Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Brother, can you spare a few hundred grand?

Last night, I found out that Dmitri Young is selling his baseball card collection.

It's a collection that features "Gem Mint 10" graded rookies of the likes of Al Kaline, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, and many others. (He even has a copy of the '52 Topps Hoyt Wilhelm rookie I so desperately want to own one day.)

If I was a multi-millionare that collected baseball cards, this would be the type of collection I'd chase. I could care less about the whole "grading" aspect of the hobby, but it would be cool to own the only "Gem Mint 10" copy of Clemente's rookie card in the world(as the one in Young's collection is).

The article was a great read, but two things grabbed my attention. One positive, one negative.

I guess we'll start with the positive, specifically the story of how Young's massive collection got started. Apparently, he and then-Reds relief pitcher Danny Graves were a couple of the autograph guests at a card show. Young got taken in by the entire card atmosphere, and the guy that ran the show happened to have a graded Pete Rose rookie card for sale. (It was graded an 8, if anyone cares.)

He took the Rose rookie in lieu of his promised $2,000 payment for the day. It's one of the better "hobby entry" stories I've ever heard.

Now for the negative, an issue which has really bothered me ever since I read this book. (A must-read for any card collector.)

I'll quote straight from the article:

"Willie Horton, former Tigers star outfielder and longtime special assistant to the team's owner, had taken Young under his wing. So when Horton's [rookie] PSA 9 card popped up on Ebay for $400, buying it was a no-brainer. Young sent it to PSA three times, asking that they bump it up to a 10. The third time they did."

Please tell me I'm not the only one who sees the contradiction here.

Did the card somehow magically change in condition the third time it was sent in to PSA? If not, then I have to assume they made two mistakes in a row, or that someone "doctored" the card. It's a double-edged sword.

In terms of the hobby, I guess I am a "purist". I get the biggest kick out of vintage and simple base cards, for the most part. While I enjoy a good game-used or autograph card here and there, I've pretty much gotten my fill of them by now.

I have received a couple graded cards in my collecting career, and I've cracked them all open and put the cards in my binders along with all the others. When I was younger, I got one of those 100-card repack things that came with a "Gem Mint 10" graded card. (The card was actually a great pickup, and I still own it to this day.)

I had a friend run over the PSA case with his bike, because I just couldn't pry the darn thing open. It worked, and the card came out fine. (True story.)

That just about sums up my feelings toward that part of the hobby.

But all that aside, I'm glad to see baseball cards back in the news for a brief period of time. Dmitri Young always seemed like one of the good guys, even if he fell into a bit of trouble near the end of his Tigers days.

Plus, the money will go towards a children's foundation and will help build a few baseball schools.

On that note, does anyone have some extra money I could borrow?

I only need a few hundred thousand bucks.


AdamE said...

The grading thing is nothing new. I have some friends that used sold lots and lots of stuff on ebay years ago. They would get together to send their stuff off to get graded because the more money you spent the better the grades came back. If they didn't get a high enough grade they would crack it open and send it again until they got the high grade they were looking for. For me the only reason I can see for sending off cards is just to verify that some vintage stuff is real and not a knock off. But then again there is that Gretsky-Honus Wagner rumor...

carlsonjok said...

There is a vintage dealer here where I live that sells at all the large national shows. One time, I was pawing through one of his boxes of 74 commons and listened to him tell a story of being at Nationals and a friend of his took a card to PSA to get graded at the show. His friend got a lousy grade, so they cracked open the case, and the dealer took the same card over to PSA and got a better grade.

As far as I am concerned, the whole grading thing is a complete scam and on the few occasions when I have bought a graded card, I immediately busted it out of the case.