Archive for Topps

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.

Don’t Be Mad at the Project 2020 Middle Man for Plummeting Market, Long Wait Times

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , on August 18, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

It seems there has been a lot of hatred over the last month and a half as it pertains to Project 2020, specifically in the area of returns and upset buyers who’ve yet to receive their items.

When the market got hot, lots of folks were buying multiples thinking they could either get their cards for free by selling the extras for a profit, or could straight up flip everything for a multiplier.

The result was larger print runs, slower delivery times direct from Topps and, as we see now, a soft market for certain Project 2020 cards. The cards were available direct from Topps for a 48-hour window, however some buyers decided to use resellers who offered the cards at a discounted level. These prices were usually a dollar or two cheaper than what you could get them for direct from Topps when buying multiple copies.

The deals worked out for collectors — ultimately they get, or will get, the cards they ordered for cheaper than it would have been direct. But for folks buying on the discount, hoping to also resell their cards for a profit of their own, that business model imploded as print runs grew and the bubble burst with the Keith Shore/Joshua Vides release day of Ken Griffey Jr and Nolan Ryan; those cards collectively sold about 150,000 units and forced Topps to change the stated delivery times.

And now almost two months after the sale dates of those cards, buyers who bought through middlemen/resellers are angry because they were out of their money immediately, they haven’t received any product and even when it arrives, they are taking big losses.

If you’re in this position and you’re blaming anyone other than the person looking back at you in the mirror, then you are wrong. You decided to buy at a discount and the only way that was possible was buying through a middleman, who is/was subjected to the same wait times direct from Topps, so you had to know that it would take even longer to get to you.

No one likes to lose money. I don’t enjoy it and I don’t wish it upon anyone else. But don’t take out your frustration on someone who was offering products to you at a rate cheaper than anyone else. You’re poor decisions and impatience are not vindicated by sending messages of hate, or wishing harm or death upon people.

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.

Priced out and pissed off? Perhaps its time to pause and appreciate what we’ve had all along.

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , on August 10, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

Three years ago there was a belief this industry was dying. Cards were not holding their value; ingenuity seemed to be fairly low, and if you spoke to non-collectors about our hobby there was some sort reaction akin to someone asking if you’d even had your first beer.

Alas here we are in 2020 — amid a pandemic, a time of social justice advances, and intense politics — and this card hobby grabs headlines and is hotter than ever.

If you’re like me then you’ve been around cards for a while, and even those of us who have lived through three decades of cards — and some of you much longer — you thought you had seen it all. But this current climate is proving us wrong.

Base cards are relevant again; early non-rookie releases of sure-fire hall of famers are commanding a premium, and parallels — not necessarily autographs — are what’s drawing folks to products. In short, history is repeating itself to an extent but I’m not sure any of us could have predicted anything to this level so quickly.

But when a hobby or market runs hot, demand for products are through the roof and with it go prices. And this is where things get super wonky for the die-hards because … suddenly nothing is easy to find, and most sealed products are carrying insane premiums.

Some have said — or at least thought — that they are priced out of the hobby. This would include me. And honestly, there has been a struggle about how I feel about this. In some ways I’m pissed. I mean how dare this rush of “new” type of consumer rush into this hobby and change the landscape for me and everyone else who has called this their own for years. But … BUT! … how can I/we really be mad when we have bitched and moaned for years about this industry dying; about the lack of respect; and it’s lack of … value.

If you’re in a place where you’re feeling priced out and pissed off, it might be best to pause and think about where YOU fit into this hobby. This, again, includes me.

I know that I cannot hang with the guys who buy into breaks seven days a week constantly gambling their money away until they hit big … and then sell the prized hit and repeat the pattern hoping lightening strikes twice.

I also know that I cannot justify spending $7.50 for a pack of flagship Topps baseball Series 2 — I saw that at an LCS this weekend — and maintain any sort of happiness.

I for damn sure won’t spend $80 to $120 on a blaster knowing that it cost $19.99 when it’s found in the wild. And yes, I know the blasters are impossible to find at times, which is why they command a premium, but I’m not your huckleberry at 4x or higher.

I could go on and on, but you get the point.

This is a time for us longtime collectors to realize how good we actually had it all of those years. The times when we were tasked with a milk run at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday night and wound up at Target buying the milk and a blaster or two. Those trips to the LCS when we walked in with $20 or $100 budget and walked out with a smile on our face and cards in our hands. The special feeling we had when you found out a distant relative, neighbor or co-worker collected cards and it felt like you were part of the same secret club.

Now is the time to look at your collection and appreciate what you already own. A time to remember why you got into this in the first place. Was it the actual cards? The thrill of the chase? The gambling element? Does the hobby give you a sense of inclusion? Are you carrying on a family tradition or looking to start a new one? The answer is personal for each of us.

I cannot control your feelings about the cards you possess, nor can I contain the emotions you may have for the ones you do not own. But I hope this time of change in our hobby — whether it be short term or not — isn’t pushing you out of the hobby. Because while packs are at a premium, singles are still as available as ever and you can still build a kick-ass collection without having to succumb to the notion that the only thing that matters is the shiniest card released this week of the hottest rookie.