Rich Klein’s Ramblings: Mailbag Edition

Rich Ramblings 2014Time to dip into the cyber mailbag again after some of our recent articles and Ramblings resulted in some feedback.

Some collectors who don’t live near a hobby shop or  prefer to buy boxes when it’s convenient are frustrated about not being able to buy them at more retail outlets.

Local Dallas Area collector JJ Saenz writes: Why did the card companies stop sending boxes to the mom and pop stores and the small time local convenient stores?  I wish Topps would send at least two 36 ct. boxes to each 2014 Topps Heritage boxcredited little league around the country so the kids could have another place to buy baseball cards.  I donated about 200 hand collated packs to my local little league down in South Texas about five years ago.

A few things to note: One, it was not Topps directly sending the boxes to these stores.  The convenience shops ordered their boxes from distributors just like today. And yes it would be nice to have cards at the counter again but for now that time has passed. We are no longer in a mass-produced era and Topps, like any business needs to do what they need to make a profit.

I’m always happy when people donate cards to kids.  It almost always makes a great impression.

Jimmy Piccuito of J B Sports Auctions wrote about the recent SGC “flip” or label change plans that caused a stir recently:

SGC logoI talked with SGC Monday in person at a local show and at the time it did not seem they would be making any changes to the new flip, and what is amazing is that SGC listened. When I got home I got right on Net 54 and noticed that maybe they have changed their minds. I understand it was only a label, but what a response by collectors and sellers like me that did care enough to say anything. My plan was to use SGC as the grading company of choice for just my web site – then I thought before the weekend that I would need to hold off on my plan. I am going to wait and see what happens, but it made me happy to see the story and look forward to many more.

I was among the many people whose instinctive reaction to the new SGC flip or label was not one which endorsed the change. I personally thought it took too much away from SGC’s heritage and the fact they listened to their most vocal and passionate users and changed direction showed some courage.

Rich Klein rookie card

Rich Klein rookie card

My Facebook page blew up (well as much as my personal page can blow up) with comments and stories about the uncut sheet Topps produced for hobby “media” at the 1992 National which includes a Rich Klein ‘rookie card’.  Stories such as that and the one we also recently did on the old hobby magazines prompted Frank Barning, one of my hobby mentors, to write:

I had never seen that uncut sheet until you posted it. I have about a half-dozen of the cards from various friends.  Jim Bouton (the retired pitcher who once ran a custom trading card company) was kind enough to make up the 1985 card of me presenting the BHN card of the year. ​ Keep you the good work. You are the link, maybe the only one, from the old days until now.

In addition, Doug Drotman, who still does PR work for Goldin Auctions and assists Panini with various media relations projects posted this nugget:

Doug Drotman (L) with David Robinson.

Doug Drotman (L) with David Robinson.

When I was doing PR for SkyBox in the 90’s, brand manager Sherry Wallace found out I presented David Robinson with an on court award a few years earlier and used the photo on a real card in a SkyBox  Robinson subset.

Jeremy Kelley had some thoughts on the column I wrote about whether sports card box buyers should expect to profit when they sell singles in the secondary market.

I have read a lot of columns lately, including yours, about collectors not get getting a good return on their “investment” when they open wax. I believe the problem for collectors is the return of over producing. I know this sounds weird when we live in an age of numbered cards, but when I think of the fact that someone just posted a (23,000) 1987 Topps Ruben Sierra card lot, it sounds eerily familiar to my friend in Texas who has a collection of over 3,000 cards numbered to five or less. These numbered cards are everywhere and have become worthless except for the very top stars.

There are also some weird anomalies that I do not get that are contained within the numbered cards. I understand that rookies are better than second year cards, that autographs are valued higher than patches, which are valued higher than base cards/parallels. What I do not get is why the math between limited numbers is wrong, even within the same set.

For instance, a 2007-08 Carey Price Future Watch/999 books (Beckett Hockey Apr ’14) for $120 while his 07/08 Authentic Limited/100 is $300. This is not how commodities work.  In the investment world, theoretically, if the regular rookie is worth $120, then the Limited should be at least $1200. And this concept is not foreign to sports card collectors, because this is how parallels work with base cards in most cases. For some reason, the higher a card’s potential value, the less the multiplier goes. Since the values are determined by market data, then the answer to why cards are not valued higher, and why you do not get a good return on value when you open a box, the answer is simply that people do not want to pay a lot for high valued cards.

I have mentioned that I totally realized the fun and games time of the overproduction era was going to end badly was when I saw a price list for 1989 Topps cards and a dealer was offering 8,000 Jim Abbott cards (and everyone else).  At that time we could actually sell Jim Abbott rookie cards, but  8,000 was enough for at least four generations after me.  And as for the seeming anomaly of the shorter print run for “rookie cards” not following a strict mathematical formula, there is nothing new to that either. The lure of a “rookie card” still overpowers many other options even if the parallel is significantly shorter printed. And, if you think those parallels are undervalued, perhaps you can make that a buying opportunity.

Mike Dittmer recently sent us an email about his fairly new store. We don’t often think about card shops operating in the area’s lower populated areas, but Mike fits that description, albeit with a tourism twist:

Corn PalaceI love reading all of your stories but I also am saddened to hear of shops closing. I just opened a very small shop right across the street from the World’s Only Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. Lots of traffic during tourist season, but rent and utilities are cheap enough that I can stay open all year round by satisfying the local collectors with this and that including gift certificates for Christmas and birthdays! Internet sales and trades help as well. Pretty big on Twins, Vikings and Wild, but we have a bit of everything  except for high-end wax. People have to special order that stuff and pay half up front.

We take all credit cards and use the iPad with a square reader for payments. Have a bit of local autographed memorabilia and team accessories like hats, shirts, etc. too for the tourists. I have one part-time staff (member) and myself, but she basically cleans, organizes and sells as most stuff is already priced. If there are questions I am five minutes away at my full-time job where I help abused and neglected kids in our eight county court system.

Love helping kids, but can’t wait ‘til I take the shop on full-time. I have received several kudos online about opening up a shop and I am a proud member of the local chamber and Mitchell Main Street & Beyond. I hope that if you are ever planning a trip to the Black Hills or SD in general, you’ll give me a call and stop by and say hello! BTW, our slogan is “We love baseball, basketball and football, but we LOVE hockey” I have 100’s of 1,000’s of hockey cards!

Deadwood MikesLots of good stories from the shop already. Had a phone call back in July shortly after opening the shop. Caller asked if there was any way that he and his wife could get their pictures taken in front of the Corn Palace and I said no problem. They showed up later that day both dressed in Blackhawks Jerseys. They said we need something else in the photo and he left the shop. I asked his wife what he was getting and she said the Stanley Cup. I about lost it!

He can back a few minutes later and sure enough, there it was…. a miniature plastic replica of the cup! We all had a great laugh, we took a few pictures and I even sold them some hockey cards. I gave them a few of my business cards and they left. Earlier this year a couple came in and wanted to look at hockey cards. I showed them some Toews and Kane rookies I had plus some really neat vintage Chicago cards as well. After paying, he told me, “my buddy was right, cool shop” and proceeded to show me one of the business cards I had given his friend the year before. Biz cards and word of mouth are two of the best advertising tools.

Sounds like you have a well thought out business plan. We’d be curious as to what made you decide to open a store, what your research was, if any, in choosing where you opened and what is near your store.

I don’t know if I ever will get to the Black Hills but South Dakota is among the 13 states in the mainland 48 that I’ve never been to so you never know.

We wish you and everyone else who opens a new store the best of luck.




  1. […] I was reading the email from reader JJ Saenz that was part of this week’s mailbag, I realized in another very important way just how much the hobby has changed over the past […]