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Ramblings: Reader Reaction to Boxes vs. Expected Value

Rich Ramblings 2014We’ve gotten quite a bit of response both via email and on Facebook from one of our recent Ramblings about what buyers of new sports card boxes should expect in terms of ‘value’ when they open them.

Here are a couple of them with my responses.

I really enjoyed the article as it brought up some great points.  I’ve been collecting cards off and on since 1968.  Ironically since I’ve been fired, I’ve spent more time (and a little money) on my collection.  I’m not expecting to find any expensive items but it’s become a matter of organizing the stuff.  In doing that, of course, I find incomplete sets and use eBay to find cheap boxes.  If I don’t find the boxes cheap enough, oh well and I move on to some other set. 

Actually 1968 was the same year I got into collecting. And we’re sorry to hear about your recent misfortunes. The good news is, as you’re discovering, the hobby is a great way to spend time and avoid just sitting on a couch.

In some ways, the reason I’m doing this is a tad morbid.  I’m 54 and don’t see selling anything until I’m quite old.  However, I would hate to leave my wife with this bunch of cards without some organization to it.  So I’m putting even the cheap sets into sleeves and binders so that if I pass before her, she can just make a few calls and have someone pay her for the whole mess.

I’ve encountered another interesting experience recently as well.  We had two workers come in to fix a leak and the damage caused by the leak.  The first worker noticed my cards lying around and told me about his collection and his autographed cards, game-worn jerseys, etc (my collection is very “common” so I don’t chase the autographs or buy whole uniforms).

The second worker I felt bad for as he was excited he and his brother had a 1985 Mark McGwire card (I assume the Olympic team one) and thought it might be worth a few hundred.  I told him because of the steroid issue he probably wouldn’t get much for it. 

Boxes and singles inside Lower Level Sports Cards.

Boxes and singles inside Lower Level Sports Cards.

It’s always a good idea to have your collection organized and have a plan in the unfortunate event that you meet your demise or become incapacitated.  

Just about everyone has some kind of connection to the hobby, thanks in large part to those infamous ‘boom’ years in the 1980s and early 90’s.   Buying autographed and game used memorabilia cards on the secondary market is a pretty economical way to collect with so many trading for less than what you’d spend on a fast food meal. 

And as for Big Mac. well he is a hitting coach in the majors and I suspect somewhere down the line, those cards will return to collector’s favor.

We also heard from Matt Carroll of Charleston, S.C.

Rich, 

I found your most recent ramblings to be very interesting. Other collectors and I have spent many hours at our local card store (which is closing Wednesday, sadly) debating at what point they feel they have “had a successful break”. The answer is different to each collector. 

2013 Topps Update BoxPersonally, if I can recoup half of my investment in cash or make a trade for something I collect, I am very happy. That is very hard to do when autographs and patch autographs are serial numbered into the thousands as Topps Finest Football was last year. Living on a budget, I have found myself as of late opening packs exclusively, rarely buying a box, or buying blasters from Target and Wal-Mart since the store is limiting the product they are bringing in. 

I find that with a little bit of luck (and picking the right product) that my rate of return is much higher than ponying up the $100 for a box. Essentially, what I am doing is fulfilling the part of me that wants to open packs because collecting straight from eBay without opening packs doesn’t fulfill me as a collector. I have also focused more on certain products, collecting sets as a means of filling the void that pulling nice “hits” often leaves me with. Buy six packs, no hit, its ok, I pulled a nice refractor and filled 15 holes in the set. 

We always hate hearing of stores closing. Sometimes they are closing for a good reason such as the owner wishes to retire or do other things and sometimes a store does not succeed. Either way, one reason we always try to mention either Triple Cards or Nick’s in our columns is we always want to give the local retailers their say in our column. They deal with far more collectors on a day-to-day basis than anyone else.

Yes, you sure do have the right idea that for most boxes getting back half of your cost is a good thing.

2014 Topps Heritage boxI have had constant discussions with dealers over the years about blaster boxes. My point as a consumer always is, it’s easier to justify spending $20 for a Topps Heritage box in which you pretty much are going to receive two SP’s and some other hits than  most $100 boxes from any company. And that has been a long-running problem for at least 15 years. 

I remember while still at Beckett, a call from an MLBPA rep who during our conversation tried to convince me that Shea Hillberand and John Olerud, the two autographs we pulled from our 1999 SP Authentic Box, were worth close to $90-100 combined. My point, then, and my point now, is that while no one should ‘expect’ to turn a profit, when someone spends a $100 bill on a box, they want to feel good about the purchase.  When they know they could spend $10 or $20 and get those same cards through a dealer, it stings. That was true in 1999 and that is still true today.

Doesn’t it feel as if the big companies are in the early stages of cannibalizing themselves? They pay these licensing fees, autograph fees, etc, load products with relics and late round autographs, promote the major hits, and then customers so often feel let down by what the box yields. At what point do we realize we are collecting pictures on pieces of cardboard at the cost of hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars each? Surely we realize that the majority of our collections will devalue as the years pass, unless it’s a time tested player like Trout, Kobe, or Adrian Peterson and that so much of this collecting has been a moot point. 

I’ll wait a tad longer before calling Trout truly time-tested. Is this a momentary slump or has he gotten too thick?  Dave Parker did the same thing (albeit with some illegal substances as well) and he went from looking like a sure HOFer to needing a late career kick to be a borderline at best HOFer.

We thank both of these readers for their interesting points of view.

Please, with any mail to the address below, include your name and home town.

Thanks for reading! More Ramblings and reader reactions soon!

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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