Archive for vintage baseball cards

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.

Pack Break: 2 1984 Topps packs

Posted in Box / Pack Break with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

So, later today my son and I are going to our first Golden State Warriors game together and I knew my son was excited when he woke up this morning asking to go to the card shop.

Turns out he not only was thinking about the game all night, but he also was thinking about Panini Optic basketball, since I had explained to him yesterday that the product came out this week.

“Daddy, can we do go the card shop today?” he asked not less than five minutes after waking up. Uh, yeah. You know I’m always down for an LCS run.

So we went and he grabbed a retail Value Pack featuring three retail packs and one of the retail exclusive packs. I didn’t have anything in my hands and wasn’t going to buy anything until I realized the LCS had packs of 1984 Topps behind the counter at $3.50 per pack. I wouldn’t know if the price was high, but I figured that two packs of that would likely be more enjoyable than buying something else I didn’t want. Besides, I’d never opened these before.

The Don Mattingly rookie card is the one to own in this set, and they are not overly expensive. But the nostalgia of opening a pack 35 years old and not breaking the bank to do so sounded well worth the $7. Also, my son recognized that these original 1984s were the set upon which the 2019 Topps anniversary silver pack and insert cards were based.

So, without further adieu, here are the results. These contain 15 cards, one contest card, and one piece of gum.

Pack One: Doug Bird, Alredo Griffin, Rick Sutcliffe, Scott McGregor,Ken Oberkfell, Onix Concepcion, Tigers Team Leaders, Bob Gibson (rookie card), Rick Miller, Dickie Noles, Rich Hebner, Don Slaught, Ryne Sandberg (second year), Bob Shirley, and Harry Spillman.

Pack Two: Rick Sweet, Checklist #1, Luis Sanchez, Mike Proly, Mike LaCoss, Bob James, Andy Hassler, Dave LaPoint, Dave Lopes, Hal McRae, Jerry Remy, Jerry Martin, Tom Tellmann, Ken Forsch, and David Green.

As you can see, the first pack was solid with a sweet Ryne Sndberg second-year card.

The second pack was saved, in my opinion, by the checklist (which shows Don Mattingly at #8) and by the existence of Jerry Remy and Jerry Martin on back to back cards to give me the duo “Remy Martin,” which got a giggle from me.

Thanks to South Bay Sports Cards (Sunnyvale, Calif.) for having these available.

Deuces Don Drysdale rookie …

Posted in Hall of Famers, Misc. with tags , , , , , , , on January 13, 2018 by Cardboard Icons

If you’re not familiar with the primary focus of my collection, I’ve been acquiring the Rookie Card or a tobacco-era card of every member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Wagner. Ruth. Mantle. Etc. And on top of that, the card has to be stabbed by Beckett Grading Services because I like uniformity.

This week I added to my collection a 1909-11 t206 John McGraw already stabbed by BGS/BVG. Low grade, but still wonderful to see.

It’s so much fun adding these century-old cards to the wall display. It’s a lot more fun adding these baseball icons than chasing something new and flashy. But that’s just my opinion.

So now the McGraw will be inserted in the top row — to keep things chronological — and since the Drysdale is the last card in the case it has to be moved.

So what happens with the Drysdale? It’ll get bumped to the second graded card display which presently houses stabbed HOF rookies from 1958-1991.

I’ll need another case eventually as I have a half dozen more ungraded HOF t206 that need BGS/BVG cases. This will eventually force the move of Jim Bunning and Bill Mazeroski as well.

Ben,

Collector of Hall of Fame tobacco era and Rookie cards.

Collector of Roger Clemens and Clayton Kershaw.

You can reach me on Twitter and Instagram @cardboardicons. You can also e-mail me at cardboardicons@yahoo.com

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?

 

 

 

Bored? Try a 30-year-old rack pack

Posted in Box / Pack Break with tags , , , , , , on March 13, 2012 by Cardboard Icons

I’m bored.

The 2012 baseball season has not even begun, but I am already bored with the current selection of baseball cards.  Well, that’s probably because as I write this the only one on the market is 2012 Topps Baseball.

Actually, I take that back.  2011 Panini Contenders baseball is also out, but the boxes are sitting sealed on my hobby shop’s shelf because they are refusing to “pack it out” and are selling them as whole boxes.  The price is more than $150 a box, which I can’t afford, so that’s not an option to me.

It’s a good thing this particular card shop is well-diversified in its wax.

There were hundreds of other options, but what really caught my eye was a fresh stack of 1982 Topps Rack Packs that were sitting in the show case with an $8 price tag.

Eight Bucks?!  For a rack pack?  The equivalent of three packs?

I’ll take one of those!

The packs were in the showcase and I was not going to be a jerk and ask the sales person to pull them all out so that I can choose what packs had the best cards showing.  But from the three rack packs that were showing on top of the stacks, my decision really came down to a pack with a Nolan Ryan/Astros team leader card, or one with Bruce Sutter and his masterful beard.

You know I chose the beard, baby!

Look at that Sutter card.  How could you possibly pass that up!

And then I turned the rack pack over and saw even more goodness.

Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt and solid Major Leaguer Bob Horner are showing.  I knew this was going to be a good pack.

Clearly the chase in these packs of the Cal Ripken Jr. rookie.  In case you forgot what they look like, here is mine:

Sadly, there was no Hall of Fame rookie card in my pack. The sole Future Star card featured Jay Howell and Ty Waller.

BUT … I did uncover eight hall of fame players in my packs:

and …

Kind of amusing that I pulled this Nolan Ryan card because I almost chose the other pack that had this card showing.

Those were the highlights, but I wanted to juxtapose two sets of cards from this pack for different reasons.

Here is a battle of the beards:  Bruce Sutter vs. Bob Owchinko

And an interesting statistical comparison between pitching veterans Gaylord Perry and Jim Kaat.  (Click the image to get a larger view)

Some interesting notes through 1981:

– Jim Kaat led Gaylord Perry in seasons pitched by three.

-Gaylord Perry edged Jim Kaat in games started 628 to 623

– Gaylord Perry led Jim Kaat in wins 297 to 278

-Gaylord Perry led Jim Kaat in strikeouts 3,336 to 2,407

-Gaylord Perry led Jim Kaat in 20-win season: 4 to 3

-Gaylord Perry led Jim Kaat in ERA 2.99 TO 3.44

-Gaylord Perry led Jim Kaat in shutouts 52 to 31

-Gaylord Perry led Jim Kaat in Complete Games 294 to 180

-Gaylord Perry had six seasons in which he had more than 20 complete games

-Jim Kaat led Gaylord Perry in saves 15 to 11