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Ramblings: Answering the Mail

More reader emails to answer this week.

Rich Ramblings 2014Long time Phillies collector Joshua Levine, who is now based out of California, sent along a blurb promoting one of his fellow “OBC” collectors. OBC stands for “Old Baseball Cards” and they are a reasonably close knit group of collectors who do a lot of trading and socializing through their website and generally just appreciate any vintage cards. Especially at the National Convention, you will see some dealers with signs saying “OBC Friendly” which usually means they stock older cards in all conditions, not just nm or better. I have dealt with OBC collectors at a couple of Nationals and almost to a man they are very passionate about their collecting as well as helping follow collectors.  Josh wrote me about baseball and the arts: 

My friend Peter Iverson, a long time OBC member and avid baseball card collector (Dodgers and horizontal cards–which is interesting in and of itself) has been working on two projects for a few years now.

Van Lingle MungoOne is a novel centered around the 1934 All-Star Game and the other is a one-man play about Van Lingle Mungo. He performed the play for the first time this week to generally good reviews. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to see his performance but I know he is looking for more venues to appear at. I just thought it might be an interesting tidbit to feature on your blog/posts. Not exactly card related but the genesis of this endeavor was certainly inspired by Mungo’s Dodger cards and Peter loving/learning about them, the David Frishberg song, and the player himself.  More information about Peter can be found through the following sources: https://www.facebook.com/MarcPeterReynahttp://marcpeter.blogspot.com or via his email at [email protected].

A few years ago at one of the SABR Deadball Committee gatherings held at Hot Springs, Arkansas we were fortunate enough to have Eddie Frierson give one of his one-man shows where he portrayed Christy Mathewson, who was a true American hero of his time. Now while Van Lingle Mungo was not a hero in that sense he was certainly a great personality and any show about Mr. Mungo is almost guaranteed to put a smile on an attendees face.

We also received an email from long-time collector/dealer Mike Mango in reaction to our story about a California card shop choosing to ditch new releases in favor of vintage cards and memorabilia.

I did this about 10 years ago but about 15 years ago I wouldn’t buy one box of modern unless my distributor gave me a checklist with demographics on the hit ratio per box.  Ever look at a checklist from the late 90′s from the manufacturers that stated “Get an autographed Babe Ruth card” and the rest of the checklist was commons playing the game you never heard of?  Then look at the production distribution that had one card of the Babe inserted in 300 boxes produced and what the cost of this product was going to be?  This was just disappointment waiting to happen.  Here’s why; 

When Fleer first came out with their great product called “Greats of the Game”, customers came and bought packs and in one box pulled a Roy Campanella jersey, Pee Wee Reese bat card, an Walter Alston jersey card, and one other and they were happy as can be so I upped the ante on my next purchase and guess what?  The hits were lesser known players and there were less hits per box and the price went up.   

I started to notice the trend with card companies that issued a great product the first year of release and then dilute it the next and charge more for it.  My purchasing for current product was made on decisions based on the checklist as I had to insure that I had no disappointed customers spending money with me.  At times I gave heavy buyers spending $60 on packs and getting $20 in value something of my own as a gift because I did not want them to feel like they got ripped off before they left me and that is exactly how they feel.   

I have been selling Mickey Mantle cards and Ty Cobb cards since the 1960′s and no one has ever been disappointed with a purchase from the vintage market.   

The current card companies manipulate their product as to an unattainable perceived value while leaving disappointed customers in their wake who do not want to collect anymore.  I do not take those risks anymore.  This is because all of the manufacturers do not know how to balance their product at an affordable price to leave no customer disappointed in a customer purchase so that they will want to come back and buy more to be happy again.   I already said my good byes to them 15 years ago and my business is as good as ever so who needs them?  Every pack that gets sold should at least represent the price someone paid for it.  This is not happening.

This article drew a ton of reaction on the Sports Collectors Daily Facebook page and my own page.  I think any decision such as one T.J. made comes down to an individual choice. I think the vintage player market is certainly well established and settled and the player fluctuations are non-existent. And that appeals to a great many vendors, especially those who want to move their unopened in and not ant not end with a ton in inventory.

Mike followed up that email with another blast from the past concerning my column about abandoned on unpaid storage unit auctions and sales:

Yes I do have a story about an auction service locally where I recently got lucky.  There was a box of 1975 spring training programs for the A’s, Cubs, and Phillies which totaled around 15 that were mint never used that probably were the property of the original vendor selling them at the game.  They were so new I thought they were reprints but they were real.  Inside of the box was a 1947 White Sox vs. A’s program to a regular season game which I was interested in.  The lot did not come up and I went to the auctioneer and said I wanted to buy that box so at the podium with everyone leaving he said, “I have an opening bid for $5 do I have $7.50?  No?  Sold $5.  Bidder number?”

Well I figured I could sell the programs for an easy $1 each so I reached in for the 1947 program and the inside cover page had a pencil autograph of Connie Mack.  It was the only autograph in the scorecard but I didn’t need another one after getting this one.  I sold all the programs to a local card shop for $20 but it was a small pleasant surprise.

Collector Mike Ferrero wrote about a column on what the debut of Topps Finest meant for the hobby’s future when it launched back in 1993:

I just read your article on Sports Collectors Daily regarding Topps 1993 Finest.  I have a sealed box that I’ve owned since 1993 and I have a question for you.  I want to sell the box but do I open it to see if I have a reflector and who it might be?  Also didn’t these boxes come with an oversized card?  What are those valued at? Again I understand that who it is does make a difference in price. 

In your opinion what is the best way to maximize the value?  Thanks for your informative article and looking forward to hearing for you.

Congratulations on having the willpower not to open this box for more than 20 years.  After checking what these unopened boxes are going for, I would probably sell the box and not open it, despite the chances of getting a potentially valuable refractor.  The final decision is, of course, up to you. The oversize “box topper” card is part of the box and yes, that is considered part of the price.   

About Rich Klein

Rich Klein has spent almost his entire life collecting baseball cards having begun at the tender age of seven. He has spent more than three decades in the organized hobby including editing the first 12 editions of the Beckett Almanac of Baseball Card and Collectibles. He lives in Plano, TX along with his wife Dena and their two dogs. You can reach him at [email protected].

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