Category Archives: Collecting

What’s in Your Binder?

I’ll show you mine…

If you’re like me, you have more cards in boxes than you know what to do with. Small boxes, large boxes, multi-row boxes, toploader boxes… For most cards, their final resting place (before the inevitable trash can or recycle bin of fate) will be a cardboard box, never to be seen by human eyes ever again. It’s an efficient method of card storage, but efficiency often comes at the price of emotional connections. Sometimes, we want to keep cards viewable, even if we are the only ones who ever view them. And for that, we have binders.

Binders can hold a great number of different things. You name it and there’s a pocketed binder page made for it. Comic books, coins, postcards – if it’s flat, it fits in something. Nothing though, aside from a single sheet of paper, fits better than the 9-pocket sports card page. There’s just something about pages of plastic-encased cardboard that just feels right. Some people put every card in pages. Others limit the honor to a select few. In any case, I have just one question: what’s in your binder?

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2016 Mets Card Spring Preview

Unfinished business (scanning last year’s cards…)

Well, it’s that time of year again… Florida is relevant for baseball, prospect lists are coming out left and right, and I’m still digging through a backlog of 2015 cards to scan in the hopes of closing out 2015 before Opening Day (probably not happening…). But the card releases don’t stop, so I have to let you know what to expect in 2016. One thing’s for sure – there’s going to be a lot for Mets fans to chase in 2016.

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2015 Biggest Pulls

A Case of Redemption

After a dismal 2014, I’d had enough. This just wasn’t fun anymore. My plan was to back off of hobby boxes and go with breaks whenever that made more sense. As plans go, it wasn’t necessarily a bad one. It lasted 8 months. Despite a strong start to 2015, I stuck with my plans to cut back, limiting myself to whatever retail I could find and an occasional hobby box for a select few products. Team and player breaks filled in the gaps, along with the usual purchases on the secondary market. And then this happened.

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2015 Mets Card Spring Preview

Still short a shortstop but plenty of pinstripes

This is it, the year all of our suffering has been leading to. 2015, the year the Mets will finally win! Or at least that was the plan. With some serious questions and a lot of the expected improvement coming in the form of returning or rebounding players, the 2015 Mets aren’t exactly inspiring confidence beyond maybe being in the hunt for a second Wild Card spot, or at least a winning record. 82 wins or bust!

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30 Years of Collecting Surprises and Oddities

The strange and wonderful things that have come out of my packs in three decades

As I’ve mentioned before, this all began exactly 30 years ago with an uncut sheet of 1984 Topps.  From there, things have kind of snowballed into everything you see here and a whole lot more that’s waiting for a turn in the scanner.  Those stacks of cards are filled with rookies, stars, nobodies, and Hall of Famers.  But through all of it, one thing has remained constant – you never know what is going to come out of a pack of cards.  Usually it’s nothing.  Sometimes, it’s the card you were hoping for.  And every once in a while, well, you’re not really sure what it is.  And that’s what we’re looking back on tonight.

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Cards and Fame

Evaluating player popularity with a small sample of card prices

Over at For The Win this afternoon, Ted Berg speculated about the most famous baseball players and players who should be more famous than they are. Here’s the list:

Most Famous Should be More Famous
F1 Derek Jeter M1 Mike Trout
F2 Alex Rodriguez M2 Miguel Cabrera
F3 David Ortiz M3 Yasiel Puig
F4 Albert Pujols M4 Andrew McCutchen
F5 Bryce Harper M5 Clayton Kershaw

Unsurprisingly, no Mets made the list and Derek Jeter topped the list of fame. Jeter, who currently leads AL shortstops in this year’s All-Star voting despite clearly looking like he is ready to retire, is so popular that nobody would be all that surprised if he is elected to start the All-Star game in 2015, when he will no longer be playing baseball. This popularity translates well into card sales, which is fine for me because I can sell off any good Jeters I pull and buy the equivalent Wright, Harvey, etc. for a fraction of the price.

Card prices were not among the fame criteria considered in the FTW piece. Shocking, I know. Translating between prices and popularity isn’t a trivial matter. In addition to player popularity, card prices factor in product popularity and scarcity and are affected by proximity to Rookie year. Comparing even between cards from the same year numbered to the same amount is a virtual impossibility. To extract popularity, we first need to narrow our focus to a single card set (or multiple sets, but that gets a bit more complicated than I am willing to get into for this exercise).

The characteristics we need for the ideal popularity comparison set are rather contradictory. We need something with enough scarcity to get prices well above the noise but not too much scarcity to give us too small a sample size to work with. We also need a set that includes all of the likely candidates, particularly the ten players listed in the FTW article. Release date also needs to be a consideration; too recent or too far back limits the available sample and could put us outside the supply/demand saturation zone that will see the most stable prices. All of this adds up to a parallel insert set numbered between 50 and 99 released about three months ago. One set meets these criteria: 2014 Topps Heritage Black Refractors (numbered to 65).

Historically, Topps Heritage parallels sell significantly higher than equivalent cards from other products. David Wright black refractors like the ones shown above (numbered to 64 and 65) typically sell for about $25, about double what similar cards from other products sell for. This is good for our purposes because it will spread out prices to make the top players clearer. The 2014 set consists of 100 cards covering 9 of the 10 players mentioned by Berg (Alex Rodriguez hasn’t been seen a whole lot lately) and loads of other stars. Rookie Cards feature two players and will be ignored due to the premium typically associated with RCs. Cards from 2013 Rookies may see a bit of a boost to their prices that overstate their popularity. Beyond that, this should give us a fair assessment of hobby popularity, or at least the best we can get from a single 100-card set.

In the last 90 days, 20 different 2014 Topps Heritage black refractors (not counting RCs) sold on eBay for more than $40 at least once (total sample sizes varied from 6 to 16 copies sold). Several were sold via Best Offer, which does not display the actual sale price but does sort appropriately, allowing for an approximation of the sale price. One clear outlier (a $7 Clayton Kershaw purchased via Buy it Now) was omitted. Shipping prices were not considered and are assumed to be low enough to not significantly alter the results. Average sale prices shook out like this:

TB CP Player RCY 2014TH-RK
M1 1 Mike Trout 2011 $227.83
F1 2 Derek Jeter 1992 $225.90
M3 3 Yasiel Puig 2013 $102.29
F5 4 Bryce Harper 2012 $75.15
5 Michael Wacha 2013 $48.14
M2 6 Miguel Cabrera 2000 $46.76
M4 7 Andrew McCutchen 2005 $44.75
8 Manny Machado 2013 $39.00
M5 9 Clayton Kershaw 2008 $38.92
10 Wil Myers 2013 $38.55
11 Stephen Strasburg 2010 $38.42
12 Matt Harvey 2012 $35.98
F4 13 Albert Pujols 2001 $35.62
14 Justin Verlander 2005 $35.50
15 Buster Posey 2010 $34.48
16 Jose Fernandez 2013 $34.32
17 Troy Tulowitzki 2005 $28.89
18 Carlos Beltran 1995 $24.81
19 Matt Kemp 2005 $23.95
F3 20 David Ortiz 2007 $23.52

There are a few clear tiers here, with Mike Trout and Derek Jeter occupying the $200+ level. Yasiel Puig (2013 Rookie) and Bryce Harper fall to the $50+ level, and Michael Wacha (2013 Rookie), Miguel Cabrera, and Andrew McCutchen make up the $40-50 level. Nine more players fall in the $30-40 level, including most of the rest of the players from the FTW lists. The final four, Tulowitzki, Beltran, Kemp, and Ortiz, only made the list because of one outlier above $40 each and would probably be joined by five or six more players in the $20-30 range.

What can we conclude from this? When it comes to premium cards at least, Mike Trout is in the same neighborhood as Derek Jeter. It’s a steep drop-off from there, with most big stars settling in at about one fifth to one sixth of the top tier price once they are far enough removed from Rookie status (3+ years). Taking out Ted Berg’s picks and last year’s Rookies gives us a shortlist of oversights from this small checklist: Stephen Strasburg, Matt Harvey, Justin Verlander, and Buster Posey. And then there’s David Ortiz, who is clearly the biggest reach on Berg’s list (outside of New England at least).