We're not all lucky enough to get one. Some of us might need to sell some cards to keep Uncle Sam happy on April 15. However, if you are among the millions of Americans who will see a nice deposit in your checking account sometime between now and then, what to do with it is sometimes a dilemma. Pay bills? Stick it in the bank? Both might be responsible things to do but they're not going to get your heart pumping. Here is the sports collector's edition of fun ways to spend your tax refund.
Spend a weekend at a big card show. You’ve been thinking about it. Maybe you’ve spent a day at the National Sports Collectors Convention or the East Coast National or a TriStar show or a two or another three-day event somewhere but you’ve always had to split the weekend with something your wife or your kids wanted to do or you came and went because you didn’t have enough cash to stretch over three days. As soon as that refund check comes, make your plans for a non-rushed cardboard bender. Stick the check in the bank and don’t touch it. Buy your autograph tickets. Make your hotel reservations. Just go. You won’t regret it.
Buy Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb autographs. Major League Baseball as we know it has been around for more than a century but when it comes to Hall of Famers and their autographs, Ruth and Cobb stand alone. There are plenty of Hall of Famers whose signatures are far more scarce than these two but when it comes to market place demand, they have no equal. Even though both signed a lot of autographs, do you know anyone who wouldn’t want one—even if they weren’t an autograph collector? Over time, high quality, authenticated Ruth and Cobb autographs have consistently appreciated in value and it’s hard to imagine a scenario when they would go in reverse. Cancelled checks are probably the safest, most organized, most personal way to collect Ruth and Cobb signatures and both are readily available, but you’ll have to be getting a four figure check from the IRS to consider buying a good one.
Bid in a catalog auction. You’ve seen them. Drooled over the contents. Maybe even bid and won a couple of times. You still feel like a small-timer. Now, with a little extra cash maybe you can get in the game for real. Sign up to receive as many catalogs as you can. Pick out a couple of items that you’d love to own and bid to win. Don’t forget about the buyer’s premium but know that there are bargains in those books sometimes.
Get your stuff graded. You’ve got all kinds of things just sitting around in boxes and stuck on a shelf. Nice, older cards. High end autographed cards. A game used bat. A few old packs. You’ve been meaning to send them off but you haven’t had the time and/or the money to do it. Gather them up, take a couple of hours and put a nice submission or two together and get them in the mail. A few weeks later, you’ll open a box and unless everything is fake or graded low, you’ll be glad you finally crossed it off your list and you might have some things you can flip—to buy other stuff of course.
Invest in high grade vintage cards. You’ve probably thought about adding some vintage cards to your ‘normal’ investments but just never took the plunge. If you get a sizable check, now’s the time. Ruth, Gehrig, T206 stars, Jackie Robinson rookies…maybe some old high grade football and basketball rookie cards that are undervalued. Do your research and compare prices—don’t just buy what you want or the first thing you see.
Book a baseball weekend and get some autographs. Whether you go the spring training route or wait until the regular season, a tax refund will help you book that getaway. Take a full weekend—three days—and take in some games. Bring some stuff to get autographed, get to the park early armed with some knowledge about when and where your best chances are and have fun.
Buy a modern, high end box of cards. If you collect modern, this is a no-brainer. It’s pack gambling at its finest. It might be the only time all year you can afford a $300 box of cards. If you don’t normally collect newer issues, give it a try just once. You might be surprised at some of the nice looking cards that come out of your box and unless you’re brain dead, you’ll have fun. Research the products that are offering the best bang for the buck. And since you’re playing with house money (well, kind of), if you don’t get anything real great, it won’t hurt as much. If you’re strictly a vintage guy or girl, we won’t tell anyone about your indiscretion.
Buy a pack or box of vintage, unopened cards. They’re drying up, it seems. If you’ve ever wanted to buy an expensive unopened pack and just rip it open like an old time capsule, now is the time. Don’t worry about the value of what’s inside. If you get lucky, you get lucky. If you don’t, it was an itch you scratched and the anticipation was worth it. Think of it as a trip to Vegas without actually going to Vegas. Turning 40 this year? Buy 1973 Topps baseball, football, basketball or hockey. If you can afford it, go for the unopened box. Vending, wax, cello, rack, it doesn’t matter. They’re all fun.
Finish a set or two. Why have you been carrying that want list around for three years? Find a place to buy what you need and get it done. Put it out of your mind and then take a good long look at what you accomplished—even if it took eight years.
Buy a cool display item. Too often we focus our collecting goals on the stuff that’s in those little white boxes and not enough on what’s on the walls of our card rooms. If you’re still displaying that Ken Griffey Jr. poster, it might be time to upgrade. Buy an old, uncut sheet. Buy a game worn jersey and have it framed. Buy a bunch of old programs that will be fun to look through now and 20 years from now. Shop those catalog auctions or eBay in search of something you fall in love with at first sight. You’ll feel better.