Friday, June 13, 2008

My Own Trading Card History

Originally Published June 3, 2008 on my LiveJournal Account.

This post is awfully long overdue. Why do I collect cards and how did I start.

I got back into Baseball card collecting last year at some point. Not really sure why, because prior to last year I hadn't been a serious baseball card collector since about 1992. I have, at one point or another, collected trading cards from all four major sports beginning in 1977 when my dad had a paper-route for a job and would bring home packs of that year's Topps for us to collect together. I wish I still had those cards, but alas, they're long gone.

At the height of my collecting, in the mid 90's, I had something like 60,000 cards, mostly football. When I left San Diego in 1998 I sold most of them, making very little back on my "investment", which was fine, since I never considered collecting cards an investment anyway, it's just damn fun. There's just something about the opening of a pack of cards that is what it's all about with me. Heck, I bought a pack this afternoon (2008 Topps Heritage Baseball, I pulled a Vlad Guerrero and a cool insert). It brings me back to when I was that little kid playing with his dad all those years ago. So it's not only the connection to my father which I'm pursuing (which is also why my favorite sports teams were all his favorites as well).

Of course these days it's all about the chase, you know, what jersey or autograph, or serial numbered rookie card are you going to get? There's certainly something to be said for the treasure hunt aspect of the hobby, especially with 1/1 Cut Autographs with Hair cards and other gimmicks being packed in products that range from the reasonable $2 per pack to the entirely unreasonable $500 a pack. I'm a budget collector, I buy cheap product in small amounts and hope for the best. Typically I'll try to dump off the cards I don't want on eBay and use those funds to buy individual cards or lots of players that I do want. I don't spend very much on cards, but now that I'm not buying Pirates or any other TCGs, I feel like the replacement hobby is actually cheaper.

Now I'll give a short overview on my history with each sport (and non-sports as well), then I have an interesting auction link for you.

As I mentioned above I started collecting Baseball in 1977 with my dad, though I didn't acquire a good amount of 1978 or 79 cards, my 1980 purchases were much better, though I did trade a Rickey Henderson rookie for a Rod Carew of the same year in 1981. Hey, I didn't know better, I was TEN! I still remember that I traded it to Keith Gilbert while I was attending Horace Mann Junior High. Wonder what happened to him. Keith that is, we know what happened to Rickey.

My grandparents bought me a box of 1981 Topps for one of their trips to San Diego. I still love those designs because, well they were my first box. Here's one card I remember vividly:

That's a 1981 Bobby Grich card. See I've always been an Angel collector, whether they were the California Angels, the Anaheim Angels, or the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; that's my team. IN fact, as I type this (sitting in a UCLA Bruins T-shirt) I'm watching the Angels take on the Mariners - they're winning 5-1, though Jose Lopez just hit a dinger for the M's.

1984 was another good year for me because I got a box of Topps that year too, and if I'm not mistaken I pulled three Mattingly rookies out of it. Of course this was pre-Beckett (the premier monthly price guide which was the de-facto "book" when you said "book value"), so I'm sure when I got rid of them, I didn't get NEARLY the value that you should get...which makes me wonder how much he's worth today? [Under $10 for graded copies]. I bought an awful lot of Topps product between 1984 and 1991, as well as a good amount of Fleer and Donruss too, but I was always a Topps guy. I always gravitated to them because despite the better card stock and arguably better designs, Topps had better photography and more importantly listed entire career stats on the back. Something that I wish the card manufacturers of today would remember. Fortunately Topps still does list career stats on the back. I'd have to reach around and look at an Upper Deck card to tell you one way or the other and I'm not going to do that right now.

Of course I got swept up in Upper Deck mania in 1989, and I pulled my share of Griffey rookies. I'm not sure that I ever put together a set of 89 UD, but I've seen them. By the time of 91 Stadium Club I was fully entrenched in 4-sport mania. I wasn't collecting comics at this time, and I had been on my own for only a short time, plus the economy was good after 1991 and I had a lot of free time and money. I don't remember when I stopped collecting Baseball for good, but it was certainly after I went to the 1992 MLB All-Star Fan Fest, but I do think by then I was hardcore into Football and nothing else. At one point I know I had every Angels Topps team set from 1980 to 1990 and I still had a 1989 and 1990 Topps complete set when I left San Diego. I think they're all still in storage, which means when I find them they'll be reunited with their new brethren, as I've only recently gotten back into Baseball. I think Sports Card collecting is cyclical.

With Basketball my focus has always been UCLA alumni and set collecting. I'm not overly fond of any one team, with the exception of the Lakers, so I'm not a team collector in Basketball. When Basketball cards were just starting to take off with the release of 1989 Hoops, I put together a set of those (along with the rare short print, which I can't even remember what card that was), as well as 1989 Fleer. I had purchased a hand collated 1988 Fleer Set with the Stickers for $12 that I later sold for $90. Interesting that you can get a that same set now for about $25. I had already stopped collecting Basketball by the time that Upper Deck got a license, though I can remember trying to chase down Shaquille O'Neals' rookie redemption card, the first of it's kind!

I didn't get back into Basketball until two years ago when I started searching for Jordan Farmar rookie cards. Jordan was one of my favorites at UCLA and when he got drafted to the Lakers, well I was extremely happy. So I started looking for Jordan Farmar rookies. I've always collected UCLA Basketball player cards, and have a NICE sized binder full of them, including the greats Kareem, Walton, Miller, MacLean, Wickes, Rowe, Patterson, Vandeweghe, Bibby (though he's still a traitor), and of course, I have a card of Coach. I even have both the complete 1994 UCLA Collegiate Collection AND the update that came out a year later when the Bruins won the National Championship, with a Steve Lavin rookie card! Today I get to open packs looking for about a dozen former Bruins, and later this year after the NBA draft I'll be searching for Kevin Love rookie cards, even though I already own two "pre" rookies of him, his Topps McDonalds All-American card pictured below, and a broder or unlicensed card both purchased off of eBay. Reminds me I need to look for more Love cards.

Ah, we come to the wicked mistress, Football. I got caught up in football in 1989 when Pro Set first came out. I put together a hand-collated set of those, including the final 21 or whatever it was that you HAD to send away to get. Not only that, it was a master set, missing only ONE card, the 1989 Santa Claus which really wasn't part of the set anyway, since it was never available in packs. I still have that set in a binder, and I wouldn't part with it since it represents a huge undertaking that I actually finished. Well, it'll be finished when I get that Santa Claus.

I had collated sets of 1988 Topps, 89 Topps, 90 Topps, 90 Fleer, 90 and 91 Upper Deck. Football was my master during the 90's, I watched so much Football that I nearly burnt out. My Sundays from September to January were often spent in a sports bar watching as much football as I could possibly watch. I collected EVERYTHING in the 90's. MY best single pull was an Emmitt Smith autograph from one of the Classic products that was die cut and numbered to 100. It booked for $500. I sold it for $90, which looking at the prices of products produced in the 90's looks like a steal now. I know I was out of the hobby though by the time that Upper Deck started putting Jerseys into cards, and as I previously mentioned I sold most of my cards in Summer of 1998. I still have SOME cards in storage, and some in the house. All of the cards that I got personally autographed are here, with the exception of my signed Kings cards, those are all in storage as well.

More than anything I was a Barry Sanders collector, as I had the most cards of him, including every iteration of his rookie. I collected stars mostly, having a huge collection of alphabetized cards, in company order, chronologically ordered. From Aikman to Young, I had them ALL. I had rookie cards of pretty much every future HOFer who played in the 90's, including an Earl Campbell rookie, AND a Walter Payton rookie (though neither one was in "mint" condition). I didn't have the real big 80's stars though, I never owned a Montana RC (1981 Topps), Rice RC (1986 Topps) or Marino RC (1984 Topps), but I had everyone else. See, even though it was the early 90's, you could still find older unopened wax for Football, because it wasn't that big a deal. Usually you could get it for cheap too. Certain years were more expensive, such as 1979, 81, 84 and 86 Topps, because those years had KEY rookie cards. They weren't outrageous though, I remember purchasing packs of all of them and on occasion pulling the key rookies too. 83 Topps was overproduced, and cheap, as was 85, though the black borders on the cards were always getting dinged up. That set didn't have any key rookies either.

Hockey Cards
I don't particularly recall watching Hockey before the 1980 Olympics, but like many Americans I got swept up in the hoopla and started watching the NHL. At the time the New York Islanders, led by Mike Bossy, Dennis Potvin, Bryan Trottier, Bobby Nystrom and of course Billy Smith, were winning Stanley Cups every year. Naturally I followed the winner, especially since they were the ones on TV all the time. That's not to say that I didn't watch the L.A. Kings because living in San Diego at the time, that's all we got on TV (via Prime Ticket). I started buying Hockey cards shortly thereafter, focusing on the Isles. Hockey cards in the early 80's were pretty much Topps and OPC only, and OPC was awfully hard to find in the States. Lack of availability forced me to give up after only a couple of years, and I stayed away, until the BIG TRADE. You know, Gretzky to Los Angeles. After that I got back full bore into Hockey, expanding with Upper Deck in 1991. During my focus on Football in the 90's, I eschewed Hockey for a time, only getting back in around 2000 when the Kings were back in the playoffs. Several disappointing years by the Kings have put the kibosh on my Hockey card collecting though, who needs cards of a last placed team?


Now, if you've plodded through my personal trading card history (written mostly for ME so that I can remember it when I'm old and grey) here's why I originally wrote this post:

Fidel Castro 1/1 is on eBay at the moment. A nice card to be sure, any time you get a 1/1 in that set, it's golden, but Fidel Castro? Well, it's on eBay again for a second time, and look what the seller has done to the card:

Here's what I wrote to the gentleman selling the card:

"I think this is a very bold statement, and one that resonates. Not only does it make a statement about the stupidity of the 1/1 inserts in baseball cards (especially when they're not baseball related), but it's an artistic statement about what we value as a society.


It's a strange world upon which we crawl.

No comments: