Archive for sports cards

Thrift Treasures 118: Hobby time capsule for $9.99

Posted in Thrift Treasures with tags , , , , , , on August 15, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

Few things bring me as much joy as finding discarded hobby gems at the thrift store for less than the price of a handful of modern packs.

It’s easy to get sucked into paying $3, $4, or $5 for a pack of cards at retail hoping to pull something that makes you feel like a hobby winner. And we all know that the agony of defeat happens much more than any sort of victory. So when we can find items that make us smile — even if some portion of the hobby doesn’t get it — it’s really a priceless experience.

Such was the case Wednesday when I stopped at a local Goodwill before dropping off two packages at the post office. It’s been a while since I’d found cards at thrift stores, so imagine the joy I felt when I found a two-row shoebox that showed some promise … and for only $9.99.

True, 75% of this box had what was obviously 1989 Donruss. But that stack of cards in Card Savers II held so much promise. I wasn’t expecting the world, but cards stored in semi-rigids can be gold hiding in plain sight.

I looked all around the store hoping to find more boxes but there were none. The box was priced some five days earlier so odds are someone beat me to the punch for others.

Nonetheless, this box was mine and as it turned out, the box wound up being a hobby time capsule for one of the most exciting times in our hobby, 1990-1992.

The mention of those years will turn people away, thinking it’s just junk wax era. Hell, after I posted a picture of the wrapped box, one Twitter follower said he wouldn’t even risk the purchase unless there were relics inside.

Insert facepalm emoji here …

I digress. I ripped open the cellophane, grabbed a handful of Card Savers IIs and almost immediately found an absolute masterpiece of our hobby, the 1991 Elite Series Jose Canseco, serial numbered to just 10,000 copies.

The Canseco isn’t rare by today’s standards. But in 1991 trying to pull any Elite Series insert was literally like trying to find a needle in a haystack — they were legitimately like 1:10 cases. In their hay day the cards were selling for several hundred dollars; today the Canseco is still a $30-$50 card on occasion, and even more of graded well.

The Canseco would prove to be the pinnacle of this box in terms of current monetary re-sell value, but there was so much good stuff in here.

This image here is basically a summary of collecting from 1990-1992:

You’ve got the Canseco Elite, the awesome and tough-pulls in the Pinnacle “Team Pinnacle”, the 1990 Upper Deck Ben McDonald error card, the 1991 Upper Deck “Baseball Heroes” Nolan Ryan Header Card, the 1990 Score Bo Jackson baseball/football card and the 1990 Score Rookie/Traded Eric Lindros.

The McDonald is actually a neat card I’d never owned. He was a top rookie that year and his basic UD rookie card had the “Rookie” logo. But in early batches of UD, there were a bunch of errors, including the McDonald rookie showing the Orioles logo. it’s still a $10-$20 card in today’s market.

Speaking of errors, there were also these other tough (for the time) 1990 UD screwups:

Jeff Innis and Scott Garrelts cards show wrong player photos on front; the Team checklist and Jamie Weston cards have him listed as Jamie instead of Mickey Weston, and the Nolan Ryan is the banner variation. Errors and variations were a big deal at the time … and some of the younger collectors don’t understand how difficult it was tracking them down at the time.

In addition to the errors and inserts, there were some big rookies in here too. And while it’s not 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. or 1990 Leaf Frank Thomas big, we’re talking some stuff that had considerable hobby weight at a time in the not so distant past … and they all look like they’ve been in these Card Savers for nearly three decades.

And there was a fair amount of hobby stars, including a very nice 1972 Topps Joe Morgan.

In terms of today’s hobby “worth” these cards wouldn’t fetch a ton at eBay or at any show. But for a guy who cut his teeth in this hobby during this era, to basically locate a rookie collectors collection from the era, and to nail down some highly desirable errors and tough insert pulls, especially the Canseco Elite Series, is absolutely priceless. I know I’ve said it before, but this was truly a time capsule, and frankly better than most massive collections that some people are still hoarding in their basements.

Oh, and the 1989 Donruss? As I suspected there was no Griffey. But the sight of these brought back the memory of a hot summer in which I walked 40 minutes to Thrifty’s to buy cello packs of the product.

Total cost of this Thrift Treasure: $9.99

You can seen more Thrift Treasures posts here

I feel like they’re missing the point …

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , on June 9, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

Funny story. Today my kids and I went to visit my girlfriend and for this trip my son brought along two binders and a stack of loose cards he needed to sort and put in pages.

The loose cards he decided to put into his Flawless briefcase that he got from MojoBreak earlier this week. When we arrived at my girlfriend’s house she had an immediate reaction to the briefcase.

“Wow, that’s a fancy briefcase. What’s in there, diamonds?” She said flippantly.

I laughed and explained that there were diamonds in there at some point. I told her about the Flawless brand and how diamonds were embedded in some of the cards and how those cards were then presented to collectors in plastic cases placed inside this briefcase. So, she was sort of right.

“They do this because collecting cards is no longer good enough,” I said.

Her response?

“I feel like they’re missing the point,” she said, noting that the hobby seems to have strayed from the idea of collecting cards.

You may not agree, but she’s not wrong.

We all know where the hobby is right now with so much focused on high-priced, high-risk products. Her thoughts were interesting for me to hear as she is not a collector, rather someone in a relationship with someone who is involved in the hobby.

It’s refreshing to hear these types of comments from her, and from others — including my kids — because it’s a reminder that I have also strayed far away from what drew me into this hobby in the first place. It’s the damn cards, not necessarily the ink on them, the material in them, or even the precious gems or metals that have seemingly been forced into our hobby as a way to justify high costs and make us believe these cards will carry some immense value even outside of the basic hobby.

People will collecting what’s appealing to them, so by all means you do you. But I love hearing the outsider’s perspective.

That’s a long way to come for a card …

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , on June 3, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

In this day and age of our hobby, there is almost nothing that isn’t available on the internet.

Rare singles, cheap wax, you name it — it’s all there at the click of a button. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth visiting local card shops.

This week my girlfriend and I traveled to Pittsburgh for a wedding. And while in the area I thought it’d be neat to visit a shop, a place that would give me a flavor of the area, as well as an opportunity to find a card for me to take home as a memento of this trip. After all, cards are the timeline of my life.

I sought out suggestions via Twitter and was immediately reminded that Steel City Collectibles is based in the area and does have a retail store. But while it would have been cool to visit the hub of one of the internet’s largest card dealers, I was short on free time, and really wasn’t seeking cheap wax.

A quick check of a Google revealed several options, which was refreshing since I often hear folks complain about the lack of shops. There were three potential options based on the time available and our location: one was a small shop nearby but based on Online reviews and images, it looked to be more focused on gaming cards — not horrible, just not what I was seeking.

The other two options were SportsCards Etc. and Sports Card Junction. I checked reviews of both and available photos and while either could have worked for me, I chose SCJ solely because I could see they had a larger selection of singles and several Dollar Boxes to soothe my itch to uncover a buried treasure — you all know how I love to unearth gems.

So we set out for the shop and upon arrival I was pleased to see that the store was indeed open for business and was as well-stocked as the photos online showed

Store owner Chuck was behind the counter engaging with another customer who appeared to me buying a Mario Lemeiux card for his son or nephew. I set my eyes on the Dollar Box and began my hunt.

It should be noted that this is the first trip to a shop or show in which my girlfriend of two years has come along. It’s a big deal — how was she going to react when she saw price tags and saw how much time I was going to spend blindly hunting for a possible gem in the stacks?

Much to my surprise she was supportive. Gave me time and space, and even began interacting with the store owner as he continued to field phone calls from a potential seller of a couple of Michael Jordan rookie cards. She made small talk with the owner and even told him we were from California, to which Chuck muttered the phrase: “That’s a long way to come for a card …”

I spent a good 30 minutes digging and came up with 11 cards from the Dollar Boxes that I felt needed to come home with me. They were as follows:

Four 2012 Topps Update All Star Mike Trouts. Why? Because it’s An early Trout.

Two 2016 Bowman Chrome Draft Refractor Garret Hampson cards. Why: Because Friend Big Shep has built him up to be someone to whom I needed to pay attention

A 2017 Bowman Chrome Sean Manaea Rookie card. Why: Because I got to shake Manaea’s hand on the morning after his no hitter and my girlfriend was there to snap the picture.

A 1998 Prism Gold Wade Boggs serial numbered to 480 copies. Why: Because the card is gorgeous and will go well with the Revolution parallel my son and I pulled from a box we bought earlier this year.

A 1996-97 Flair Blue Ice Collection Keith Primeau /250. Why? Because I thought I could flip it, but in hindsight it’s also a cool card because it showcases the Hartford Whalers logo.

A 1992 Score “The Franchise” Stan Musial / Mickey Mantle / Carl Yastrzemski

Why: Because I LOVE this insert set and know how tough they were to pull at the time of release. Also, this card had a $12.99 price tag on it which made me feel as if I was getting a steal of a deal. I know the market for these is soft, but open a case of 1992 Score and tell me how many The Franchise inserts you pull.

1952 Topps Roy McMillan

Why? Because it’s 1952 Topps! Sure, this card has had its borders trimmed, it’s creased like crazy and part of the back is probably stuck to the paper album in which it had been affixed at some point. But cmon … THIS is the kind of stuff I dig for.

I could have spent hours digging; and honestly, there were other flippable cards. But I wasn’t solely there for cards on which to profit. I wanted a piece that would define this trip

I located another box on the showcase that had some cards on top loaders at varying prices. This is where I found two Clayton Kershaw cards for my collection.

2017 Topps Chrome Update Gold Refractor /50

2015 Panini Immaculate Jumbo Swatches /15

While those Kershaws would have been sufficient for my defining cards — after all I don’t own a whole lot of jumbo blue swatch Kershaw relics — I continued to look . And then my eye set site on a glorious vintage Willie Mays card that was clearly handcut, and the price tag made my mouth water. I asked Chuck if I could look at the Mays and he opened the showcase for me and handed me the card, which he did not know was a Bazooka release. I pulled the card halfway out of the Card Saver, touched the back and gave it a sniff — yep, it was authentic vintage. I mentioned that I thought the card was a Bazooka release, and as Chuck rang me up, he again asked what I had identified the card as so he could mark it down on his sales sheet.

I thanked Chuck for the hospitality — he threw in a few freebie packs from Topps and Panini and cut me a small discount on the purchase — and shook his hand and left the shop really feeling good about the decision to go there.

In the hours and days after the purchase, I showed a few items off via social media and even tagged the shop and had a little pleasant interaction with Chad, the son of the owner and also the person who does the buying — I know this based on the multiple calls Chuck fielded while I was browsing.

If you find yourself in the Pittsburgh area, make sure to swing by SCJ as you’ll probably find something that suits your needs. It was a long way to come for a card, but now that Mays card will act as the card to define this trip.

Thanks again, Chuck and Chad.

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.

Video Break of 2018-19 Panini Revolution Chinese New Year

Posted in Box / Pack Break with tags , , , , , , on March 5, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

My son and I swung by our local card shop this week and decided to break a box of the newly released 2018-19 Panini Revolution Chinese New Year. We bought the box and brought it home and tried our hand at a video box break. I’ve done them before — but this was really my son’s first foray into this.

A few notes:

-My son is 8, be nice.

-I sniffled a lot as I was just getting over a cold.

-Basketball is not MY passion so I likely butchered some names.

-We are not professionals and used only an iPhone, sorry if quality isn’t what you’re used to.

-Lastly … I can’t embed the video here, so you’ll have to click HERE to view it.

A new quirk for 2019 Topps Heritage?

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

The Topps Heritage line is a fun set to collect or view from afar each year. For the most part, Topps stays true to the original design and quirks, often mimicking the errors of the past to maintain that sense of nostalgia that’ve come to embrace over the years

Of course in recent memory they’ve also added a slew of variations to make for extreme chase cards in some cases. But today I think I found a new tradition, one that doesn’t appear to be a throwback to the 1970 set.

While sorting a bit of the Heritage that I picked up this week I noticed something that doesn’t appear to be an homage to the original set. Grab your stacks of Heritage and thumb through them and pull out your base cards of the Washington Nationals and Colorado Rockies. Remember, I’m talking base cards, not the multi-player rookie cards of subsets.

Now turn them over and look at the bio box.

Do you see it?

Right below the player’s biographical information is the team name: Washington Nationals or Colorado Rockies. Now go look at the other card backs. You’ll notice that cards of the other teams don’t have the team name on back.

I asked a hobby friend of mine what the deal was with this and he seemed to not know about it, suggesting that maybe it was a wink to something from 1970. I figured that may have been the case too, so I looked and I did not see the team name on the back of the 1970 cards.

I also noticed something else … a handful of the Nationals cards in the 2019 set (cards 1-400 not the SPs 401-500) corresponded by number with cards of the Washington Senators and Minnesota Twins from the 1970 set, which is a fun hat tip since there is some lineage between the Senators-Twins-Nationals franchises and locations.

Have you noticed any other fun quirks to the 2019 Heritage set? Leave a comment below.

You know you’re raising a kid collector when …

Posted in Dad Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

True story, this morning I went to the laundry mat and while I was loading the washer I heard a familiar crinkling noise in the pocket of a pair of pants I was holding — but those pants were not mine, they were my son’s.

It was a great feeling to pull that wrapper from his pocket and set it on the washer. It meant that he didn’t immediately discard the wrapper and misplace the contents, or leave the cards in his pocket — which is something I did from time to time when I was his age. This wrapper also represented the fact that he thought enough of it to 1) not litter, 2) hold onto the wrapper until we got home, 3) meant he already placed the cards into his basketball binder — which I might add is like three times the size of his baseball binder.

The wrapper really put me in a head space in which I was thinking a lot about childhood, card collecting and … the laundry mat experience.

As a kid my mom would drag us from our apartment to the laundry mat to do loads upon loads of laundry. I was born in a big city and raised in a suburb, but my family never owned property. We’ve been renters our whole lives and when it came to laundry, it sometimes meant piling items into bags or baskets and loading them into the car, or even at times public transportation.

Whenever I went to the laundry mat, I had a Beckett Baseball Monthly with me, sometimes a small stack of cards in Card Savers which I kept in my pocket. And when I was tired of looking up the prices of vintage cards I could only dream of owning, I found myself hounding my mom for quarters with which I would either play Pac-Man or Galaga, or simply hold onto with hopes that the liquor store in the shopping center might have packs of cards for sale.

My kids don’t really enjoy the laundry mat the way I ever did, which is when I choose to go, I usually go when they are in school. There’s a very nostalgic feeling when I step into such places, but I did not think I’d find myself reminiscing this much today about my childhood, all stemming from a wrapper from a pack of 2018-19 Panini Contenders basketball.