Rich’s Ramblings: Things That Make You Go Hmmm…

by Rich Klein

About 20 years ago a hit record was released called “Things that make you go hmmm.”   There is no doubt everyone in the hobby has encountered those things which seemingly do not make sense. Over the years here are some of mine.

When I first started in the hobby, a Mark “The Bird” Fidrych 1977 Topps Rookie Card was selling for the same price as many of the superstars from the 1960’s. I never understood in 1977 how a card you could pull from a very available pack could sell for the same price as an early 1960’s card of Harmon Killebrew for example, and more than 30 years later that still surprises me. Of course, within five years the same scenario was repeated when both Tim Raines and Fernando Valenzuela exploded on the baseball scene in the early part of the 1981 season. What did Fidrych and Valenzuela have in common? Both were pitchers who drew large crowds almost every time they pitched. There is at least full game from 1976 you can occasionally see on ESPN Classic showing Fidrych during the middle of that magical summer and I suspect there is plenty of video (although maybe not any full games) about Fernandomania in 1981.

A few years later, there was the story of Dwight “Doc” Gooden. Let me assure you, as a dealer in the New York Metropolitan area in those days it is hard to imagine how anyone could have been hotter than the good doctor. We were all so sure he was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career based on what he had accomplished at the age of 20. It seemed about the only person who believed otherwise was Tim McCarver who cautioned us at the time that we may have seen the peak of Gooden’s career. McCarver, in those days, was honestly a really solid analyst and was, of course, dead on as to Gooden’s future. However, it is hard to comprehend that the 1984 Fleer Update Gooden card was probably selling for more than 75 percent of the stars in the 1959 Topps set.

In case you think those two pitchers were the only ones to flame out in terms of eventual value, I bring you as a more modern example, Mark Prior. Prior came out of college, supposedly had perfect mechanics and was a key pitcher for the 2003 Chicago Cubs who came within a Steve Bartman reaction of going to the World Series. At the start of the 2004 season, Prior cards were so hot that he was almost on the same collecting level as Albert Pujols, his fellow 2001 rookie. The last time I checked, Prior was struggling to get out of the minors and spent some time in the 2012 season with the Red Sox farm system. All of these cases prove the general theorem, “There is no such thing as a pitching prospect”.

From pitchers, we move to card “designs”. When I stopped in my local card store, the owner was furious about the 2012 Panini Cooperstown Collection “embroidered patch” cards being changed to “wood” cards because those cards were not ready for release. According to the Panini blog, “due to factors beyond our control, the embroidered patches were not produced and were replaced with the wood cards”.

Although sale sheets are good as a general overview, changes often occur before a product becomes live. However, usually the issue becomes more about card companies’ ability for acquiring memorabilia and autographs for a particular issue rather than a product design. I’d be curious as to exactly what happened which caused the change to the wood cards. And to be fair to Panini, there are probably some very logical reasons for the change from embroidery to wood.

More than a decade ago, Topps, in their Stadium Club brand, produced “dirt” cards. When those cards were released they were incredibly popular but there was a catch. Yes, these dirt cards were redemptions. Now I don’t know about you, but my original reaction in those days was how could a dirt card be a redemption. When I brought that up in the store, all the collectors who were active then all remembered how hot those cards were. However, every once in a while I still wonder about “dirt” cards.

And the final item that makes me go hmm involves the COMC.Com “Black Friday” weekend sale.  We have touched upon some of the changes going on at COMC, but for now the old “Checkoutmycards.Com” is still operational and I, like many dealers, did take advantage of reducing prices for the weekend.

The promotions which offered credits to buyers for those five days were only good on  They were not good on the original site.

I guess some didn’t understand or didn’t read closely enough and missed out on some freebies.  Approximately 25 percent of my sales over the weekend were on the old site. I just shook my head when I saw that but then I remembered what radio veteran Bob Grant said in August 1974 when Richard Nixon was in his final days of office. Those words were something to the effect of “No matter what Nixon did, 25 percent of the American populace would support him no matter what”.  Ever since then, I always use that as a good guide in that 25 percent will do things a certain way. Sure enough, 25 percent of my customers this weekend at COMC are still using the old site. Folks, don’t be afraid to try something new if that is going to save you money.

Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]