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Rediscovering Baseball Cards

Throughout the last year, I have rediscovered an old childhood passion — collecting baseball cards.  This dive back into the hobby was largely driven by my seven year old son.  George has played organized sports for several years, loves to  play and has always liked watching games on TV.   But, his obsession with cards is relatively new.

It began in the spring, when he asked to look at some cards that I had started collecting for him.  That turned into asking me questions about hitting and pitching stats.  And that turned into him checking my fantasy baseball teams on a daily basis, changing the lineups and combing the waiver wire.  During this period of time, he was in the middle of his spring baseball season.  And then, he started asking for baseball cards.  I had a few binders on hand and we bought a few new packs to get him started.  But, his first major experience came with breaking a box of Topps Opening Day 2022, as a reward for good work in school.  It just kept building from there.

By the time George’s seventh birthday came around in September, he was a full fledged baseball card collector.  Cards were also one of his primary asks on his Christmas list.  One of the best things about George taking a deep dive into collecting baseball cards is that it has reinvigorated one of my own childhood passions.  Like George, it was my early exposure to fantasy baseball that fueled my interest in card collecting.  But, unlike today, when I was collecting cards (late 80s/early 90s), statistics and highlight reels required much more than the click of an iPhone.  In other words, baseball cards were really our own version of Baseball Reference.

The Language of Cards

Another thing I learned about card collecting in modern times is that the card world has it’s own vocabulary.   Here’s some of the key vocabulary I’ve come to learn:

  • Rip:  Opening a pack of cards.  You don’t actually rip them, in fact that would ensure they lost all their value.
  • Pull:  The actual cards that you pull out of the packs are referred to this way.  A “good pull” means you got a rare and valuable card in the pack you just ripped.
  • Break:  A break is when someone opens a box of cards.  Breaks have become a huge thing on YouTube and other social media sites.  Many hobby shops, collectors and sellers will do live breaks where they pre-sell particular teams or packs.
  • Sealed wax:  An unopened box of cards.
  • Grading:  People send cards they believe to be high value to grading services like PSA, BGS, SGC, Beckett and others, to get scored on a number of criteria.  Cards are graded on a 1-10 scale, based essentially on how good of condition they are in.  Centering, corners, edges and surface are all factors that go into that score.

Finding Value

In addition to some basic card hobby talk, then there’s all kinds of important information I am learning about what to look and how cards are valued.

  • Raw:  A raw card is pulled directly from a pack and has not been sent in for grading.
  • Mint:  A card with a very high grade that is in near perfect condition.
  • Base cards:  These are the standard card of a player you would pull from a pack.  There are many copies of these cards and they typically have lesser value.
  • Refractor:  Sometimes called “parallels” because they are cards that appear similar to their base version, but have different colors and a shine or coding to them.  These are more rare and have higher value.
  • Autograph cards:  Sounds like what it is, they are unique cards with player autographs embedded on the card.
  • Numbered cards:  Also sounds like what they are.  They have an issued number on them that tells you the quantity that’s been printed.  The lower that number, the more likely it is to have higher value.

The Future of the Hobby

These are a few of the things I have been researching and studying over the past few months.  I’ve come to love watching the latest episodes of Sports Card Investor.  When I realized how deep my son’s interest in cards had become, I thought I owed it to myself to understand the modern hobby and the market that exists for cards.  As I continue to learn and have conversations with others about baseball cards, I am more excited to be a part of the hobby going forward.

Most of all, it’s a fun hobby to enjoy with my son.  When we look back at cards from my childhood, it gives us an opportunity to talk about ballplayers of that era.  It’s also a great math lesson, when we start covering statistics.  Back in December, we attended the Orlando Card Show (Apopka), picked up some nice cards and had some fun conversations.  This weekend, we will be at the Nona Collects Card Show at Drive Shack in Lake Nona.  It promises to be another fun day sharing our passion for the game and connecting with other collectors.  Look for some live Legends on Deck coverage and an upcoming podcast episode as well.

Check in with us this weekend in Lake Nona and follow George and his collection on Instagram (kossball).

 

Brian is the Co-Owner/Managing Editor at Legends on Deck and Co-Host on Legends On Deck Podcast. He's been writing about baseball at LOD since 2017. He grew up in the Detroit area and is a lifelong Tigers fan. However, he shares some affinity for his son George's favorite team, the Atlanta Braves. Brian also has a particular interest in the amateur side of the game, including high school, college and collegiate summer league baseball. Brian and George also love collecting and selling baseball cards. You can find them selling on eBay (@Kossball) or posting on George's Instagram (@Kossball). Brian lives in Horizon West (Winter Garden), Florida with his wife (Grace), three daughters and son George. You can also reach him at brianmkoss@gmail.com

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