As I looked forward to this week, I was all set to write on about one of the most exciting spans of the year. When else in the year can you enjoy MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL games all in the same few days? Seriously, this is a sports fan’s dream come true with the NFL in full swing, the World Series in all its glory, the NBA tipping off and getting to the point where you can actually start pronouncing some of the names of the NHL rookies. We should all have blisters on our fingers from sports related remote control abuse.
Instead, I am left to instead focus on one of the less attractive aspects of collecting, the pursuit of cards of recently passed or potentially soon to pass athletes. It is a real part of our hobby and I wanted to share my thoughts and experiences on the matter.
Sadly this week, St. Louis Cardinals rookie Oscar Tavares died in a car accident and before we could recover from that sobering news, we found out that one of the greatest ever to lace up a pair of skates, Gordie Howe had suffered what has been called a “serious stroke”.
I first heard about Tavares passing after my shop was closed and it brought back memories to when Mickey Mantle passed on a Saturday and I did not hear about it until after I had locked up for the evening. I remember spending that entire Sunday (thank goodness I only go 12-5 on my day of quasi-rest) enduring call after call from collectors who wanted to know how much more their signed baseball, Topps card or other item was worth since Mickey was now dead. It got to the point where I did not want to answer the phone anymore, but I could not avoid the constant ringing and felt like Fred Flintstone happily sliding down a dinosaur’s tail and leaving the quarry when my day came to an end.
In an ideal world, I would have people coming into my store to purchase cards of players just because they played well recently, perhaps because their grandfather grew up liking a certain team or because an athlete had been traded to a Colorado team and now were on that collector’s radar. I get it that when I sell a Hank Aaron or Willie Mays autographed ball or card these days, part of the push for that sale is that both of those players are sadly closer to passing than from their playing days.
The day after Tavares passed, we had close to a dozen calls either for his cards or from collectors wondering how much more their signed cards might be worth. I can only imagine what it was like to own a shop closer to where the Cardinals play. I chose to offer his singles to those who wanted them for list price without marking them up, and when looking up some of his singles on eBay, it appears that his signed items are enjoying the morbidity bump that you would have expected.
Looking at his 2014 Topps Chrome signed cards, one that moved for $15.22 on October 2, sold for as much as $51.00 on October 27. Now look, the buyer probably will not be making a profit on his investment and was probably a Cardinals fan who wanted to celebrate the short career of Tavares.
Later the same week, I fielded a call from someone who wanted a Gordie Howe autograph since if he was going to sign any more items, they were concerned that it would not look as good. I did not know what to say other than I did not have any of his signed items in stock and I wished the caller the best of luck.
Do not get me wrong, I root for certain local teams to win because I know it will help me at my cash register. The Broncos are currently 6-1, Peyton Manning smashed another notable record and Demaryius Thomas has become an even bigger name this season. I am hoping that the Avalanche and Nathan MacKinnon find the smelling salts and wake up before their season is lost. The Nuggets started off the season with a hard-fought win over the Pistons and the Rockies…..well, let’s just change the subject.
On a slightly different note, I spent Wednesday night hoping the Royals would win not because I was a fan of their or because I particularly hated the Giants, but instead because the core of San Francisco had won 2 championships already and a third would not create a massive bump in their singles. Getting a ring would push names like Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and others to the top of the hot list and out of my singles boxes. Although it did not happen that way, I might move some 2010 boxes because of Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey along with some of their singles.
Such is the life of the card shop owner. So much of my store’s success is based on factors beyond my control since I am not a baseball umpire or pitcher. I cannot control the health of Denver’s QB and free throws are not really free.
I need to point out that I do not hate people who collect in this fashion. I do not really see them as ambulance chasers, but it does make me appreciate the “true collectors” who buy cards of a team because they have followed them for decades. I enjoy all the more, the young man who came in today with his father to buy a Russell Wilson card because he liked how he plays.
I will open my shop up tomorrow morning and cannot wait to see who walks in and will look forward to improving their collection. I just hope it is not because of an athlete passing or suffering a health scare.’
In the meantime, here’s my Top 5 selling sports card boxes as we close out the month of October:
Mike Fruitman owns Mike’s Stadium Sportscards in Aurora, CO where they’ve got a brand spanking new look to their website. Normally, his column focuses on what products are selling best in hobby shops. See his eBay listings here. Enjoy new arrivals and big hits from Mike’s on Twitter. Mike’s is always looking for more friends on Facebook and you can email him at [email protected]