Saturday, June 21, 2008

Adventures in eBay - Part 1 of an Ongoing Saga

Good morning, and it's a fine Saturday out on the left coast. It's not too terribly hot outside (yet), and the day is fresh and new. Time for a new blog entry.

Today I'll look at the wonderful cards that you can get on the largest of the large auction sites, eBay. One way to be a budget card collector is to narrow your focus to exactly what you want, and only buy those cards. For example, my primary focus in Baseball are Angels players. You may think that's not that small of a subset of Baseball cards, and indeed it isn't. There's 30 teams in MLB, so my direct interest is 1/30th of all of the cards out there today. Of course, I can't actually afford all of the possible Angel cards on eBay, so I try to focus a bit more when shopping. Of course, I have a favorite player, currently that's Vladimir Guerrero, and since he's a super-star in the elite tier of super-stars, there's an AWFUL lot of Vladdy cards available (currently over 500 different auctions). Of that number, I instantly discount any auction that starts at more than a certain amount, which for me is really, really low, say $2.00.

Sticking to a budget on eBay is no easy task because of the inherent flaws in the auction system you are almost forced to pay more than you really want to some of the time. Fortunately, not all of the time, and deals galore can be had all day long, IF you look for them. Don't forget that when you do a search on eBay you can sort the results by a number of different factors, the two best are "ending soonest" and "lowest price+shipping". Using those two sorts you can find all sorts of juicy goodness at el-cheapo prices.

Here's what I have purchased in the last couple of months, with actual prices.

2008 UD Premier Vladimir Guerrero Premier Stitchings PSTI-VG 14/25.

In budget collecting you really need to strike while the iron is hot. When UD Premier hit the street back in late March these cards were all over eBay, now they've dried up and you can't even find anything similar for a reasonable price. This one cost me $0.99 plus $3.00 for shipping. This set was outrageously expensive at retail, with ONE pack boxes going for $220 to $300! Sure, you got seven cards in a pack and they were all supposed to be "hits", but give me a break, when am I EVER going to be able to spend that much on a single pack of cards? I can buy a freaking Nintendo Wii for that price. The crazy thing is, while this card looks fantastic in a picture, it's not that great in person. The "patch" really isn't a patch, it's a nice large swatch with an Angel logo, but that's about it. It's not a real-game used swatch (as most of Upper Deck's swatches aren't specifically game used these days), this one was actually "Created" for the card. Authentic? Nope. Nifty? Sure. Worth four bucks? Absolutely. Worth $40? Nope. Where'd $40 come from? $282 list price for the pack divided by 7. It's early in the morning but I can still do math.

The sad thing is that there are variants of these as well with personalized "logos" that UD came up with for the players. Vladdy's is quite nice with a "Vlad The Impaler" logo, and I would love to pick up one of those, but alas, I probably won't be able to, this one sold for $11.25:

2006 Vladimir Guerrero Colorized State Quarter

Now, THIS item isn't specifically a "card" though it does have a card with it, no it's a colorized state quarter, of Vlad. I've been collecting the State Quarters since they started in 1999, and have all of them released so far, at least with the 'D' mint stamp, the 'P' mint stamp is a bit more difficult for me to find on the West Coast. I enjoy oddball items like this one, and I certainly don't think it's investment material, but it is kind of cool, and it was very, very cheap ($0.99 plus $2.25 for shipping).

2005 Fleer Vladimir Guerrero "Follow the Leather" Jersey

Always remember that there is more to card collecting than just this year's cards! Often times dealers and collectors will sit on older cards in the hopes that they'll be worth more in the future. With current players, that's not necessarily going to be the case, and deals on older product are always available. For example, here's a nice Fleer card from 2005, which is before UD bought them out, and as such, one of the last true "Fleer" cards.

I spent a whopping $2.00 plus another $2.00 for shipping, and while it's a nice card, complete with a stripe, it's not perfect. Had I looked closer at the picture, I might not have bid, since there are minor creases in the card at the corners of the die-cuts. Caveat Emptor as always.

2006 Upper Deck Ovation Vladimir Guerrero Ovation Apparel

I liked this card because of the free shipping, sometimes that's all it will take for me to slap down a bid. I paid $2.47, roughly the price of one pack of this product for this 2006 Ovation jersey insert. I believe that these are the standard one hit per box insert, so we're not looking at anything spectacular, but it is still a nice jersey.

2002 Skybox eX Darrin Erstand Hit and Run Bat Relic

One cannot simply collect Vladimir Guerrero cards, one should remember that there are other Angels in the skies, and Ersty was always one of my favorites. These were one per box inserts, and parallels at that, but for a quarter, who cares? Yes, I bought this card for $0.25 plus $1.49 shipping. Whenever I can get a relic card of an Angel for under $2.00 including shipping, I'm a very very happy man.

2003 Playoff Piece of the Game Rod Carew Game Worn Jacket

Carew is my all-time favorite Angel, so it's only natural that I'd want to try to buy some of the many Carew relics that have hit the market in the last five years. Only problem is that half of the relics feature him in his Twins days, and I don't want those, so I have to be careful. That's not to say that I cannot find Angels relics for Rodney Cline Carew, they're nowhere NEAR as hard to find (or expensive) as Nolan Ryan Angel Relics or Reggie Jackson Angel Relics. This one cost me $0.99 plus $2.50 for shipping, and it's not a jersey! It's a piece of a warm-up jacket, which is fine by me since it's a little different than your standard swatch of jersey, it actually has a seam bump on the piece.

2008 UD Premier Vladimir Guerrero Premier Memorabilia #17/25

This triple swatch card comes from the same set as our first card, which is always nice for continuity's sake. While the swatches aren't exactly exciting, there are three of them, and it's numbered to 25. These are showing up all over eBay right now, as are the numerous variants, which include quad swatches, and quads with die-cut letters spelling out VLAD (or something equally silly for other players - there's a Steve Carlton spelling out "LEFTY".) This puppy set me back $1.95 plus $3.00 shipping, making it the most expensive single I purchased in this batch.

2004 ETopps Vladimir Guerrero

eTopps is a product that is unique in card collecting, each card is offered initially as a "public offering" for somewhere between $6 and $10 depending on the player and set. Each "IPO" is limited to a certain number, these days in the 600s, but this particular card had over 1900 produced. The IPOs are only offered for a week at a time, so if you miss out, you have to buy them on the official secondary market, which is not-surprisingly eBay. When you buy an eTopps, you are actually "reserving" a card at Topps, and if you actually want the card, you have to pay them to ship it to you. I dabbled with eTopps back in 2002 buying two hockey cards of players that I thought were sure fire hits, Sergei Federov and Paul Kariya, my $12 investment went belly up shortly after, and by the time I sold them both on eBay I don't think I got back more than $2 apiece. No, eTopps is not for investing, if you want to invest, buy stocks or bonds, not Baseball cards.

This eTopps, which is Vlad's first as an Angel cost me a whopping $1.30 to buy on eBay. That put the card into "my portfolio" on eTopps, but since I really wanted to hold the card in my hands, I claimed it, sending them $4.95 in shipping. I should have my card in a few days.

So there you have it, my recent adventures in singles. Not too shabby, a nice collection of swatches and oddball releases. I don't know what I'll feature next time, since I'm still bidding on singles, and do so quite often.


Derek From Simply Superheroes said...

Congratulations on your acquisition of the 2004 Vlad Guerrero etopps card. It was dubbed the disappearing head card when it was first unveiled for etoppers in 2004 and appealed to "in-hand" (having it shipped to your home) collectors because for the first time the total print run of the card was stamped on the back.

The downside to the 2004 model is the surface of the card. Don't get anyone's signature on a 2004 card. The surface is not compatible with a regular sharpie pen and I've seen terrible signatures from attempts at card shows.

You forgot to mention that the card is shipped in a sealed acrylic case to preserve the card's genuine mint condition and each card has a tamper-proof holographic sticker to ensure the card's condition.

Hopefully some day etopps will offer Vladimir Guerrero's autograph on their website.

If you or your readership would like to read more about etopps "in-hand" cards, please read my blog:


William Noetling said...

Hey thanks for the comment! I actually had never gotten an eTopps delivered to me before, so I had no clue about the shipping. The card itself is very, very nice, but I wouldn't pull it out of its' holder.

I'll definitely check out your site too. Thanks!

Motherscratcher said...

I think it's great that you found your niche with Angels cards. I still haven't narrowed it down yet as to exactly what I would like to concentrate on. Very interesting post.

William Noetling said...

Mother - Thanks for the kind words, I appreciate it. The Angels have been a life-long love for me - my parents took me to games when I was a toddler, just as I've done for my daughter (she's been to two games now).

In fact, I'm still hoping that if I look hard enough in my storage unit I'll find my box of older Angel cards, with complete Topps Team sets from 1980 to 1990.