What is Your Childhood Worth?

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By Tyson Michie aka Wickabee

I collect hockey cards. Do you want to see my favourite one? Here it is.

That’s a 1991-92 Pro Set #531 Niklas Lidstrom Rookie Card. It’s not worth much; the book value is $1.00, and it’s not a team or player I particularly like. I mean, I like Lidstrom, he’s the only guy in my mind who comes close to Bobby Orr in terms of best NHL defensemen, but he played for the Wings and just isn’t a guy I would collect. More than that, I have cards worth much more than a dollar in my collection. I have cards in my collection that are so rare that Beckett, the pricing authority on all things card related, won’t even take a stab at placing a value on them. This card, though, this basically worthless picture of Mr. Lidstrom, is my favourite. I’ll tell you why.

I’ve had this card for a long, long time. Since sometime in the spring of 1992, I believe. Hockey cards were huge back then and everyone, old and young, was collecting them. I was 6-7 years old and all I wanted to do was pull a Rookie Card out of a pack. I had bought several packs with my allowance, but was never lucky enough to pull an elusive RC. One day, I found myself in front of the comic shop with a couple of bucks in my pocket and my mom let me go buy a couple of packs. I remember it like it was yesterday. I bought two packs of Pro Set, and waited until we got home. I went into my room and opened the first pack. A few cards in I saw a Red Wings logo and the word “ROOKIE” over the name of some dude I’d never heard of. I was over the moon. I finally pulled a Rookie Card!

I opened the second pack and saw that “ROOKIE” again. This time, though, it was a St. Louis Blues logo and I had heard the name, Nelson Emerson, before! That didn’t matter, though, he’d come in second. This “Niklas” guy was on my new favourite card. When my dad got home I showed him the two cards. His response:

“Nice! Emerson is supposed to be really good. Never heard of the other guy.”

It didn’t matter. “Niklas” came first. Fast forward about 20 years and I find all my old cards in the back of a closet. I start going through them and I see all sorts of rookie cards of stars; Mike Modano, Jaromir Jagr, Martin Brodeur, Sergei Fedorov and others, and all I could think was, “Wow, what are these worth?” (for the record, other than the Brodeur, nothing.) Then I flipped to the next card, and there he was. I saw that Niklas Lidstrom card and it all flooded back. I was 7 years old again and I loved it. Since then, I’ve started collecting again and, as I’ve said, I have some nice, valuable cards in my possession. That Lidstrom card, though, is still the centre piece and cornerstone of my collection. That is why, even if I had the money, I have no interest in buying the vast and incredibly impressive collection put together by Simon Bourque of Quebec. Bourque, now 61, began collecting hockey cards as a child and never seems to have stopped, until maybe now. Bourque is putting his collection up for auction. This doesn’t seem like such a big deal until one considers what exactly this collection is.

Classic Auctions, the auction house who sold Paul Henderson’s 1972 Team Canada jersey for $1.3 million, is selling Bourque’s collection, and expect to hit well over $1million when all is said and done. What cards could possibly go for that? The cards that should be going into a museum or the Hockey Hall of Fame. You see, Bourque’s collection spans from 1910 to the early 1940s. That doesn’t allow for the iconic 1951-52 Parkhurst set with RCs of Maurice Richard, Gordie Howe and many other all-time greats, but how does a 1911-12 Georges Vezina RC sound? Or how about a 1925 Newsy Lalonde graded “Mint”? A 1911-12 “Phantom” Joe Malone RC? Maybe you just want the Fred “Cyclone” Taylor card from the same set.

I would love to own these cards. Not only are they rare and valuable, they are a history lesson of the sport of hockey. A look at the people who built the sport up to the heyday of the 1950s. It’s also a history of sports card collecting. When I was a kid, cards were becoming a product in their own right. Before my time, they were a way to sell gum. Simon Bourque’s collection shows they were initially an extra with your cigarettes and chocolate. In fact, there’s so much history in here, this collection even includes what can arguably be called the first short-printed card of all time.

Today, in the card collecting hobby, short printed cards are all over the place. There are thousands of cards bearing the markings /10, /9, /3 even 1/1. In the collecting world, this is seen as a relatively new practice, which has become quite mainstream over the past 5-10 years. Card companies do this now because collectors want to pull these rare cards and knowing they may be in a given box will sell that box. In the 1923-24 season, though, the William Patterson Company was giving away free skates to whoever could put their set of cards together. To avoid giving away too many, though, they short printed the first card ever, #25, Bert “Pig Iron” Corbeau’s RC. There’s one of those in this collection too.

The reason I have no interest in it is the reason I collect. In an interview, Bourque mention “passion” as a word when describing his childhood hobby. He collected for the love of it. He loved collecting, he loved hockey and that’s why he has all these cards. He was a true collector, not hoarding cards as an investment, though they turned out to be a damn good one, but because he loved them the same way I, and all collectors do.

If one has the money, it’s a decent investment, but I don’t want my hobby to be an investment. A hobby is supposed to be fun, relaxing and rewarding. While I do buy and sell online, I am never looking to make a profit, just to keep my habit hobby going. Trying to profit on a hobby turns it into a job, and I don’t want it becoming one. At the same time, as cool, rare, valuable and historical as these cards are, they don’t mean anything to me personally. The players whose cards I do collect are either local guys I grew up with, such as Barry Brust and Justin Schultz, while others are favourites from my childhood or now, like Trevor Linden and Chris Higgins. The point is I don’t collect Vezina, Lalonde or Malone.

Would it be nice to own these cards? You bet! I’d sell them in a second and roll around in the money! But that’s it, other than their cash value, they’re meaningless to me. They’re not players I ever got to watch, some of the teams I was not even alive to see, and we’re not talking Kansas City Scouts or California Golden Seals here.

I don’t want to buy Simon Bourque’s childhood, I’m busy trying to acquire my own.

Make Collecting Fun Again

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By Pat Murphy aka yankeesfan1324

It seems like there is always a pattern in collecting. Buy a box or case, get half of what you bought the box for in cards, and repeat. Even if you don’t care about the value of your cards, it is disappointing knowing that you could have bought the contents of your box and saved a whole lot of money. It seems like it is almost impossible to have fun collecting without losing lots of money. All you need to do is think outside the box.

- Collect a new player

Find a young player that doesn’t have much of a following and start collecting their cards. They can be from your favorite team, your college, your city, or have similar political or religious views as you. You don’t even need a reason, you can just choose someone. One of the best parts of this is that younger players who aren’t top prospects are often more friendly with their fans. You can contact them on Twitter and show them your collection. If you are lucky, they will be willing to trade for some of their cards or sign through the mail for free (hint – they get their equipment and uniforms for free, your chances of getting a hat, bat, or jersey in a trade are good)

 - Start a TTM project

If you don’t do TTM, you would be surprised to see how many players will sign cards and pictures for just the price of 2 stamps. It can be as big or as small as you want – your favorite minor league team, your favorite set, a cool insert set, living hall of famers, alumni from your college, or players from a historic team. If you don’t have cards, print out some pictures. In your letter of request, you can also ask the player some questions and a decent number (especially retired players) will answer your questions.

 - Collect a new A or AA team

If you graph MLB teams, you will often find large crowds and players unwilling to sign. However, if you go down to A or AA baseball, you will find a much different situation. Some players will be almost honored that you want their autograph, and unless there are top prospects, the only time you should get turned down will be starting pitchers when they are starting. If you get autos in person, you will also over time become friends with the players. Getting a picture signed by a whole team could potentially take only a few games, rather than nearly the entire season.

 - Go for cheaper products

If you can’t get away from breaking boxes, go for the cheaper boxes. Higher end collectors may laugh at products like opening day or older products (late 80s and early 90s) but for the price, they are a lot of fun to open. If you still like the hits, go for products that aren’t popular. There are so many products from just a few years ago from minor companies like Razor, Tristar, ITG, and Just Minors that are really cheap and come with hits. You might even hit some autos of players who are solid players in the majors now.

 - Just ask

Especially with lower level teams (MiLB, NBA D-League, AHL, ECHL, CFL, etc.), you would be surprised what they are willing to do if you just ask. Did a player break a bat or a stick that you want? Why not ask for it? There is a decent chance that they will give it to you, and the worst thing they can do is say no. Want an autograph from a player? Contact them on Twitter and ask them if they would sign stuff you send to them. Do you live away from a team and want the items they give away for free (such as schedules, magnets, cards, and promotional items they didn’t give away)? Just send them an email or a large SASE and ask. The most important thing here is to be honest. Don’t tell every player and team that they are your favorite.

I hope these tips help. Collecting is getting more expensive as the economy is getting worse, and more collectors are finding they need to cut down on their purchases. Make sure you know your option, it is possible to have a bunch of fun collecting with nearly no cost.

Come On You Gunners!

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By Anthony Christiana aka anthony

And it’s Arsenal, Arsenal FC! We’re by far the greatest team the world has ever seen.” This is one of many famous chants that I have sung over the years from my living room. Following a European soccer team living in the United States is not an easy thing. We all know about the exposure of soccer here in the states. The popularity has grown in the past years but it is nowhere near the leagues played in the rest of the world. Don’t even get me started about the skills that the players have compared to Americans. Look at David Beckham or Thierry Henry, they are coming here in their late thirties and outplaying and outclassing the players in their twenties that are in the prime of their career. I myself got the opportunity to play with a youth star from FC Barcelona back in high school and he outplayed our entire state championship team. Soccer in Europe is a league of its own and it has been a lifelong dream of mine to travel to London and instead of chanting at a TV, I can support my team with thousands of others.

The biggest struggle with being an Arsenal fan in the United States, is of course, the price. The fans that live in London just have to go to the game, simple. Oh how I wish it were that easy for me. I am currently planning my first trip to London at the end of December through the beginning of January and I am watching the dollar signs flash through my head as I add up all my expenses. First off, who is going to go to London for one day, watch a game and fly home? I am spending almost a grand on my round trip flight, I am going to make the best of my trip. I will be leaving from JFK airport the night of the 28th of December and returning January 4th at night, so I will have a whole week to enjoy myself. While in London, I will have to worry about food, transportation, hotel expenses and any souvenirs. Sights to see in London range from the tower bridge to Big Ben, not to mention that is all before I even buy the ticket to the game. So one fans one hundred fifty dollar ticket turns into a two thousand dollar trip for another.

Then there are the tickets. Oh how I wish it was an easier process. In England, it is illegal to sell tickets through a 3rd party company. The only place you can buy them is directly through the box office of the team, and the headache doesn’t end there. Arsenal are one of the most popular teams in England and getting the tickets is not easy, so it should be no surprise that there is a money scheme that the team is going to exploit to bring in more revenue. The first tickets that go on sale, which is two months before the game, go to season ticket holders and sliver club members. In order to get a silver club membership, you must be a red member for at least two years. Red members get to buy their tickets one month before game day and it costs $50 per year to be a red member. I am currently a red member for Arsenal so getting tickets will be a bit easier, plus the game I plan on attending is against a low key team. All I know is I have to be up at 5 am on December 1st on my computer ready to snatch a ticket. I was told that red members are guaranteed 3,500 seats plus what isn’t scooped up by silver members, so I should be fine! As a diehard Arsenal fan I am willing to pay whatever price they throw at me. Plus, I can get midfield field level seats for $150 dollars. Try getting any tickets to a New England Patriots game for that price!

The fan base for Arsenal is iconic. It isn’t as many as Barcelona or Real Madrid or Manchester United, but it’s not about the amount of fans, it’s about the passion and support given. Every single match that I watch, players are always playing to their fullest. After the game is over a lot of the players sign for fans at no cost stay at the stadium thanking them for their constant support, and so much more. I believe European soccer isn’t just a sport, it is a community. We love our teams and our teams love the fans.

Being an Arsenal fan in the United States the one major thing I could see being improved it the accommodates the team could offer for its international fans. It is hard to get tickets to these games in the first place and we still have to worry about when to go and where we are going to stay while we are there. Arsenal currently does not have it, but other teams such as Chelsea and Manchester United are partnered with a company called James Cook, where you pay for your plane tickets, transportation, hotels and match day rickets all through that company and gets you discounted rates and guaranteed seats at the stadium. Every match so many tickets are pre-allocated to James Cook, so the company only puts out as many packages out as has available. More teams I could see benefiting from this service greatly.

I have been following Arsenal since 1999. I grew up in a family from Italy and England. My British side were all Manchester United fans and my Italian side were all AC Milan fans and I was always pressured to pick a side. One day I was watching a Manchester United game with my uncle, Arsenal versus Manchester United. The was the day one of the most iconic Arsenal goals were scored. Thierry Henry flicked the ball up spun around and volleyed it into the back of the net from twenty yards out. Intentional or not it is one of the most famous Arsenal goals of all time. From that day forward I was a proud Gunner and never looked back. I cannot wait until I get the chance to see them play in January. To me, they are indeed by far the greatest team the world has ever seen.

Student Athletes

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By Richard Heaton aka zanderlex

Currently, there is a huge debate on whether or not Student Athletes should be paid for participating in N.C.A.A. sporting events. There are some who believe that an athletic scholarship is all that a student needs while there are others who say that an athletic scholarship is nothing compared to how much money the N.C.A.A. pulls in each year per student.

During the final few days of September 2013, EA Sports and another sports licensing company settled with Student Athletes, which leaves the N.C.A.A. defending itself on its own. Because of this, drastic changes will begin all over colleges across America if the N.C.A.A. either loses the lawsuit or settles.

It hasn’t happened yet, though there is a simple way on how colleges could pay their athletes. Let’s pick a football conference with eight teams and have that conference pick a maximum amount that the schools would pay each player.

Let’s say that this maximum amount is five thousand dollars, each school would give the conference five thousand dollars per student and the conference would hold that money until the end of the season. At the end of the season, the money will be distributed to the players based on what place their schools have finished in.

The school that finishes in first place will get the maximum amount, which means that each athlete will receive the full five thousand dollars. The team that finishes in second place will distribute ninety percent of the amount to its players. Therefore each athlete of the second place team will receive a total of forty five hundred dollars.

The amount will decrease by ten percent per place all the way down to the team that finishes in eighth place. Each of their athletes will receive thirty percent of the maximum amount, or fifteen hundred dollars.

Each team puts in five thousand dollars per player, so what happens to the extra money that each of the bottom teams puts in? Each team will receive the extra money back, however they may have restrictions. This means that the last place team will get thirty five hundred dollars back per player.

Every now and then we have a good player who plays for a bad team, so how do we compensate for a player who played for the eighth place team, received fifteen hundred dollars, and led the conference in a certain stat? The answer is quite simple and is the basis of those restrictions mentioned earlier.

If a player leads the conference in a major stat but plays for a team that finishes in the bottom half of the conference, that player will be required to be given a percentage of the refund that their school received.

The eighth place school receives a thirty five hundred dollar refund per player, and there is a five hundred dollar decrease per place. This means that the fifth place team, the first of the bottom half will receive a refund of two thousand dollars.

Therefore, a conference leader could be paid a one thousand dollar bonus for being on the eighth place team with a two hundred dollars decrease per place which means a leader on the fifth place team will receive a two hundred dollar bonus.

It would also be possible for second place stat finishers to get a reward at a fifty percent rate which means five hundred dollars for playing on the eighth place team and one hundred dollars for playing on the fifth place team, and maybe even a twenty five percent rate for third place finishers.

There has also been a lot of talk that if athletes of big sports such as football and basketball were paid, then athletes of all other sports would have to be paid as well, no matter how small the sport.

This can also be fixed with the conference setting a maximum reward for each sport. With this, any given school in a certain conference could have a maximum amount of five thousand dollars for football and basketball, maybe two thousand dollars for baseball and soccer, and maybe even five hundred dollars for sports as small as Swimming and Volleyball.

Who knows, maybe a format like this would help the athletes, Colleges, and N.C.A.A.

Beware of the New Type of Printing

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Beware of the New Type of Printing
By Guy Mitchell aka sweetg1

The technology continues to improve. We went from rotary dial phones to push button phones. From there, the technology went to cell phones to where the smart phone is today. Technology is great, right? It’s what pays the bills in my household, as I work for a technology company in innovation. For the card hobby, we’ve seen the technology, as the industry went from the old, thin cardboard stock in the 40s and 50s to Upper Deck changing the game in 1989. From there, the industry went to the ultra-super-glossy refractoid cards (although it’s been documented that I’m not necessarily a fan of these cards, I do appreciate that it can be done). The changes to the industry made opening a pack of cards seem like Charlie finding the golden ticket in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

It’s been well documented that there are a lot of scam artists in the collectibles industry. The FBI was called when fake autographs appeared on the market. Did Ty Cobb really sign 100 Bill White baseballs? I think not. It hit the card industry too, as many counterfeit cards appeared in the market. You remember all of the counterfeit Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky rookie cards? It took the fun out of genuinely finding one of these gems, and it burned a lot of people, costing them lots of money. What made the counterfeits “easy” to spot was a few facts: 1) the picture quality was fuzzy or otherwise poor and 2) the card stock was different enough to the veteran that it felt different in their hands. However, to the novice collector, it was hard to tell and lots of innocent people were fooled. Given that the newer cards were drawing in lots of new collectors, the counterfeits came in droves to newer cards, as collectors didn’t have to pay much for a newer pack, hoping to strike gold. Not as many counterfeits were seen on older cards.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the world of 3D printing. For those not familiar with 3D printing, it is a way to print items in three dimensional space. For instance, a wrench, as shown in this youtube video could be recreated by using 3D printing: [URL]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQ-aWFYT_SU[/URL]tp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQ-aWFYT_SU

It has caused some controversy because the concept of printing a weapon became real.

So what does this mean to the collectibles hobby? The picture quality and color could no longer become an issue for counterfeiting a Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card. Can you imagine capturing the color (as well as properly capturing the coloring of the borders) of a Mickey Mantle rookie? What about some of the newer cards? Your game used card or worse yet, your 1/1 printing plate of Yasiel Puig that is on eBay for a price of $2,500 or best offer? How easy would it be to create this with 3D print technology and sell it? And what about statues, like the Hartland Statues that sell for a pretty penny? Is the game changing?

Obviously, there are copyright laws that prevent people from doing such despicable deeds. However, it would seem that most criminals who prey on people (especially young collectors) with this kind of money don’t have morals or don’t care who they hurt. They’re not concerned about copyright laws. They care about printing up a bunch of these types of items and selling them cheap! Or, they will trade you their newly printed 1/1 printing plate for your real Jordan RC, where they can now trade or sell the Jordan RC. That’s how these people operate.

The point of this article isn’t to cause unnecessary fear in the collecting hobby, but to make people aware that bad things sometimes come with the good of the new technology. Obviously, we have to be sure of what we’re purchasing. We have to continue to buy from reputable dealers and know exactly what we’re purchasing. We must ask questions. However, I ask this: How will reputable dealers always know the difference between a real and a 3D print? 3D printing can be a game changer in places like eBay, where people can find items for 10% cost and places like SCF where people make hundreds of trades each day.

I’m curous about your thoughts on this. Is this as a genuine concern?

Let’s keep trading fun. Happy Collecting Everyone! 

Anyone Trading a Mickey Mantle RC for……

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By James Friedman aka JFried1029

I need to begin by saying that when I was a kid, my family never had a dog. I suppose this was largely due to my brother’s allergies, but I don’t think this was necessarily the only reason. I don’t think my parents were big into pets.

My first wife was a big dog lover, but she realized that my obsessive-compulsiveness would never allow me to have dogs in the house and be at peace.

When I married my second wife, the kids wanted dogs and we went through four who either died, ran off, or were given back to the person who gave them to us for one reason or another.

When our house was broken into shortly after my father died, my wife decided that because I travel for work she wanted to have a dog in the house for protection. She went to the pet store looking for one type or another of dog and came home with a Shih-Tzu puppy my daughter named Peaches.

While the dog was really my wife’s dog, somehow he became attached to me. He shared my pillow and always barked at me when he needed to go out. Over the years he seemed to gravitate to me.

Once I found he was born the day my father died, I became convinced the dog was actually my father reincarnated. Peaches shares my father’s personality (stubborn and impatient to the maximum) and even physical features (he has an under-bite).

At times, Peaches can be annoying and I have threatened him that I was going to trade him for a turtle or even a possum, as they are much less effort.

Which leads me to how all of this relates to our hobby. One day the thought occurred to me: instead of trading Peaches for another animal, how great would it be if I could trade him for a 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle PSA 10? I know at least one exists.

A Mantle rookie in Gem Mint condition is beyond the realm of collecting reality for most of us. But what a thought! Then as with all potential trades, I started to think about the pros and cons of both sides of this deal.

Economically, the trade is not close. The last I saw; a graded gem mint Mantle rookie card goes for $100,000 or more. I’m not sure what pure-bred Shih-Tzus go for on the market these days (does Beckett have a price guide for dogs?), but I doubt a spoiled seven year old would be worth more than a few hundred dollars maximum.

But we also have to look beyond pure economics.

I pride myself on being an honest trader, so I do have to disclose some condition issues: while Peaches has not been bleached or trimmed, like many vintage cards have been, he would probably benefit from either or both.

He is definitely not in Mint condition; in fact he is dog-eared (sorry). I don’t know if his corners are sharp, but his teeth are, if that counts for something.

One the one hand, a Mantle rookie card will never jump on me to share my food or wake me up at six in the morning. The Mantle card will never fight with the other dogs in the house. Most certainly the Mantle card will never pee on the floor. A Mantle card will never cost me money for tags or veterinarian visits.

On the other hand, a Mantle rookie card will not lick me awake in the morning or jump on me excitedly when I return home every weekend from another week on the road. A Mantle rookie card also will not share my love for cookies every night.

The reality is that Peaches has given me more over the last seven plus years than I have given to him (and that’s saying something!). He has helped me with my obsessive-compulsive behavior in ways I could never have thought imaginable. And I love him.

I don’t expect to ever have to wonder how I would deal with the opportunity to make this trade because I obviously would never expect in my lifetime for someone to propose this offer to me.

After careful analysis I have decided the following:

If the Mantle rookie card was graded a six or lower I am 100% sure would not make the trade.

If the Mantle Rookie card was graded a seven, I would consider trading my son’s American Bulldog Nina for it (she’s another story).

If the card was graded an eight, I would probably ask for something else to be thrown in, like a Mays rookie card, to sweeten the deal.

If the Mantle card was graded a nine, I might be convinced to make the trade, but it would have to be a high-end nine

And if the card was graded a ten? While I consider this to be an event that is completely beyond all plausibility, one thing is for sure:

Peaches should be thankful that he will never get to find out for sure just what I would do.