I recently saw a great thread on one of the hobby message boards which was titled: “What was your worst hobby mistake?” With very few exceptions, we all can admit to errors we made, from selling Mike Trout cards too soon (I thought I did great with my 2011 Updates at $20 each) to not selling fast enough. On that one, just ask anyone who dealt cards circa 1990 and ask them if they still have any of the 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco cards which were then selling for more than $100. Yes, there was actually a time when 1986 Donruss Canseco cards were $100 and a 1985 Topps Mark McGwire was even more than that.
In that specific thread, most of the comments seemed to revolve about Paul Goldschmidt who is making a name for himself as the best National League hitter. A resurgent Bryce Harper seems to be only one step behind Goldy at this point. But perhaps Harper may end up being the exception to the rule about a player having a second hobby run.
In 2012, when he came up to the majors there was a nice run on Harper prospect cards but after a couple of mediocre seasons plagued by injury, the bloom was a bit off the rose and he was being relegated to a second hobby tier.
Obviously, this year Harper is coming back with a vengeance and I wonder how many dealers and collectors who sold him during the dip are now saying “if I had only held on to his cards instead of selling just to move them.” And just remember he’s still only 22 years old, an age when most rookies have not even made their major league debut. Some are no doubt pulling the trigger now and selling when there is demand, rather than waiting. That, too, could be a mistake unless you’ve made a sizeable profit and are happy either way.
Another case I remember and now wish I’d had the foresight to act on came in the early 1980s. After the explosion in 1979 and ‘80 when the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle went from $680 at the beginning of 1979 to selling for more than $3,000 each at a Willow Grove auction in March of 1980, collectors who had bought that card for a few dollars a few years earlier figured it was a good time to cash in. Believe it or not, so many of those cards flooded the market that I remember going to the same event in September, 1982 and watching the auctioneer struggle to get $500 for one.
Yep, the 1952 Mantle was so available that a few hundred dollars would get you one and $1000 should have gotten you two nice copies. Today, that $1000 won’t even get you the rattiest Mantle on the planet.
When my friends Frank and Vivian Barning were in their early Baseball Hobby News days they had a great article late in 1979 about the baseball card pricing boom. It included a comment by leading dealer Don Lepore who said something to the effect of: “There is no such thing as a baseball card expert because otherwise none of us would have ever sold any of these cards at those old prices.”
And in the 1970s, many of us actually treated stars and superstars no differently than commons because that delineation had not yet truly occurred. The object was set building, not investing or buying only well-known players. Today, of course, we have more detailed breakdowns of price points based on the player.
I’ve told about some of my favorite mistakes in the business over the years but we’ve all made mistakes in purchasing or trading for cards. Heck, last weekend one of my former Beckett colleagues and friends gave me a bunch of cards for trade. The only problem was, he valued the card using the wrong Greats of the Game autograph set and a couple of the cards he noted as short prints were, well, not. When I pointed that out to him, he owned up immediately and realized what had occurred. Fortunately, he had some other cards he had put aside for me to finish our trade or start another trade and those cards will do just fine on that regard. We just have to remember we are all human and we all make mistakes.
And if you want my guess as to what the biggest mistake of 2015 will be, my best guess is one of the players not named Kris Bryant or Joey Gallo will soon break out. I think we may all kick ourselves for not buying more Addison Russell cards. That’s my guess as to the next long term breakout 2015 rookie star. Who is yours?