Sunday, April 1, 2012

Playing the lotto

It was all I heard about this week.

The "lotto" this. The "lotto" that. It seemed like every single person I know on Facebook was already planning what they were going to do with their $640 million.

I could understand buying a ticket or two to at least say you tried, but people really go crazy when it comes to this sort of thing. One of my Facebook "friends" dropped a hundred and twenty bucks on lotto tickets. Plus, I read about a guy in Arizona who bought $2,500 worth of tickets. (Neither of them won.)

Although it was neat hearing that one of the three winners came from my home state of Illinois, I'm glad it's all over.

Well, almost.

As usual, this seemingly unrelated topic got me thinking about baseball cards. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how crazy this hobby has gotten at times.

Right when I started to get back into baseball cards was when the whole Alex Gordon fiasco was happening. I couldn't believe the amount of hype a then-unknown guy was getting. Even more so, I couldn't fathom why people were shelling out so much money for the seemingly normal card.

I had never seen the likes of anything similar to it before, and I didn't think I'd ever see it again.

How naive I was.

I actually fell for the "lotto" the following year, when Topps issued the infamous Jeter/Mantle/Bush card at the top of the post. Even though I didn't really need any more cards from the set, I went out and bought a blaster of it, for the sole purpose of trying to nab one of the Jeters. They were selling for about a hundred bucks a pop at the time.

I still feel embarrassed that I succumbed to Topps' gimmick.

To my surprise, I did actually pull a copy of the Jeter. Also to my surprise, it turned out that they weren't as rare as myself and a lot of other people thought. They were selling for about ten bucks a piece by the time I got mine.

In the end, I decided to just keep it. I'm glad I did, as it's one of the quirkiest cards in my collection.

But it's also a personal reminder to never, ever fall for the whole "lottery" aspect of the hobby again.

However, one of the craziest days of my collecting life revolved around the above card.

I don't know how much impact it made on the collecting industry, as the chaos lasted for less than a day. To their credit, Topps had absolutely nothing to do with this card getting its' fifteen minutes of fame.

I'm not exactly sure how I first stumbled across it, but one day I was browsing through some Ebay auctions and was staggered by the closing prices for copies of Cliff Lee's 2010 Topps Opening Day card.

They were selling in the $50-$75 range. Then I thought, "Hey, wait a minute. I have that card!"

I had traded for a bunch of Opening Day commons a couple days before. The Lee was one of them, which I filed in my binder without a second thought.

I immediately listed my copy on Ebay. It wouldn't have hurt to get some extra spending cash off of these people who are actually dropping fifty bucks on a fifty-cent card.

To my utter amazement, it had suddenly stopped selling for obnoxious prices by the time I got it listed. The "craze" had lasted for about three hours. I took my listing off Ebay and kept the card.

My question was, "What the heck made that card start selling like that all of a sudden?"

When Topps airbrushed Lee into a Mariners uniform, they didn't remove the little black "HK" patch from it. I'm not sure if it was a mistake or if it was out of respect for the late Harry Kalas, but people considered it an error card.

And we all know what can happen when people start drooling over error cards.

If there's one thing I've learned from all this, it's that the hobby is meant to be treated as precisely that. A hobby. Not a business. Collect what you enjoy and whatever makes you happy. Cherish your baseball cards.

That's all that matters.

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