Sometimes when I read about interesting items collectors have discovered or are curious about, my mind flashes back to lessons I have learned in my life. One of the best from the many hours my father and I shared with baseball cards was that errors and variations on older cards are really cool and much like stamps and coins, there’s usually a growing market for them.
Well, in the past year we have seen the continued explosion of interest and values for all sorts of T206 printing issues including “ghosts”, miscuts (especially when you can see two names on the card) and even “scraps”. Believe it or not, there was a time when no one wanted those “off grade” cards. Some were even tossed out. Now things have changed and there seems to be a whole new element for T206 collectors who might not feel challenged enough by chasing the more than 500 different poses. Of course that total does not even count all the different back permutations possible.
In no small part, due to the surge of popularity of those cards, even more modern off-cuts, wrong and blank backs have done well in the past year. I do think recognizing those cards years ago is how I got my love for all sorts of card oddities. Cataloging them for a living didn’t hurt either.
The first set I ever completed was the 1962 Topps issue, thanks in part to my brother who gave me all of his high numbers. If you have ever chased a 1962 Topps set, you realize that the green tints, pose variations and other oddities make a master set a fun venture to complete. It took me forever to get a 1962 Topps Green Tint Bill Skowron and I finally got one, along with a complete Green Tint run (an unexpected bonus) when I ordered the second series from the old Card Collectors Company. After two years, I finally had my white whale. More errors and variations from those older sets are being offered than ever before.
The thrill of finding something different never gets old and the lesson is that for a lot of us, that’s what collecting is all about.
Another of the lessons I learned involved selling at shows and how to entice people to buy cards. My dad would engage collectors by asking who their favorite player was and would often steer them to look at my alphabetically arranged albums and see if I had anything they needed. A neat trick that today we would call ‘synergy’. I honestly think he had more fun at many of the shows than I did. At times, I could be much too serious but he enjoyed meeting people and chatting with them. It’s a great memory and something I now try to emulate.
Of course, there were times I could teach the old man some tricks as well. One show he had brought some money which I tapped into to purchase a very nice Tom Seaver collection. I knew the following week was the monthly Parsippany show and with a couple of well-placed phone calls those cards were turned into profit within one week. You see, my dad used to worry and complain about how much money the hobby was costing him but when I could pay him back with a profit that quickly, I never heard another word. Sometimes you can make money by understanding the market, expanding your ‘network’ and looking for opportunities but of course, that should never be the primary purpose of a hobby. And that’s another good lesson for all of us.
Why am I writing all this? My dad passed away nine years ago this week and like many of us who have lost our parents, I still miss him and his wisdom. If you are lucky enough to have a son, daughter, mom or father, wife or husband to share your hobby and passion with it really makes everything that much more fun, whether you’re a collector, shop owner, show dealer or combination of everything. My wife even enjoys opening packs now and then but she also sees when I’m with fellow hobbyists how much happier I appear to be. As she has said more than once, “you are in your natural element.” And I also hope to spend many more years continuing to use a lot more of those lessons I learned from my father.