What a roller coaster year it’s been for me. I left the hobby in 1997 when packs of baseball cards had skyrocketed to $8-12 per pack. A company that I had grown up with, Donruss, was offering autographs in packs and charging $20 for each pack and a new brand called Bowman Chrome was morphing innocent, fun-loving collectors into profit-seeking investors overnight.
Having returned in mid-2007 I came back into a completely new and very much different realm. No longer did I have to know the difference between Refractors and Atomic Refractors. Today I had to distinguish between a whole rainbow of Refractors from the Red, Blue, and Orange, to Gold, strangely-titled X-Fractors, and finally the mythical Superfractor. Brands like Upper Deck Masterpieces and Topps Co-Signers made their parallels so difficult to distinguish that I would have to own a Beckett Almanac just to figure out which card I actually pulled. It’s even harder considering I am terribly color blind.
What the heck is a printing plate and why would I want one? Game-used relics? Two, three autographs per box? Wow, where am I and how many thousands of dollars is my 1985 Topps Mark McGwire rookie worth today?
One day while wasting an afternoon at the card shop I witnessed a casual collector buy three boxes of 2007 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects and pull a Superfractor. The card featured a 23-year old prospect who shall remain nameless. The first thing out of the guy’s mouth was a boast about how much he could score on eBay. You see, a Fernando Martinez Superfractor had just sold for $7,000. That’s enough cash to keep most collectors happy for years if not decades. Another customer and a friend of mine jumped in the conversation out of desperation to hang on to his hobby a little longer. You see, he had spent tens of thousands of dollars over the years collecting Hall of Fame game-used relics and autographs and today his cards were selling for %50 of his purchase price on eBay regularly.
“Ive been collecting game-used auto’s for almost a decade and would like to trade for that card” he told the casual collector. Within an hour, the man had driven home, picked up a 5,000+ count box full of nothing but game-used cards and began negotiating right in front of every customer, which on a Wednesday afternoon is about three people. He began sorting through each card looking to add just enough to pull off the trade of a lifetime.
Nolan Ryan, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey Jr., Derek Jeter, all game-used cards with either double or triple patches and an autograph. The final card was a stunning Lou Gerigh triple game-used with more stripes than Pete Rose in 1990. The Beckett book value alone was in the thousands. The deal was complete and my friend rushed home to list the Superfractor and continue his passion of buying game-used cards.
7 days went by, no watchers, no bids. Once again he listed it, 5 days, no watchers and no bids. Today that card sits alone in a slot that once held several legends of the game. Cards worth more than used cars with serial numbers you could count on both hands. In a matter of hours they were discarded for a now close to 25-year old kid who is still lingering somewhere in AA and all because of hype. So go on and enjoy your Bowman parallels and your eight-piece cut auto, DNA, monster truck, speedo, Aquamarine Hyper Refracoromix. I have a date with a box of commons and a stack of 1989 Topps to sort through.