It’s Your Thing (Collect What You Wanna Collect)

Look at this card:

Ryan 152

Now look at this one:

ryan cut

I’m not bothered by off center cards, but nearly miscut cards do irk me (The one that’s miscut on the Koosman side bothers me less than the miscut on the Ryan side). However, and it’s a big however, there is a balance between cost and condition, A card with these corners and well-centered is going to cost at least $100 more. Will I be happy with a Ryan rookie at $150 if it looks like this? I’m not 100% sure but I’m leaning yes.

Maybe it’s a residual of my pack opening years that makes me unaffected by off-center cards. If I gave you an opened pack of 1975 Topps, the odds of pulling a full 10 well centered cards would be a million to one.  But, they’d all be sharp as hell, razor tight corners, beautiful color and gloss, and fine by me.

That works in my favor because in this graded world where centering has a regal place, I can get discounts. My pal Jimmy is a stickler for centering. He preferred this card:

Aaron VG

to this one:

1976 Aaron front099

He said that might sound insane to me, and it does, but the disparate criteria we all bring to the hobby and what we collect is part of the joy. Over at Baseball Card Freaks on Facebook, Bailey Walsh has posted and commented on what he calls his “PSA 1 Project.” He has his criteria (which I want him to write about for this blog), but what he doesn’t mind is interesting – a staple hole, some gunk, marks on the back, etc. He just got this card and, I have to say, it’s lovely.


Now I don’t know if I could handle a PSA 1, though if it was raw I wouldn’t know it was PSA 1. That made me think hard about what grading means. It has skewed our view of a nice card in ways that are, for me, anathema to the fun of collecting and how we view what is, or isn’t a nice card.

Those of you in the hobby for a long time will remember Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen. Rosen garnered a well-deserved reputation for making huge finds of unopened material. When the grading boom began, he wrote something that stuck with me. If he were to hand you a fresh pack of 1952 Topps, by the system we use, all the cards in that unopened pack are presumed minute. True, right? They went from the factory to the pack to some kid’s hands.

Yet, if you opened this pack of mint cards, they became not mint and if you pulled a pristine Mantle rookie that had 80/20 centering, well, you were screwed. It would only be an 8. How can that really be true and how can that hypothetical Mantle card have lost value upon its reveal? It’s bizarre.

Furthermore all of us seem to love most dearly the cards we collected in our youth and prize those above what we purchased later on. When I recently went through my 1975 set, I was thrilled about how nice they were AND how some were cut less than perfectly. Didn’t bother me one bit.

I have nothing earthshattering to say here. To each his own is not a profound thought. Still, I marvel at what bothers some and doesn’t bother others and how we are told now what makes a great card and what makes an OK card. It’s nonsense.

I can tell you one thing – writing this post is likely to make me buy a way off center Ryan rookie that looks like it came right out of a pack and I’m going to be damn happy about it!

Author: Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is the former Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.

10 thoughts on “It’s Your Thing (Collect What You Wanna Collect)”

  1. My ’68 Mets Rookie Stars has a crease through Koosman. It game out of a pack I bought in ’68. It doesn’t bother me enough to spend the money to replace it. I would much rather acquire more cards. That being said, I have significantly upgraded my ’68 and ’69 sets over the years. The extremely high value cards is where I draw the line.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I would much rather have a decently centered card with a minor crease or less than sharp corners rather than one with sharp corners but is diamond cut or way off center.
    Vintage cards almost have to have some small defect – otherwise they look fake.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Diamond cut can be annoying. I don’t mind if it’s slight. Creases bug me because they are true damage (as are worn corners). Everything else is the crap shoot of factory production and printing.


  4. I have never been a high end kind of collector, so I’ll happily pay less for a lesser condition card. $100 less for a miscut? Any day of the week.

    BTW, in parts of Southeast Asia and Australia/New Zealand there’s a chain of repair shops called Mr. Minit. Every time I pass one (I spend part of the year there) I think of Alan Rosen….

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Is funny. I’m more annoyed by faulty production than wear and tear as well. Trimming issues though bug me less than printing issues though. Wear and tear meanwhile tells me a story about how a card was used. I’m just fine with soft corners, minor creases, or even a pinhole.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think, maybe, when I put together sets I want, at some level, to pretend that it’s a set that was completed via packs, as if I did it in real time. Maybe that’s why production faults bother me less.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. My 71 and 72 sets are made up of cards I mostly pulled as a kid ripping packs. Right now I don’t see upgrading them. Some of my Ted Williams ca dis I got as a kid or as a teenager with little money. They fit nicely in the collection just as they are.

    Liked by 1 person

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