Stacy Marlow knows how to make a guy jealous.
The Georgia woman is mulling her options after pulling the 1/1 Babe Ruth Ultimate Chase autograph/bat relic card from the first unopened box of Topps baseball she’d ever purchased.
Last March, Stacy and her avid card collector boyfriend Tyler took their annual trip to Kissimmee, FL to watch their beloved Braves in spring training. He’s an Operations Manager at a rental company in Hampton, VA. She’s an estate manager for a family of two CEO’s in Atlanta. After attending her first card show about a year earlier, she had gotten hooked on the hobby, but was more into collecting Braves autographs than anything else. This time, she decided to bring two boxes of 2013 Topps Series One with them on vacation.
“I wanted to buy a hobby box to get the thrill of opening my own cards,” she recalled. “Since Topps Series 1 had just come out and it was a less expensive product, I felt that it was a good product to start with.”
Tyler was skeptical about pulling anything worthwhile out of the Topps base product but on the first day of their spring training adventure, the couple decided to dive in.
“We started opening our boxes together but he finished way before I did,” she recalled. “He decided to get in the shower to save time while I continued opening my box. I pulled out the redemption on the second to last pack, and then started frantically Googling it.”
A newly cleansed Tyler then emerged from the bathroom, saw the blue redemption and asked what Stacy had pulled.
After screaming a few choice words of excitement when she showed him the front, Tyler explained that the card was considered the best one Topps produced in Series One and would likely be worth big money on the open market.
“At the time, I really didn’t know what I had,” Stacy recalled. “We had to leave so we locked the card in the safe and continued to freak out on our way to the field and for the rest of the week.”
Safely back home, Stacy prepared to send the redemption card to Topps and the nervousness set in as the long wait for her Ruth autograph began.
“I have heard such horror stories about redemptions, but I was optimistic because they didn’t have to wait for the card to be signed. I was also nervous about having the card shipped to me. I probably would not have had the card to this day if I had not been impatient and contacted the VP of Sports and Entertainment at Topps. Once I contacted him, he apologized for the wait and had the card in my hands within two weeks. The card was overnighted to my work in a FedEx box, bubble mailer and plastic container, with Styrofoam.”
After the card arrived, she opted to fly to Dallas and hand deliver it to Beckett Grading Services.
“The decision to have the card graded was difficult,” she stated. “On one hand, most people said it is pointless to have a 1/1 graded as there is no other card to compare it to. Also, people told me that a low grade could hurt the value of the card. I was stubborn and once I made the decision to have it graded, there was no changing my mind. The decision to bring it to Beckett in person was easy. There was no way I was sending that card in the mail, and it was an excuse to have a weekend trip in Dallas with my Mom. I worked with Mike Simmons, at Beckett, from the very beginning. He helped me make so many smart decisions. We decided to specify a minimum grade and if it didn’t grade high enough we would just slab it. Luckily a 9.5/10 was more than I could have imagined. When the card was done, Mike tricked me and said ‘How does an 8/10 sound? Just kidding’.”
Now she faced another decision: what to do with it. The collector in her loves looking at something that was signed decades ago. She finds humor in “carrying Babe Ruth around her purse” as she recently Tweeted. Yet as a young professional with a Masters degree and eight years of student loan debt still needing to be paid off, it appears the card will eventually find a new home.
“I am so tempted to keep it,” she admitted. “In the end, although I love this card, what I really love about it is the story behind it and the fact that it changed my life. I know there are other people who would appreciate it much more than I can and whose collection it will fit in. Somehow I don’t see Babe hanging out with Chipper Jones and Jason Heyward.”
She received some low ball offers before her story was first told on Beckett’s website. As a 1/1, the value is a little difficult to determine, but will be based largely upon the Ruth autograph and the high grade. Stacy says her boyfriend has been both helpful and protective of the card over the last few months.
“He doesn’t want me to be taken advantage of, but at the same time he feels that his experience in the hobby should be respected. He has also been extremely supportive of the fact that this could have been his card if he had picked the left box instead of the right. Internally I know he was disappointed but he never made me feel bad or guilty about it. I have gotten advice from fellow card collectors, card shop owners, dealers, my boss, my Dad, and anyone else that I have shown the card to.”
So now, she’s hoping to spread the word about the fact that the card is out there and has been graded in hopes that buyers begin to line up. She’s already made plenty of new friends on Twitter (@Slmsolo) since the news broke but isn’t rushing things.
“I have absolutely no timetable,” she explained. “Time is on my side in this case. It is difficult to have a price point for this card, but given the facts, I have set a price in my mind for what I believe is fair for myself and a potential buyer. I have just now started the process of shopping the card. We will see what offers I get in the coming weeks.”
In the meantime, the baseball card bug has bitten and her interest in collecting has expanded proportionately.
“I collect Braves prospects, Braves base cards to get signed at spring training, booklets, and anything that catches my attention. It is easy to get carried away in this hobby! I have recently gotten into case breaks, so I enjoy participating in those once or twice a week.”
After all, the luckiest collectors aren’t always the ones with the biggest bank accounts.