Baseball Cards: What a Month So Far
One of the Best Cards... EVER
Well I’ve talked about some of the shows I’ve done in the past but this time I just had to tell you all about the amazing month I’m having. I was in the middle of a show when a guy and his wife walk up to me with a list of products he was looking to move, on his iPhone. I briefly looked through the list and determined that most of the list was from the “Junk wax” era of the late 80’s and early 90’s. For those of you who don’t know, during this time period, nearly all card products, from all sports, are grossly overproduced and simply aren’t worth a great deal of money. This guy explained that the stuff was from his father’s house which had just been sold and he didn’t have the storage space for it.
So I looked through the list again briefly and explained this all to him which he said he had heard from other dealers as well. I explained that I really didn’t want to make an offer because I knew he would find it offensive and suggested he do a garage sale to sell the items to kids in his neighborhood. This would allow him to get the best return on the stuff. From my perspective, any dealer would take the stuff at a ridiculous wholesale price, but that’s the only way. I asked him AND his wife if it was about money or really not having space for the stuff and they both answered that it wasn’t about the money. Then inspiration hit me.
The list had things I could use and there was a lot of stuff on the list so I offered him the only thing left I could think of – a trade. Yes, a trade. I offered him a fair deal in value and said he could choose from anything I had with me. Remember, I buy cards at the right prices or I don’t buy them and I can’t afford to get them wrong too often. What he chose off the table had great value but didn’t cost me much so this worked out great. He and his wife brought in five huge boxes of “stuff” since there were more than just cards in the lot.
He was happy with the trade and I got lots of stuff to work with, without spending anything. Then I started to really go through the boxes and what I found was just awesome. Yes there were wax boxes from the junk wax era and many small sets that were sold in retail stores like the Toys R’ Us Rookies sets and the Walgreens Hitters sets that are packed with stars and rookies but aren’t worth much in todays market. There were many Traded and Update sets from this era as well that are also not worth much. There were 2 1986 Topps Traded sets which do have value with the Bonds RC in it. Half a case of 1989 Topps Traded sets, yes 50 sets that all include Ken Griffey Jr. RC. What I didn’t see on the list was the selection of Traded Tiffany sets that were included. While the 1989 Topps Traded Set sells in the $10 range with the Griffey being worth $8 – the 1989 Topps Traded Tiffany set (which has a miniscule print run of 15,000 – very small for the time) is worth over $100 with Griffey worth around $50. There was also a 1987 Traded Tiffany and a 1991 Traded Tiffany.
Also included were 3 1989 Donruss sets which would be considered junk since it was very overproduced. But the Griffey RCs in that is also $8 each. There were two 1989 Upper Deck sets where the Griffey RC is $40 and there are other rookie cards to pull. I can pull Mets and Yankees from all of these sets as well. There was lots of really good stuff which I hadn’t seen on the list. As I continued to open small white boxes and find Ziploc bags of junk cards inside, I would occasionally open up a box and find some weird set I’d never seen before. One of these white boxes included the Hall of Fame Postcard set and he had many of the Topps glossy send in sets (again with lots of stars and Mets/Yankees cards) still in the mailbags they originally were sent in.
What caught me completely off-guard was a binder that contained lots of junk alongside 1967 high number cards. There were close to 70 of them and they were in pretty good shape. What was great about this was that one of my vintage collectors, who always seem to get last picks out of the stuff I get, was standing right in front of me when I discovered it. I turned the binder to him and told him he had first pick. He was a kid in a candy store pulling out his 1967 Topps list of cards he needs. I have to say that I felt like a kid in a candy store too. As I continued to pull out different things not on the list, it became clear to everyone watching that this had been a major score – even without the 1967 High Numbers, there was so much stuff, some of it very unusual, that it would keep me busy for a while.
I pulled out a 2008 Topps Complete Set from Target that still had the special Babe Ruth card in it. It had a sticker price of $49.99 on it. At the time I pulled it out, a Grandpa with his two grandsons were looking at the cards on my table, choosing some Yankees cards and a Justin Verlander RC (kid had good taste I’ll say that). As the Grandpa was having so much fun looking through stuff and the kids kept pulling cards out too, I offered him the set for $20 along with about 100 pages that were sitting in one of the boxes. I’ve already got lots of pages at home and didn’t want to carry these. Needless to say they were thrilled.
Bill, the guy who got first pick of the 67 high numbers had a great time filling his set and I gave him a great deal on the cards (important to remember later). He wasn’t the only person to pull from the binder either. I made a good deal of money on those cards right at the show. I traded the boxes of junk wax packs to the guy who runs the show since he uses them for his vending machines. As I went through the rest of the boxes, some things got thrown away or given away but the rest came home for me to continue going through.
I spent the better part of the next week opening, sorting, top-loading, and pricing hundreds of cards for the various boxes I separate the cards into. I opened nearly everything, took the few cards I wanted, and created three 5000-ct Dime boxes that were filled with everything else I left behind. The next show was the upcoming Sunday.
So I get to the next show with some cash in hand to begin with (I almost never have any to start the day). I started setting up and some early birds immediately found that I had different stuff than usual. The Tiffany Griffey cards and Randy Johnson cards are out. There are a stack of 67 High Numbers on the table. I have a Vintage box but I decided to highlight this new stock which was a good idea. I had the half case of 1989 Topps Traded sets as well as a bunch of sets that I didn’t open and was looking to offload very cheaply. Another dealer had some great vintage cards available at ridiculous prices – 1953 Topps commons at $5 a piece in mostly excellent condition. I chose a dozen of these and traded to him some 67’s he needed. The show got going and certain regulars who never buy from me were very interested in the new stuff I had put out.
It’s important to note that not only are some buyers just more comfortable with certain dealers but that what they buy might preclude them from dealing with certain dealers. I almost never have anything high-end, I just can’t afford it. So guys who look for that sort of stuff don’t look to me for it. If you’re looking to spend $500 on a Bryce Harper super-special rare autograph, I’m decidedly NOT the guy to come to. If you have $50 to spend on a bunch of good rookie cards or game-used or lots of dollar cards, come on over, that stuff I have.
Back to the show.
Sales were great and the stories of what I pulled from this lot were being told to anyone I could find. Talking helps me sell and my enthusiasm helps I think. Guys who sit there, quiet and sullen, don’t make lots of sales. I had guys buying the new Mets/Yankees stuff, or rather the junk stuff we don’t see too much of anymore. An interesting phenomenon has happened in the industry. Much of this overproduced “junk” which we all have so much of, sits out of sight where nobody can see it. So that 1987 Fleer Hitters & Pitchers set with Don Mattingly, Gary Carter, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez and Ron Guidry is a goldmine for me. Sure it’s overproduced, but guys who want those players haven’t seen those cards in 25 years. To them, it’s all new. For disconnected Mets fans who don’t feel like the current team has anyone to hold dear (besides David Wright), they concentrate on the 1986 team and sometimes on the 2000 team. And, of course, the rest of that set is full of stars that fill out either the dollar box or the dime box. If you were looking for Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs in my dime box, you would be very happy.
I continued to sell many of the items from the lot as I also picked up more vintage cards to refill my vintage box. The half case of traded sets went to another dealer so I didn’t have to bring them home. Many of the World Series programs that came in the lot went to one buyer who got a great deal. And Bill came back to me and handed me a stack of stuff. He was so shaken by the deal I gave him (we weren’t sure what the cards were worth when I gave him the deal) he felt he needed to make things right. What he gave me turned out to be game-used and autographs, about 20 of them, several were Mets and Yankees. He even threw in a 1970 Topps Clemente which sold before I even had the time to really look at it.
My inventory has surged up which is great, but very odd for me. I usually add inventory but not at this rate. One of my vintage collectors came to the house and bought nearly all of the stuff I had picked up at the show. I turned this money into two binders from a friend of mine who is desperately trying to get rid of stuff as he contemplates moving halfway across the country. The binders had vintage football and hockey, mostly from the early 1970’s along with newer stuff from the 90s. I bought both binders for $120 not really knowing what I would find – I have almost nothing in hockey but the word “Vintage” got me going. After spending the last few days going through all of this, the two books yielded nearly $2500 worth of cards. Some are great vintage cards (Bobby Orr, Ken Dryden, Larry Csonka, Fran Tarkenton), others are great 90’s inserts (Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, John Elway, Emmitt Smith) and there were around 400 cards that went straight into a new dollar box just for football and hockey. So far this has been absolutely awesome – just from one deal that I actually traded for… It’s the deal that keeps on giving.
One More Score
I’ll throw this in as an afterthought. I have one store near where I work that I go into once a week. They have some nice stuff but really tend to just throw stuff into their dollar and dime boxes without really thinking about the stuff. I’ve found all sorts of fantastic cards in there so I make the time to look. In between these two shows, I went in only to find that they had unearthed several binders from 20 years ago and a few boxes of random stuff that included many autographs that were obviously someone’s collection. The autographs were mostly common players but included some real superstars as well. None of it was certified but I was able to pick up a Nolan Ryan, Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn, and Bert Blyleven autographs as well as Tim Teufel and Terry Leach from those 80’s Mets teams. I bought two of the binders that included stars of the early 80’s. While we don’t normally think of that stuff as vintage, it IS roughly 30 years old. I pulled lots of Pete Rose and George Brett cards and some 70’s minor stars. The lot of autographs and the binders cost about $50. I’ve already made most of that back selling off the autographs (though I still have the Ripken which is on a card with an Alan Trammell autograph from 1988 Score).