Ramblings Mailbag: The Readers Write

Time once again to dig into the email bag.

Peter Milano of New York City wrote me reading my review of Jeff Hwang’s book The Modern Baseball Card Investor.

Hi Rich, 

Rich Ramblings 2014I enjoyed your piece today on SC Daily.  I was wondering if you had a few more books you would recommend along the lines of card collecting. I love the hobby and couldn’t agree more with the quote  “If you approach this game as a way to make money above all else, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead, be a collector first, and think of it as a way to have your collection and one that may potentially pay for itself — and maybe more.”

Great insight! I’ve been collecting for some time (mostly signed memorabilia) but recently got more serious in cards with a 1958 Topps rookie Roger Maris (with a pristine signature from Maris) and Jordan Fleer rookie! Both highly graded.

Well Peter, those are certainly both great cards and are great cornerstones to any card our autograph collection. We suggested to Peter a couple of books on the hobby and heres’ an example for vintage card collectors:  Cardboard Gems: A Century of Baseball Cards: A Century of Baseball Cards & Their Stories, 1869-1969.  However, I would love to hear what books the rest of our readers would recommend (and why) to help Peter gain more insight into the hobby and its history.

Chris Olivo of Cherry Hill, N.J. writes,

Really enjoyed your article ‘Fresh Take on Baseball Cards’, as I brought back a lot of memories!  I was a longtime baseball collector (along with football, basketball and hockey) from 1979-1997.  I was in high school when the Baseball Card Bubble burst in 1991, so it gave a good education about the highs and lows of investing. 

Now I haven’t looked at a Beckett Price Guide for 13 years as I sold my collection in 2001, but it was interesting to see where the industry is today.  I still get the itch to collect cards, but it just got too frustrating and too expensive to keep up with high-end sets like Topps Chrome and Bowman Chrome in the mid 90’s.   But the biggest reason I sold my cards is I noticed the older rookie cards from the 60’s/70’s/80’s were not holding their value, and it made me question was this worth all of the money even though I still loved collecting?  

I had a 1965 Topps Steve Carlton Rookie Card and noticed the value starting to decrease in the mid 90’s?  I always thought older cards of Hall of Fame players would hold their value, and the current rookie cards of the time would be the ones to fluctuate.  But it seemed like by the mid 1990’s, the only demand was for current rookie players (I remember a Topps Chrome 1996-97 Kobe Bryant Rookie going all the way up to $400 at one point as I bought it for $175). 

I guess my point is I would think about getting back into collecting if I knew the older rookie cards of retired Hall of Famers would still hold their value over the long-run.  Has the market stabilized, and would a 1982 Topps Cal Ripken Rookie or 1979 Topps Ozzie Smith still hold their value today?  Or is collecting still all about Rookie Cards of current players like LeBron James, Mike Trout, and Andrew Luck?  Keep up the great work! 

Chris, thank you for the very nice words, and it is my opinion (and I basically stated this in the column, although not this directly) that the better cards of the leading players in baseball history are either going to remain stable or tick upwards. There will always be interest in the rookie cards of Steve Carlton (which is even in a higher series in 1965), Cal Ripken and Ozzie Smith not to mention George Brett and more. One aspect which occurred in the mid 1990’s when the insert craze took over was these cards were no longer always the holy grails of collections.

When all we had to collect was  base cards, then the best base cards were extra special. Today, many of these cards are trending back upward as they are now in graded card form for most of the higher quality cards and thus collectors can feel even more comfortable in purchasing them.

And by the way, the three names you mention all have great pasts, presents and probably futures. And yes there is room if you want to buy Trout, Yasiel Puig or Bryce Harper baseball cards to go with early Johnny Bench cards. The greatest aspect of the card collecting hobby as compared to stamps, coins etc is not only do we have the old-time heroes but we also have a new game almost every day or night to watch and thus this is a ‘living hobby’.

And finally we heard from Guy, who is a marketing specialist for a baseball card app.

Perhaps you haven’t heard the name yet but MiraCard is an iPhone app especially designed for card collectors.  You can upload your entire collection with card recognition technology to your profile, comment and like other cards, share your card on the home feed, search for cards on ebay, follow other users and more.  We are also working on new exciting features that will be included in the next update. 

I was wondering if you can give us some insights and tips. You’ve been in the business long enough and your advice would be greatly appreciated. 

Thank you very much Rich! We would love to hear back from you.

Now understand, I have fat finger syndrome and may be the last person in America who is not capable of having a smart phone, but it’s nice to be asked to help. However, on a subject such as this, I would prefer to hear from our readers who may be more attuned into the app world and see what tips and ideas they might have for you.  Readers, shoot me those emails at the address below and we’ll pass them on to Guy.