The longest of long holiday weekends has arrived with the duty of closing out one year and launching the next. Not much happens in the hobby during this time of year, but after all that went down in 2016, a little downtime isn’t a bad thing.
No matter what end of this multi-pronged industry/hobby/business you may call home, there was news. Comings and goings. Huge auctions. Incredible items tucked away for decades revealing themselves. Crime. Punishment. Print-to-order baseball cards. Print-to-order cards of…everything.
Here are just a few highlights:
A family cleaning out an old home in the southeast uncovered over $1 million worth of T206 Ty Cobb Tobacco cards. The Lucky 7 Find as it came to be known, increased the population of one of the hobby’s rarest cards by a bunch, but several of them have already sold for six figure prices, most privately.
There were other finds of fresh-to-the-hobby T206s—even a Doyle error found in an ancient album.
Sometimes one great find can lead to another. Mile High Card Company sold a century-old Cracker Jack baseball cards poster—one of only a few known examples after a Wisconsin man had discovered it. He’d found the poster hanging in an old barn he’d purchased and after hearing of the Lucky 7 Find, decided to find out what it might be worth.
The answer? $61,471.
While the rest of us were shuffling along with our little boxes and binders, Robert Casterline and Dan Hunt were assembling what’s likely the most valuable collection of vintage football cards you’ll ever see in one place. The Pro Football Hall of Fame has had it on display for the last few months.
Soaring Card Prices
If anything, 2016 will be known as the year of the exploding vintage card market. Led by Mickey Mantle, but scooping up Roberto Clemente, Michael Jordan and several other icons along the way, record prices for high-grade and popular rookie cards were the norm, rather than the exception.
Some market correction has already happened and whispers of price manipulation appear to have played a role in some recent softening but the arena as a whole is still in a completely different place than it was just two or three years ago. Investors and new collectors with cash fell in love with the hobby–and the occasional obscene profits.
COMC, one of the largest online platforms for buying and selling, announced an agreement with eBay that put millions of cards from users’ portfolios onto the site with one click.
Upper Deck ruffled feathers in the modern card market with their ePack program, selling online packs and boxes. Your collection was always available in digital form (and you can open one free pack a day) but avid fans who spent enough on ePack could also turn them into physical cards.
Topps received an incentive package to expand its digital operations in Florida, illustrating the strength of the market for apps used by folks who aren’t all your traditional collectors. It also allowed the company to keep a foot in other sports markets where it had lost physical licenses.
Cards to Go
Topps chronicled the 2016 baseball season with its NOW platform, turning highlights and milestones into cards, literally overnight. Before the year was out, the company had expanded to other sports and even pro wrestling.
Panini followed suit with its Instant program utilizing the company’s NBA and NFL licenses.
One of the most popular questions we were asked this year was, “when is the Topps football set coming out?” The answer, for those who hadn’t heard, was never. After a half century of producing some kind of football set, Panini’s exclusive deal with the NFL and NFLPA kicked in, leaving Topps on the bench.
Topps still owns the MLB exclusive license through 2020.
Rob Lifson, one of the hobby’s most knowledgeable and successful figures, announced early in 2016 that he’d be easing his way out of day-to-day operations at Robert Edward Auctions. Brian Dwyer took over the company, which produces two huge auction catalogs each year.
PSA and chief autograph authenticator Steve Grad parted ways with the company, which hired long-time veterans Bill Corcoran and Kevin Keating and Grad moving over to Beckett, which launched a new autograph authentication division.
SGC moved its grading and authentication operation from New Jersey to the sunny shores of Florida.
Crime, Punishment, More Crime
Former Mastro Auctions executive Doug Allen joined ex-boss Bill Mastro in federal prison after being sentenced for his role in a long-running fraud case. Allen received a 57-month term.
Former dealer and photo archivist John Rogers was indicted on federal charges as well.
Several members of an Ohio-based autograph scam that ran for five years on eBay were prosecuted and a Maryland man was charged for another large-scale scheme that bilked a large number of collectors.
A brazen burglary at the Roger Maris Museum, located inside a North Dakota shopping mall, resulted in the theft of some valuable awards from the slugger’s career.
New Jersey National
The National Sports Collectors Convention detoured from its Chicago-Cleveland schedule with a stop on the Jersey shore. Some predicted it wouldn’t go well. Success or failure depends on who you talk to but the general feeling was that while attendance may have suffered some, those who came were ready to buy. You can check out our coverage here.
The show returns to Chicago next summer.
The Kid and The Cubs
There’s nothing like rediscovering an old love. Ken Griffey Jr.’s Hall of Fame election sparked interest in his cards, with some of that coming from those who collected “The Kid” as kids and remembered how much fun it was. Over 100,000 of his rookie cards have now been graded.
Long-suffering Cubs fans finally got to throw World Series parties this fall and the result was good for business. Topps and dealers who carried all of the various commemorative sets and Cubs-related merchandise were along for the ride. With a young core of players, they’ll be one of the primary drivers of the modern card market in 2017, too.