The Sad, New Face of Collecting

Lately, it seems collectors cannot go a single day without hearing or seeing a retail flipper weighing and/or searching through unopened retail packs. While this has been a problem I’ve personally encountered for nearly two decades, thanks to rabid discussions on social media, the word is finally getting out. The image below comes from Twitter where a user snapped a photograph of a collector/flipper sprawled out on the card aisle floor sans footwear going through all the retail packs searching for the “hit”, AKA the autograph and/or game-used memorabilia card.

To some, this may seem like a victimless crime. Who hasn’t been ripped off by Topps or Panini at one point, right? Others look at the fact that most “hits” in retail products are of utility players barely worth the time and effort to create an eBay listing. The most arrogant collectors just look down on others for spending money on retail when there are Hobby-exclusive products that are safe from this type of behavior. Yes, there are exclusive and extremely overpriced Hobby products available but even those boxes aren’t safe and haven’t been for quite some time.

Back in 1991, in the middle of the Junk Wax era and during the absolute madness that came from Donruss’ Elite inserts, there were already horror stories going around of card shop owners weighing boxes of 1991 Donruss and leaving the rest for sale to unsuspecting, mostly young collectors. These stories eventually made their way to online discussion groups on AOL and later, through message boards. Today, we still hear these tales on card blogs and social media. Collectors never forgot and you can bet they will never forgive. Once you earn the label of a scammer in this hobby, you are as good as done.

Now imagine running an online business selling trading cards in 2021 and then openly admitting to all your followers and potential clients that you weigh boxes. That’s exactly what ‘limitedissue‘ is doing and somehow he’s still moving products. As of Sunday, however, things got so hot that he was forced to turn off commenting on his Downtown brag post. As of today, the post in question is still up but don’t be surprised to see the evidence taken down very soon and everything wiped clean including the username. Bragging online about ripping off collectors doesn’t exactly make for a great business model.

Thanks to the wonderful world wide web, we can easily look up the information to LimitedIssue’s domain name registration. As it turns out, the domain is registered to a Mark Ibarra from New Jersey. I was able to find his email, home address and even his phone number but I’ll go ahead and keep that information private. Just remember to never, ever buy unopened products from anyone named Mark Ibarra from Jersey because what you will likely be paying for is pre-weighed boxes that gives you no shot at anything worthwhile. Protect yourself and protect other collectors.

While collectors can be a greedy bunch at times, not everyone is the same. Everyone collects differently and robbing someone from pulling what to you may be worthless $2 relic, is 100% criminal. Retail odds are already stacked to the roof and having these fat, greasy pack-feeling geeks making things worse only takes away from the joy that opening baseball cards provides. There is no way to stop card shop owners and these retail flippers from committing these acts but hopefully there’s still some good out there somewhere. For now, your best bet is to buy directly from manufacturers whenever possible.

Wax Heaven Flashback 2: The Card That Exposed Topps Company

Published: February 4th, 2015

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God bless the Internet. Before the days of eBay, message boards, and to an extent, card blogs … we were all at risk of being scammed, sooner or later, by trading card companies. We’ve all heard stories of 1989 Upper Deck card #1 being printed over and over again to make a killing on the secondary market, as well stories of highly sought-after cards leaving card company warehouses through the back door. This one, however, is new to me.

When 1996 Finest Baseball was advertised by Topps in their sell sheet sent to distributors, it promised collectors and investors alike that there would only be 150 Gold Refractors of each player produced. While there was serial numbering in ’96, it still was not a common practice and was kind of a hobby rarity or at least it would be for another year before numbering became a normal occurrence in high-end products and is now everywhere. This story may be the reason for it.

Unfortunately for Topps, as it relates to ’96 Finest, they didn’t count on Dr.Joseph Sentef’s deep pockets to expose something that seems to have been a common practice. By the time the Dr’s Finest shopping spree was over, he had somehow amassed 220, Finest Gold Refractors of Greg Maddux, a figure almost 50% more than what was advertised in the sell sheet. When confronted, a spokesman for Topps blamed a theft at their warehouse. Later, the story changed to missing cards from their vault. It wasn’t long after that exchange that a lawsuit was filed, which Topps ultimately ended up settling in court for an undisclosed amount.

In case you’re wondering, the card that started this PR nightmare almost two decades ago recently sold on eBay for a whopping $4.50. The real question is just how many more Greg Maddux ’96 Finest Gold Refractors are out there. If one collector alone has/had 220, just how many more are in other collections or in boxes of unopened product, which is still out there to be found. This incident for me really makes me question just how rare and valuable some of these 90s inserts really are.

I am currently working on another story about a collector who just recently picked up a “one of one” Manny Ramirez from 1998. I know that doesn’t sound like much of a problem at all, right? Except for one tiny, little, teeny issue. He already owns the same, exact card. So what do you do when you find yourself the owner of two “one of one” cards? Also, we are not talking about a worthless printing plate or some set filled with dozens of parallels. We are talking about a 1 of 1 of a star player with a huge hobby following from a set where pulling this card was the equivalent of winning the lottery. Unfortunately, this company is now out of business so there’s no one to ask why/how this could have happened.

So as collectors, who can we really trust out there?