The Highs and Lows of Getting your Cards Graded: Part 1

We get a question quite often that goes like this: 

Customer: We would like to sell this Michael Jordan card for $500!
Us: Well the book value is $15
Customer: We saw it listed on eBay for $500
Us: Show me
Customer: it’s listed right here, they just call it a PSA 10!

This happens all the time, often enough we decided to write about it.

In the early 1990’s a company was formed called Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA). The concept was to professionally grade sports cards on a 10 to 1 scale, 10 being the highest. I think the concept was taken from the coin industry, and it helped solve a lot of problems. You see, prior to this concept of a 3rd party objectively grading cards, the beauty was in the eye of the beholder. And before PSA the beholder was the card dealer, who of course offered nothing but praise to the cards they wanted to sell you.  Since this was before the Internet, myths would then always circulate, some true and some not so true.  I would hear things like, the Nolan Ryan Rookie card is notoriously off center, so my version of the card is MINT! Or, do not be concerned, my Michael Jordan rookie card is legit and of course it is not counterfeit!  

PSA created a whole new balance to the sports card equilibrium.

Centering, edges, corners and surface are the 4 key indicators to each card. PSA has this multi-step process to evaluate four conditions with each card they grade before encapsulating the card in an “unbreakable” holder. Otherwise known as “slabbing,” cards can now be bought and sold with complete confidence, like the saying goes, “sight unseen.” The new equilibrium of supply and demand had a new universe, called the population report. The ingenious early move for PSA was to not only slab and grade the card but also assign the card a unique number, creating this new universe, they call, population report. Now the serious collector can park their retirement funds into PSA 10 rookie cards or better yet build their favorite childhood set with only PSA graded cards! Now, that Nolan Ryan centering issue rookie card can be tracked with actual data, no more anecdotal dealer fables.  

Sometimes PSA will not slab the card for reasons like tampering, counterfeiting or trimming. So that black sharpie you took to a 1971 Topps Thurman Munson 2nd year card would be detected and rejected, sent back. Oh and that Michael Jordan counterfeit rookie card? Yeah that too will be detected and will be rejected worthless!

My first experience with PSA was in 1998. Like many, I took some time off from the hobby in the mid-‘90s and actually focused on college. I got the PSA concept right away—add eBay to the mix (and BAM!)—and this is better than day trading shares of WorldCom! So looking to become rich, I put together a stack of 10 cards, the ones from my collection I thought were absolutely perfect. I’m talking about my perfect 1979 Topps Ozzie Smith rookie, that 1968 Topps Nolan Ryan rookie and all the rest. I carefully followed the directions using semi-rigid holders and a plan box. (Btw, God forbid using top holders and bubble mailers! And Similar to the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld, you better write on the box the exact handling time, or you’re going to the back of the line!) Now to be honest, I only remember submitting the Ozzie and the Ryan cards. Like Costco, you need a membership. But don’t worry, for $150 a year I think you received 10 “freebie” submissions. So I played by the rules and mailed my ten cards off for the 20-business day turnaround service. Then I waited. And waited…and waited, and waited.

One day the package came in certified mail, wrapped in tight, in that old fashioned box tape. Now even back in 1998 a PSA 9 Nolan Ryan rookie was a small fortune, I believe about $5k in value. I wasn’t naïve to think I would actually get a 10, but the thought did cross my mind! So as I looked through each card, I remember saying this really, really…. sucks! All of my grades were disappointing, and that Ryan card ended up being a PSA 8! PSA was no joke, they really analyzed each card with a fine tooth comb! But I did need the cash, and sold that Ryan for $900! Recently, I saw my actual card sell for $5k! I guess after all, that card did go for $5k…just took almost 20 years to get there!

Stay tuned for Part 2…

 

Written by Damon Hudson, Owner

 

The Card Buying "Experience": Make it Personal

A first-time customer and his son came by our Annandale location today. Together, they picked out several baseball packs and checked out our inventory of Star Wars, Pokémon and Magic cards. As they were leaving, the father made the comment that the experience was nothing like buying cards from a local big box chain. He said he wished he and his son had stopped in sooner, and remarked that he and his son would be building their sets at Collector’s World from now on.

Why? Because of the wide and diverse selection a hobby store offers! The chance to select from among thousands of cards, wax, comics and memorabilia items they could never find at the mainstream stores.

While it may seem like the quick and convenient thing to do, most of us who used to buy cards off a small, overly-crowded and messy display were simply left with a stockpile of commons that we’d end up throwing out with the plastic carry bags and mountains of empty containers.

In comparison, the hobby wax offered at Collector’s World is far superior to that mass produced and sold at the big boxes. A visit to the shop presents several options that you probably never thought existed before you walked thru the door: a signed autograph from your favorite player, an original comic book you read as a kid, or a brand new pack of 2016 Topps Chrome Football you’d never find at a chain. All of these items offer great opportunities to start conversations and elicit memories that can be shared with fellow-shoppers or our friendly staff!

And the prices? Just as competitive. In fact, when was the last time chain locations offered a 15% military discount, or even a bulk rate price? Possibly never.

At Collector’s World, we have one objective in mind: to make your visit a memorable and enjoyable experience. The father and son that visited the shop today made that clear: a local hobby shop offers a much finer, holistic approach to card collecting.

So, next time you give any thought to picking up a pack of cards from a big box chain, think again and give local businesses a shot!

 

Written by Doug Steele, Owner

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Every day of the year is a great day for sports and collectibles, but this time of year is the absolute best time for both!  

Think about it: Right now, we have the intensity of NHL and NBA Playoff action, the excitement of the NFL Draft, and the crisp green grass of a new MLB season. Recently, we even had a record Masters tourney and a boxing showdown we've been awaiting for years (they can't all be the Thrilla in Manilla!).

The action is fierce every night and our phones light up like a scoreboard with updates from our favorite teams for weeks on end. 

This excitement transcends the field, ice, court, and diamond crosses into the collectibles market. Watch as new baseball wax for 2015, some released months ago, generates even more interest now as player like Kris Bryant, Joc Pederson, and Mookie Betts break out and generate buzz around the league. How about the NHL and NBA rookies, buried on team rosters throughout the regular season, emerging to become this year's playoff heroes?  Here in Washington, D.C., we've watched as Capitals Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov flew under the radar all season only to become Caps young gun playoff heroes. Even local long-suffering Wizards fans will tell you they thought they had a role player in Otto Porter, Jr.... until he emerged as a budding star in the playoffs. 

Perhaps the best part of this time of year is the NFL Draft. Anything National Football League is perpetual, but with the Draft comes the excitement of the next wave of rookie stars - Winston, Mariotta, Todd Gurley, and others. Card manufacturers are busy shipping boxes of the first NFL cards bearing their likeness and new teams as I write this. And, like you, I can't wait to get my hands on them.  

Here at Collectors World, we like to feature the newest NFL rookies, hot NHL and NBA playoff rookie stars, and the latest MLB stars on the rise. There's nothing like picking up an unsung rookie card before you think the rest of the world has begun to appreciate it. Check back later for a selection of featured rookies and emerging stars. Or, better yet, if you're in the area be sure to swing by the store and see them for yourself. There is no better time of year to find plenty of exciting collectibles to choose from!

 

Written by Doug Steele, Owner

Collector's World on Hosting Sports Legends

One of the true pleasures of owning a business in the hobby you love is getting the chance to meet luminaries from across the sports world landscape. At Collector’s World, we have had the privilege to host several legendary stars and current regional players at our shop this past year in our exclusive "Signing Series".

Baseball legend Frank Howard, Redskins Hall-of-Fame receiver Charley Taylor, and Canadiens and Capitals Hall-of-Famer and perennial all-star defenseman, Rod Langway are three stars recently gracing Collector’s World in Annandale, VA. Meeting fans, signing autographs and memorabilia items and sharing amazing stories about their amazing professional sports odysseys, is a great value we provide our loyal clients, by bringing in these greats. 

Frank “Hondo” Howard, who played during baseball’s Golden Era, spent over six hours signing for fans, exchanging memories and sharing great stories about playing against Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, and Frank Robinson. As a batter, Mickey had no blind spots from the right side, but struggled against Senators Pitcher Joe Coleman.  But when there was talk of sitting Mickey the next time they faced each other, “The Mick” went 5-5 with 2 HRs, a double and a single. The reverence he had for Hank Aaron’s hitting was unmistakable. 

Frank Howard

Frank Howard

Last Spring we hosted Charley Taylor, known to fans as the first great Redskins receiver as he worked his way to the Hall of Fame on the Lombardi and “Over the Hill Gang” Redskins squad. Charley talked about nearly getting broken in two by an Eagles’ defensive back, QB Sonny Jurgensen’s zip on the ball, and the toughest player he ever faced: Dick Butkus (who was as nasty and mean on the field as legend would have it).  

Charley Taylor & Roy Jefferson

Charley Taylor & Roy Jefferson

Earlier this month, former Capitals Captain Rod Langway shared unbelievable stories about playing with and against the greats of the game – LaFleur, Dryden, Gretzky, Perrault and Mario Lemieux. Rod started in the now defunct WHA and won a Stanley Cup with the Canadiens’ dynasty teams of the late 1970s. He was then traded to Washington, where he was immediately named captain, won all kinds of accolades and revived hockey in DC. Rod’s trade to the Washington club left the team short of a team captain. Only a few weeks after his arrival, no one on the team came forward to be captain, so Rod was approached by team management and took the “C.” A decade later he retired as DC’s best ever captain and The Capitals’ “Secretary of Defense.”

Rod Langway

Rod Langway

Current stars like Redskins defensive backs DeAngelo Hall and David Amerson, wide receivers Roy Jefferson and Ricky Sanders and special teams demon and sports commentator, Brian Mitchell, have also graced our shop. For our basketball enthusiasts, we hosted local Washington basketball legend, 7’7” Gheorghe Mureșan, as one of our first guests. 

Gheorghe Mureșan

Gheorghe Mureșan

Each of our athletes have their own unique perspective on their respective leagues, the fans and their personal experiences growing up and playing sports. One feature was consistent with these great players:  it took unbelievably hard work to earn a place in the professional ranks.

Fans enjoy meeting and talking to the players, sharing stories and memories and getting an autograph and picture in an intimate, unrushed atmosphere. And I must say that each of the athletes has been extremely gracious and receptive. Fans who missed any of the Collector’s World autograph events can order signed pictures, helmets or memorabilia via our ebay marketplace or by calling our store.

DeAngelo Hall, David Amerson, Ricky Sanders & Brian Mitchell

DeAngelo Hall, David Amerson, Ricky Sanders & Brian Mitchell

We will continue to host exclusive autograph meet & greets with guests every 6-8 weeks. If you are near DC and have an opportunity to spend a few hours with us, we would love to see you at an event!


Written by Doug Steele, Owner

Cards for Major League Collectors

Forget the groundhog; the signal that we’re emerging from the long, cold days of winter is when pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training!

That date gets its own red circle on the family calendar not only because it means warmer weather is coming, but because another baseball season is right around the hot corner. And with it, comes the release of a fresh, new season of baseball cards and inserts from the leading manufacturers. 

While I have always looked forward each year to another run of new cards from all four major sports, new baseball cards have a special place in my heart. First, many of the manufactures, most prominently Topps, release their new card design with their baseball run. This was a collector’s way to see what the card look and design would be for the other three sports. Second, it was also your first chance to see your favorite free agent or traded player in his new uniform since he didn’t make last year’s update set. Gone are the days of airbrushing the new uniform or cap thanks to digital photography And finally, who could argue that baseball sets were always the most challenging to put together?  At over 700 cards for some base sets, it seemed like I was chasing my want list well into summer vacation.

The tradition continues with this year’s baseball releases...

2014 Donruss
2014 Topps

At Collector’s World, we are fans ourselves, and always have the latest baseball boxes, set and packs as soon as they are released. After all, would it feel like winter was truly over without a pack of new baseball cards to open? Come by and get yours today!

 

Written by Doug Steele, Owner 

The Birth of Bubble Gum Cards

If you’re a fan of sports cards – or even a casual fan for that matter – you are probably a fan of Topps. The name is synonymous with sports cards for its longevity, legacy, and its rightful place as a fixture in Americana throughout generations for an amazing 75 years. But did you know the company wasn’t always famous for sports cards?

TOPPS Official 1989 Football Bubble Gum Packs

TOPPS Official 1989 Football Bubble Gum Packs

Topps was christened in Brooklyn in 1938 in as a gum and confections company, spawning Bazooka 9 years later to compete with other bubble gum companies like Fleer’s Dubble Bubble. In 1949, the fledging Topps Chewing Gum Company needed another angle to market their gum to kids to boost sales. The solution?  Insert into packs of gum mini comics of the iconic “Bazooka Joe,” and cement your place with kids by introducing magic cards and cards of popular fictional character Hopalong Cassidy a year later.

TOPPS 1990 Major League Baseball Bubble Gum Packs  

TOPPS 1990 Major League Baseball Bubble Gum Packs

 

The risk paid off and sales skyrocketed. In 1951, Topps took the next step by partnering with Major League Baseball for the first time, producing the now famous 52-card Blue and Red Backs game cards to promote its taffy product. A year later, the iconic 1952 Topps Baseball card set was released in three series throughout the season. Not only did the third series include the holy grail of postwar era baseball cards, Mickey Mantle’s Topps Rookie card; but America’s love affair with the Yankees and “The Mick” established collecting Topps Baseball as an American youth right of passage for generations to come. College and Pro football were introduced in the mid-1950s, and basketball and hockey would follow shortly thereafter.

Sample cards and bubble gum from a TOPPS 1990 MLB pack: Wade Boggs and Randy Johnson.

Sample cards and bubble gum from a TOPPS 1990 MLB pack: Wade Boggs and Randy Johnson.

Ever wonder where the term “Bubble Gum Cards” was born?  Now you know! 

 

Written by Doug Steele, Owner 

The Joke is on "Mick", Mickey Mantle

I can't say that I am much of a Yankees admirer. Being a lifelong fan of the Cubs, I guess you could say I am pretty envious. I would say though, that it’s impossible not to be a fan of the "Mick," Mickey Mantle. Mickey is a legend with an incredible story… before there was the 20-year-old Bryce Harper, there was the 20-year-old farm boy from Oklahoma.

Mickey Mantle signed index card with Neil Leifer framed photo

Mickey Mantle signed index card with Neil Leifer framed photo

Over my lifetime, I have accumulated many fond stories about Mantle. My personal favorite involves Billy Martin. When Billy was a player and teammate of Mickey, he was known as quite the practical joker. Mickey was always the victim of practical jokes from Billy, to the point that Mickey had to come up with something big! One early morning, Mickey arranged a hunting trip with Billy on a farm in Texas, when Billy was the manager of the Texas Rangers. Driving three hours and arriving at 6 a.m. in a pickup truck, Mickey and Billy arrived at the old farmers ranch house. Mickey told Billy to sit tight as he quietly approached the farmer.

Mickey Mantle sports figurine. 

Mickey Mantle sports figurine. 

Inside the house, the farmer graciously allowed them to hunt on his land, he just asked Mickey for one favor— to shoot his old mule. After ten years on the ranch, the mule was old and sick and the farmer couldn't bring himself to put him down, so he asked Mick to put him out of his misery. Spotting an opportunity, Mickey stormed to the truck screaming mad and told Billy that the farmer wouldn't allow them to hunt on their land and they wasted a three-hour trip! Mick asked Billy to hand him his rifle and that he was going to go shoot that farmer's mule for revenge. Billy asked Mickey, "Are you sure? Won't we get in trouble?" Mickey ignored Billy and "boom" fired a shot, before Mickey even turned around he heard pop, pop, pop. Billy yelled out,  "Hey I got three of his cows, let’s go!"

…And that was Billy Martin, always a good teammate and loyal friend no matter the situation!

1962 Topps All-Star card. 

1962 Topps All-Star card. 

Mickey Mantle Items in Stock

  • 1963 Topps baseball card with an autographed ball stand
  • Mickey Mantle signed index card with Neil Leifer framed photo
  • Lots of vintage magazines
  • 1954 Bowman in NR/MT
  • (2) 1956 Topps
  • 1957 Topps Nr/mt
  • 1958 Topps
  • 1959 Topps
  • Most from 1960-1969
  • 1960 Bazooka
    ... and many more!

 

 

Written by Damon Hudson, Owner