Saturday, August 11, 2012

Experience or Paranoia?

There's no doubt about it. We learn from our past. We all have experiences in life that teach us what to do and what not to do in the future. I've learned that this can both be a blessing and a curse.

Travel back in time with me to 1992. It's a hot, Phoenix summer and I'm frequently finding solace in the air conditioned card shop that shared a parking lot with my employer, Bizmart. You guys remember Bizmart, right? Back before OfficeMax bought them? Anyway, I'd get out of work and head straight across the lot to the store, staring at all of the stuff I couldn't afford and buying up the stuff I could. It was the days of mass produced cards; days when none of the cards I was so enamored with would hold any real value. I didn't know that at the time and didn't much care. I was having fun.

One of the sets I was putting together was a set of 91-92 Wild Card. There was a reason back then that I liked the set, although I'd be hard pressed to tell you why at this point in time. One early Saturday morning, my wide-eyed ignorance paid off.

For those of you that aren't familiar with the product, Wild Card's gimmick was that they had random cards inserted into packs that had stripes on them. These stripes would have a number on them; 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 (if my memory serves me correctly). The theory behind these stripes was this: If you pulled a stripe card, you multiplied the book value of the base card by the number on the stripe and your card was worth approximately that value. For example, if you pulled a $1 card but it happened to have a 10 stripe on it, the card was valued at $10. Simple enough concept.

Well to make a very long story a little shorter, I pulled a 1000 stripe Kenny Anderson basketball card. Now this was Kenny Anderson's rookie year; the second pick in the '91 draft. His card was worth $2.50 so in theory, I had a $2,500 card on my hands. Scoff though you may, I turned that card into $1,300 cash.
This was my first major payday in the sports card world. I remember clearly that I bought a beat up, used truck with that money; a truck that served me well for the next two years. The moral of this story, however, is that in preparing to write this blog entry, I located one 1000 stripe Kenny Anderson card for sale on the internet. Their asking price is $5.00. That sounds about right.

This is where my past experiences catch up to me in a somewhat negative fashion. As mentioned and shown in a previous blog, I pulled a gorgeous Yu Darvish rookie auto after returning to this amazing hobby. It's been sold already. I've also pulled a Cam Newton rookie auto. I've also pulled a Darvish Gypsy Queen SP card. I've also pulled ... well, I could do this all day. The fact remains that all of these great hits have been either sold or traded away out of fear that they're the next Kenny Anderson. Finding the balance between a risk of value and smart decision is a factor of trading that has always eluded me. In fact, I had initially turned down that $1,300 offer for the Kenny Anderson card, only changing my tune when the owner of my LCS literally kicked me in the ass and told me to "call the guy back RIGHT NOW!"

The constant unknown of when to cash in can be both positively and negatively affected by our past experiences. It's important to find a balance. Sadly, that knowledge doesn't come in packs like a piece of stale gum. It only comes with, you guessed it, more experience.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Indecision and it feels so good

So my re-entry into the hobby has been met with many decisions waiting to be made. How much can I budget for this? What product(s) should I buy? Which set(s) should I build? Maybe most importantly, whom should I PC?  The indecision surrounding this last question has plagued me for the last few months. I've changed my mind more often than I changed majors in college (trust me, that's a significant number).

The seemingly easy task of choosing which players I would most like to PC started out easy enough; everyone who played for any team in Arizona. Whew, problem solved. Mr. or Ms. Reader, did you know that a lot of people have played for teams in Arizona? It's true. You can look it up.

I quickly realized that an all-Arizona, all-the-time PC was not in my best interest. I decided to narrow it down to some select players. I use the term "narrow it down" quite loosely. I started seeking out cards of Farry Fitzgerald, Ryan Williams, Beanie Wells, Kurt Warner,  Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, Shane Doan, Keith Yandle, Keith Tkachuk, Pat Tillman, Justin Upton ... the list went on and on. While I felt some relief from the "if it has one of four logos on it, I NEED IT" mentality that I abandoned, I still was met with a sense of being overwhelmed trying to remember who I decided on and where I could find their cards. It quickly became, for lack of a better term, a major time-suck. To be completely honest, it kind of sucked a little of the fun out of the hobby too.

I reduced my list a little more; probably down to about 6 or 8 athletes. I started having fun again. It was then that I realized that with all of the time, energy and finances I was putting into these several players, I could create a much better PC of even fewer players.  It was the end of training camp. Some players needed to be cut. It was a tough decision but when you're in a (card) management role, sometimes you have to make the tough decisions. Last week, the final roster was decided.

Larry Fitzgerald and Justin Upton were all-stars in my book. They represented the two athletes I had collected the most cards of in the short time I had been collecting. The third choice took a wild turn that I never saw coming. It was a tough decision and some tough choices had to be made but I decided to look outside of Arizona for the first time. I had been reading a book about a particular player from the '50's and realized that it could be fun to have a vintage PC to go along with my two current PC's. But the player, a pitcher, played for one of my most hated rivals. Could I possibly? Was that even ethical? I decided it was and as of last week, I have decided that Mr. Sandy Koufax will be my third PC.

The irony is not lost on me. For the money I'll be spending keeping up a Koufax PC, I could have easily kept up all of those others. I get it. Some part of me is more than okay with this though. I'm excited at the prospect of what I might find. I'm excited to relive a part of history while building my collection. I'm excited to read the back of every Koufax card and see if I can imagine being there. I'm excited to be a fan for no other reason than to be a fan. The main down side to this decision is that I won't be able to rip a box in hopes of hitting a significant Koufax. I can easily go buy some 2007 baseball to find an Upton or some 2004 football for my Fitz rookies. My guess is boxes (even packs) from '55, '56 and beyond will be 1) hard to find, 2) expensive as hell and 3) stupid to buy since there's no guarantee that a Koufax would even be in there.

So goes the decisions we make as collectors. My hope is that this becomes my final decision. Sure, I'll add players from time to time. I mean, there's probably some kid in 8th grade right now who is going to be my favorite player once he hits it big for the Cardinals in 2023*. But for now, I'm content to start building my PC's, enjoying every card along the way.

* I am in no way implying that the Cardinals will suck in 2022 and have the first pick. I fully expect that their first pick of the draft will come from some stupid trade that the 49'ers made with us 3 years prior. Thanks, Niners!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

It's all a blur ...

It all started with World of Warcraft. That's right, WoW is the reason I'm back to card collecting.  Here's the story.

So I had gotten into WoW. It was an easy way to just kind of de-stress, focus on things other than real life for a while. This was in Phoenix. Then I moved to Seattle. With no way to get back to the game since I was staying in a hotel for a while, I found myself a little bored. I needed to be frugal with gas so I couldn't go explore my new surroundings as I wanted to but the hotel room became boring quickly. I had heard that there were WoW cards so I figured I'd check out a local gaming shop to see what they were all about. 2 hours later, I had somehow bought a starter set of Magic: The Gathering. After two days, I realized that was definitely not my style. Here I was, stuck with all of these cards that I had no desire to own anymore. I took them to a different store to see if they wanted to buy any of them and low and behold, they had sports cards too.

I saw boxes of cards that looked familiar. Yes, I had built those sets before. I saw cards that I never knew existed. I saw autographs and game used patches everywhere!  I ended up trading all of those MTG cards for 4 or 5 packs of 2012 Topps baseball. It was all over.

Now the next few weeks gets hazy. It's all a blur. Next thing I know, I'm logged into watching a channel called LiveCaseBreak. It wasn't long before I was participating in a box break of my own. It was 2012 Topps Archives. Then it happened. The worst possible thing that could happen to someone who didn't necessarily want to get involved in a hobby that could potentially cost a lot of money. I got my hit.

The coveted Yu Darvish rookie auto. That was the moment my resistance to re-enter this wonderful hobby lost all hope of victory. I felt the rush. I had felt it before. Many times. I willingly relented.

Since then, I have had other big hits. I have also busted a lot of crappy boxes. But it's all about the hunt, isn't it? I've heard the trumpets sound. The hunt is on.

Just when I thought I was out, the cards pull me back in!

Okay so ... I actually WAS out. I got out of collecting for about 20 years. About 5 months ago, I found myself in a new city (Seattle) and stumbled haphazardly into a card shop. That's all it took. My eyes widened as I looked among the many shelves of cards. They were shiny, pristine, some expensive and others not so much. The memories of pulling a Jordan rookie and of selling some random card for $1,300 in my past came rushing back. I made a fateful decision. I traded a failed attempt to waste time for two packs. That was all it took. The cards owned me again. I was powerless.

Here I am, 5 months later, having gotten so much more into the hobby than I think I ever was in the 5 or 6 year period when I collected as a teenager. I've spent way too much money and been rewarded with some great hits. I'm still finding my balance but as I read more, participate more, watch more, I get sucked in more and more. And I like it.

This blog will be an inconsistent memoir of my return to collecting. Inconsistent because I'm flat out lazy when it comes to keeping up on things like this. But it'll also be a place where I can review some products from the eyes of someone just returning to the hobby; where I can post some hits that may impress you or may make you yawn. My hope is that it's also a way to meet other people in the hobby. I always love reading others stories and seeing their cards. It'd be great if this was just another tool I can use to do so.

To finish off this initial post, I'll just mention a couple things:

  • My name's Christian. Say hi sometime.
  • You can find me regularly on and on LiveCaseBreak (XianSPL)
  • I recently moved to Seattle from Phoenix. If you're in Seattle (or going to visit), hit me up to talk about LCS's. I've found my favorites already.
  • I PC Justin Upton, Larry Fitzgerald and Sandy Koufax

Hope whoever reads this sticks around to see more. I promise future posts will be full of card images. I just didn't want to plop a random card into this post. You gotta tell a story with cards, ya know?  :)