Rich Klein: The Long Running Saga of Tough and Easy

One of my favorite passions in the card collecting hobby is to decipher and discover certain cards that are ‘easy’ and which ones are ‘hard’.  Today, we have access to a ton more information than we had 15 or 20 years ago but for collectors working on sets, this whole concept can be something which is missed.

We recently discussed a quote from Levi Bleam of 707 Sportscards about why back in the day, Beckett pricing for vintage cards was not accurate as it could have been. Richs Ramblings His premise was certain cards were so hard to find, the book price didn’t even come close to the laws of supply and demand while some cards were so plentiful that being way under book does not even help that card sell.  He bought and sold a lot and he knew which cards fell into which category without the luxury of an online population report.

1960 Topps Georges MarandaThere were some cards I found in lots during my days as a show dealer and others which never seemed to find their way into stock or sold quickly if they did. Everyone has cards that seemed to always  show up in multiples, some of which we know now because our information base is better. For me, these cards (among others) were in any collection I would buy if a certain years card was included.

First was the 1960 Topps: Georges Maranda. Even though this card is a semi-high number card and should be difficult, I swear it must have been triple printed along the way. I just knew that Mr. Miranda (long before he asked for and received his rights) was going to be part of 1960 Topps lot.

Another card which is constant is the 1964 Amado Samuel card. When I was in the New York metropolitan area, any 1964 Topps lot was sure to include  Mr. Samuel.  I was always fascinated by that time in which cards were “easy” and which ones were “hard” and I learned from a large lot of NY cards I traded for that Tim Harkness in the 1964 1st series was just as difficult as the Samuel card from the same series was difficult.

1967 Topps PerezThen in 1967, one of my favorite hobby stories come to the fore. The St. Louis area for whatever reason did not seem to receive enough of the “semi-high” series. My very first sale at the 1984 National in Parsippany, New Jersey was to an St. Louis area dealer who wiped out my complete stock of the 67 semis. He informed me those cards never reached St. Louis and he could sell them all day.

What is more interesting was St. Louis received a ton of 1967 Hi Numbers and I knew several dealers in the early 1980’s who would travel to the St. Louis show to scoop up and put away the tougher cards in that series. That is just one example of regionalism I remember.

I have talked about setting up at the Albany show on a few occasions but one thing about Albany was the 1969 fifth series packs they 1969 Topps Mickey Mantle white lettersreceived had a higher percentage of the white letter variations then I ever saw in North Jersey. As a kid, I bought the fifth series packs and never even knew about “white” letters growing up.  Jack Smalling, the autograph address guru, used to put out sales lists of cards both signed and unsigned. I always ordered cards which could be white lettered from him because apparently his area in Iowa received white letter cards in their packs. I was successful on about 25 percent of the cards I ordered from him.  Today, we know the white letters are much more difficult to find.

And then in the late 1980’s, I learned how to read the labeling of Fleer boxes and cases. Why? Because there was a date on the case so you could actually determine whether the infamous Billy Ripken “F-Face” card was in those packs.  If you saw the cases were printed before a specific date, you could say you had a Ripken error chance.   I wonder how many of those Ripken cards are still in unopened cases somewhere?

Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]