Back in 2013, I wrote about going on a card show trip to Puerto Rico while I was working at Beckett. The show was kind of a disaster as the 400+ promised tables ended up as less than 15. So, I went to some local sports card shops that day instead, but after that experience we never sent another Beckett analyst to Puerto Rico. Recently I received an email from a Puerto Rican collector who wrote about what his collecting experience on the island has been:
Hello my name is Fernando Gattorno and I was born and raised here in Puerto Rico. I read the article you wrote and I decided I wanted to email you my response. Here goes: My main reaction was the question ‘why’. Why is there absolutely no market for sports memorabilia (and cards) here in Puerto Rico? I racked my brain for a while tossing the question around and came to one conclusion: no major sports team.
Puerto Rico has a home-grown basketball league (Baloncesto Superior Nacional it’s called) which attracts a small following but nothing spectacular. Then there is baseball which is the predominant sport on the island and has team leagues ranging from A ball to Triple A, yet does not fill out 9,000 seat stadiums.
I know you can argue about which came first: chicken or egg in the sense that PR has no major sports team because there is no market or clamor for it but the same can be said vice versa. I do not think it’s an economic question in the way that people do not have the money to pay tickets and such. When the expos came to town a couple of times the games were sold out in less than a day, and there are dozens of huge malls around the island where tens of millions of dollars are spent every day.
I just wanted to get my two cents in and am curious for your perspective on it. Thanks for taking the time to read this little message. Personally I’d wish there was more of a market for cards and such because it would be right up my alley.
Thank you so much for your interesting email, Fernando. I think you’re onto something with the idea that collecting isn’t as strong because of the lack of a major league level franchise. I’m sure that plays some role in why the hobby might not be as big.
When I was at the show in 1991–and granted that was nearly a quarter of a century ago now–there was some major income disparity. Since the unemployment rate was higher than the national average at that time and for any dealers doing the show the cost would have prohibitive, it’s probably why the show was nowhere near what was promised.
I did hire a cab driver that day to both drive me to the local stores and serve as in interpreter. I went into all the card shops we could find from the list that I had our Customer Service department prepare for me as a back-up plan in case the show didn’t pan out. The fact that those shops existed indicated there was some interest in collecting at the time. I’m not sure how many of those shops exist now but it would be fun to go back and gauge interest.
Perhaps a store in the manner of the Minneapolis Field of Dreams which is mostly memorabilia but does have a couple of card showcases would be the best way to develop more hobby interest in Puerto Rico but I also know there are some die-hard collectors there now.
We also received an email from Don Reynolds, who collected 1930s Goudey cards as a young boy. He took issue with my recent column about some of the things about the hobby that are better today:
I disagree wholeheartedly with your unknowing premise that “today is better”.
Do you call “autograph deals” an improvement? Just like sneaker deals. People collecting in hopes of INVESTING and not for the love of the game and athlete? Athletes cramming themselves to card shows to sign for bucks?
Anybody who spends $25 or more for an autograph is hoping to “make money”.
In 1935-40 I wrote to athletes, sending my Goudeys for (a) signature, not money. I didn’t do it for profit and I HAVE HUNDREDS OF THEM SIGNED by players who knew the score.
I realize it has become a large business and if today’s dealers don’t say today is better, they’ll be looking for a different spot.
I’d love to make it to 91 too, Don, and glad you still have a passion for collecting. You have many wonderful years on me and some great memories of those Goudey cards. It’s great to hear of your collecting autographs through the mail. That’s quite a collection.
Keep in mind I didn’t write “everything” is better today, just that some things are, and I will stand by my comments that in some ways our current hobby is indeed better than it was 25 or 30 years ago. We have instant communication, a lot more information and we don’t have to wait seemingly for weeks or months for the next card show to buy something we want.
There is little doubt, though, that as the money in sports–and by nature, the hobby–has multiplied, some of the innocence of the past is lost. In some ways it would be nice to go back to a time when sports collectibles had little or no monetary ‘value’.
Yet the beauty of this hobby is a person who works at McDonalds and has little disposable income can still enjoy it just as much as the collectors who chase high-grade Hall of Famers or other very expensive cards. There’s something for everyone and plenty of information and activity to go around.
And yes, while part of me misses the print world of the past as I loved to have books and magazines around to read, I’m OK with learning online.