Best Trade Ever

Look at this card:

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Yes, it’s a Joe DiMaggio rookie card, but a fairly reasonably priced one because it has another guy on it. That other guy is Hall of Famer Joe McCarthy!, but collectors find that takes away from the Joe D-ness of it. I’ve been working on my 1936 Goudey Wide Pen Type 1 set and this card was definitely going to be the hardest to find in reasonable condition at a reasonable price. In VG it books for $150 but I knew I’d never get it at that price. I assumed I’d have to pay $250 or more.

Then one appeared with a minimum bid and that minimum bid was $150. Definitely in a VG or better state, with some staining on the back that is hard to see on the front. I thought about it for days, asked myself  a lot of questions about whether I’d be happy with this particular card and that this particular price. I finally realized I’d never get it in this condition for any less, so I put in a bid.

In the last few weeks I’ve been methodically looking for doubles and triples to sell. One of the doubles I had listed was a 1976 Walter Payton rookie card, NM, with a minimum bid of $100. After I bid on the DiMag  card, I got the familiar iPhone ding signifying eBay action. Someone had bid on Payton. Then there was a message. The guy bidding on the Payton card was the same guy selling the DiMaggio! He’s putting together a complete run of Topps football , he liked my card and hoped we could end our respective auctions early.

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“Are you offering a one-for-one trade?”  I asked. He was. It was about midnight but I hopped out of bed and ran down to the computer. After a series of messages back-and-forth where we tried to figure out how to do this properly and in accordance with eBay rules (he changed his auction to Buy It Now with Offer and I was able to end my auction early and hit his bid), we got it done. Both eBay and PayPal were cut in on the deal but the end result is I got a Joe DiMaggio/Joe McCarthy card for $17 and an extra card I was willing to trade.

What does this say about value? I now have an 81-year-old card with two Hall of Famers, one of them amongst the most legendary, and the other guy got a 41-year-old card of an equally high level icon. Perhaps the value is in our mutual satisfaction and that’s enough. Prices, ages, maybe none of that really matters. Still, I can’t believe my good luck fortune.

Nineteen more cards to go in this set, with DiMaggio replaced by this guy as the highest priced card remaining:

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Anyone want to trade one for one for this?:

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From Buckeye to Branch’s Bonus Baby Buc

Autumn means post-season baseball and clashes on the college and NFL gridirons. Most fans of the two sports are aware that a few players managed to carve out careers in both sports. The obvious examples are Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders, who successfully played both sports professionally in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Jim Thorpe and George Halas were two early 20th century examples players who dabbled in both sports.

The aforementioned Jackson won the Heisman Trophy in ’85 before embarking on his professional careers in baseball and football. Thirty-five years earlier, another Heisman winner played both sports professionally: Vic Janowicz.

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1951 Topps Football

Although Vic was on the watch list of several MLB teams in high school, he decided to attend Ohio State to play football exclusively. He won the Heisman in ’50 as a two-way player seeing action as a tailback and safety. In addition, Vic handled the punting and place-kicking chores for the Buckeyes. In a game against Pittsburgh, he single-handedly scored 46 points. Against Michigan, Vic punted 21 times for 685 yards. His first card is from a ’51 college football set produced by Topps.

Janowicz surprised the sports world by initially forgoing pro football and signing with the Pirates in ’52, even though he hadn’t played baseball since his senior year in high school. The $10,000 signing bonus given to him by Pirates GM, Branch Rickey, resulted in Vic becoming a “Bonus Baby.” Under major league rules, “Bonus Babies” (players who sign for more than $4,000) had to remain on the big-league roster for two years.

Predictably, Janowicz saw limited action with the Pirates, which stunted his development. Used mostly as a third catcher, he hit .214 in ’53 and ’54, earning him a release at season’s end.

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1953 Topps
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1954 Topps

Despite his benchwarmer status, Janowicz had several cards. Topps included him in the ’53 set, and both Bowman and Topps issued cards for Vic in ’54. His final card is a ’55 Bowman “Color TV” card, even though he didn’t play that season.

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1954 Bowman
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1955 Bowman

The ’54 and ’55 Bowmans feature Janowicz wearing the helmet all the Pirates wore-including pitchers-at the behest of Branch Rickey. His goal of preventing head injuries was sound, but the helmets were composed of heavy plastic making them extremely uncomfortable. Maybe that explains the 100 loss seasons the Pirates endured in this era.

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1955 Bowman back

Interestingly, the cards all mention that Vic was an All-American at OSU but omit his winning the Heisman. I assume the award didn’t have the same lofty status that it holds today, since there were many clubs and organizations that sponsored awards in the ‘50s.

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1955 Bowman
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1956 Topps

With his baseball career aborted, Janowicz gave the NFL a try, signing with the Redskins who had drafted him in ’51. He plays two season for Washington, leading them in rushing in ’55 while handling the place- kicking duties as well. Bowman’s ’55 NFL set has a Janowicz card and Topps issued one in ’56.

Vic’s career ended tragically in a car accident in ’57. The resulting head injury left him paralyzed on the left side of his body.

Bo “knew” football and baseball, so did Vic.

Sources:
New York Times: February 29, 2009, Vic Janowicz Obituary
“From Heisman to the Diamond:” Baseball Hall-of-Fame Website
Trading Card Database

You Can’t Judge a Judge (By Looking At Its Sale Price)

I was an options trader for about 20 years. Was I a good one? There were things I was good at and there were things I wasn’t good at. On the whole I did all right.

One thing I was bad at was picking stocks. That wasn’t a skill set I needed for trading, so when I owned stocks (which was infrequently), I tended to ride them into the ground. Unless I stumbled my way into something that was a no-brainer and, through circumstance, had a lot of stock that I needed to blow out. Which I did.

About one month ago, I bought a pack of 2017 Gypsy Queen at Yastrzemski Sports on Main St. in Cooperstown and pulled an Aaron Judge autograph. Judge was already a great story, I’m not trying to take away from that, but he doesn’t do much for me. I’m not overly excited by Aaron Judge and had no emotional reason to keep the card. Plus, it seemed the perfect time to sell high.

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I checked eBay and watched a few auctions that were close to ending. One closed with a final bid of $26, another closed at $28. I saw there were a few Buy It Now listings at $35 that were not selling, so I put in a $30 Buy It Now of my own. In trading, we used to call  marginally improving the market “carping. ” The card sat for about a day, and then Judge hit another home run.

There was a market frenzy! My card was bought, the $35 cards were bought, and then the market seemed to have hit some sort of equilibrium – for a few days. Then he kept hitting home runs. Now he’s on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The card I sold at $30 is going for $100 more than that.

I’ve been selling a lot on eBay lately and if you sell enough, things even out. I sold a lot of 1969 Topps hockey cards in overall VG condition for over $60. I thought I get $20, if I was lucky.

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Did I learn anything from this? I don’t know. It seemed like a good move to sell and who knows, Judge might be Babe Ruth or, as so many previously burned rookie card buyers have cited, Kevin Maas.

In 2000, I sold a Tracy McGrady Topps Heritage autograph card for 75 bucks. It was a similar kind of situation – McGrady was hot, but I didn’t care, so I sold the card. Years later I looked and the card could be had for less than $10. Now that McGrady is a Hall of Famer it goes for around $20.

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In options trading, all options have an expiration date. I won’t get too technical but on an option’s expiration, either it’s worth something or worth nothing. You could’ve sold it for $.50 and you could’ve sold it for $100 but if it goes out worthless it goes out worthless. You just don’t know until the cycle runs its course. Selling Aaron Judge was like selling an option early and riding out the wave to see where it ends up. And here I thought I left trading behind!

How Long Has This Been Going On?

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“Um, Jeff, you know this is a baseball card blog, right?”

Yes I do, but bear with me. Those two cards are short printed rookie cards from the 2000-01 Topps Heritage basketball set. Why are they relevant? What’s the deal with those rookie cards? Why are they limited to 1972 of each, when the retro design is the 1971-72 set? Why not short print 1971 of each?

All good questions. When this set came out I was smitten. I love the original cards and I fell in love with the Heritage throwbacks, so I bought a box and went down the rabbit hole of short prints. There are 36 of them. I got the two above yesterday. I still need two to finish the set.

For those keeping score at home, that’s 16+ years working on one set. To be fair, I could’ve bought a complete master sett about 9 years ago, but I was already way deep into purchasing the SP’s. To be further fair, I have passed up on cards that were too pricey. My price point is $4-5 each. I will not pay $10 for Hedo Turkoglu or Mark Madsen. So some of this is on me.

What’s too long? I’m working on a 1949 Remar Bread set and a 1952 Parkhurst set. It may take years for me to find the flimsy paper card of Oakland Oaks broadcaster Bud Foster. Funny thing, the supply/demand balance is out of whack. It may take five years to get the card but when I get it it will cost me $8. I realize I may have to wait out these out of the mainstream sets.

I’ve been working on the 1971 Kellogg’s 3-D set and, while more scarce than their other issues, they’re out there. The time it takes me to finish this set will be determined by the deals I get. I’m a patient person. I recently got my wife a Wilco poster that I’de been looking for for seven years.

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There’s a frustration in not being able to fill a want list at one’s own pace. I’m realizing that if the only sets I’m working on are harder to find, I’ll be spinning my meals, getting no further in my collecting, and I don’t want my renewed passion for the hobby to wane. I decided to work on the 1960 Topps set. There’s never a lack of supply for any Topps base set, no matter how far back you go.

I see collectors who are working on a lot more sets than I am and wonder what their time frames are? Do some seek to complete, say, all the Topps sets by the time they die? Do others give themselves a year to finish something? Do some simply save up and buy a complete set when they can afford it?

Am I willing to take years to finish the 1960 set? Yes and no. I won’t overspend, and I have found the joy in trading with other collectors. I’ve never done that before. But knowing I could be done with a few clicks and a few PayPal payments does make it hard to wait and I need to wait. If I finish it too fast then I’ll need to search for another plentiful set to keep me occupied while I wait for a 1952 Parkhurst Aaron Silverman to show up.

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Is It the Cards, or Is It the Baseball?

“Beatle cards, Beatle cards!”

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I was a late talker, but somewhere between two- and three-years old, I got it. My Great Aunt used to tell me that I would howl about Beatles’ cards from my crib (Are two-year olds still in cribs?). The love of cards was strong with this one from early on.

Yes, this is a baseball card blog and, partially, this is a baseball card post, but it’s clear from what I gather of my own personal history that my love of cards began with Topps’ Fab Four, not ’64 baseball, cards.

Baseball cards are absolutely the vast majority of my cards. The sets are bigger, I’ve been buying them longer and continuously and, when I became the recipient of the card collections of friends, their shoeboxes were always dominated by baseball cards.

So what came first, the baseball or the card? That I’ve always bought lots of cards, of all sports and some non-sports, means that, for me, it’s always been the cards first, the baseball second.  Cards are talismans, direct memories of the past, but they can also be indirectly evocative. When Munsters’ cards came out in 1996 and 1998, I bought them. When Twilight Zone cards came out from 1999-2002, I bought those sets too. Same for the 2001 Planet of the Apes cards. Though not the original issues ( the 1964 Leaf Munsters and the 1967 Topps Planet of the Apes cards are a tad pricey), the recent sets were good fun, brought back great TV and movie memories, not so much from the time like a 1972 Gary Gentry would, but looking backward. They were definitely as much fun as those year’s baseball cards. The ’96 Grandpa Munster cards were as good, if not better, than the ’96 Derek Jeters.

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Is this off topic? Kinda, but I’d like to know what is at the core of the card collector. How many readers of this blog only collect baseball cards? How many collect other sports? How many collect non-sports? I want to know who’s harboring a secret Partridge Family set.

These days I am fully immersed in baseball cards, but that doesn’t mean I’m averse to picking up the occasional 1959 Fleer Three Stooges card, if the price is right.

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Baseball Cagers

With March Madness approaching, let’s take a look at old Topps cards of players who excelled on the hardwood as well as the diamond. My focus is on cards that used cartoons to convey the players’ basketball prowess.

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The first card I collected with a basketball cartoon was the ‘69 Ron Reed. He was a quality player at Notre Dame which resulted in the Detroit Pistons drafting him in the third round of the 1965 draft. He would go on to play for Detroit from ‘65-‘67. Ron had a long baseball career in which he became only one of eight pitchers with 100 wins and 100 saves.

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Hall-of-Fame pitcher Bob Gibson was an outstanding college basketball player at Creighton in his home town of Omaha. He delayed his storied baseball career for a year to play with the Harlem Globetrotters.

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6’7” Frank Howard played at Ohio State where he was an All-American in both baseball and basketball. Frank was drafted by the Philadelphia Warriors but decided to sign exclusively with the Dodgers in ‘59.

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Dave Debusschere was a duel sport star at the University of Detroit who signed with White Sox and the Detroit Pistons in ‘62. He had brief stints with Chicago in ’62 and ’63, finally giving up baseball after 1965 season. Dave had a Hall-of-Fame basketball career which included two championships with the Knicks in the 1970s. Incidentally, Debusschere was player-coach of the ‘64-‘65 Pistons at the age of 24.

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The first Duke basketball player to have his number retired was ‘60 NL MVP Dick Groat. An All-American in ’51 and ’52, Groat was named UPI National Player of the Year in ’52. He was the third overall pick by the Fort Wayne Pistons where he played for one year. Dick was not only a key cog for the ’60 World Champion Pirates but helped St. Louis win the title in ’64.

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Steve Hamilton was a two-sport athlete at Morehead State in Kentucky. He was drafted in ’58 by the Minneapolis Lakers where he played for two years including seeing action in the ’59 championship series loss to the Celtics. Steve had a 12 year MLB career as a relief pitcher primarily with the Yankees. By pitching in the ’63 and ’64 World Series, Steve joined Gene Conley as the only players to participate in a World Series and NBA final series.

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The aforementioned Conley is the only player to win both an NBA and MLB championship. After his time at Washington State University ,where he played in the College World Series, Gene signed with the Boston Braves in ‘50. He concentrated on baseball for two years before signing with the Celtics in ‘52. He only played for the Celtics for two years before deciding to go back to baseball exclusively. Five years later, Gene changed his mind and rejoined the Celtics. He won championships with them in ‘59’ ’60, and ’61. His one appearance with Milwaukee in the 1957 World Series made him a duel champion.

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Johnny and Eddie O’Brien were basketball stars for Seattle University in the 1950s despite being only 5’9”. Johnny was an All-American guard in ‘53 leading the Chieftains to the NCAA tournament. The twin brothers were drafted by Milwaukee Hawks but decided baseball was a more promising career path, signing with the Pirates in ’53. Both siblings played off and on from ’53 to ’59. Interestingly, both were position players and pitchers in the big leagues. Eddie and Johnny were the first twins to play for the same team (Pirates) in the same game.

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Another basketball All-American was Duquesne’s Dick Ricketts who accomplished the feat in ’55. The 6’7” Ricketts was selected number one in the NBA draft by the Hawks in ’55 as well. Dick went on to play for the Rochester and Cincinnati Royals for three years. His major league baseball career consisted of 12 games with the Cardinals in ’59. Many of you may remember his brother Dave who caught for the Cardinals and Pirates.

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Chuck Harmon was a star baseball and basketball player at Toledo in the late 1940s. He had a tryout with the Celtics in ’50 but didn’t make the team. Chuck signed with the Reds and became the first African-American player to appear for Cincinnati in April 1954.

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Danny Ainge was a standout basketball player at Brigham Young while playing baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays. He is well remembered for almost single handedly pulling off a last second win against Notre Dame in the 1981 NCAA Tournament. Ainge was awarded the John Wooden award as the nation’s most outstanding player that year. Ainge lasted three seasons with the Jays before deciding to devote his efforts to basketball exclusively. He signed with the Celtics in ’81 and went on to have a solid NBA career.

There are several examples of cards that mention a player’s basketball career in print. The ‘54 Jackie Robinson, ’56 Frank Baumholtz, ’71 Cotton Nash, ’74 Dave Winfield and several Tony Gwynn cards all allude to collegiate or pro basketball careers. If you are familiar with other examples, please post in the comments.