Category Archives: Great American Baseball Cards

Trying not to buy cards

Part 10 in a series chronicling the One Sorry Blog Baseball Card Sell-Off
By Paul Rivas

Editor’s note: One Sorry Blog founder Paul Rivas is selling off his baseball cards on ebay with seller name onesorryblog, keeping only a precious and worthless few. He intends to sell every last card that will bring money at auction and donate the remaining 30,000 for no tax break. Realizing that his last hurrah in the hobby is upon him, Rivas is recording and reflecting on the experience at One Sorry Blog, the thinking collector’s blog.

I already mentioned spending $5.50 at my local card shop on three 86-87 Fleer cards, a move I fruitlessly tried to justify by selling off the DJ card on ebay. The card didn’t sell – twice – and now I’m stuck with it, to go with Tom Chambers, Larry Nance and George Gervin (I can’t remember if I still have the Gervin or if I gave it to the person who bought my Gervin lot). Which got me thinking, maybe I should collect the 86-87 Fleer set, or at least all those that I can get cheaply. There was an eight-card lot on ebay that went for $5 including shipping, and it was a struggle not to bid. Last night I fought myself in my dreams as to whether or not buying 86-87 Fleer could be called anything other than addiction. In my sleep, I regretted selling my Dr. J sticker card for $1.25. Awake, I don’t find it nearly as difficult to not buy things, but in that dream it was tough.

Everyone knows it’s insane to buy cards during a firesale. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Chambers and Nance cards are pop art pieces well worth their $2 price tag, but that’s exactly what most of the 167 things I just sold on ebay were. Style is no excuse. Quite apart from the fact that my relapse almost inspired me to make good on a long-held collecting fantasy, I shouldn’t have gone against the principle of the sale. Remember how hot 86-87 Fleer cards were? They were hot, and I’ve always sort of wished I’d bought them in 1986, when I started collecting, instead of 86 Topps baseball, but that’s another gripe entirely. I acknowledge that I did a stupid thing, but I’m not sorry, and therein could be where the addiction lies.

I knew when this Sell-Off started that it would be all-consuming and heavy duty for as long as it lasted, and that it wouldn’t last very long. All of a sudden, the payments have all but stopped coming, and the 4:45 trips to the post-office are a thing of the past. Maybe I anticipated missing it all, and that’s why I bought those three cards. I tend to think it had more to do with my having come straight from looking at cards with Rob H. for three hours when I bought them. In any event, my ebay feedback is up to 68 now, 100 positives overall and the one mutual punk-out I had with one of my first buyers. It feels good, I suppose, having perfect feedback, and that’s where they get you. Despite being a nightmare to navigate, ebay is sure fun, and easy to get sucked into. As I write this, I’m watching five auctions for 86-87 Fleer items.

Saturday, I listed 14 lots, the last of the singles that are worth the effort and shipping costs to sell. In fact, their worth could not be more in question. I’ve lumped bunches of things together that didn’t sell or that I’d yet to try to sell. I started them all at the legal minimum $0.01, and have slashed shipping costs. It’s likely that some of the 14 lots will sell for less than the worth of their $0.08 rigid top-loaders. On the other end, I’m hoping the Kobe and Garnett stuff brings at least $5 per go. Of course, the stuff in the middle that I don’t think about is what will determine whether or not I make enough money to have made it worth the hour or two I put in on Saturday. Starting everything at $0.01 was Andrew Nixon’s suggestion, and starting the auctions on a Saturday afternoon was Rob Helms’s.

I predict that everything will sell for $0.01!

i’m trying to fix this.

How much is my baseball card collection worth?

Part 7 in a series chronicling the One Sorry Blog Baseball Card Sell-Off
By Paul Rivas

Editor’s note: One Sorry Blog founder Paul Rivas is selling off his baseball cards on ebay with seller name onesorryblog, keeping only a precious and worthless few. He intends to sell every last card that will bring money at auction and donate the remaining 30,000 for no tax break. Realizing that his last hurrah in the hobby is upon him, Rivas is recording and reflecting on the experience at One Sorry Blog, the thinking collector’s blog.

It was in Nicaragua, the country that gave you Dennis Martinez. We were in the last days of the big schlep. Clare had flown home with her Network TV Slut of a sister. I had risen at 5:00 a.m., a good hour or two later than the hours at which I would be asked to rise for the next two days’ buses to San Salvador and then Tapachula. Alone on my last night in Managua, I watched my first American football game of the season, Monday Night Pats at Ravens. I decided to start rooting hard for the Patriots to go undefeated and my Randy Moss rookie cards to be hot at $100 apiece. There followed some thoughts on what I would do for money when I got back to the U.S., and what I would do with all the stuff that I had stored around the county and forgotten about in my two years living in South America. By the time the Pats had pulled it out, I’d decided that slashing 30,000 cards would clean out the closets and bring a few dollars at the same time.

In Santa Barbara, two months, 95 auctions, three private sales and $1163 later, the Nicaragua story is laughable. The Pats slothed it in the Super Bowl, the Moss cards are the only ones I haven’t reclaimed from consignment at the card shop to auction on ebay, and a visit with a friend has served to remind me that 30,000 ain’t even that many: Rob, who has commented on this series, keeps 70,000 1987 Topps.

Dude’s got fourteen 5000-count monster boxes of 87 Topps. Think about what that means for my unopened wax box of the stuff. No good. Garnett cards are hot now, good. Kobe scoring 100 before I list my last ten of his rookie cards, also good. But a 96 Score Cal Ripken #2131 1:100,000,000 packs only brings $0.99? No good. I had dedicated a line or two in this limited edition blog (you are 1:120, one of only 120 readers per day) to how that card was the best card I ever got out of a pack and how I got it in the last pack I ever bought at Great American Baseball Cards. The card was on ebay seven days and inspired $0.99 (49p UK) in bids. How many 12-year-olds made mint condition Leaf sets in 1990 in Santa Barbara? That should make my 1990 Leaf set 1 of 1 or 2, tops, right? And if it is the only one, why shouldn’t the first and best 1990 Leaf set ever assembled by a Santa Barbara 12-year-old command a premium? Here I have the answer to the question of the year: How much is my baseball card collection worth?

86 Donruss Canseco rookie? $7.50. 85 Topps McGwire Olympic rookie professionally graded NM-MT? $10.50. Two (2) mint 87 Fleer Bonds rookies? $23.50. What surprised me is how I couldn’t find anything bad to say about a market such as the current one, a market in which a graded 95 Bowman Andruw Jones NM-MT is only worth $5.50. Who’s Andruw Jones? That card shouldn’t be worth money! Neither should elementary school kids have to spend four years’ allowance to get a nice Canseco rookie! I have no problem with a world in which a mint 93 SP Jeter is $132.50 and a 94 SP A-Rod PSA 8 is $127.50. I say cheap Cansecos for the kids. Meanwhile all adults should read Canseco’s book. You read it on One Sorry Blog: Canseco’s is a hilarious, truthful, irreverent, watershed work, the modern day Oddballs, only in the A Monograph on the Juice called Juiced! sort of way, in which only one in eight paragraphs begins, “I remember this one time in Oakland…” or whichever city. My copy was a present sent first class USPS to Buenos Aires, and I read it the day it arrived.

At the rate things are going, I’ll be selling stuff for another ten days or so. I can imagine listing the last saleable items in the next few days, or maybe I’ll wait to see how the current stuff ends up. I have four real nice sets for sale right now, two of which are missing the best card. I have two very nice rookie card lots for both Kobe and KG to put up today or tomorrow. Beyond that, I can’t see there being very much to sell that’s worth the five minutes and $0.20 required to list it on ebay. I suppose I could package a bunch of rookie and star cards together from ten-year spans and sell those, but it sounds like a right kerfuffle.

Then again, why not? I’m still of the mind that everything, if sold on its own and for its own merits, will sell. I can give you ten good reasons to buy my entire Nolan Ryan collection, but will you want to pay enough to make it worth my while to dig it all up? The fact is, a very high percentage of baseball cards are not only worthless, but a liability. Unless you’re selling the cards out of the back of your Volkswagen, as I have three times since this firesale began, somebody’ll have to pay to ship the stuff. I make no money on shipping, because I think that for what I’m doing, making money on shipping is bad style. If it’s not postage, it’s gasoline spent to get out to Longs on a Saturday, or the half hour spent in line waiting behind two moneygrams to Mexico that the computer was slow to process. I want this firesale to serve as a real-life price guide for the month of February 2008 for anyone who finds himself wondering what a certain of these cards is worth. The final price of all my auctions is the actual price the buyer is willing to pay plus the actual shipping charges and expenses. All the end-of-auction prices for the cards in my collection are, to the penny, exactly what those cards were worth, that week, on ebay.

Off-ebay success, a late-paying bidder and the trusty card shop

Part 2 in a series chronicling the One Sorry Blog Baseball Card Sell-Off
By Paul Rivas

Editor’s note: One Sorry Blog founder Paul Rivas is selling off his baseball cards on ebay with seller name onesorryblog, keeping only a precious and worthless few. He intends to sell every last card that will bring money at auction and donate the remaining 30,000 for no tax break. Realizing that his last hurrah in the hobby is upon him, Rivas is recording and reflecting on the experience at One Sorry Blog, the thinking collector’s blog.

With two days to go before my next auctions end, I’ll take a minute to consider my totals thus far: 11 cards sold, all PSA graded (they were my only 11 graded cards), for a total of $408.

$408 is $408, right? Right, except when there’s a deadbeat bidder involved. Some guy bought my first 94 SP A-Rod PSA 8 and my 89 UD Griffey PSA 9 for $127.50 and $51 but… wait for it… didn’t pay until I filed a dispute inducing him to honor his bid. From the look of his ebay Feedback, it seems that every once in a while he decides to not buy or sell whatever it is he has promised to pay for or send. I’m lucky and thankful that he decided to pay. So much so, that I’m going to insure his $178.50 in cards free of charge, which will put me out $2.50 or so, but not really, because he paid $6 for shipping that will only cost $4. And if that isn’t proof that it all works out in the end, I don’t know what is. Good thing, too, because subsequently, my other 94 SP A-Rod PSA 8 went for $108, meaning I likely would have got less for the first one the second time around.

I now have 99 items for sale on ebay, more than I’d ever thought I’d have the patience to list, but I’ve also already hauled in $80 for two off-ebay transactions. While at the post office mailing off a few cards to winning (and paying) bidders, I sold my 89 Upper Deck factory set to an old roommate for $40, or exactly what it would have gone for on ebay, without the hassle of shipping an 800-count set and without paying any ebay fees. When another promising bidder asked a question about the A-Rod, we ended up arranging a deal for three cards that I estimated would have brought $50 on ebay. I let them go for $40, payment was instant via PayPal, and the guy was “VERY pleased” with the transaction. Now tell me if this isn’t the way to go whenever possible, given that there are folks loose on ebay who Otto in Repo Man would have described as “dildoes who don’t pay their bills”.

The third side of this story is that two of the three cards in that deal were 95-96 Finest KG PSA 8s, both of which I’d put on consignment at Great American Baseball Cards for $40 apiece, of which I would get $30 per card. Craig told me that one guy who likes Finest almost bought one. Craig’s was actually the first place I went when I decided to sell my cards. I left some Randy Moss, Kobe and KG cards with him, all the best of which are already on ebay or sold now. Craig doesn’t much sell stuff for a fraction of the alleged value, and good for him: cards bought from the card shop should cost more. When I interviewed him for a profile in The Independent in 2005, we counted 13 card shops in the Santa Barbara area that had closed since he’d opened in 1986, including Murderer’s Row, where I worked under its second owners. By any measure, Great American is an institution and Craig is a caretaker of the hobby. Buying cards there, however 20th century that may seem, should rightfully cost more than on ebay. After all, around the world, things that are charming, historic and inefficient always cost more.

It’s worth mentioning that the 95 Bowman’s Best Guerrero PSA 8 that I just sold for $27.75 was one that I had bought ungraded at Great American for $25, making it literally the only card among the 11 graded cards sold that I had bought or traded for years ago for less than it went for on ebay this week. I think that Guerrero card must have been the last single card I ever purchased at the card shop. The last pack I ever bought there was 96 Score. I was trying for the Cal Ripken 2131 card and I busted it!
That’s right, the best card I ever got from a pack came from the last pack I ever bought at the card shop I’d patronized for 10 years. Needless to say, it’s up on ebay now.

I never had huge luck with packs. In fact, a Lawrence Taylor RC from 82 Topps, also from Craig’s, might be the next best card that I ever got out of a pack.