few and knocked them into right-center field for a base hit. But at some point here in 2020 or the near future, I’m hoping to take one deep — I’m hoping to use my collecting cache and acquire what has to this point seemed impossible to own, a 1952 Topps Eddie Mathews rookie card.

The Mathews to me is almost like the final boss of a 1980s scrolling video game. The Mathews is the last big “modern” vintage HOF rookie card that I do not own. And while it may not be the last card I chase, it surely is the one that is in the crosshairs thanks to a long line of purchases that made the next one seem possible.

MojoMailday: Beating The Odds with Refractors

Posted in Mail Day with tags , , , , , , on September 4, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

Every few weeks I like to participate in a break with MojoBreak and more times than not so look to grab a Dodgers spot because … I collect Clayton Kershaw.

Sometimes the break is priced so fairly that I can’t help but take a shot even if the odds are greatly against me. Such was the case last week when the site broke a mixer of 5 Topps MLB products. The assortment consisted of 2018 Bowman’s Best, and then 2019 editions of Bowman, Stadium Club, Topps Chrome and Five Star.

Well, I definitely beat the odds. First in the single box of Stadium Club there was a Sandy Koufax Chrome Orange Refractor /99. Then in Topps Chrome there was a gold Refractor Clayton Kershaw /50.

It’s true I probably could have gotten both Koufax and Kershaw for about the same price that I paid for the break spot, but then I wouldn’t have this fun story about beating the odds.

The kicker here is I also got a Walker Buehler Bowman’s Best Rookie Refractor, so that’s a trio of shiny Dodgers arms I have added to my collection.

Condition Sensitive: Centered with lower grade, or off-center and higher grade?

Posted in Misc., Rookie Card Upgrade with tags , , , , , on January 5, 2017 by Cardboard Icons


I love vintage cards, and loving old cards often means you have to decide how bad of a condition you are willing to accept in order to add one of the prized pieces to your collection. Because let’s face it, good condition vintage usually means spending good money.

When dealing with mid to lower grade cards — those that usually fit into most collectors budgets — there are lots of factors to consider. What types of “damage” to a card are you willing to tolerate: Creases? Writing? Bent corners? Torn corners? Layered corners? Minor paper loss? Glue or gum Stains? And so forth.

Each collector has different things they’ll tolerate. For a long time my one and one standing rule was: I must be able to see the players face.  I broke this rule once when I obtained my first 1948 Bowman Stan Musial rookie. The card had surface damage on Musial’s face, making it pretty hard to display without giving it the stink eye.  I eventually moved that Musial and upgraded to a much more presentable copy.

This game of upgrading or changing a card for a different version of the same card is one that some collectors partake in quite a bit. I do it infrequently, but I’m always looking to better the collection, whether it be by adding a missing piece, or growing aesthetically. I’m an opportunist, if you will.

Such was the case recently when I logged into eBay and found a gorgeous looking 1955 Topps Sandy Koufax rookie card. The card was professionally graded by Beckett Vintage Grading and was actually graded lower than the BVG 4 I had sitting in my display case.  I was very much content with the Koufax already in my collection, a card I acquired a decade ago when I shifted gears in terms of my hobby focus. The one draw back for me on the 4 was always the centering. It wasn’t horrible, but it was off.  This is a classic problem with the 1955 sets. The cards are horizontal and the bottom border typically seems to be shorter than the top.


I like sharp corners. I like smooth surfaces. But above all, I really enjoy a centered baseball card. And so when the lesser-grade Koufax popped up on eBay with a Buy It Now that seemed more than reasonable, I decided I had to snag it and at least compare the cards in person. It made really ponder which of the two Koufax rookies would stay and which would hit the market. I don’t need both.


And so I pondered: Do I keep the centered copy with slightly lesser desirable corners, or the one with better corners and worse centering? Obviously the one with better corners and higher grade would probably sell for more on the open market.


I posed the question to Twitter followers without specifying which card. A total of 84 people made a selection in the poll and the results weren’t completely skewed, but the majority did say they prefer centered vintage with softer corners over off-center cards with better corners.

The poll results definitely leaned in the direction I feel, and after comparing the two cards in person — even in their respective BVG cases — I do feel that the lesser grade with better centering is best for me at this point. I mean, when I walk past my wall-mounted display case, a centered Koufax pops out at me more than one that is slightly off-center.

What are your thoughts on condition when it comes to vintage cards? What defects are you willing to tolerate? What damages take precedent when you go about purchasing a vintage card for your collection?

 

 

 

Monster Mailday: Superstar Signatures and Chrome Prospects

Posted in New Addition, Newspaperman with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2013 by Cardboard Icons

Ah, the beloved mailday post. It doesn’t get much more easier or gratifying than this.

Over the last three months I made several purchases on COMC.com using store credit I earned by selling my lesser valued cards. I turned those into some pretty major additions to my collection. As it turned out, this package of 14 cards arrived on the same day as another big addition I made via eBay.

Let’s start with the eBay mailday.

IMG_9744Hank Aaron is still a mythical figure to me. Sure, Barry Bonds sullied the All-Time Home Run mark, ripping the title from Hammerin’ Hank. But Hank is still Hank. He’s revered in baseball, still a legend in our hobby, and in my mind, his signature is a must-own.

Hank’s autograph has worsened over the last 10 years, likely because he’s getting older. His signatures are not hard to come by, but getting his name inked on a card you love is something that can be a costly endeavor. For me, that card is the 1954 Topps rookie card.

Here’s the 1994 Topps Archives 1954 Topps rookie reprint of Hank Aaron, which was limited to 1,954 copies and was available via redemption cards that were issued into packs of the nearly 20-year-old product. The quality of the signatures on some of these cards is suspect. At times the ink can be seen running off the card. This one however looks great. The grade “8” issued by Beckett Grading Services might be a tad off-putting for some. But the reason the card graded so low was the “7.5” mark issued for centering. I’m 99.9% sure this would re-grade higher. Both the front and back have really good centering, certainly better than the issued “7.5.”

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OK, now my COMC mail …

I’ve been raving about this site for almost three years now. I’ll start by saying that it is not for everyone. You have to spend a little money and time to make your lesser-valued cards work to your advantage. But if you’re the kind of collector who doesn’t really have the space or desire to keep a lot of inserts, the the site could work to your advantage.

Here’s a small grouping of signed rookie/prospect autos I needed for my collection:

2005 Topps Chrome Nate McClouth, 2004 Bowman Sterling auto Carlos Quentin, and 2010 Bowman Chrome Draft Yasmani Grandal

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A few more Chromes …

2011 Bowman Chrome Prospects autograph Kolten Wong. (I upgraded from a 2012 Bowman Prospects auto orange /250, almost straight up)

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2011 Bowman Chrome Prospects Autograph Refractor Sonny Gray

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2011 Bowman Chrome Prospects autograph Trevor Bauer

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2011 Bowman Chrome Prospects Autograph Refractor Matt Moore BGS graded 9/10 (upgraded from a basic Chrome auto for about the same price)

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A 2012 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions Joey Chestnut autograph. Chestnut and I went to the same college, and truthfully, this will go well with my 2006 Topps Allen & Ginter Takeru Kobayashi signature. Eat up, Boys!

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Here’s some PSA Graded rookie action. Both were acquire for about $5 each:

1987 Topps Traded Greg Maddux rookie PSA 9 Mint.

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1989 Topps Traded Ken Griffey Jr. rookie PSA 9 Mint.

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A vintage hall of fame rookie … 1933 Goudey Fred Lindstrom rookie card. Creased, but priced accordingly.

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Now my big three in this batch from COMC…

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Matt Wieters is going to save baseball!

Before Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and even Stephen Strasburg, Wieters was considered the next big thing. I’m sure you remember. His 2007 Elite Extra Edition autograph was easily a $150 card.

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Well, Wieters hasn’t been the immediate massive mashing monster we all thought. But he has been an all-star and he’s a solid contributor for the up-start Baltimore Orioles. That said, I’m thrilled to have added this card to my collection post-hype for just about the price of a retail blaster.

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Matt Harvey is the next Nolan Ryan or Tom Seaver!

A stretch? Probably. But the price of his signed 2010 Bowman Chrome Prospects card certainly makes you wonder if it’s closer to the truth.

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Harvey is the current champion of the hype machine. He’s THE guy to own right now, (aside from Yasiel Puig) and as luck would have it, I did not own this card. Well, after some finagling of items on the site and some back-and-forth negotiating, I managed to acquire one. The front looks awesome, but the back is slightly off center. Not a big deal to me because the signature is really clean.

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Sandy Koufax signs a lot!

If you’ve joined the hobby in the last two or three years, you’re probably sick of hearing about that Sandy Koufax guy. His face is in damn near every Topps insert set and his signature is the high-priced trophy we all try to obtain when ripping packs. Well, before 2011 Koufax really didn’t have many certified signatures on the market. He had a few Upper Deck cards, and one 1998 Donruss Signatures signed release, which also came in a refractor-style parallel.

Well, looky here ….

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One popped up on COMC and I was able to negotiate it down to a price at which I was really, really happy to add it to my collection.

All in all, a quality mailday. Two major signatures finally added to my collection and most of the cost was off-set using funds I acq1uiredby “selling” cards I already owned.

IMG_9745Interested in COMC.com? You can see my seller list here.

Instagram Portrait: 1956 Topps Sandy Koufax (Danny McDevitt)

Posted in Instagram Portraits with tags , , , on December 19, 2012 by Cardboard Icons

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