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Monday, July 22, 2019

Baseball card collectors suspected rampant fraud in their hobby. Now the FBI is investigating.

The green stadium seats shown on the baseball card are empty as Stan Musial, wearing a crisp white uniform, grips a bat and digs in. His eyes gaze toward the pitcher over his right shoulder, his white teeth peeking out in a grin. It’s almost as if, on this vividly colored card issued in 1952 by the Bowman Gum Company, “Stan the Man” has spotted a fat fastball.

The card’s lone obvious blemish is a stray black print mark on its white frame. Even with the defect, it sold in an online auction in late 2017 for $2,800.

Seven months later, a 1952 Bowman Stan Musial card without that print mark sold for $28,100. Collectors have since claimed the two cards are in fact the same item, improperly altered to inflate its value and then auctioned off a second time. Now, the FBI is asking questions about that card and hundreds of others like it as a scandal over trading cards that have allegedly been fraudulently altered rocks the billion-dollar memorabilia hobby.

Fascinating look into modern card collecting.

jmurph Posted: July 22, 2019 at 11:57 AM | 92 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: baseball cards

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   1. jmurph Posted: July 22, 2019 at 12:00 PM (#5863794)
There are even specific ways that cards are supposed to be cleaned if they are expected to earn a grade. Soaking a card in distilled water and allowing it to air-dry to remove stains is generally permitted, collectors and graders said, but using any sort of cleaning agent, such as bleach, is a violation, even if it does not appear to materially damage the card.

“If you have something that’s 100 years old and it looks like it’s 100 years old, that’s one thing. But if it looks like it’s brand new, that’s something else,” said Anthony Nex, a vintage collector in Southern California. “That’s impressive. When you alter a card, you’re deceiving someone to make it look like it was cared for better than it was.”

I get it, but on the other hand, it seems like something of an arbitrarily drawn line?
   2. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 22, 2019 at 12:11 PM (#5863800)
Of course it is. The whole card-grading industry is ridiculous, as far as I can tell, as is the dominance it has achieved over the market. I haven't actively collected since I was about 15, but I'm still interested in cards in general and read blogs occasionally. Whenever I think about maybe dipping my toes back in, I'm always turned off by the grading mafia (as well as all the inserts, parallels, yada yada). If you're willing to pay 10x as much for a Musial because it doesn't have a tiny print mark, I have zero sympathy for you.
   3. it's hittin' 53450n. Posted: July 22, 2019 at 12:22 PM (#5863808)
link
I needed a professional printer -- and that was all I needed. This wasn't like counterfeit money where you need to worry about watermarks, or counterfeit art where the forger themselves needs to be nearly a scholar of the artist they forge. Magic: The Gathering cards are mass-produced cards that are only valuable because of a forced scarcity by the official distributor. Any idiot could make a fake of one of these with a good print shop if they have access to the art.
...
A reputable printing company won't even photocopy an encyclopedia page for you. They live and die by copyright law.

That left me one option: a disreputable printing company.
Sometimes, if I had a card that was worth a higher amount and I didn't think I would find a buyer at that price point, I would purposely damage it a bit. It's easy enough: Rough it up a bit on the sidewalk, chew an edge, blast it with some heat and light for a week. I had one card that would have been around $300 mint, but after I couldn't find a buyer, I scuffed it up a bit and brought it to a tournament and sold it for only $90. Nobody suspects a non-mint card to be a fake. Why purposefully lower the price point by damaging a fake that would be mint if left untouched, right?
   4. jmurph Posted: July 22, 2019 at 12:25 PM (#5863812)
I had one card that would have been around $300 mint, but after I couldn't find a buyer, I scuffed it up a bit and brought it to a tournament and sold it for only $90. Nobody suspects a non-mint card to be a fake. Why purposefully lower the price point by damaging a fake that would be mint if left untouched, right?

That's genuinely very clever.
   5. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: July 22, 2019 at 12:27 PM (#5863813)
I'm always turned off by the grading mafia (as well as all the inserts, parallels, yada yada)

As long as you collect vintage, all you have to deal with is the grading mafia, since all the Green Tint Super Refractor Alternate Picture Wrong Team Flipped Back Parallel Short Print ###/250 lottery ticket nonsense is pretty much limited to more recent years.
   6. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 22, 2019 at 12:38 PM (#5863819)
A while back I saw a YouTube video of a guy breaking a 1971 Topps rack pack. All he talked about the entire time was the centering on each of the cards and what it would grade out at. Apparently even 60-40 centering on a 40+-year-old card makes it lose a lot of value these days. Blech.
   7. jmurph Posted: July 22, 2019 at 12:58 PM (#5863842)
Grading seems immensely dumb and the thing Pat talks about in #5 is even dumber, but you don't actually have to engage in that stuff (I don't collect but read about it occasionally). You can still buy ungraded old stuff. But yeah, it absolutely dominates the conversation, that's for sure.
   8. Man o' Schwar Posted: July 22, 2019 at 01:01 PM (#5863847)
Green Tint Super Refractor Alternate Picture Wrong Team Flipped Back Parallel Short Print ###/250

Don't waste your money on that. The real value is in the Black Tint Super Refractor Alternative Picture Wrong Team Flipped Back Parallel Holo Velocity Super Short Print /7.

Topps did a card earlier this year that featured relics from the tablecloth from the press conference where Manny Machado's signing was announced. Tablecloth relics, the next frontier.
   9. Man o' Schwar Posted: July 22, 2019 at 01:04 PM (#5863851)
Grading seems immensely dumb and the thing Pat talks about in #5 is even dumber, but you don't actually have to engage in that stuff (I don't collect but read about it occasionally). You can still buy ungraded old stuff. But yeah, it absolutely dominates the conversation, that's for sure.

The problem with buying ungraded old stuff (at least on a place like eBay) is that so much of it is fake these days. Some might be fake in that the cards have been trimmed, cleaned, etc. (as in the article). And some might be fake as in they were made from whole cloth by someone with a card printing apparatus.

The hobby is at a real crossroads at this point, and it feels like we could be looking at another bubble burst as happened in the mid-90s.
   10. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 22, 2019 at 01:04 PM (#5863852)
Topps did a card earlier this year that featured relics from the tablecloth from the press conference where Manny Machado's signing was announced.
Please tell me this is a joke.
   11. Man o' Schwar Posted: July 22, 2019 at 01:08 PM (#5863858)
Tablecloth Relic 1-of-1.

Sold for only $799. They also made versions to /5, /10, /25, /49, and /99, all of which sold out.

Total sales price for all of them: $13500 (give or take).
   12. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: July 22, 2019 at 01:09 PM (#5863862)
Topps did a card earlier this year that featured relics from the tablecloth from the press conference where Manny Machado's signing was announced.

The chumps were the ones bidding on that. I spent my smart money on a Bryce Harper tablecloth relic #/3.
   13. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: July 22, 2019 at 01:18 PM (#5863871)
A while back I saw a YouTube video of a guy breaking a 1971 Topps rack pack. All he talked about the entire time was the centering on each of the cards and what it would grade out at. Apparently even 60-40 centering on a 40+-year-old card makes it lose a lot of value these days. Blech.


I follow/agree with the point, but '71 Topps. Yuck. Worst (pre-1990s) design ever. I also hate '86 (similar design).
   14. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 22, 2019 at 01:28 PM (#5863876)
Oh man, I like the '71 design! I started collecting in '86, so maybe that has something to do with it. I don't think Topps had any bad designs from '61 to '71. Then they just fell off a cliff.
   15. Man o' Schwar Posted: July 22, 2019 at 01:33 PM (#5863877)
Oh man, I like the '71 design! I started collecting in '86, so maybe that has something to do with it. I don't think Topps had any bad designs from '61 to '71. Then they just fell off a cliff.

Everything from 1963 to 1969 is phenomenal. I'd be happy if they just reran those every 7 years on a loop.
   16. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: July 22, 2019 at 01:53 PM (#5863895)
1965 baseball is my favorite design followed closely by 1977 in all four sports. Not really fond of the drab gray borders in 1970 baseball, but the image of Giant Jim Fregosi fielding a pickup truck wins back some points.
   17. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: July 22, 2019 at 02:06 PM (#5863901)
Here's an easy through the years look at Topps.

Topps through the years
   18. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: July 22, 2019 at 02:10 PM (#5863904)
.
   19. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 22, 2019 at 02:15 PM (#5863906)
1965 baseball is my favorite design followed closely by 1977 in all four sports. Not really fond of the drab gray borders in 1970 baseball,
You don't like drab, but you love 1977? :) For me, all the '70s designs after '71 were either very drab or horribly garish ('72 and '75). Going to the darker card stock hurt a lot. I guess probably '83 was the next decent design after that, although I do have a leftover-from-childhood soft spot for '81 with the hats.
   20. Dr. Vaux Posted: July 22, 2019 at 02:22 PM (#5863907)
I get it, but on the other hand, it seems like something of an arbitrarily drawn line?


Ironically enough, it's the same sort of arbitrary line that everyone seems to think is so obvious and non-arbitrary when it comes to "performance enhancing drugs."
   21. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 22, 2019 at 02:34 PM (#5863916)
Motion to keep this thread as a nice baseball card discussion rather than getting hijacked into yet another steroid thread. All in favor say aye?
   22. Wayne Newton's pet monkey (gef, talking mongoose) Posted: July 22, 2019 at 02:38 PM (#5863919)
Probably 1970 is my favorite Topps set, no doubt purely because it was the first one I bought. The concession stand at our little league field sold packs.
   23. JJ1986 Posted: July 22, 2019 at 02:39 PM (#5863920)
I collected cards seriously from like 1988 (when I was two) until about 2002 or 2003. Now I've got a kid who's into them so I've started buying packs and I have some thoughts.

The Topps 2018 and 2019 designs are the most ugly boring things in the world.
These sets have too much random #### and not enough players. I do not want cards of stadiums or feats. Even inserts that aren't an active player are mostly annoying.
I saw that Topps Total was back, but it's now expensive ####. I would really like a set with ~800 players.
Donruss (Pinncale) cards now are unlicensed and it's super weird to not have logos on the caps, but they have much better photographers.
   24. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 22, 2019 at 02:40 PM (#5863921)
Here's an easy through the years look at Topps.

Topps through the years


Those are all so gorgeous until you get to 1975. The 1971 ones look fantastic stacked up in a shoebox so you get all that black mashed together.
   25. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 22, 2019 at 02:47 PM (#5863925)
Now I've got a kid who's into them
Do any of your kid's friends collect? I get the sense that it's just not something that kids are into these days.
   26. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: July 22, 2019 at 02:49 PM (#5863926)
Donruss (Pinncale) cards now are unlicensed and it's super weird to not have logos on the caps, but they have much better photographers.

What's weirder are the 1970's and 80's Fleer Team Action Football cards that were licensed by the NFL, but not by the NFLPA. So you have cards with official team names and logos at a time when Topps was airbrushing team logos from helmets, but Earl Campbell is referred to as "a rookie running back who led the NFL in rushing with 1,450 yards."
   27. SoSH U at work Posted: July 22, 2019 at 02:52 PM (#5863930)
Do any of your kid's friends collect? I get the sense that it's just not something that kids are into these days.


My one baseball-playing kid never did. But, to me, I think the conditions are much different. When I was kid, they were placed on the front counter of every deli in our area. That has never been the case during his childhood (even if you replace deli with convenience store).

Topps was airbrushing team logos from helmets


I remember that. I was excited when I saw that they missed a piece of the Falcons logo on one player's card.

   28. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: July 22, 2019 at 03:14 PM (#5863937)
I liked those big hats in '81 (childhood first impression biases) too, but really do like those '80 pennant like ribbons.

I think I know why I hated the '71 design, and sadly it sort of goes to the point made by the Dbag quoted in the youtube video. The '71 cards, if they were flawed, they looked like ####. That black border revealed all flaws, frayed edging, corners, framing, etc. This wasn't me looking to grade out my cards at all when I was a kid, upon reflection, they just didn't look very attractive. Also, there always seems to be a desire to #### on stuff from 10 years prior, no matter what. Not yet long enough to draw nostalgia.

I guess I did overlook the hideousness of '72. Sort of a half assed art deco-psychedelic influenced amalgamation. Good God.
   29. salvomania Posted: July 22, 2019 at 03:21 PM (#5863941)
I find all the action shots in the regular sets to be mind numbingly boring. Back when they were more more rare, the occasional action shot was fun and exciting, but I really miss the posed shots where you both get a sense of what a guy actually looks like as well as getting to see the classic poses: the filelder bending down With his glove, the pitcher with his arms over his Head, the batter in mid-swing with the bat pointing art hè camera—Now Those were baseball cards.
   30. RJ in TO Posted: July 22, 2019 at 03:36 PM (#5863946)
Do any of your kid's friends collect? I get the sense that it's just not something that kids are into these days.
Based on my observations during my visit to the local dork store (comics, cards, role playing games, etc.), it is my general impression that kids really don't collect baseball cards anymore, and it's pretty much all adults now. For any kid that's collecting cards, it's instead the various collectible card games instead.

Of the Topps set, my favorite from the years I was at least casually collecting would have been the 1982 set, with the 1987 set easily being the least favorite.
   31. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 22, 2019 at 03:51 PM (#5863951)
Based on my observations during my visit to the local dork store
Ha - I love it. "The dork store called, and they're running outta YOU!"
   32. The Duke Posted: July 22, 2019 at 03:56 PM (#5863954)
For those of you paying attention. The Topps heritage series this year is 1970. Next year is 1971. These sets are the best sets that anyone makes. A lot of care goes into reproducing the look and feel lot the original sets

I can’t wait for 1971 style action shots next year. Those first years of action shots were the best. Partly it was novelty but since they were mainly shot from far away they have a much realer feel than today’s action shots. Bruce M runs a series of articles on hardball times where people try to pin down the exact game and inning of a shot - always a lot of fun

The 1965-1975 Topps sets were awesome with 1971 and 1972 being my favorites.
   33. JJ1986 Posted: July 22, 2019 at 04:27 PM (#5863960)
Do any of your kid's friends collect? I get the sense that it's just not something that kids are into these days.
I don't think so. A lot of them play Pokemon.
   34. Man o' Schwar Posted: July 22, 2019 at 04:30 PM (#5863963)
I find all the action shots in the regular sets to be mind numbingly boring. Back when they were more more rare, the occasional action shot was fun and exciting, but I really miss the posed shots where you both get a sense of what a guy actually looks like as well as getting to see the classic poses: the filelder bending down With his glove, the pitcher with his arms over his Head, the batter in mid-swing with the bat pointing art hè camera—Now Those were baseball cards.

Topps Heritage is for you - they recreate all the glamour of 40+ years old baseball card photography. It's all posed, often with whole teams in front of the same background (I think it was last year that every Red Sox player was posed in front of the same hedge row). They also use a classic card design each year, and they're moving forward year by year. As Duke notes, this year is 1970. Next year is 1971. It also has the classic thicker card stock than you see in the "flagship" Topps release.

As far as pure baseball releases without a bunch of other stuff, Heritage is far and away my favorite every year. They also recreate some of the old feeling by releasing different series as well - regular Heritage at the beginning of the season has about 500 cards, and then at the end of the year there's a Heritage "high number" that adds key rookies and trades that happened during the year (about another 250 cards).
   35. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: July 22, 2019 at 04:32 PM (#5863965)
The Topps heritage series this year is 1970. Next year is 1971. These sets are the best sets that anyone makes. A lot of care goes into reproducing the look and feel lot the original sets

I wanted to go all-in on my birth year of 1968 Heritage, but g** d*** it Topps insists on f***ing short-printing the stars in all of these Heritage sets. Pre 1974, the short-prints were a necessary evil to get more players into the set who had come up during the season. Now it's simply manufactured scarcity, and I refuse to buy in on general principle even in the secondary market.
   36. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: July 22, 2019 at 04:51 PM (#5863974)
I still love touting my ebay buy (less than $8 total) for a 1983 sticker book and box of stickers and sitting down and opening every last one of them and filling up the book. Hours of entertainment for me and one of my girls who was five at the time. As a kid in 1983 I likely filled about 4/5 of the same book, but of course have no idea when my mom threw it out.
   37. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: July 22, 2019 at 04:57 PM (#5863977)
Topps through the years

1958 still my favorite
   38. TJ Posted: July 22, 2019 at 05:04 PM (#5863979)
I still love touting my ebay buy (less than $8 total) for a 1983 sticker book and box of stickers and sitting down and opening every last one of them and filling up the book. Hours of entertainment for me and one of my girls who was five at the time. As a kid in 1983 I likely filled about 4/5 of the same book, but of course have no idea when my mom threw it out.


I did this with an NFL sticker book and the stickers you could get from some gas station chain. I tried to get everyone we knew to get gas there so I could get the stickers. Never filled it, but a few years ago I just bought scads of the old sticker booklets, opened them and filled the book, which was a lot of fun. Probably spent less than ten bucks on it.

Oh, and put me down as a fan of the 1967 set. Simple, clean fronts, cool looking backs. Loved that set.
   39. kubiwan Posted: July 22, 2019 at 05:15 PM (#5863985)
So you have cards with official team names and logos at a time when Topps was airbrushing team logos from helmets, but Earl Campbell is referred to as "a rookie running back who led the NFL in rushing with 1,450 yards.


The back of that card has an entry that should go into the Bad Stats Hall of Fame: "Total offense yardage went was increased from 3,957 to 4,814 yards from 1977 to 1978". Sounds impressive, but 1978 is when the schedule expanded from 14 to 16 games, so about 2/3rds of the increase is just "played more games" and most of the rest is basically "a rising tide lifts all boats" as they also put in a bunch of rules changes to increase offense, and it worked, as team yards/game went from 285 to 300.
   40. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 22, 2019 at 05:31 PM (#5863989)
If you're willing to pay 10x as much for a Musial because it doesn't have a tiny print mark, I have zero sympathy for you.

I'd almost go farther than that and say that you should be a prime candidate for sterilization. One generation of idiots is enough.

This grading idiocy now extends beyond cards, and even into issues of Sports Illustrated. When I had my book shop I must have handled at least 10 or 15 copies of Vol. 1, #1 with the baseball cards insert, and if it was in what we used to call "excellent" or "fine" condition, I'd get $100 for it. If the card insert was starting to come loose from the magazine, it'd be more like $50 or $60.

That was then. This is now.

The final selling price for this "CGC 9.8 graded" Vol. 1, #1 was $1,165.12. And of course since the entire magazine is sealed to prevent GERMS from reaching it, the buyer can't even open it up to admire the pristineness of his mancrush. At least the buyers of graded cards are allowed to look at what they've bought, even if they can't handle it directly with their germ-packed little fingers.

I only wish that when I was 9 years old I'd invested about 2 or 3 bucks in 3 or 4 wax boxes of high number 1953 Topps baseball cards and stashed them away unopened for the next 65 years. I could've taken what those 4 boxes would sell for today and upgraded our $500,000 house into a McMansion. There really is a sucker born every minute.
   41. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 22, 2019 at 05:34 PM (#5863990)
I only wish that when I was 9 years old I'd invested about 2 or 3 bucks in 3 or 4 wax boxes of high number 1953 Topps baseball cards and stashed them away unopened for the next 65 years. I could've taken what those 4 boxes would sell for today and upgraded our $500,000 house into a McMansion.
Kind of odd that your wish would be for '53 rather than '52, but I guess maybe the house you could get with the '52 Topps boxes would be too big. Pain in the ass to clean, mow the lawn, etc.
   42. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 22, 2019 at 05:40 PM (#5863991)
This grading idiocy now extends beyond cards, and even into issues of Sports Illustrated.
The former sociologist in me suspects that it is a small manifestation of a broad social trend wherein all the demand is concentrated at the top of the top.

A good friend of mine researches dating/marriage relationships, and the data from speed dating studies show that rather than pairing off with someone at a similar level of attractiveness, pretty much everyone just wants the hottest people in the group. Perhaps not surprising, but I think the tendency has escalated in recent years. Same with job candidates, college applications, etc. - those who aren't at the very top are facing more closed doors than before.

I dunno, just typing out loud.
   43. Man o' Schwar Posted: July 22, 2019 at 05:59 PM (#5863995)
I only wish that when I was 9 years old I'd invested about 2 or 3 bucks in 3 or 4 wax boxes of high number 1953 Topps baseball cards and stashed them away unopened for the next 65 years. I could've taken what those 4 boxes would sell for today and upgraded our $500,000 house into a McMansion. There really is a sucker born every minute.

Unopened packs of 1953 Topps in mid-range condition sell for about $4K a pop. Assuming you stored these well, so that they were in basically mint condition, and if you had 4 boxes with 24 packs per box, you'd probably be looking at north of a million bucks.

As pointed out, 1952 Topps high number, you're in a whole different stratosphere. 4 boxes of unopened high number, mint condition, I suspect you'd get $10 million easily at auction.
   44. The Duke Posted: July 22, 2019 at 06:52 PM (#5864002)
Yes, the manufactured scarcity of Topps heritage is the only thing that I don’t like. The whole concept of faking misprints etc is quite stupid
   45. Man o' Schwar Posted: July 22, 2019 at 07:18 PM (#5864008)
Yes, the manufactured scarcity of Topps heritage is the only thing that I don’t like. The whole concept of faking misprints etc is quite stupid

I don't know, I kind of liked some of them. When they did the wrong picture on front Mike Trout card last year, in homage to the bat boy picture card from 1969, I thought that was a nice touch. Do you need all the action variations, wrong team color name variations, etc? Probably not. But it's one of the quirks of Heritage, and it shouldn't stop anyone from being able to put just the base set together.

I do wish that Topps would just do a straight set like they used to do - no variations, no parallels, no autos or relics. Make it 800-1000 cards of base only, cover pretty much all the players on all the teams, and keep the price at a level where kids can afford it. But even the supposedly "low end" stuff (like Topps Opening Day was) is packed with extras that drive up the price.
   46. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: July 22, 2019 at 07:21 PM (#5864010)
Most fake cards are really bad and, with some experience, easy to spot. Even on eBay, most of the scammers are looking for someone greedy and not cautious. If you've got them in hand, pre-war cards are pretty easy to authenticate if you have a good loupe (and a black light doesn't hurt, but the loupe is key). David Cycleback has some really useful primers on baseball card (and, generally, anything printed) identification. Be cautious, pay attention to who you are buying from, get a bunch of commons to get to know a set, and buy a loupe.

If anything modern cards are more difficult to authenticate, because the microscopic print patterns are more similar to what would show up if a scammer was making their own cards. A modern reproduction won't look anything like a T206 under magnification.

Detecting trimming or alteration is another matter. It's easy to spot the work of a jerk with an exacto knife, but I don't pretend to be able to tell the trim jobs that the pros did.

The scandal that TFA is about is a huge deal, and there's much gnashing of teeth over what comes next. But it's only a problem for you if you are either planning on selling your cards or are spending so much money that it really matters to you if your collection loses value. In either case, IMHO, you're taking baseball cards too seriously.
   47. Man o' Schwar Posted: July 22, 2019 at 07:35 PM (#5864013)
The scandal that TFA is about is a huge deal, and there's much gnashing of teeth over what comes next. But it's only a problem for you if you are either planning on selling your cards or are spending so much money that it really matters to you if your collection loses value. In either case, IMHO, you're taking baseball cards too seriously.

Prices are out of control as it is. People paying $100K+ for the signed card of a guy who hasn't gotten out of A ball yet is just nuts. All the autos and relics and high end products, Transcendent VIP party passes and cards with pieces of diamonds in them. Topps is just minting money these days (as the tablecloth relics demonstrate). They could put anything out as a card and slap a one-of-one on it, and someone's going to give them $500 for it. $500 to buy a card that probably costs them $5 to produce.

Until the breaking fad dies out, it's going to continue though. There's no market for Diamond Icons ($6000 for a 4-box case with 32 total cards in it) if people can't spread the cost among 29 of their closest friends in a gambling setting.
   48. bob gee Posted: July 22, 2019 at 07:41 PM (#5864014)
I didn't know that Donruss was back in business - thanks for pointing that out!

Manufactured scarcity...in the late 90s, I decided to get back into collecting by going after any "art" cards. I was getting them not because of any future value, but so that I could have cool collectible drawing cards. And I could collect older, scarcer ones since the modern ones wouldn't require much money.

Wrong! Donruss made the DKs limited edition...and then Topps had some sets that were drawn, but made short prints in there.

Soon after that, I gave up card collecting for the final time.


   49. Dr. Vaux Posted: July 22, 2019 at 07:48 PM (#5864015)
Motion to keep this thread as a nice baseball card discussion rather than getting hijacked into yet another steroid thread. All in favor say aye?


Sorry, I didn't intend to hijack it.
   50. Tin Angel Posted: July 22, 2019 at 08:11 PM (#5864021)
I do wish that Topps would just do a straight set like they used to do - no variations, no parallels, no autos or relics. Make it 800-1000 cards of base only, cover pretty much all the players on all the teams, and keep the price at a level where kids can afford it.


I kind of doubt kids are dying for ~200 cards of relief pitchers they've never heard of, many of whom will be on a different team (or two) by the time the cards are printed.
   51. Zonk, your King of All that Is Real Posted: July 22, 2019 at 08:35 PM (#5864030)
Cut the crap....

Does this mean that Mattingly rookie card I wouldn’t part with at $80 some 30 years ago has now finally recovered its value?

   52. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 22, 2019 at 08:40 PM (#5864032)
From what I understand of the state of the market today, if you have an '84 Donruss Mattingly that you get graded and it comes back as a perfect 10 Gem Mint, you can probably get substantially more than the $80. But if it grades out at just regular Mint or, heaven forfend, Near Mint, you're looking at more like 8 bucks than 80.
   53. The Duke Posted: July 22, 2019 at 08:43 PM (#5864033)
My memory is failing but back In the day didn’t Topps issue in Series ? So in March/April you get series 1, May you get Series 2 etc? Heritage has a high number set that comes out later in season but I think the series approach is a way to keep people interested for longer. There’s so much instant gratification now I can see why young people don’t collect. You can just go to Target and buy a boxed set. What’s the fun in that?
   54. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 22, 2019 at 08:46 PM (#5864035)
My memory is failing but back In the day didn’t Topps issue in Series ?
Yes, until 1973 I think?
   55. Zonk, your King of All that Is Real Posted: July 22, 2019 at 09:06 PM (#5864038)
My guess is that it sitting in a footlocker with a bazillion other cards for 25 years over about 6-7 moves has rendered it unlikely to grade out as googly moogly top of the poogly or whatever.
   56. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 22, 2019 at 11:45 PM (#5864074)
I only wish that when I was 9 years old I'd invested about 2 or 3 bucks in 3 or 4 wax boxes of high number 1953 Topps baseball cards and stashed them away unopened for the next 65 years. I could've taken what those 4 boxes would sell for today and upgraded our $500,000 house into a McMansion.

Kind of odd that your wish would be for '53 rather than '52, but I guess maybe the house you could get with the '52 Topps boxes would be too big. Pain in the ass to clean, mow the lawn, etc.


I wrote 1953 because that was the first year I collected Topps systematically, and I managed to get a complete set.

After I got out of college and moved out on my own, my mother said (paraphrasing) "Get these cards out of here or they'll go out in the trash". So brilliant me, I took them and put them in 5 photo albums, not realizing that the glue was permanent. (They didn't "set" until the next day, but by then it was too late.)

So these albums followed me around for the next 45 or 50 years, until finally I put them up at a local auction, albums and all. Imagine my surprise when they went for $1,700, about 10 times what I'd expected to get.

I also had a 1952 Mantle, but my mother had already thrown that out, along with a postcard from Mecca signed "el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (Malcolm X)". My mother wasn't a fan of Malcolm X, and she'd thrown it out while I was away at school.
   57. Howie Menckel Posted: July 22, 2019 at 11:57 PM (#5864076)
Topps had a contest a couple of years ago where the prize was basically "reclaim those baseball cards of your youth that your Mom threw out."

I lived in a right-sized 4-bedroom house with 7 people growing up, and to this day I have all 10,000 or so of my baseball, football, basketball, and hockey cards.

My Mom was awesome in far more important ways, but...

as far as Topps, yes they started series I think in the early 1970s.
after a month or two, my buddies and I would wait a week and collectively buy just one pack (5 cards for a nickel in 1968, but inflation became a bear a few years later). a no-go, or all-in, from there.

roughly 1972 was the first TRADED set, I think. my 21-year-old brother came home from Columbia with a few meaningless Topps packs (he was not a sports fan at all) for his little brothers. turned out to be either TRADED or UPDATE. All I remember is we were stunned to get late summer packs where every card was a "NEED 'EM" instead of a "GOT 'EM."

one of the best gifts we ever got. sheer joy.
   58. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: July 23, 2019 at 08:37 AM (#5864099)
About 2001 or 2002 I discovered that there was a whole world of Latin American cards featuring Negro League players and I haven't looked back. My prized possession is a 1910 card of Alfredo Cabrera in a set that publicized a tour of Cuba the A's and Tigers made. He played briefly in the American Negro Leagues with the Cuban Stars and is in the Cuban baseball Hall of Fame. I've also got cards of Ray Dandridge, Marvin Williams, Dick Lundy, Alejandro Oms, Cristobal Torriente, Martin Dihigo, Sammy Bankhead and guys like that. The very top tier of cards--Oscar Charleston, Pop Lloyd, Josh Gibson--are out of my reach but I get a lot of joy collecting cards of the guys from the next tier down and even more obscure guys. I've found cards of Negro league players in sets from Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Canada, the American minor leagues and even Japan. Japanese baseball cards from the 40's and 50's are interesting as hell. Y'all should check them out.
   59. Howie Menckel Posted: July 23, 2019 at 08:41 AM (#5864101)
I think Oms, Torriente, and Dihigo are in the HOM - adding immensely to their retail value!
   60. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: July 23, 2019 at 08:45 AM (#5864102)
They are but they aren't as valuable as you'd think because the market isn't there for them. Card collecting is mostly made up of white baby boomers and they're naturally more into collecting the guys they grew up with like Mantle and Mays and so on. There are fewer cards of Oms than there are cards of the t206 Wagner but there isn't much demand for Oms. You have to be a super nerd such as myself to get excited by Oms. Then again, it's been a few years since I've tracked the value of these cards so maybe things have changed? I might have to investigate today...
   61. Zonk, your King of All that Is Real Posted: July 23, 2019 at 08:55 AM (#5864103)
I cracked open the old footlocker with my cards last night - and by cracked, I mean "WTF? A lock? The chances I have clue where this key is are nil so where's that hammer..."

I think I can now pinpoint when the card collecting game went bust: I have complete Topps sets from 1985, 1986, and 1987. The '85 and '86 sets were hand collected via wax packs and trades. The 1987 set, I discovered you can just buy the set and remember also doing the math and realizing that it was more cost and time effective and since this was all an investment... Sadly, when my acquisition skills peaked - my care & handling did not as the box is opened and I clearly did plenty of pawing.

So - sometime in the winter of 1987. That's when it all began going to hell.
   62. Howie Menckel Posted: July 23, 2019 at 09:00 AM (#5864105)
still the same. you can buy the entire 2019 700-card Topps set now for $49.99.
in March, you are paying $19.99 a box for 100 cards or so.
   63. Zonk, your King of All that Is Real Posted: July 23, 2019 at 09:12 AM (#5864106)
I see the 1987 set can be had for $40.... which, I believe, might well be what I paid in 1987.

I blame the Fed.
   64. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: July 23, 2019 at 09:16 AM (#5864108)
40 bucks seems very high for the 87 set!
   65. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: July 23, 2019 at 09:29 AM (#5864111)
About 2001 or 2002 I discovered that there was a whole world of Latin American cards featuring Negro League players and I haven't looked back.

Far upthread, I mentioned my undying love for all cards 1977. That year Topps also issued a rare football set in Mexico. Same set as the American set, but all the text in Spanish. That would be the ultimate addition to my 1977 collection, but according to a few-years-old Beckett Annual guide, the book value is $10,000 for a set and common short prints -- of which there are several -- go for anywhere from $60 - $300 a piece.
   66. jmurph Posted: July 23, 2019 at 09:49 AM (#5864118)
40 bucks seems very high for the 87 set!

I think he's referring to factory sealed. You can get unopened wax boxes for like $12, so maybe that's the way to go!
   67. jmurph Posted: July 23, 2019 at 09:51 AM (#5864121)
If this thread is giving any of you an itch to open up some cards from your youth, check out BBC Exchange. I bought a bunch of unopened packs from the 80s a few years ago, and I highly recommend it, it was a lot of fun. They have a good reputation for ensuring things are actually unopened and not sorted through (at least as much as anyone can truly do that).

   68. My name is Votto, and I love to get blotto Posted: July 23, 2019 at 11:04 AM (#5864143)
eBay is so great for the nostalgia. I've decorated my office with all cards of my favorite players: Bip Roberts, Greg Maddux, Dave Justice, John Jaha, even have an autographed Francoeur. Each card was a buck or three on eBay.
   69. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 23, 2019 at 11:09 AM (#5864147)
A couple years ago I bought an unopened box of 1985 Donruss on eBay and had a blast opening it up. I chose '85 Donruss because it was usually out of my price range as a kid in the late '80s but cheap enough now that spending, I think, around $80 on the box didn't feel like too much for a frivolous purchase. I would love to try to pull an '84 Donruss Mattingly from a box, but I haven't been able to convince myself to drop the $250-$300 it would cost.
   70. Joe Bivens, Slack Rumped Rutabaga Head Posted: July 23, 2019 at 11:26 AM (#5864155)
The best part of a pack of Topps was the gum.

We'd flip them...closest to the wall won the other guy's card.

We'd play a variation of "war". Same color circle on top of another card took the whole stack.

Then there was the clothespin that attached a card to the wheel of your bike so the card would get flicked by the spokes as you rode down the street.

And these ####### things are worth big money? Why? Such an arbitrary thing to value.
   71. Lassus Posted: July 23, 2019 at 11:46 AM (#5864165)
Whenever I think about maybe dipping my toes back in, I'm always turned off by the grading mafia

Same with comics, although I still find a nice one at a yard sale every few years. One of the nice McFarlane Spider-Man #1s silver editions a couple weeks ago. Have no idea which of the bazillion variants is it, yet.
   72. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 23, 2019 at 11:50 AM (#5864166)
And these ####### things are worth big money? Why?
Because a lot of adults with money want them now, but kids like you were energetically destroying them. Supply and demand!
   73. PreservedFish Posted: July 23, 2019 at 12:00 PM (#5864170)
They still sell baseball cards near the registers at Target and Walmart, although they're no more prominent than other sports cards, Pokemon cards, Magic cards and so on. I'd like to buy some for my kids, but I'm always appalled at the price for a pack that seems much thinner than it used to be.

Maybe I should get them a large box of terrible valueless cards from the 80s, so they can start out just like I did.
   74. Lassus Posted: July 23, 2019 at 12:04 PM (#5864174)
You can often get old (read: mid/late 90s) packets at random dollar/discount/overstock/closeout stores, which is fun.
   75. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 23, 2019 at 12:06 PM (#5864176)
Maybe I should get them a large box of terrible valueless cards from the 80s, so they can start out just like I did.
You want worthless cards from the '80s, you say? I have about, oh, say, 75,000 that I would be happy to part with for your kids' enjoyment. Just tell me where to send 'em.
   76. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: July 23, 2019 at 12:24 PM (#5864185)
You want worthless cards from the '80s, you say? I have about, oh, say, 75,000 that I would be happy to part with for your kids' enjoyment.

A few years ago, I culled down a sizable collection for a friend taking about 500,000 junk wax cards from c.1988 - 1994 and literally dropping them in my recycle bin over several weeks. I kept the 500,000+ mostly 1950's - mid 80's and junk wax stars that still retain some value.
   77. PreservedFish Posted: July 23, 2019 at 12:27 PM (#5864188)
Wow. I think I topped out at around 2,000
   78. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 23, 2019 at 12:29 PM (#5864190)
Wow. I think I topped out at around 2,000
I wasn't a popular kid.
   79. JJ1986 Posted: July 23, 2019 at 12:40 PM (#5864198)
A couple of years ago, a kid asked to mow our lawn so he could get money to buy baseball cards. He ended up with $20 bucks and two giant boxes with tens of thousands of late-80s/early-90s Fleer and Score cards.
   80. Lassus Posted: July 23, 2019 at 12:45 PM (#5864200)
I wasn't a popular kid.

I never collected baseball cards because all my money went into comic books. Also, ET cards.
   81. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 23, 2019 at 12:54 PM (#5864203)
A couple of years ago, a kid asked to mow our lawn so he could get money to buy baseball cards. He ended up with $20 bucks and two giant boxes with tens of thousands of late-80s/early-90s Fleer and Score cards.
Do you still have his contact info? If that kid will mow my lawn and take my junk wax commons off my hands, I might pay to fly him to Chicago to do it. Provided, of course, that the kid then promptly got off my lawn.
   82. jmurph Posted: July 23, 2019 at 02:01 PM (#5864229)
ElRoy I don't know if you follow the news closely but transporting minors across state lines is, uhhhhhhhh, frowned upon.
   83. PreservedFish Posted: July 23, 2019 at 02:15 PM (#5864239)
About 2001 or 2002 I discovered that there was a whole world of Latin American cards featuring Negro League players and I haven't looked back. My prized possession is a 1910 card of Alfredo Cabrera in a set that publicized a tour of Cuba the A's and Tigers made. He played briefly in the American Negro Leagues with the Cuban Stars and is in the Cuban baseball Hall of Fame. I've also got cards of Ray Dandridge, Marvin Williams, Dick Lundy, Alejandro Oms, Cristobal Torriente, Martin Dihigo, Sammy Bankhead and guys like that. The very top tier of cards--Oscar Charleston, Pop Lloyd, Josh Gibson--are out of my reach but I get a lot of joy collecting cards of the guys from the next tier down and even more obscure guys. I've found cards of Negro league players in sets from Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Canada, the American minor leagues and even Japan. Japanese baseball cards from the 40's and 50's are interesting as hell. Y'all should check them out.


I could get into this.
   84. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 23, 2019 at 02:17 PM (#5864240)
Was that wrong? Should I have not done that? I tell you, I gotta plead ignorance on this thing.
   85. PreservedFish Posted: July 23, 2019 at 02:19 PM (#5864241)
Japanese Roberto Barbon card. Kind of want this. Bidding is at $15.
   86. Lassus Posted: July 23, 2019 at 02:32 PM (#5864247)
It always starts with one...
   87. Man o' Schwar Posted: July 23, 2019 at 02:55 PM (#5864255)
It always starts with one...

This is the best way to do it though - come up with a self-limited set of things that you're interested in, and make a small collection that you enjoy. I am trying to pare down my storage locker-sized collection to a few hundred cards that I really like, because right now all it does is sit there gathering dust and waiting to be the kindling in a house fire.

I have a friend who redid a spare bedroom just to display cards of his favorite player - he installed some little 3-4" shelves around the walls to hold maybe 100 or so cards, plus a signed jersey and some bats and balls and other photos. It's absolutely beautiful, and he sits in there to watch ballgames and enjoy his collection. That's my ultimate goal.
   88. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: July 23, 2019 at 03:08 PM (#5864259)
I wonder what year would be the most extensive set of players you could do? Something like 800 MLB player cards and then the set from Japan and then whatever minor league sets there were, and if any other league printed sets and so on. I'm guessing it would be during the card craze of the mid-80's when the minor leagues were pumping out sets.
   89. PreservedFish Posted: July 23, 2019 at 03:23 PM (#5864262)
I'm not a collecting guy, but I like art on the walls, so I could imagine getting a handful of funky old baseball cards and putting them up and stopping there. Thanks for the idea, Shooty.
   90. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: July 23, 2019 at 03:55 PM (#5864277)
I'm not a collecting guy, but I like art on the walls, so I could imagine getting a handful of funky old baseball cards and putting them up and stopping there.

The Library of Congress or the Smithsonian or something has very high-definition scans of many old baseball cards. My wife found on Freecycle a guy who was moving and getting rid of card scans he had enlarged around 3x (~ 15x24) and had printed and framed of the 1911 T3 Turkey Red set for Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, and Cy Young, which are now hanging in my game room.
   91. Joe Bivens, Slack Rumped Rutabaga Head Posted: July 23, 2019 at 05:20 PM (#5864314)
Because a lot of adults with money want them now, but kids like you were energetically destroying them. Supply and demand!


Sure, and if I went back in time without the knowledge that baseball cards would be a collectible item, and was told something cheap that I was into would be worth a lot of money, I wouldn't be able to decide what to save. I'd either become a hoarder or need to rent storage space.
   92. Sunday silence Posted: July 26, 2019 at 05:29 PM (#5865340)
Speaking of auctions and baseball cards here's one going down tonite:

https://www.auctionninja.com/clearinghouseestatesales/product/ty-cobb-detroit-americans-trading-card-sporting-life-please-read-159813.html

Look at that! what a stupid seller! Bet he sure wishes he had done an expert appraisal.

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