Saturday, April 25, 2020

Flipping My Way to One of the Most Iconic Cards in Existence!

Before the pandemic kicked into high gear, I was continuing on my run of condensing my collection down, and selling off cards from my earlier days of collecting that weren't as much a fit for me any longer.  In particular, I targeted one monster card that I've always wanted to own, and decided I'd sell off a bunch of smaller cards and lots to raise the money I needed for this one huge acquisition.

After many, many hours of taking photographs, creating eBay listings, negotiating with buyers, packaging, and quite a few trips to the post office, I pulled off one of the biggest mass flips of my collecting life.

As you'll see, the prize was a pretty valuable card, probably the most expensive single trading card I've ever purchased, so I did have to let go of some really nice cardboard myself to get there.  This 1964 Topps NL Batting Leaders card is a prime example, featuring Roberto Clemente and Hank Aaron. 

I still collect both of these guys' vintage cards, but I decided that I'm not going to drive myself crazy going after every multi-player leader card like this.  I'd rather just focus on their standard flagship cards for now.  This one went off to a very happy buyer who's working on a graded '64 set, and the $30 I netted began my fund for my dream card.

In some cases, to make the eBay listing and mailing process worth the effort, I grouped together small bunches of cards as a lot.  In this case I had five stragglers from the '60s, all graded PSA 7.  These were from a time many years ago when I first returned to collecting.  I'd be happy to have any of the above cards in my collection again someday, but not in graded format.

I let this lot go for $22.  Probably a few dollars less than I spent on them all combined, and probably could have gotten a few more bucks had I waited, but the goal was to flush these out of the house and raise funds quickly, so there you have it.  Besides, I got to enjoy having each of these in my collection for well over a decade.

Same deal with this batch of 9 PSA 9 Mint cards.  I have most if not all of these in raw format, and that's all I need.  Probably the only one of these I could see myself re-purchasing someday would be the 1990 Frank Thomas, just because of my adoration for that set, but on that particular copy the old-style PSA label drove my OCD nuts.

The price for these 9 was negotiated at $40.  A good deal for the collector or re-seller who purchased them, a good chunk of change for my project.

Back to (mostly) singles now, and here's where the parting got a little harder (but still not too bad).  Years ago, I told myself I was going to build a graded Ernie Banks collection, featuring every one of his cards from his 1954 rookie through his final card in the '71 Topps set.  Even got a good bit of the way there in my early 20s when my life responsibilities weren't what they are now.

I realized though that A) I'm not likely to ever complete this quest given that I haven't made it a priority in years and still have his expensive rookie card hanging out there, and B) it was the '50s cards of Ernie's that I was most interested in anyway.  Coming to that realization made it easy to part with this '66 issue, especially in return for $60.

Here are two of the only three hockey cards in today's post.  Again, back in the late 2000s I picked up graded cards with many fewer guidelines than I use now.  I certainly enjoy both of these cards, it's just that I'd rather have less expensive raw copies of them in my collection is all.  Paired them up and offered an aggressive sales price to help them move out faster, and in the end netted $16.50.  Not exactly the biggest contributors to the pot, but I'll take it.

Here is one that actually gave me some pause.  I'd picked it up to be an eventual part of my "Cardboard Keepers" non-baseball collection, but decided to part with it for now.

Now, before you level any criticism at me, let me say that I am not one of those who listed and sold this card in the immediate aftermath of Kobe Bryant's death in January.  Had I done so, I could have raked in much more money than I did, as his cards were selling at absolutely insane rates for a while after his passing.  I gave it a few weeks, then sold this copy of his Topps RC for $150, probably half to a third of what it went for only weeks earlier during the buying frenzy.

Another Banks, same logic as the one above.  This '67 netted me $54.

Here's a case where I like the card a lot, and wouldn't even mind owning a second graded copy like this (I have a complete '76 Topps set), but that old-style PSA label just drives me nuts.  I don't think I'm the only graded card collector with that particular OCD trigger either, as in my experience the older labels can sometimes be acquired cheaper on the secondary market.

In fact, I have a great future blog post about the one time in my life I purchased a graded card with one of these old labels just because it was cheaper, then sent the card to PSA to be re-slabbed (the one and only time I've ever sent anything to PSA actually!).  For today though, this Yaz resulted in an additional $18 in the dream card fund.

Odd as it may seem, this Hank Aaron All-Star from '62 Topps was probably the single hardest card for me to part with in today's post.  I love Hammerin' Hank, but I'm trying to bolster my collection of his standard flagship cards first.  If I ever get most of the way there with those I may return to All-Star cards like this, but when that time comes I'd pick this up in a lower grade for less coin most likely.  For now I decided to let it go in order to sweeten the pot by $42.50.

1952 Bowman is one of my absolute favorite baseball sets from any era, and I am in fact working on completing it.  Other than HOFers though, I'll take my cards raw from this set, so it was not a tough call to part with this slabbed pair for $25.

Another Banks.  Same deal as above.  Only, I got $85 for this one!

This next one is intriguing.  I picked it up way back in 2007 or 2008 I think just because I didn't have a lot of pre-war cards at the time and was fascinated by its age.  Honestly though, this set doesn't do much for me compared to others from this era like T206, Cracker Jack and American Caramel.

I paid less than $20 for it, and the only reason I hadn't sold it after all these years is that I figured it was probably still worth only that or less.  Surprisingly though, I hauled in $55 for this hand-cut strip card.

I swear this is the last Banks.  Any Ernie collectors who were following my auctions around this time could have completed a nice run through the '60s there for sure.  Probably the least desirable of the four Banks I parted with here, this one resulted in $45 profit.

Yeah, I actually sold two Kobe rookies, the only two I had.  I like the Ultra one better than Topps actually, as the photograph is just fantastic.  Same deal with this one, I waited a bit until after his passing which resulted in a $100 sale.  I saw copies of this go for close to $500, or more, immediately after his passing.  I will try to re-acquire both of the Bryant cards I let go someday, but for now I felt the funds they drummed up for this project outweighed the need to keep them.

I like Hoyt Wilhelm a lot, but in 1954 I think Bowman put out a nicer set than Topps did.  As such, this card was expendable, and I was more than happy to set it free for $30.

This is an interesting one.  I don't know much about modern basketball players, as I don't actively watch the sport, but I'm enough of a sports fan to have caught on that Luka Doncic is a big deal.  I wanted to grab a just one significant card of his for my collection in case he truly turns into the next Kobe Bryant or Lebron James, and as you can see I did so.  Thing is, the dude's card values just kept rising and rising, and when I realized I could net over $200 for this card I let it go (for $225, to be precise).

I am in the market to replace this card with a different Doncic rookie someday, but I'm in no rush at all.

When I first got back into collecting in 2007, I player-collected David Krejci of the Boston Bruins pretty hard for a couple of years before the frustrations of collecting a modern player got to me.  I parted with a few of my more significant Krejci cards years ago in a different flip (that resulted in a Mario Lemieux RC, among other things!), but still had this one around.

This would be a cool card, except that on the back you're told the patch is "event used".  Let it go for $30, which I'm astounded by.  I did include a detailed scan of the back showing that it was event used, but a Krejci collector from New Hampshire wanted it anyway.

I really like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and I absolutely want a card or two of his in my collection just because of how significant a player he was.  I'd like to have one from earlier in his career than this 1978 Topps card though, and once again that old PSA label just irks the hell out of me.  $13.75, out the door!

The only two Ozzie Smith cards I'd want to own in graded format would be his '79 rookie, and maybe his '82 Topps Traded (first Topps card to depict him with St. Louis).  I certainly didn't need a slabbed copy of his 1980 issue.  More than happy to let this one go for $18.

I know this is a lengthy post, but I swear we're almost there, just two more sales and then you'll see what I did with the funds generated...

You might question why, as a Red Sox collector, I'd let this card go.  Well, I am trying to collect all of the HOFers from the 1971 Topps set in graded format, but decided on a much more reasonable approach of going for cards graded a 4, but with good visual appeal.  Given that, I was willing to let this PSA 8 copy of Yaz's card go, especially since the transaction was for $100.

Last card on the list, the lone soccer card.  I'll have more about Kylian Mbappe in a future post, but in case you're unaware he's a young phenom who is in the discussion as far as best soccer player on the planet.  His cards are selling for unreal prices.  I was able to sell this duplicate that I had of his base card from the 2018 Panini Prizm World Cup set for $45.  In less than an hour.  Crazy.

Alright, so as you've seen I sold a full 35 cards, either as singles or in lots, to drum up well over $1,000 in available funds.  As I mentioned in yesterday's teaser post, I applied every dime that I generated towards just a single new card.

My pick-up is one of the most iconic cards in its sport, or in any sport for that matter.

It's probably not what you would guess if you've followed this blog over the years or are familiar with my collecting interests.



Ho-ly crap!  Still can't believe I'm the owner of a real, authenticated '86-87 Fleer Michael Jordan.  Many people feel that this is possibly the single most iconic basketball card ever produced, and it's hard to disagree.  Between the expense associated with picking one up, and the fact that it's outside my normal collecting wheelhouse, I just figured this was one card I'd always want but never manage to actually acquire. 

When I started my "Cardboard Keepers" thought project around identifying which cards of the many thousands I own I appreciate and love the most, I realized I wanted to dabble into some iconic cards across even the sports that I don't collect fervently.  On the basketball front, it didn't take me long to decide that this was the single card I wanted to target above all others.  Thus, the idea was conceived to conduct some sales, raise the funds, and go for it while I had the opportunity.

I spent a lot of time fretting and thinking before deciding on this copy.  It's not every day that I spend four figures on a sports card, so there was some serious effort involved in picking the right copy.  If you're looking at it and thinking "that's only a PSA 4?!?!" trust me, I agree.  Every single other example that I found in this grade had really impactful corner dings, surface scratches, and other issues that detracted very significantly from the visual appeal of the card.  Go look for yourself at live auctions on eBay now and I think you'll agree.

I couldn't for the life of me determine why this copy, which truthfully looks as good as many 7s and 8s, got the grade that it did.  While the seller (an independent collector like myself) didn't mention it, I found when it arrived that it was accompanied by this "Exceptional" certificate and hologram sticker from Pre-War Card Collector.  Essentially they agree, saying that this card is easily in the top 85-90th percentile for its grade, and exhibits qualities and overall appeal well beyond its grade.

I know the whole grading thing is suspect and all, but I think the seller did himself a disservice by not playing up the outstanding condition of the card itself a little more.  There are a lot of collectors out there that blindly focus on the number assigned to the grade, sure.  However, there are an equal number of collectors like me who are only buying graded because of authenticity concerns (especially on a super valuable and highly counterfeited card like this one).  For me, the grade is for authenticity, but I look beyond the score and judge based on the actual appeal of the card itself.  Isn't that why we're all collecting?

I think some language in his auction title like "amazing eye appeal", or "sharp stunner", or maybe even something like "best PSA 4 ever to hit eBay!" would have helped him realize a bigger profit on his sale.  Either way, I could not be happier that it's now mine.

The first picture of the card was from my scanner, which doesn't do the best job with graded cards, so here's a photo that really shows its deep color and beauty a lot better.  This set is really tough condition-wise, and I just can't get over how pristine those corners are.  Plus, I'm a stickler for good centering.  Getting a card of this magnitude but having it be considerably off-center would have bothered me forever.

Here's the back, again in stunning shape.  Centering is a real problem on the backs of these sometimes, even when the front is decent in that respect many backs are drastically off top to bottom.  This copy is just awesome.  You can see the PWCC "Exceptional" hologram sticker up top there, which again I was totally unaware of when I made the purchase.  Doesn't do much for me other than to cause me to nod my head in agreement, but is a nice element that will help me for sure if I ever have to sell this guy down the road.

As for why it got the grade that it did, here's the best I can figure out after hours of staring at this card up close, in various different lights and at various angles.  In this slightly tilted photograph that I took (you can click the image for an enlarged copy), I think you can see what may be a small surface crease about a centimeter in length where MJ's right thigh is?  It takes some real effort to notice, and probably requires comparing this against some other examples.  I'm not 100% sure that's even valid, but it's my best guess after having this in hand a few weeks now.

For the life of me I can't understand why this didn't achieve a grade at least a level or two higher than it did, but on the other hand I'm grateful for that since I'd otherwise never be able to own a copy this pristine in my lifetime.

Speaking of which, it turns out my timing could not have been better.  I had no clue about the plans for ESPN to release the Jordan documentary when I picked this up weeks back, but as you may have heard his card prices have absolutely soared with its release.  Just a couple of months later I could honestly double my money on this purchase, which is absolutely insane to me.  If I played up the deceptively low grade and the PWCC Excellent notation, I honestly could probably triple my investment based on recently completed auction prices.

I guess I knew that would be the case eventually with this card, which is why I went for it, but didn't realize it would happen so quickly.  My thought process was that it's probably the only "most iconic in its sport's history" card that I could hope to acquire for a little over $1,000 (other than maybe a Wayne Gretzky rookie, which I already have).  If prices don't drop down after this documentary hype dies off though, that may no longer be a true statement.  Wow.

So, there you have it.  The result of probably my single greatest eBay flipping effort to date.  I'm ecstatic with how this turned out.  Freed up some space in my hobby room too, as 34 graded cards take up quite a bit of space, and were condensed down to just one.  Win/win.

Thanks for sticking with me through this exceptionally long post, but since this will probably be one of the highlights of my collecting experience I wanted to document it accordingly.

How about you?  Have you ever, even on a smaller scale than this, sold a bunch of smaller items to roll the money into one significant purchase like this?  If so, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Thanks as always for stopping by!


The Diamond King said...

Howl cow! Good timing indeed!

I was scrolling through the post, cringing at all the cards you had to give up. Some really nice stuff there, even if I'm not much of a fan of graded cards. But the payoff was sweet!

Seems worth the cost to get that thing re-graded, even if it came back a 4 again. Congratulations!

Johnnys Trading Spot said...

Congrats on the acquisition!

Adam Kaningher said...

Definitely looks better than a 4 to me too. But definitely an important card!

night owl said...

It boggles my mind that a Fleer card from the mid-1980s is worth that kind of money. But I'm not a basketball fan (or graded fan).

Congrats on getting a card you wanted!

Captain Canuck said...

Very nice. You can always crack it and resubmit it for grading. I do. It pays off a lot more than it doesn't.
As for grading, remember that a card cannot achieve a grade higher than 0.5 above it's lowest subgrade. (I know PSA doesn't list subgrades, but follow...)
If corners get a 10 and edges get a 10 and centering get a 10, but surface gets a 3.5, then it's a 4.
You did right by looking and studying and finding the best card in your price range. Because as we all know, there are fours that look fantastic, and fours that look like bike spoke material. Same for every other grade.

Congrats! Well done.

Casey said...

Nice score!

You could definitely resubmit but if it is, in fact, a small surface crease, the grading may not get bumped up.

To me, the card is a real winner. Sharp corners and centering are spot on. I bet if you taped over the grade and showed this card to a handful of people, collectors or not, they'd grade it at like an 8 or so. Again, nice score. Patients and diligence almost always pays off in the collecting world :)

I used to have a Jordan rookie back in the day, like during the late 80s/early 90s. Ended up selling it to a friend so I could buy a Sega Genesis. No regrets! (okay, maybe a little regret)

Hackenbush said...

Great story. All the work you put into acquiring the Jordan makes it all the more special. Being a Chicagoan I can't argue with your choice. Congratulations.

Fuji said...

Congratulations on landing that iconic card! I can't believe how much you got for those PSA 9 Kobes. I wouldn't have cared if you had sold them for top dollar. I don't believe on making a profit on someone else's death, but at the same time there's a demand for those cards and someone is going to need to supply it. And if by chance there are only one or two people who end up listing Kobe cards, then supply will be extremely limited which means they'll be making way more of a profit. At least when a ton of people are selling his cards... it brings balance to the whole supply and demand thing.

Elliptical Man said...

Wow. I had pretty much ruled out anything from the mid-1980s forward.

I guessed the wrong sport and wrong era, but other than that I was close. Ha.

Great player obviously.

Tough competition among the other ones. My vote goes to the '67 Banks though.

Shlabotnik Report said...

Congratulations! I can't even imagine owning a card that costs that much. :-D

Tim B. said...

Incredible story! Congrats on the purchase.

Nick said...

This is why I can't wrap my head around grading. All those cards look like they're in exactly the same condition, including the Jordan. You definitely timed this purchase well, however, 'cause I can't imagine how much that card's going for with this documentary out now. Congrats!

gregory said...

Well worth it, for sure. Congratulations! I think you're right about how that seller missed an opportunity to "talk up" the condition of the card, but that's your gain ;-)

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