Thursday, August 25, 2016

Am I Really Doing This? (1956 Topps edition)

My latest (and most expensive) order from 4 Sharp Corners arrived yesterday*. 

[*Eventually I'll organize these as "mailday posts" but I'm just getting started here so I've gotta clear all the brainsludge first.]

I had accumulated over $300 in PP cash from selling all my PSA-graded 1979 Topps Hall of Famers - including the Willie Stargell PSA 9 that I picked up for less than a buc. When I have that much cash to spend on cards, I like to buy a big piece.

What is a "big piece", you ask?

Think of it as a pie (or pie chart, if you prefer.) The amount of money you're spending is the pie. (In this case it's $400). Now, you can slice up that pie into an equal number of pieces (forty $10 pieces, or twenty $20 pieces, for example) 


You can do what I like to do - cut your pie into one big piece and a few small pieces. With this latest 4SC order I knew I wanted to take advantage of their discounted prices on common low-end singles for my 1984-85 O-Pee-Chee Hockey project but I wanted something meaty - either from 4SC or another source.

4SC's prices on high-end cards are rarely competitive, but I found two nice cards that were in my budget. The first was a 1994 SP Alex Rodriguez RC. 

I do not like A-Rod. But it was an SGC 96 (always thought they were SCG - that would make more sense, yes?) and I'm gonna try PSA's crossover service and hope for a MINT 9. The second card was my aforementioned big piece. 

My first priority when buying a "big piece" is always Baseball Hall Of Famers. I don't have a lot of money (I'm only a part-time debt collector) so my game plan is to buy the oldest card possible, in the best condition possible, of the best player possible.

That pretty much rules out first-tier legends like Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Ted Williams (though I do own one Willie and one Ted.) Andso I focus on the second-tier of baseball greats - HOFers like Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Bob Gibson... and Warren Spahn.

I paid just a tad over SMR value for this card, but I felt good about my purchase. This is one of about a dozen vintage cards in my $200 and over collection, and it has the added bonus of being a 1956 Topps card.

You see, when I was a young lad, my mom often bought me sports cards as Christmas gifts. I remember receiving countless packs in my stocking, and hobby boxes like 1993 SP Football, 1993 Flair Baseball, and 2003 Finest Football under my tree. I also got a few factory sets of early 90's baseball and hockey that hold a lot of sentimental value (and very little resale value.) 

But once in a while Mom would pick out a vintage baseball card from the local card shop, place it an a big acrylic holder, and slap some wrapping paper on it. Just so happened that she picked a pair of 1956 Topps cards - Sandy Koufax and Phil Rizzuto. 

A few years later when PSA piqued my interest, I decided to include both cards in my very first grading order. Still have 'em. And because they were Christmas gifts from the woman who brought me into this world, I don't plan on ever selling 'em.

Sandy's second year card 
Phil's final card; "Scooter" was released in '56.

Then a very bold (and probably very foolish) thought entered my mind - I should start adding more 1956 Topps cards to my collection! And so every time I placed an order at PSA or 4SC or even a major card shop like Dave And Adam's, I'd do my best to add a '56 to the cart.

First came Jerry Coleman. Then Al Rosen. Then Ken Boyer and Wally Post. When I purchased a Nellie Fox PSA 6 I had my third Hall Of Famer. Am I really doing this?

I spotted a Wally Moon PSA 5 on COMC and scooped it up for about $5. I figured EX 5's would be the minimum I'd accept, since that was how my Sandy Koufax graded out. (Besides... an EX 5 of Mickey Mantle sells for anywhere from $500-$1000. That's almost a month's salary! Yeah. Not happening.)

COMC had some decent ungraded* 56's to pick through, and an eBay seller I follow named Battlefield Vintage always has a ton of 1950's stuff in stock. I bought a handful from each source and sent them into PSA when I renewed my membership earlier this year. When the cards were graded and shipped to me I learned some things:

  • I really enjoy having cards graded by PSA
  • Battlefield's eBay listing are about two grades lower than advertised (for example, cards listed as NEAR MINT-MINT often came back as EX-MT 6, not NEAR MINT 8)
  • COMC's ungraded cards yielded a lot more bang for the buck than Battlefield.

[*I prefer the term "ungraded"; "raw" sounds icky to me]

I now have 27 PSA-graded 1956 Topps cards, with a few more in transit to PSA. By the end of September I'll have one-tenth of the 340-card set in EX 5 or better. It's getting harder to convince myself that I'm not collecting the 1956 Topps baseball set. 

I just hope I'm alive long enough to finish it.


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