It’s one’s hottest markets in sports cards and Kurt Christensen of Ripping Vintage Packs is right in the thick of it.
He’s gained the reputation of finding wax gold when others come up short.
But, the Spencer, Iowa dealer says the magic is in relationships.
“It’s difficult. You have to know people. So try to make friends with collectors. Anyone I see with boxes, I try to make contact,” Christensen says, “A lot of times, if I’m acquiring something it’s through contacts I made at the show and through Facebook. The more people I know, the more chances you get to find something.”
He believes you get more bees with honey.
“I don’t want to make an enemy. I want to know people. So when guys know you buy stuff, you get presented with a lot of stuff and I buy a lot of stuff.”
A farmer by day, Christensen got serious about buying and selling several years ago in his free time. Ripping Vintage Packs has built a strong following through a popular Facebook group. Their booth was busy at the National Sports Collectors Convention, selling older wax, packs and single cards.
He keeps an open mind on what he purchases and he makes competitive offers, leaving no stone unturned in the search for more unopened items from just about every era. All of it is selling these days.
His business focuses on a unique sector in sports cards, where the thrill of what might be inside clashes with the rarity of packs that have truly remained sealed, some for decades.
“There are two types of collectors buying wax packs,” Christensen says. ” There’s the guy who wants to open it. They want 1980 Topps because there might be a Rickey Henderson rookie or a Nolan Ryan. Then there is the unopened collector who likes the idea of owning that pack like it was in 1980. They appreciate it as an unopened item and have no intention of unwrapping it.”
For the ones who do, finding high dollar rookies and stars is tough. Based on sheer numbers alone it’s hard to find to begin with.
He says it’s hard to determine how many times a box of unopened cards have changed hands since it was originally purchased or what someone has done with it. Did they open a few packs of 1982 Topps and find a Cal Ripken Jr. rookie card, then fill the box back up with packs from another box?
“What are they going to do with the rest of the box? They might put that box aside and sell the rest of those packs,” Christensen says. “So the chances are really low, there’s a second Ripken. It’s very difficult when you are opening an old product to get the cards you want.”
Right now, the 1983 Topps baseball is his great chase. “It’s always been difficult for me to acquire. It’s got the (Ryne) Sandberg, (Wade) Boggs, (Tony) Gwynn rookies. Great set. That one always seems hard for me to get and even harder to keep.
Rookie cards pose another problem.
The bigger the rookie cards the more of it being tampered with. The longer you do business you become more aware. There’s a lot of bad stuff out there.
“You buy enough vintage unopened, you’ll get an education quickly. I’ve gotten some stuff that’s been tampered with, it’s been bad. You try to learn. You try to handle packs and get a feel for what’s good and what’s bad.
“The fun is the chase. You got to stay after it. You have to grind it out and keep making contacts.”