Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Lowering My Standards

For much of my collecting life I've been a stickler for condition. When I was younger, it didn't matter to me if cards had frayed corners, scratches, or poor centering - I was happy to get my hands on anything. As an adult I'm much more discerning. It's one reason why I gravitated toward graded cards.

While it is exciting to have a high-grade copy of a card, especially a superstar's RC or a vintage Hall of Famer, it's more about the eye appeal for me than the prestige or resale value. The same reason I'm finicky about corners and centering is likely the same reason I replace my used 9-pocket pages and penny sleeves every three years or so.

In the post-pandemic landscape of higher prices and lesser quantities, having such collecting OCD can be costly. In addition to replacing supplies, I've attempted to replace off-condition singles from completed sets such as 1986 Topps football and 1989-90 Fleer basketball. At least a half-dozen times I've completed trades on TCDB for cards I already had, hoping for an upgrade, only to receive a worse copy. What a waste of stamps, cards, and time.

This past week, two users were nice enough to describe their cards as "well-loved" before accepting the trade. I told them that I appreciate the honest description of the cards, but that I was looking to upgrade a completed set. 

I'm still trying to upgrade 17 cards from 1986 and 1987 Topps football, including rookie cards of Karl Mecklenburg, Anthony Carter, Bruce Smith, and Charles Haley. Carter and Al Toon in particular have been very tough to find with acceptable centering. 

I also need to upgrade newer cards, as a pair of COMC purchases for my 2014 set build - Mike Trout and Marcus Semien - arrived with dinged corners. I learned to live with such flaws after attempting (twice) to upgrade the Logan Morrison base card. Not sure I can accept having a dinged Trout and/or Semien RC in my set.

Upgrading cards already in my collection is a luxury not unlike paying $35 for a PSA 9 Pie Traynor card for my 1961 Golden Press set build. All of my Golden Press singles are graded EX-MT 6 or better, and $35 is a fair price for a Mint 9 considering the market. However, I'm two cards shy of completing half of that set, and legendary names like Ruth, Gehrig, Cobb, Speaker, Wagner, and Cy Young are missing from my set build. If I'm going to complete this 33-card set I might need to lower the bar to include lower graded singles or ::gasp:: ungraded copies.

Which brings me to my 1956 Topps set build.

I'm considering this set my magnum opus, my lifetime achievement award. An heirloom to leave to my childrens' childrens' children (unless I have to sell it for my kids' college fund first.)  I've sacrificed several high-value rookie cards to fund this project. Sidney Crosby Upper Deck RC? Gone. Connor McDavid Upper Deck RC? Gone. Stephen Curry Upper Deck RC? Gone.

Mid-grade second-year Roberto Clemente cards don't grow on trees, you know.

I'm at 57% completion of the '56 set, with several big names behind me. I'm not giving up on the set build.. but I am lowering the bar.

This Walt Dropo single cost me $20 on COMC:

Dropo was a legend in my home state, excelling at baseball and basketball at the University of Connecticut. I sort-of saw him signing autographs at a card shop upstate when I was a kid. I spotted the store from the road, decided to stop in for a few packs, and saw that he was sitting at a table up front. I didn't know who he was at the time :/

This Jim Wilson single was part of the same COMC order, setting me back $3.19:

Spending $15+ on PSA graded singles of the Jim Wilsons and Ray Moores of the set doesn't make much financial sense when Willie, Whitey, Pee Wee, and other HOFers are still needed. 

I do have some ungraded 1956 singles, but I try to select the best possible examples. Even after examining scans of the front and back there's always a chance that a card will have a hidden flaw.

Like a scratch mark across Wilson's cap. 

If I want to complete the '56 set by the time I turn 56 I'll need to average just over 10 new additions per year..  or add one new card per month for the next twelve years

Guess I'll have to resist the urge to upgrade every flawed single in my connection, vintage or modern.

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Thank Yous

I received this Thank You card at work today. Two of the girls I work with (who are both younger than me so I feel silly calling them "ladies") got married... I think. No one actually specified. But last week one of the managers passed around a very large 'Congratulations!' card for us to sign, which included an envelope. "You don't have to contribute anything." He told me. I certainly would have - if I had any cash. 

I felt bad accepting this Thank You card but I would have felt worse telling Jazz that "I didn't give anything. I'm sorry." Apparently they have been together for 11 years. I didn't know they were a couple until I was handed the 'Congratulations!' card!

Six months ago I had never encountered an office couple in my life. Now I've seen three.. I think. There's a guy that sits at the far end of the office, by the warehouse, and he waits in his car at 5pm until a blonde woman joins him. At first I thought that was his lady but she might - might - be young enough to be his daughter. I'm getting off-topic here. 

I've got some virtual Thank Yous to hand out for some blogger pals, starting with Bob of The Best Bubble. Back in March Bob posted his finds from an estate sale haul, and I inquired about a card that was not shown. His Sam Jethroe autograph was part of an Ohio Baseball Hall of Fame set that also included..

It's Noodles!!

I've been looking for something - anything - of the Reds' greatest-ever starting pitcher to fill in one of the two remaining holes in my All-Time Teams collection. This won't fit in a nine-pocket page but it will make a nice addition to the collection. Thank you Bob! Now.. does anyone have a George Davis card?

I'm going to thank Fuji in advance for sending me some 2012 Topps baseball set fillers. It's the last flagship baseball set I plan to build, unless I change my mind about 2010 or 2022. I've got a cardboard box that fits nine 800-ct boxes perfectly:

Once the 2012 Topps set is complete I'll have to decide between filling it thisly:

  • 2010 or 2022 Topps set, 2012-2019 Topps sets - all hand collated

or thusly:

  • 2011 Topps - factory set, 2012-2019 Topps sets - hand collated

Fuji, thank you for your (forthcoming) help with this set project!

This past Saturday I received two bubble mailers in my mailbox. The smaller of the two was my COMC order. Not much to report there; the best stuff was featured in my recent post at The 1993 (yes I still post there sometimes!)

The bigger mailer was a surprise gift from Dennis. Longtime readers of this blog and others are no doubt aware of Dennis's generous care packages. I had actually worried a bit when receiving it; I might not have room for such a big pile of cards, and I certainly wouldn't have a worthwhile return for him.

It... wasn't cards.

Have you read my fairly recent post about the astronomical prices of actress autographs? Well...

Dennis laughs at your $500+ KatMac cards. Here's a whole ass book signed by Anna Kendrick:

I did read Scrappy Little Nobody a few years ago, but this Target edition contains a bonus chapter.

Now I can pair my Anna auto with her "rookie card":

Dennis, thank you very much for this pleasant surprise! A PWE is headed your way.

Fuji, I will send a small mailer to you this weekend. I've got one card for you that wont fit in a PWE.

Bob, feel free to pick a handful of cards from my for sale/trade list and I'll send 'em out ASAP. 

Thank You.. for reading ;-)