Jump to content

Providing independent coverage of the Minnesota Twins.
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

The Forums

Front Page: 6 Potential Non-Roster September Call-ups Who...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 05:28 PM
For the last time under the current rules, teams will be able to add as many as 15 players to their active bench once the calendar turns...
Full topic ›

Front Page: Twins Game Recap (8/21): Giolito Throws Compl...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 05:20 PM
After a huge night from the Minnesota Twins’ offense that was led by Nelson Cruz, and a perfect night from the bullpen, the Twins were se...
Full topic ›

The Rays got their man at the deadline. Arggggh!

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 04:18 PM
I've mentioned former Miami Marlin and now Tampa Bay Ray RP Nick Anderson as an obvious Twins' deadline target for the pen previously. Th...
Full topic ›

Front Page: Twins Minor League Report (8/20): Extra(s), E...

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 04:15 PM
It was a long day in the Minnesota Twins' farm system on Tuesday, as three of their six affiliate’s games went into extra innings. Hits w...
Full topic ›

Game Thread "Harvey" Twins vs. White Sox 12:10pm...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 04:08 PM
A buddy o' mine is flying into the cities Monday, and thought to check out Target field which was a kindly sentiment, knowing he's not mu...
Full topic ›

Baseball Card Q&A: Collecting Tips for Beginners

While covering the Minnesota Twins this season, I’ve also made sure to include a brief foray into some additional was the game of baseball is enjoyed. Posted typically at Off the Baggy, or accessible in the Twins Daily blog section, a series on Topps baseball card offerings has been a long running topic. Gone are the years of the junk wax era in which cards became overproduced and less valuable than the cardstock they were printed on. We now are in a place where “The Hobby” as it’s affectionally known, is as much an investing market as it is a booming collectors haven.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com
Twins Daily contributor Jamie Cameron sparked this discussion when he tweeted something that caught my eye last week. Baseball cards have expanded into a much larger industry than simply going into your local retail store and grabbing a wax pack. With someone genuinely curious and questions at hand, it seemed a great opportunity to dissect where the industry is as it stands today.

Timing for this piece couldn’t be better either. Starting Wednesday and running through Sunday, The National (The National Sports Collectors Convention) is taking place just outside of Chicago, Illinois. A yearly event each summer (that swaps between Chicago, Atlantic City, and Cleveland), The National is the epicenter of the collecting universe and offers an endless supply of cardboard dreams.

Setting the stage for Jamie’s questions, he denotes his background being born and raised in the United Kingdom. Having been in the Twin Cities for roughly 15 years now, baseball has always been a passion of his. He doesn’t have the childhood memories of card collecting however, and as stated earlier, the game has changed significantly since then. Here’s what he wanted to know.

How did you get into collecting? As a kid or an adult?

I found myself collecting cards as a kid, seeing it as an inexpensive way to connect with athletes I enjoyed. My parents would often be ok with a pack or two from the local retail store when we stopped in on occasion. By my teenage years I had a couple binders full of early late 90’s and early 2000’s sports cards that I no longer cared about. Eventually they were parted with at a garage sale I would imagine.

Getting back into the hobby in late 2016, I found myself stumbling into what is known as a “break room” (where groups of people buy into a product and split cards). Having always enjoyed decorating and displaying memorabilia in my basement, cards represented an avenue to capture moments and collect objects of a bit smaller physical footprint.

How do you purchase products? Packs from a store, direct from dealers, or something else?

The two main avenues are your retail stores such as Target or Walmart, and hobby shops. Hobby shops are designated by the term LCS (local card store). They aren’t nearly as plentiful as they may have been years ago, but many larger cities have one. Whether specializing in cards, comics, or some other collectible, they get what is known as hobby products. These boxes and packs may have different offerings in them to incentivize consumer from buying there.

Retail options include more cost-effective offerings. While hobby boxes at an LCS can run from $50 all the way into the $1,000’s, smaller blaster boxes, fat packs, hanger boxes, and single packs can all be had at a retail store for $20 or less. If there’s no LCS in sight retail becomes the lone option. It’s a great place to dip your feet in. Just be aware that the individually wrapped packs could be picked over like the best offerings in the produce aisle.

What are the best brands? What determines that?

There are really only three baseball card manufacturers, and only two of them are the major players. Topps is the lone company with an MLB license and that makes them the premium product. Panini is a football first company, and while they are licensed with the MLBPA, the lack of MLB license means there’s no logos or team names on any of their cards. Leaf is another offering while being unlicensed as well. Although Panini does make some very visually appealing cards, value is always at its highest with Topps.

How much time and money do people put into collecting?

As with any hobby this is going to have a ridiculously wide range. Collecting anything is obviously a personal adventure. Some people collect single players or teams, while others look at cards as an investment vehicle. Those investing typically trend towards prospects or vintage cards, and the time is a large component as you must study the market and make sure you’re targeting the players with the best present and future ROI. A player or team collector may simply want each card of whoever they’re after, and sites like eBay and Comc (Check Out My Cards) provide a very quick way to grab and go.

From a monetary standpoint, you can land all over the board. Topps alone puts out something like 25 different products each year. You can find a new release calendar at a site like Cardboard Connection in order to keep track. The bulk of those products cost $200 or less, while a small minority can get over $1,000. Each product has significant “hits” or desirable cards that, on the secondary market, can fetch hundreds to tens of thousands. The level of buy in is again up to the collector.

What’s your favorite card? Why?

Too difficult to chose just one, so I’ll go with two. I collect Minnesota Twins cards and have smaller collections of both Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. There are some really nice cards in my Twins PC (personal collection, which you can view here), but it’s two Trout cards that stick out for me. The first is a 2018 Topps Heritage Relic Autograph /25 that I pulled from a blaster box. Purchasing a $20 retail offering from Target and hitting something like this is like winning the lottery. I was stunned and it’s a card I’ll almost certainly never sell.



Having been back into collecting for roughly three years now, I have added some higher end cards of the players I really like. Mike Trout is trending towards the greatest player baseball has ever seen, and his rookie card market is reflective of that. A non-descript card few thought twice of seven or eight years ago, it’s now the must have subject of the modern era. PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator- a third party grading company) graded copies of the card in a Gem Mint 10 went for roughly $500 as recently as this winter. They are now worth near or over $1,000 and continue to rise. My wife surprised me with one for our five-year wedding anniversary in February.

Attached Image: Capture.PNG

What do you get from it? Overall, why is this a hobby for you?

Personally, I find it as a connection to differing passions. I have always been artistically inclined, and love looking at the photography and designs these companies continue to put out while tying in a sport I enjoy. The thrill of pulling an autograph or hit, as well as the fun in buying the next cool card to hang onto is something I’ve gotten behind. I’m not interested in the investment side of the hobby or looking to make money, so grabbing what I like is much easier without worrying what the return or loss may be.

I find myself continually going back to look through cards in my collection. Reminiscing on players or events that were depicted is fun, and not looking through them on a consistent basis lends to a thrill of excitement each time I peruse what I have. Displaying some of my collection has made for neat memorabilia showcases in my house, but a further connection to the game of baseball is really what it’s about for me.

This is obviously far from all encompassing, and there’s certainly more nuanced questions about the hobby, and collecting in general, to be asked. Do you have a collection to show off? Do you have questions to ask? Anything else you’d like to know? Feel free to share in the comments below.

  • nclahammer likes this

  • Share:
  • submit to reddit
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

14 Comments

Thanks for sharing Ted! My brother and I collected the four major sports in the late 70s and 80s. Primarily baseball and football. We have fond memories going to the Tom Thumb and buying packs for what I recall was .25. Your post and a recent movie on Netflix got me thinking about getting back into the hobby. It’s a bit overwhelming and my question is what year and brand would you go after. For example, let’s say I want to pull a Trout rookie. Would you recommend the Topps Heritage or Update you have pictured? I’m sure this is a complicated question so any advice is appreciated. Do you collect any other sports?
    • Ted Schwerzler likes this

I got out of the hobby when the discussion became predominantly about the speculative value of the player/card and not for the love of the game or the players. Sorry. Wanna buy some Topps/Fleer/Donruss from circa 1985? Didn't think so.

Photo
Ted Schwerzler
Aug 01 2019 06:51 PM

 

Your post and a recent movie on Netflix got me thinking about getting back into the hobby. It’s a bit overwhelming and my question is what year and brand would you go after. For example, let’s say I want to pull a Trout rookie. Would you recommend the Topps Heritage or Update you have pictured? I’m sure this is a complicated question so any advice is appreciated. Do you collect any other sports?

I watched Jack of All Trades recently too and came away a bit underwhelmed. I thought the premise was going to be explaining why 80-90's era junk wax has little value and then diving into where the hobby is today. Instead it was presented as more of a family story.

 

As far as a Trout rookie, that's a pretty steep ask. A blaster box of 2011 Update (Where Trout's rookie is found) can now cost up to $300. A single pack runs about $130 or so. Going after Trout's rookies are now pretty spendy.

 

Topps Chrome (released Wednesday) is a great set. It's chrome cards of the flagship series set. Heritage is a really fun set too, and has current players on card designs from previous years. This year it's the 1970 design.

 

What to buy depends on if you want a hit (autograph/relic card), or are chasing the base cards of rookies and stars.

    • TJ2 likes this
Photo
Ted Schwerzler
Aug 01 2019 06:53 PM

 

I got out of the hobby when the discussion became predominantly about the speculative value of the player/card and not for the love of the game or the players. Sorry. Wanna buy some Topps/Fleer/Donruss from circa 1985? Didn't think so.

I think almost any commodity has a monetary value, it's just about whether or not it appreciates or depreciates after use. Buying wax boxes of cards is almost certainly a losing proposition given it's a gamble and you're likely never going to match the ROI. However, if you do it solely because you want to collect a player or team, there's a lot of fun to be had.

 

Each year I try to pick a rookie or two that may be under the radar and see if I can't grab some of their prospect cards at $1 or 2 and then make some money if they have a big year.

Photo
Ted Schwerzler
Aug 01 2019 06:54 PM

 

Do you collect any other sports?

I don't really "collect" football, but I'm a huge Ducks and Marcus Mariota fan. I have a nice PC of his. You can see that here: https://www.flickr.c...157702721830081

 

I think almost any commodity has a monetary value, it's just about whether or not it appreciates or depreciates after use. Buying wax boxes of cards is almost certainly a losing proposition given it's a gamble and you're likely never going to match the ROI. However, if you do it solely because you want to collect a player or team, there's a lot of fun to be had.

 

Each year I try to pick a rookie or two that may be under the radar and see if I can't grab some of their prospect cards at $1 or 2 and then make some money if they have a big year.

 

This is true, but the problem with the cards commodity as demonstrated by the Jack of All Trades movie is that the value of the asset is going to be difficult to create when it can be printed at will. A Picasso is worth a lot of money because there is one original.Signed lithographs a small quantity.A print of a Picasso painting, virtually worthless.

 

The older cards were valuable because they were collected individually.All of the thousands of cards I collected as a kid were bought a few packs at a time.But, when cards became available in sets, people could buy sets to "hold onto because htey would be valuable one day" and the card makers oversaturated the market.

 

I personally think kids should be taught the card collecting hobby ignoring the value. Cards are fun and a way to learn sports.It should be kept that way.

I know your post was about saying "have fun and collect cards - its neat".Which I agree with.However, the economics are upside down and you could/should have done a better job of underlining this.To highlight pictures of your "lottery tickets" where you got cards that are worth more than the pack that you bought is a rarity and finding a card that's worth three figures is close to 1 in a million.

If I was talking to someone who had never collected cards, I would want to underline (several times) that they need to do it for the love of collecting because 999 out of 1000 people won't find any card worth more than $5.Considering a pack can be $15, this is not a way to make money.Collecting sports cards hasn't been about making money or stocking up an investment at any time after 1985.I buy a pack of cards a couple times a year just for fun and haven't found a valuable football or baseball card (worth more than $5-$10) since like 2001.

Instead if you love baseball AND you want to collect cards of value, I would suggest that people get into collect cards prior to 1979 - especially if you are interested in baseball or football history.

Not saying collecting cards SHOULD be about making money, but too many people open up pack after pack after pack hoping to find that golden ticket that never shows up and then they get burned out with their stack of worthless cardboard.No one should be getting into card collecting to make money.

Thanks for this article. I also collected when I was a kid. I have some time away from it while in college and grad school, and now I'm starting to look back into my collection. The best thing now, is the ability to go on Ebay and buy the exact cards you want at reasonable prices. There's no chance of that lotto pull, but no wasted money and no common cards to get rid of later. It's also great for building a collection (I'm trying to collect every pre-2000 Kirby Puckett card).

 

Hobby shops are still great and I hope they stick around! And as you said, hobby packs offer special inserts and sometimes better odds, which makes them usually better to buy than the retail packs/boxes. Always read the label first to see what's possible in those packs!

    • Ted Schwerzler likes this

I go back to the days on penny cards with a stcok of gum. It took awhile to figure out that the cards were released in series (by checklist) and then learned to spot when it was an old box of cards out for sale compared to a new one. 

 

My dad, who still had his 30s Goudey cards when I was growing up, talked of the corner store where the guy opened all the packs and you could buy the cards you wanted (or needed).

 

Bags and bags of that gum, which would get hard, like beef jerky, if left to sit.

 

Then came the ability to buy sets (still got lots and lots of years in storage).

 

Like comic books, it became more about the speciality item, then the grading. 

 

Amidst all the jersey cards, stickered signature cards and such, Topps is still the ultimate king, although the days when they controlled issuing a complete set of players is far far away.

 

My grandboys (4 and six) came over and saw piles of cards on my table and happily recognized them as baseball cards, which made me think there is hope for the future, as long as the game is taught, played and kept appealing to view. But not sure how kids get cards these days. See a small wall at the mass market store, but the days of a box of cards for your dime or quarter at some neighborhood visit place, or even vending machines (Rowe postcards were famous at these) is long gone. Even major metro areas are lucky to have any semblence of a card store.

 

It is paper, cardboard...with a photo and stats that one would memorize, and bend, and markup. The majority aren't worth a damn, except to someone going backwards, or someone upgrading the worn cards of their youth. But as memories, baseball cards allow you to relive a sport that you follow and love, although like everything else you can just make a page of photo memories on the net to view at on your phone rather than watch commercials between innings.

 

Even autographs have become passe to selfie photos. Autographs, where a player will sign thousands of stickers to be palced on cards rather than ever have to interact with a fan, be them an oldtimer like me, or young kids. 

 

Beginners, just get a card of each play from your tem, or your favorite player. Stay away from the investment game. If something you do manage to obtain is worth $$$, okay be joyful. But keep it fun.

    • Ted Schwerzler likes this
Photo
Tom Froemming
Aug 02 2019 08:55 AM

If you're looking for some more baseball card nostalgia, we had a fun card collecting article from Crackin' Wax that ran over the winter.

    • Ted Schwerzler and TJ2 like this
Photo
Ted Schwerzler
Aug 02 2019 10:07 AM

 

Not saying collecting cards SHOULD be about making money, but too many people open up pack after pack after pack hoping to find that golden ticket that never shows up and then they get burned out with their stack of worthless cardboard.No one should be getting into card collecting to make money.

I don't think that was the point at all, and did make sure to not that opening packs are essentially gambling. If you are interested in the hobby solely as a means to connect with the game as I am, then buying singles off of eBay, forums, or other websites is certainly the more fiscally feasible avenue.

If you're looking for some more baseball card nostalgia, we had a fun card collecting article from Crackin' Wax that ran over the winter.


Tom or anyone else in this thread, have you ever had an autographed baseball lose it’s ink and tried recovering it? I’ve read it can’t be done and a black light may help. I’m interested in someone’s feedback with first hand experience.
Photo
Ebby Calvin Laloosh
Aug 02 2019 03:11 PM

Love the card with La Tortuga pitching.

    • Ted Schwerzler likes this

LOL, I am now seeing a lot of online ads for selling my baseball cards, apparently from my having done one simple google search verifying what I was about to post the other day (about how far back sets of cards need to be, to be worth more than the cardboard salvage value).

 

Still, better than the ads I was getting after Carole suckered me into clicking a link of hers in a game thread.

    • Ted Schwerzler likes this

Similar Articles


by Cooper Carlson , 19 Aug 2019
Photo


by Cooper Carlson , 14 Aug 2019
Photo


by Cody Christie , 12 Aug 2019
Photo


by Patrick Wozniak , 09 Aug 2019
Photo


by Ted Schwerzler , 08 Aug 2019
Photo