Monday, October 29, 2012

1989 Topps Senior Baseball League Factory Set

In my youth, I was likely the only person who watched the spectacle of Senior League Baseball on SportsChannel. Of course, I was also likely the only person who would sit there and watch the thirty minute show of box scores, which was akin to reading the box scores in the slowest way humanly possible. I reckon this says a great deal more about me than it does SportsChannel, but I digress.

Given my love of watching elderly athletes in bright colored polyester, I always wanted to obtain a set of Senior League cards. Of course, my local cards stores never carried this fine set and I never could pull the trigger on overpaying for the set from an advertisement in the back of Beckett. However, last week, I found one at a very reasonable price and had it sent on its way to my home.

The set itself was made by Topps Ireland, who also made the Topps mini set back in 1988 as well. The cards are on a slightly thinner stock than those found in a regular set. The thinner stock is somewhat disconcerting, as the cards almost feel flimsy. Even stranger, if you were putting together a set with 132 cards in a box, would you place them randomly or instead, might you place them in numerical order. Topps believes you would prefer to sort the entire set to see if something is missing, rather than see the first card be 1 and the last card 132. Since I enjoy sorting cards, this was a major plus, however, any rational person would choose a pre-sorted set.



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The cards have some interesting images.  Al Hrabosky, for example, traded his fu manchu for a tough guy beard which would offend Walt Frazier and Keith Hernandez with its greyness.  I also want to like the wooden border, but it was done far better on 1987 Topps but two years earlier.

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For a set mostly containing has beens, there are four hall of famers in the set, two managers and two players. The uniforms are appropriately garish for a league based in Florida, filled with over-the-hill players.  My favorite is the Earl Weaver card which screams, what am I doing here and who put my shoes on.

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Finally, there is this fine Walt Williams card.  I will tell you that I know nothing about Walt Williams, other than he is a St. Lucie Legend and a very angry man.  Actually, Williams was one of the older players in the league at 45 and was known as No-Neck throughout this career for obvious reasons.  I also suspect his anger stems from being the third athlete in a major sport named Walt Williams on Wikipedia and second baseball player, behind Pop Williams, whose name was also Walter.

In closing, these are some fascinating cards from a time when people thought baseball was a popular enough sport to get fans to attend games with men of advanced age and diminished skill sets playing the game.  Even a generation ago, the interest was minimal outside my own and quite honestly, aside from the garish uniforms, the admission from Rollie Fingers that he was destitute and needed to play ball again and this card set, few will have any reason to discuss the merits of the Pelicans or Legends again. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Overall, It Was a Good Mail Day

Last week, I was able to finally close on the card at the absolute top of my want list.  I was rejected many times on eBay with reasonable offers on this card and in fact, I was even rejected once on this card, since someone else was interested in it first.  However, last Friday night this card went up for sale and within ten minutes and one scan, it was on its way to my home, arriving in today's mail.

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The card is a T3 Turkey Red Orval Overall.  Turkey Red was a tobacco company around 100 years ago and offered the card as a premium.  If you sent in enough coupons, you were able to select one of the cards on offer at the time.  And by card, I mean, premium-sized cabinet card, which is 5 3/4" by 8".  If you want to learn more about the set and see all of the cards, which include 100 baseball and 25 boxing cards, I highly recommend Craig's Turkey Red site, who conveniently enough sold me this card.

The design is one of the many Topps used in the past.  In a number of years, Topps used this design on a standard sized baseball card.  However, unless the pictures were painted by Dick Perez, the cards fail to resonate with me in the same way as the original T3s.  Also, the smaller card doesn't show the same detail in the card's image, though they are admittedly easier to store than the oversized cabinet. 

The card would sadly only grade a poor as there is a small pinhole near the top where the card would've been mounted on a wall 100 years ago.  Fortunately, the hole is in the border and the coloring and image on the picture suffer from minimal defects.  Perhaps it is all the times I was unable to close the deal on one of these cards, but I am quite pleased to call this T3 Orval Overall mine.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

2012 Topps Heritage High Numbers: A Modern Topps Traded

With the blogosphere abuzz with opinions, mostly negative and strongly critical, about the 2012 Topps Heritage High Numbers set, I thought I would wade in and add my opinion now that a checklist for the set is available.  Also, I'm waiting for something in the mail and lacked the steely will to go through my photobucket or make new scans, so soap box posting time it is.

The Basics

Topps is releasing a 100 card add-on set to this year's Heritage set and including one autograph.  The set is a direct deliver from Topps alone, similar to Topps Mini from earlier this year. 

To a collector like myself, I've never found Topps Heritage that interesting.  Mid-1960s designs do little for me and I've always had a hard time accepting that I would pay more money to a company for cards which feel like they are made on a worse stock.  Admittedly, I am not the primary collector Topps is going after, but if the set was priced reasonably, say $20 and not very limited, I might consider purchasing a set, solely to make up for never being able to purchase a Topps Traded set as a child. 

What Are They Trying to Recreate

Topps seems to be trying to recreate two ideas from their past with this release: Scarce High Numbers and a Year-End Traded set contained in a single box.

Going backwards, in the 1980s, Topps released a traded set on a year basis.  The sets seemed to only be available in hobby stores and came in brightly colored boxes.  As there was only one Topps product each year at the time, the updated cards reflected trades and new rookies not previously eligible for a Topps card, using the same design as the flagship set.  As a child, I was quite excited about these sets, but was never able to find one at a reasonable price, such as under $40.  Of course, I lived in a fairly awful place for card shops in my youth and was unaware of shows, so your experience might vary.  Aside from the 1982 set for the Topps Traded Cal Ripken, these sets today are pretty much worthless and I passed on an opportunity about a year ago to pick up all of the sets from 1983 on for about $20 total, which is about the price you would pay for one in a brick and mortar shop. 

And by limiting themselves to 1,000 sets, Topps is artificially creating the scarcity of high numbers for their pre-1974 sets.  As you likely know, Topps used to release their cards by set, as they do now.  Only back in the day, there was no strongly organized hobby store industry and cards were available in grocery and newspaper stores.  As the year went on, some people naturally lost interest in the cards and with each passing set, it seems less cards were sold and therefore less cards were printed. 

In many cases, trying to complete a Topps set in this era can be challenging, due to the "enhanced" prices which dealers charge for these cards, as they are believed to be "scarce".  I suspect, few cards are actually legitimately scarce and instead the demand for rookie cards, more likely to be in a later release after their debut, really created the market for far greater prices on later releases.  By doing this, Topps has recreated the charm of making a set difficult to complete without making an investment with Topps. 

The Economics

What I find strange is that Topps has capped their revenue on the set at $100,000, given that 1,000 sets at $100 only brings in this much money.  And even here, they will likely take less as a decent number of their customers will have $10 coupons from the Golden Giveaway which could be used towards the set.  In fact, those very coupons probably eliminated any chance of the set being reasonably priced.  Still, I suspect that there are more than 5,000 people interested in the set at $25 sans autograph. which would likely create similar sales, with the thought being you don't need to limit production on the sets at a lower price point. 

What I find really surprising is how Topps is going about cutting out the hobby shops and online dealers.  For many, if not most of us, this is how we are able to obtain our yearly Topps cards.  By taking high-profile items, such as this and Topps Mini, they are preventing dealers from getting hot items.  This takes customers out of the store and direct margin profit from these stores.  If you asked me, I think Topps is starting to take steps towards vertical integration.  With vertical integration, Topps would basically stop selling to hobby shops and instead sell directly to the consumer.

If Topps feels that orders are generally soft from hobby shops and more are likely to go under, then this is an optimal strategy.  Without a strong hobby store base, which we all know is rapidly disappearing, then Topps loses their primary distribution network.  This new set is a way to see what a new sports card order would look like, with the companies themselves becoming both a creator and a seller on the terms of a Blowout Cards. 

We the consumer would be still be able to purchase our hobby boxes directly from Topps. Topps would be able to keep costs down in the short term by converting profit previously going to the hobby shop into savings.  If Topps sold us $60 boxes of 2013 Series 1, they would likely get a steep, short-term increase on profit margin.  Of course, without competition, we would likely see prices rise fairly dramatically a few years later as the company needs to keep adding profit at the expense of the consumer, but we would likely see that anyway, as I would expect there to be half as many hobby shops in ten years as there are today without any intervention.

Summary

In closure, I think this set is a short term attempt by Topps to gauge the market for direct delivery, as was Topps Mini.  From the fact that it is a week and they've been unable to move 1,000 units, I suspect this set will be a flop, especially in light of the Chris Getz autographs which could be your "hit" in a $100 product.  However, we as buyers, should get used to these types of products, as they are unlikely to go away in the long term, especially as our supply of hobby shops continues to shrink.



Monday, October 22, 2012

Group Breaks: Including One from the Daily Dimwit

Group breaks are great if you are a fan of a specific team.  You know, the life-long affiliation with one team that makes you care about the utility infielder from 1967 and reliever from 1985 as much as your home town superstar.  I lack that commitment to any baseball team.  In fact, the only team I possess any kind of life-long loyalty to is the Pittsburgh Penguins, not that I've ever lived in Pittsburgh, I just like flightless birds.

When it comes to baseball, I am nominally a Braves fan, due to the Superstation and getting cable around the same time the Houston Astros ditched orange from their uniforms and relegating Mike Scott to a secondary role.  I also have a strong affinity for the New York Giants of the Christy Mathewson/John McGraw era.  My fandom for this team and era in general led me to collecting tobacco cards.  In fact, here is a T205 McGraw I bought on a whim a few months ago. The portrait portion of the card managed to survive for many years unscathed, something the name portion of the card cannot claim.

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Nonetheless, my lack of a team for life makes it harder to participate in group breaks, as it isn't like, "Oh, there is a group break, let me go claim the Royals."  I always need to break out checklists and research.  Half the time, once I've finished my research, any team that I wanted is usually claimed.  However, I joined my second group break over at the Daily Dimwit, selecting the Giants after much internal debate.  The boxes included in the break were 2012 Topps Triple Threads, 2001 Playoff Memorabilia and 2002 Fleer Legends of the Game.

Let's see what I managed to pull in the break starting with 2001 Playoff Memorabilia

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And we're done.  I had low expectations for this box and they were met.  The Bonds was the only supershiny card in my package. 

And on to the 2002 Fleer Legends of the Game.  It was these cards which led me to choose the Giants, who are well represented in the set.  Out of 100 cards in the base set, there are nine Giants, all of which ended up in my pile, including a second of the Wilhelm below.  I included the highlights, since to be quite honest, no one needs to see a picture of Bill Terry, unless it is some kind of technicolor, art deco masterpiece. 

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Finally, we are on to Triple Threads.  As we all know, the element of the gamble exists in every group break, as there are some winners and some losers in every deal.  On the good news side of the ledger, I beat the odds and ended up with a card from the box.  Even better, the card was numbered and contained Willie Mays.  The downside is that it is a base card numbered to 625. 

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It's a pretty great card in its own right, but not the hit everyone hopes for, since aspires gives the wrong impression that there was work involved.  So, there is the results of the group break with the Daily Dimwit. Thanks again for running this break!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Trade with ARPSmith and a Bowman Chrome Update

At today's show, I was able to valiantly resist purchasing an entire box of Bowman Chrome at the show today.  Seventy two cards in a box is not sufficient for my opening needs, even at reduced show prices.  I did break down and purchase one pack.  My one thought on the base cards in the pack were "Wasn't this the same design as last year and the year before?"  I'm sure there is a difference, but I would be hard pressed to know what it is.  I also ended up pulling the following Nolan Arenado insert, which is super-shiny, but otherwise a card destined to sit in my boxes until it ends up somewhere else.

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A few weeks ago, I worked a primarily "vintage" for new, glossy cards deal with Adam over at ARPSmith's Sportscard Obsession.  As I was leaving for a short vacation last week, a hefty box arrived filled with cards from Adam.  The cards put a significant dent in my want lists towards completing sets, while the 1973 Topps cards heading west are unlikely to be missed.

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There was a strong showing for all three 2012 Topps sets, though Series 1 and 2 dominated, as I purchased a box of neither this year.  The Willis and Ramirez cards showcase the players with teams you will never remember ten years from now.  In fact, I had already forgotten Dontrelle spent time with the Cincinnati Reds and this doesn't even cover the Diamondback, Phillie or Oriole portions of his career.

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There was also a fairly large amount of 2012 Topps Archives in the box as well, somewhere in the neighborhood of half a set.  As you can might have guessed, my favorite design is the 1984 Topps, which I grew up with.  Yogi barely edged out the Babe for scanning.  I also have come very close to finishing the 2011 Topps Lineage set as well.  The Wagner is a nice addition to any set, since I am such a sucker for pre-war players on post-war cards.

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Finally, we have the above.  My almost certainly misguided attempt to complete the 2010 Topps T206 Mini set was greatly aided by the box, knocking 30 or so cards off my list.  Kendrick's card has one of my favorite backgrounds from the original set, which is found on Hall of Famer George Davis's card.  The Diamond Stars Foxx is from CMG reprints set.  Given my new focus on the set, we may see Mr. Foxx appear again quite soon.  Finally, there is Tris Speaker on a 2000 Topps card.  Having went 15 years without thinking about baseball cards, I was almost surprised that there was no original 2000 Topps Tris Speaker card as some kind of shortprint.

Well, I hope Adam is as happy with his haul, as I am with mine.




Friday, October 19, 2012

2012 Bowman Chrome at KMart

No purty pictures of cards today.  Just a story of what could have been. 

I was out earlier today and for the first time saw 2012 Bowman Chrome for sale.  I'm always a sucker for a new product, even if it is full of prospects that for the most part I don't care about.  So, with nothing else in the store calling to me, I pick up a blaster of 2012 Bowman Chrome and wait at the register.

I was well aware each pack contained three cards for a box with a grand total of 24 cards inside.  Even so, I thought, what the heck, let's get the blaster.  I turned the blaster over and see it has a tiny, white price tag.  The price tag read $21.99.  So, with tax, each card in the box would cost $1.  $1 for each chrome card in the box.  I thought, that is ridiculous. 

So, I hit the wall on purchase price and said, I can do better.  I couldn't bring myself to buy 8 packs of cards with three cards in a pack for a dollar a card.  I didn't see the value or the joy in the product.  So, I left and drove home empty-handed.  Normally, I would be saddened by not getting anything, but I came home and inadvertently found something far better, for slightly less than the cost of a blaster.  In fact, it is a real piece of history for my favorite team of all-time.  Once it arrives, the item will be properly lionized with flowery prose and accompanying pictures.  In the interim, I will wait for my piece of history to arrive and not look at a bunch of shiny cards, which would like end up in a dark box, seldom to be seen again.

Of course, I'm going to a show tomorrow morning and silly me will probably end up with a hobby box.  If so, I'll just delete this little old post and we'll pretend it didn't happen.   

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Vacation Cards

Perhaps the best thing about a vacation is a chance to explore new environs.  There, you might see a new sight or gain a new experience while getting away from your life.  Or you might know every store in another area which could potentially sell sports cards and memorabilia and go there instead.  So, my time away led to an area I knew well filled with antique stores.

Try as I might, I was unable to find anything in the first store I went to.  I nearly purchased a box of 1993-94 Parkhurst cards, but the box had seen better years and was at best, slightly opened and worst, horribly mutilated.  I also saw an interesting baseball game from turn of the century, but it was quite large and would neither fit in my car nor store easily in my apartment. 

From there, we went to another antique store, where I had some luck in the past, adding a few T206 Cubs to my collection, including a Harry Steinfeldt.  Arriving, I took the slow walk around the store, stopping to look a the baseball memorabilia and the Statis Pro: Boxing game I never buy.  I arrive at the case containing the pre-war cards and get the store worker to open the case. 

Flipping through the stacks, I realize that I need none of these cards to complete my set.  There is a Rube Kroh with an overprint on the front (the Piedmont reverse from another card or strike was visible on the front) and there was a strange mass of color on the back.  You could make out a shape in the card, but I could not readily tell the player or if there was a highly collectable ghost image in the back.  I dither and think about it, before putting the card back, because it was either a great steal as a ghost image or a horrible overpay as a regular, low grade T206.

I also found an Orval Overall Hands Face Level.  It was the cheapest T206 card in the store, less than I pay for lunch most days and as one of my favorite players, I have a soft spot for all of his cards.  Even though I own a slightly better version of the card already in my collection, I picked up the below card, because I hate leaving the store without something.

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Sadly, I found nothing else on my vacation, but had many a card waiting for me at my front door when I came home.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

30 Minutes At The Card Show: Part 4 Odds and Ends

Not content to take the two Diamond Stars, get into my car and drive on to the Meadowlands, I continued to search through my regular dealer's stacks of cards.  I was also able to pick up the worst card I've ever seen for sale and let me tell you, I have a few T206s which I cannot fathom how they survived to this point in their weakened condition.   But feast your eyes on the below:

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Poor Willie.  The left hand side of the card is missing a piece of the picture.  The right hand side has a clear piece of tape along the card, but not in a load-bearing way.  Dirt covers a fair portion of the card as well.  Weakened, chipped corners frame the card.  A pinhole of some sort pierces through his arm.  Thankfully, the writing is actually not on the card itself, but instead on the holder, with the 40 representing book value and the 2 representing a pre-purchase price.  But it fills a gap in my 1973 Topps set.

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What can I say, I've always had a soft spot for anyone who can sell clothes with the line, Buy your rags from Daddy Wags.  Surprisingly, this is my first Leon Wagner card and even though there is a small amount of penmanship on the back in the baseball, I am quite pleased with owning this card.

As a general rule, I don't care for basketball cards.  I'm not much of a fan of the sport, but I have soft spot for any card which you can separate into three pieces.  So, I always purchase any 1980 Topps Basketball cards where I can recognize at least one player on the card.

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As you can see, there is Bob McAdoo, Adrian Dantley, Wes Unseld and Lloyd "World B." Free.  All stars of the late 1970s, even though Photobucket refuses to rotate the cards for your viewing pleasure.  However, there is one basketball player I would consider myself a fan of and enjoy collecting. 

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In the middle, highlighted with arrows on the toploader is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, right around the time of Airplane.  You can never go wrong with Airplane or Kareem, who might be the only basketball player I regret never seeing live.  Also, Kareem was most certainly not a ninny.

And with this stack of cards added to my collection, I was able to leave the show and get on my way to the Meadowlands.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

30 Minutes At The Card Show: Part 3 Diamond Stars

With time dwindling, I stop by my regular dealer's table.  Usually, I stop after a quick tour of the show, in case there is anything must have at one of the other tables, but today there was no time for such tomfoolery.  He knows I primarily collect pre-war cards and asks if I'm interested in actors and actresses, which I'm not, along with strip cards, which I despise.  There is something so amateurish about a card on a piece of cardboard with a simple drawing on it.  Below is a copy of one of the few strip cards I own, mostly because of the horrible printing error on the card.

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With the likelihood of a decent purchase flying out the window, I start leafing through his stacks of cards, which often have something interesting in them, even if I am not actively seeking these cards for purchase.  About 15 cards down in the second stack I pick up, there are two 1930s Diamond Stars, Cliff Bolton and HOF Chick Hafey.  For the record, Chick Hafey is almost certainly the worst Baseball Hall of Famer, since he played in 100 or more games 7 times in a season and was what you would call a regular maybe four times.  While a fine hitter, he wasn't an all-time great for a few seasons, which is pretty much what you need to be as a Hall of Famer with 4,600 AB or a packed committee like Roosevelt's plans for the Supreme Court. 

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Nonetheless, having decided to collect the entire Diamond Stars, I purchased both cards at a reasonable price, even after you factor in the Hall of Fame premium on Hafey, which ended up costing me just as much as the entire Goudey lot below.

The design and color of the Diamond Stars are just so stark and appealing.  As there is no Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio or Williams in the set, the overall costs are far more affordable than the other 1930s sets.  And as I start to wind down my T206s, I need to have something else ready to take the central role in my set collecting.  I swear, just one more post regarding what I bought at the show, which I will save for tomorrow.  As you will see, I did not save the best for last. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

30 Minutes At The Card Show: Part 2 SPxtastic

Have you ever been to a card show and by the time you get home, ask yourself, "Self, why didn't you buy those cards?"  Usually the answer is I don't need it or I didn't really want it or most commonly, that dealer wants 10 times the price I would pay online.  However, last month I left behind a stack of cards in a quarter box which made no sense to me.

Thinking I was going to miss this show, I was concerned in two months' time the cards I wanted would be gone.  Of course, to think that cards from a quarter box would be gone, especially hockey cards is a critical failure in understanding the marketplace.

Rounding the corner from my initial purchase, I breeze past the selection of overpriced vintage cards where I occasionally find a card of interest, but in a hurry, have no time to gamble on such an occurrence happening.  Finally, walking past the binders, I reach the quarter boxes, which to my surprise are also five cards for $1 as well.  Looking at the box, I immediately see the die-cut shapes are still there.

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See, last month I saw these die-cut cards, covered in holograms and walk away.  This time, I purchase 18 1996-1997 SPx cards, though due to rushing and a complete inability to order 18 cards, purchase two Kariyas and Tkachuks, leaving me 34 cards short of completing the set, which as you probably guessed created another set of cards on my want list.  I also picked up the below regular Paul Coffey SP card as well, though I couldn't find a 20th card I wanted for no additional cost, which is better for my boxes, but not for my need to make the most of every quarter. 

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The cards themselves are fine, though it did show me I need to clean my scanner.  With these cards purchased, I was all but ready to leave, but my regular dealer awaited, where I of course, made more purchases, but that will have to wait until Part 3. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

30 Minutes At the Card Show: Part 1

As I was wrapping up my vacation today, I did not expect to have a chance to get to the card show and then to North Jersey in time to get to the Meadowlands.  Fortunately, we were meeting at Noon to get to the game, which gave me time to make it to the local card show.  Unfortunately, we didn't leave for the game until 1 PM due to traffic issues and missed a fair portion of the first quarter.

So, arriving at 10:45, I had thirty minutes to sweep through 16 tables, purchase cards and head off to the game.  Paying the dollar entrance donation to the rec center, I enter the show.  Like we all do, I have a guy and he was off to my left at his usual tables.  Knowing that I always purchase cards there, as well as stop and say hello, I save his table for last.  The first table sadly had 2012 Topps Update singles, but when you show up unprepared for a show, you have to walk past the nickel commons where you only need 30 or so cards to complete the set and advance to the next table. 

A dealer selling only football cards was friendly, but clearly had nothing to offer me. I turned the corner and looked across the way and saw some cards, nothing of interest and turned around to see a stack of Goudeys.  Like strip cards, Goudeys and I have a love/hate relationship.  About 18 months ago, I went to a different local show and not finding anything to my satisfaction, purchased a small stack of Goudeys.  I never warmed to them and eventually sold them off so I could purchase and have room for more T206s in the pre-war boxes.

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In a hurry, I picked up the Goudeys and gave them a cursory glance.  I was thinking of purchasing just the Milton Gaston, but instead ended up with the entire lot.  It seems if someone has pre-war cards for sale, they usually end up going home with me.

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In addition to the Gaston, which had strong color where it remained on the card and was the cheapest of the lot priced individually, I added four other Goudeys to my collection, bringing my lifetime total to 10 and current total to 5.  The Rhem is the most visually interesting, as the card's background contains more than a single color.  I'm sure if we hadn't seen a major color card release in the last 20 or so years, we would also be content with the single color backgrounds as well.

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The other cards are just kind of there, old, nearly 80, but inert.  I suspect a year from now, give or take 12 months, I will end up moving these cards again for something that interests me more.  Being pressed for time, I knew I couldn't take my usual second lap and see whether I really wanted, so I pulled the trigger on these cards to make sure my trip to the show was not for naught. 

As we shall see, I did not stop with these Goudeys and found some other cards which contain an even greater appeal to me. 



Friday, October 12, 2012

Redemption: SGC Saves the Day!

You go away for one day and a fancy USPS Priority Mail box is waiting in front of your door.  To be honest, I was stumped by what its contents could be, as I hadn't ordered anything coming by Priority Mail in the last couple of weeks.  Except for the below card, which I didn't order as much as drop off for servicing.

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Picking up our saga where we left off on Wednesday, I drove to SGC headquarters after talking to the nice customer service representative.  From the phone, he could tell I was agitated and upset, which given how the Orval Overall Plowboy arrived to me was quite understandable.  He said, I could drop the card off at their offices and fill out the necessary paperwork there.

So, I took the card, wrapped in an acid-free comic book bag and board from my teenage years when I worked in a comic shop, placed it in the new Huggins & Scott auction catalog, put the item inside the original box and made the 45 minute trek to find adequate long-term housing for my card.

Having been there before, there was no trouble in finding the office and I was greeted promptly.  I was given a form and a seat at the table.  I was asked if I wanted to have the card processed for next day delivery, but I was aware that the card was oversized and belonged outside the size guidelines for the monthly promotion.  Despite this, I was told the card would ship out in two days and I paid the oversized grading fee price.  I finished filling out the information, agreed to ship the card back to my home by USPS, asking gently if they planned to ship the card by media mail, which elicted a hearty chuckle inside me. 

So, today, I came home and found the card graded and on my doorstep in two days.  I opened the exceptionally well packed box, removing a layer of protective materials and the enclosed form to allow me to make an additional grading request in the future.  Given that I felt a thick, lucite container inside, I was certain the card was at least authentic. 

Despite buying 100 year old cards for the last two years, I am still a little soft on grades.  By soft, I mean, I have a strong tendency to undergrade cards, often thinking cards are a grade or two lower than standard grading.  So, I opened slowly to see whether the card would be listed as Authentic or a SGC 10 Poor.  Maybe, just maybe the card might be a SGC 20 Fair.  Instead, I opened the card and found it was graded SGC 30 Good!  I was quite ecstatic about the grade, especially considering what I learned about the card during my initial research.  (To summarize, I ended up getting a really good deal, considering what I expect the card would go for in auction today.)

In all, SGC took one of my worst card experiences and replaced it with one of my best.  I'm really pleased with the card now and no longer associate the card with the horrible initial packaging of the card, but instead will always remember the tremendous customer service at SGC and how the provided me with a new joy on a card I desperately wanted to love. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How Not to Ship a Card: A Primer

I would like to thank the fine folks running iSoldit in Elmhurst, Illinois for showing me what has to be the worst possible way to ship a card.  Especially, a rather expensive tobacco card, which I paid $7.50 to have shipped to me and significantly more to purchase.

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Reverse

Two weeks ago, I won an auction for a 1910 Plowboy Orval Overall.  After spending the better part of a week researching how much to spend, looking at closed auctions, running deep searches to find out when and where copies sold in the past, looking at population reports for both PSA and SGC, reading about the set for the first time in great detail, I determined what I thought an acceptable price would be and despite some last minute action, I won the card.

In my searches, I found there were three copies of the card which were graded, all by SGC.  I also found that Plowboys were fairly rare.  If there are more than 10 copies of the above card in existence, I would be surprised.  So, paying a fairly sizable fee to the seller on eBay that night, I awaited the arrival of the card.

Days passed with minimal movement on the track package section for the auction.  In fact, the card made it to Pennsylvania and New Jersey before heading back to Illinois to try again.  In all, 14 days pass from purchase to arrival, which is 8 more days than expected according to eBay.  I noticed the card arrived in New Jersey again on Monday and was optimistic the card would arrive yesterday or today.  I went out to a licensing class last night, knowing the mail had not arrived.

I came home and saw a pile of items for me, including what appeared to be a FedEx box.  Now, I knew I hadn't ordered anything I expected to arrive by FedEx and became concerned.  The concern was due to the shape of the box, which looked like it was dropped, beaten and generally all around hammered about, with many creases and dents in the packaging.  Deep in my heart, I knew the Plowboy Orval Overall was inside.  After two weeks and much waiting, I was convinced this was about to become an insurance claim, depriving me of the card for both today and likely forever, given that this version was significantly cheaper than two other copies sold in the last three years.

I pick up the box and see it is from iSoldit, the seller who listed the card.  My wife told me the package needed a signature, which I knew from the auction listing.  What I did not know was that you can send a package that requires signature confirmation through Media Mail.  That's right, a very valuable and rare card was shipped via media mail in an effort to save a few dollars.  Even worse, the seller chose to ship the item in a box from a competitor.

Fun facts you may or may not know about media mail:

1. Intended for educational use.
2. Does not guarantee delivery.
3. Cannot be used to ship advertisements.
4. Can be used with signature confirmation.
5. Can be inspected at any point in time by the post office if they so choose.
6. Limited to use for books, other forms of media and educational materials.

Judging from the advertising tobacco card, properly categorized as a collectable, I would say that media mail would be a highly inappropriate way to ship this item based on the rules, let alone my reasonable expectations.

So, amazingly, despite the horrific shipping choice, the package arrived.  Safely is not a word I would use in this instance to describe the arrival, but is usually a word which follows arrived in the above sentence.

I open the package, filled with fear and dread, as a terror even worse than I anticipated happened.  Inside was a large mass of bubble wrap, with a few snippets of paper.  The paper contained listings from auction houses for other Plowboy cards, prominently displaying the minimum bid required at auction, essentially proving the seller knew they had a valuable item.

Inside the bubblewrap was the scariest item I've ever pulled from a box.  Once unwrapped, there are two flimsy pieces of thin, grey cardboard, taped to a plastic bag.  Not necessarily a plastic bag you would put produce in today, but one of those plastic bags from the 80s, which were more translucent and made of an amazingly thin material.  I knew there was a thin plastic bag inside, as small pieces of it peaked out of the cardboard.  Given what I saw, part of me was scared one of those pieces of cardboard was the actual card itself.

I gently pry the tape free from one piece of the cardboard and slowly lift up the panel.  Inside, is the card, unprotected, inside a plastic bag.  I remove it from its likely tomb and begin to check the card for damage.   The card was not a high-grade card when it started its journey, so it was quite the affair to determine if it was damaged in transit.  I will gloss over the details of this particularly gruesome exercise, only to let you know that I took the card to SGC today in order to provide the card with a safe home and confirm the authenticity of the product, as doubt crept into my mind once I saw how amateur and poor the packaging job was.

Once freed, I did write to the seller to let them know how inappropriate their entire packaging and shipping of the card was.  The seller replied promptly, failing to take any responsibility for the whole affair.  The seller claimed that I was being saved additional cost by shipping through such a substandard and likely against postal regulation matter.  And that it was eBay's fault for requiring signature confirmation on items costing over a certain price.  No other customer had their cards damaged, so this was an effective way to ship.  Essentially, a strong pass the buck on responsibility after an insincere apology.

I read the E-Mail, logged into eBay and left negative feedback for the second time in my life.  Also, given the exorbitant shipping charge for a media mail package weighing about three ounces, I also filed a report item on the shipping charges provided by the vendor.  Finally, I am writing to let everyone know what happened, so they can make the decision as to whether they would choose to buy from or consign to iSoldit in Elmhurst, Illinois. 

Most importantly, let this all serve as a lesson to everyone on worst practices for shipping a baseball card through the mail.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Big Six: A Tale of Woe

I was going to write about the greatest card I've ever bought today, but I'm still comparing photos and scans to see if the card was damaged in transit.

Instead, I will bring you the story of my previous worst experience in buying cards, as seemingly any time I get really excited about buying a card, something awe-inspiringly awful happens, except for the time I bought the green background Ty Cobb card from Trae Regan who founded T206.org.  T206.org is one of the best resources to learn about and see T206s, though as he says, I wouldn't rely on the site to attempt to price cards.  That deal with Trae was probably the best purchase of a card I've ever made, but of course, we are here to talk doom and gloom, not joyous purchases.

Two years ago, when I started buying T206s, I moved slowly, with some trepidation about making larger purchases online.  I managed to get some tremendous deals on both a Tris Speaker and a Tolstoi John McGraw (Tolstoi is one of the American Tobacco Company brands and is uncommon and somewhat difficult to find.), but really wanted a Christy Mathewson, who along with Orval Overall and Ty Cobb, is one of my favorite players in the set.

Mathewson Dark Cap SGC 10

Mathewson has three cards in the set, a portrait against an orange background, which is visually stunning, a pitching pose in a white cap and a slightly more refined version of the pitching pose in a black cap.  I spent a fair amount of time searching and searching until I found the above black cap Mathewson on eBay.  I waited and patiently made a few bids, hoping this one would fall to me for an acceptable price.  As Sunday night approached, I made one last bid and barely ended up with the card, as it was 3 times what I had paid for any other card in my collection at this point in time.  I was so excited and overjoyed, I even asked if I could pay for insurance on shipping the card to my address. 

While the card is graded poor, most of the damage is on the back.  And by damage, I mean scrapbook paper affixed to the card.  If I was bold and daring, I could crack open the case, which is a difficult endeavor, then soak the card to remove the paper and regrade the card, which might get it up to a Fair or if I found a generous grader, a Good.  But I am neither when it comes to vintage cardboard and am quite content with the current state of the card.

So, I purchase the card and I wait.  Five days pass without word of the card being shipped, which as we all know is an eternity for cards to arrive or to not receive any notice that the card had not shipped.  I then receive a message filled with regret.  The card, was lost, or more correctly, misplaced and part of a consignment lot where everything else was found and shipped.  While my foresight regarding insurance was prescient, it did nothing to protect me from the confines of the seller's shop, only the possibility of damage in transit.

I was crest-fallen and despondent over the news.  I nearly quit my set then and there, as I was disheartened that a seller could be so foolish as to lose a card consigned to him for sale.  I handled the actual transaction suprrisingly graciously, noting that I understood and if he reversed payment and found the card, I would send the money ASAP to make sure the transaction was completed. Ten more days passed, with money in escrow and card not in hand, when I received a message.  It seems the card was not lost, but only misplaced and he was able to ship the card.  It only took 16 days to get the card from one spot in the shop to a package en route to my home.

Even still, whenever I look at the card, I am filled with regret of the purchase gone wrong and the tremendous wait.  However, what happened here is nothing compared to what I encountered today.  Until tomorrow. 


Monday, October 8, 2012

Combined Shipping: The Beginning

Last week, I placed some 2012 Topps Archives Short Prints in my watchlist. I've been on the fence about collecting this set, as I genuinely like the cards and find most of the players in the short print set quite interesting as their careers basically dovetail with the time I followed baseball most intently. 

The auction started at $0.01 with a shipping charge of $2.99. With no one else bidding, I picked up 7 short prints (2 Bake McBrides unfortunately) for $3.00. Below are some of the fine short prints I added to my set.

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Of course, having won such a low cost auction and noticing that other eBay victories would only require an additional $0.50 shipping for each additional item, I clicked that taunting link of See Other Items.  Not content to let my singular purchase go as is, when I, the well-reasoned and intended buyer can lower his overall total costs by purchasing other, low-cost items I might be interested in, especially with the shipping barrier significantly lowered. 

Armed with a mouse and willingness to purchase lots of cards on the cheap, I began bidding with heart, with gusto, with alarming regularity.  Taking a purchase of just 7 cards, I ended up with nearly 70 cards in my final order.  I also ended up with a new set quest, which I had no intention of completing.  The Brendan Shanahan below is my third 2012 Goodwin Champions Hockey Relic.  Since it was less than a dollar before shipping, it was an easy purchase.  Which has led to other easy purchases, which I will show off during the next few weeks. 

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Combined shipping, you are an evil mistress.