I wanted to start things off with my thoughts that I shared with my collectors on social media right after Kobe Bryant had passed. It gives you some insight to what it is like to own a card store at the time when there is no official right or wrong answer and making the wrong move can have long-lasting effects. Sure there is the usual hot list to follow, but since writing this, I have been encouraged by the positive response I enjoyed from my collectors and found that it made talking about Kobe’s passing and the deaths of the others in the helicopter a bit easier.
I don’t take the time to talk with you as much as I should OR perhaps I do too much and just don’t know it. Something tells me it is the second part Today I was at Pepsi Center when I heard the news. There was an amount of time where his death had not been confirmed. Then there were hours of guessing who else had passed in the same horrible crash. It was weird to be around the players who had grown up admiring Kobe and so many NBA fans who had rooted against him but admired his talents for two decades.
I was not at the shop, but understand a number of you called, expressing interest in his cards. If you called, I hope it was because you appreciated him on the court and that you wanted to celebrate his life as part of your PC. If you called to make a buck, I won’t hold it against you, as that is part of the sports card and memorabilia market. Really, I get it.
I remember back to being in the shop, the day after Mickey Mantle passed. About four hours into my day there, I stopped answering the phone since I was not enjoying the “how much more is my Mantle card or autograph worth” calls. Perhaps I should be glad I didn’t have the shift today as well.
I haven’t checked but I will more than understand if the market for Kobe cards, specifically his signed cards has changed radically with his passing, his daughters passing and the passing of the other members of the flight. It happens seemingly every time a player dies and usually it is an older player who retired many years before, that is suddenly thrust back into focus.
With Kobe, it is different since he seemingly never left our focus since he retired.
Here’s where I’ll perhaps be too honest for my own good…
If I reprice his singles to current market conditions, some of you will understandably regard me as a money-grubbing opportunist who is morbidly taking advantage of a horrible moment. If I don’t, then I guess I’m encouraging you to be a money-grubbing opportunist who is morbidly taking advantage of a horrible moment OR appreciate your paying homage to a player you respected and want to collect with pride (hopefully the latter).
I don’t know what my plans are at this moment and would prefer to leave them be for a few days until we have time to process our feelings and appreciate his life. If you really want a Kobe card though, feel free to visit the shop and I’ll share what I have with you where I had them priced. I don’t know what else to do as a moment like this and hope I don’t regret my opening up and letting you peek into the mind of a card shop owner. I think of you as part of the Mike’s Family and it is not my goal to make you feel uncomfortable or like an opportunist.
I’ll start with my first thoughts of Kobe in my years at Pepsi Center.
There was a time Kobe was randomly selected for a post game pee test (how else should I have phrased it?). Because of how drained he was, he was unable to “provide” a sample.
Games usually drop around 9:30 and while I can’t remember if there was OT that night, clearly the game would have been over by 10.
Well, I am responsible for the player’s guest area after the game and usually get done by 10:30. So imagine my surprise when my buddy Michael Chin was still there doing security because Kobe could not pee. Kobe had been drinking as much fluids as one could have and around midnight, I finally looked at Mike and told him he was on his own, since the building was cleared aside from the Lakers who were still sitting on the bus.
I talked to Mr Chin the next day and I forget whether he said he left at 1AM or 2AM, but apparently he and Kobe developed a strong friendship based on earlier games and that night as well.
Here I am in 2020 wishing I could have had another 1-2 hours with my deceased brother Mr. Chin and the same amount of time with Kobe. Yeah, you bet I would have asked him some card-related questions.
So, back to what’s hot at my shop and perhaps other shops as well.
1) 2020 Topps Series 1 MLB
I do not usually include products that released on the same day that I write these pieces, but it was safe to say that collectors were foaming at the mouth to get their hands onto the first standard release of the new year. I’ve finally gotten used to there only being 24 packs in a hobby box and while I miss the 36ct days, it does take less time to break and it has not had the issues that I expected it to have.
Once again, after 10 hours of research, the jumbo boxes seem to be the way to go with my shredders. I not only rolled case after case on Day 1, but more importantly, it was awesome seeing so many customers getting excited about a base product without a briefcase, a $300 price tag or the word “prizm” in it.
2) 19/20 Panini Crown Royale NBA
Royale hit the Friday before the Super Bowl and I was getting ready to fly to Las Vegas. I had a case sale lined up and it got derailed when my collector thought he saw dirt on the back of the card. So, there I was, racing to catch a flight, trying to get an answer from anyone at Panini as to whether there was indeed dirt as part of the design of Crown Royale. One issue: seemingly everyone from Panini was at the Super Bowl and answering sports card questions at five o’clock or so on a Friday from a card shop owner in Colorado wasn’t exactly priority one. Well, I had the collector bust boxes from new cases to see if this printing issue extended to them or not. I got my answer after I absorbed two boxes and two of my cases had been broken into unnecessarily.
Fortunately I rallied hard in Vegas to come out ahead and other hoop heads have gotten behind the autograph and relic possible in each box. In addition, I have been assured that dirt will not be part of the design of future Crown Royale releases.
3) 19/20 Upper Deck Synergy NHL
Once again, the interest in a set that features three autographs in a case and no per box guarantees on hits comes as a refreshing surprise. More than any other sport, it seems that hockey fans are more focused on their base sets and throwing in individually numbered rookies isn’t a bad thing either. Locally at least, having Cale Makar on the Avalanche has led to balance out the disappearing acts from the #1 and #2 picks on the ice.
Boxes clock in the $85 range and with all the parallels, my collectors have been enjoying the challenge of working on their sets.
4) 2019 Bowman Draft Picks MLB
As usual, I know the big names who appear in the Bowman releases mostly from local shredders who are looking for the right player to either bank on or to avoid. Also as usual, I catch up to them a few months later when those players are the ones that now everyone is hunting for. Fortunately I get a nice allocation of Bowman Draft on top of what my distributors share with me and I can always make it to spring training with Bowman Draft boxes, if not cases, still intact.
Currently I have a healthy amount of Bowman Draft jumbos and am wishing I had not sold any of my 2019 Bowman Draft super jumbos (as usual). Now to see if I still have any left come the start of the 2020 MLB season.
5) 2019 Panini Contenders NFL
This release is one of the annual standards to this list with boxes once again offering eighteen packs per box and the standard five autographs per box with one of them being on card. Collectors have gotten used to this product being among the highest valued and most sought after rookies each year and now that we finally know the short prints and variations list, not every single auction will be listed as “SP?” or “SSP?”
Box prices have inched upward lately, but not so much that they are out of the range of breakers by price comparison…yet. I’m guessing that there will be increased interest in some of the key rookies until next season starts and perhaps we will see if any of these guys have either the Mahomes or the Lamar Effect and boxes enjoy their seemingly annual bump.
Guys, I hope I didn’t bring things down too much with my sharing my Kobe memories and the impact his passing might have on sports card stores. Again, how you collected Kobe while he was alive is up to you, just as how you collect now.
Looking ahead to the next month and the products I suspect might be on the hot list, perhaps we should consider releases like 2019 Plates & Patches NFL, 19/20 Optic NBA, 2019 Select NFL and possibly 19./20 Upper Deck Series 2.
Mike Fruitman owns Mike’s Stadium Sportscards in Aurora, CO. His column normally focuses on what products are selling best in hobby shops. He’s got thousands of cards for sale on COMC.com under the ID cardmn5150. 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].