Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Some odd things begin to happen once you've collected cards for a while.

It starts out simple enough.

You open a pack, maybe two. Then a couple more. And a couple more after that.

Before you know it, you're hooked. You begin to plop down quite a bit a cash for more packs and singles. One little spending spree, and poof, there goes twenty bucks.

Then, you've got all these cards scattered around your house. They seem to be everywhere sometimes, closing in on you.

You take valuable time out of your day to organize them, but they somehow never seem to go away. It's like they materialize out of nowhere.

There's always something that needs sorting.

It's almost like a page from a Hitchcock movie.

Obviously, I'm only kidding.

While all that is certainly part of being a collector, our drive to buy, organize, and sort everything is a big part of what keeps us going.

Still, something genuinely scary starts to happen after getting "hooked" on collecting.

You start to speak a different language.

But I probably don't have to tell you that.

You're probably well-versed in the "card collector's dictionary".

The weird thing about it is that you might not even know it...yet. Sometimes, it just hits you. Like it did with me the other day.

I was reading through a few of my older posts and a couple random posts on other blogs when the thought hit me.

"Any non-collectors reading something like this wouldn't have any idea what the heck we're talking about."

It's true.

I'd bet that the title of this blog would confuse a lot of non-hobbyists.

Even those unfortunate collecting souls who have never been lucky enough to come across a dime box know what it is, at least.

For those who don't, I'll just point you to the "D" section of the collector's dictionary.

Oh, that's right.

We don't have one.

I guess that's what this post will be, then. My best attempt at compiling a somewhat-comprehensive "dictionary" for hobbyists and non-hobbyists alike.

So here you go.

"Dime box" -- noun: Any box, bin, or container that makes sports cards available to the collector at a dime a piece. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a "box of dimes".

See also: "awesome".

"Refractor" -- noun: Any shiny baseball card. Often pleasing to the eyes.

Can also be used as an adjective, i.e., "This fantastic card of Joe Pepitone is a refractor."

See also: "beaten to death", "overused", "still cool, though", "liquorfractor"

Whenever I type the word "refractor" into my insert, parallel, etc. word document, it always comes up with one of those annoying squiggly red lines underneath it.

My computer is trying to tell me that "refractor" isn't a word.

I only have one thing to say to that.

Is too!

I'm not sure when the first refractors were produced, but we've sure seen a lot of different types of them over the years.

During one of my astronomy classes this semester, we talked about refracting telescopes. We've used these things to observe the farthest reaches of our universe. We've discovered all different types of moons and planetary objects with them.

But what was the first thing I thought of when I heard the word "refract"?

You guessed it.

Baseball cards.

Like I said, this "language" can get creepy sometimes.

Here's one a lot of longtime traders will recognize.

"PWE" -- noun: Abbreviated term for "plain white envelope". Useful if done correctly. Not for relics or autographs.

See also: "cheap".

My newest Listia pickup arrived in the mail today.

It's my 104th card of John Olerud in a Mariners uniform, mine for the bite-sized price of 50 credits.

I found it neatly packed into a PWE, between two sturdy pieces of cardboard. Not a scratch on it.

As my readers probably know, I'm fine with a crease or a ding on my cards here and there. That's not to say I prefer it, though.

PWEs get a bad rap sometimes. I've run into a lot of people who are whole-heartedly against their use. I don't blame them one bit.

I've received cards without any protection via PWE on a number of occasions. As you might have guessed, they received quite a bit of damage along the way.

I even heard a horror story once that involved a freaking Joe DiMaggio cut autograph being sent via PWE without any protection.

Look, I know not everyone you'll buy cards from on Listia or Ebay are devoted members of this hobby. Maybe they don't have toploaders handy.

But it's pure common sense, people.

I've sent a few hundred PWEs during my time as an online trader. And I've never had a single complaint.

It's cheap, too.

Only 45 cents.

"Rainbow" -- noun: A collection of every type of parallel of a certain card. Nearly impossible to complete. Looks great in a binder.

See also: "costly".

I'll admit, I've never sought out to complete a rainbow in my time as a collector.

If I ever become rich, I might chase an Ichiro rainbow or something. For now, though, it's not on the horizon.

Still, I'm glad to say that I've gotten a taste of what a "rainbow" entails.

Some guy on my trading forum busted a couple cases of 2008 UD Heroes and was selling off all the parallels dirt-cheap.

I scooped up all the Ryan Theriot, Tom Gorzelanny, and Andrew Miller cards he had available for my player collections of theirs.

At the least, I figured they'd make for a nice display in my binders.

Boy, was I right.

"Junk wax" -- noun: A catch-all term for baseball cards issued from the late 1980's to early 1990's, approximately 1987-94. Often negatively used.

Can also be used as an adjective, i.e., "The 'junk wax' era."

See also: "overproduction era".

I used to use the term "junk wax" quite a bit in the early stages of this blog.

Not anymore, though. I only use it for the title of my theme here because "The Gems of Junk Wax" seems to just flow off the tongue, much more than "The Gems of the Overproduction Era" does.

A great deal of collectors were introduced to the hobby through so-called "junk wax". It was an important time period to them.

And while I'm sure people who use the term aren't meaning to offend anyone, I'd guess that it leaves a sour taste in the mouth of those who grew up on 1989 Donruss and 1990 Topps.

Maybe this "Oil Can" Boyd card was their first memory of the hobby.

And, to modify a quote from The Big Lebowski, I'd say that, "Also, dude, 'junk wax' is not the preferred nomenclature. 'Overproduction era', please."

I know that I wouldn't like it if people called cards from the late 1990's "junk", as that's when I was introduced to baseball cards.

From what I know, though, some collectors have other words for that crazy era.

And they're a lot more negative than "junk".

"Oddball" -- adjective: The "unofficial card collector's dictionary" does not have a precise definition for this term. Sorry. 

Often used as a noun, i.e., "Oddballs are one of the greatest things about collecting."

See also: "under the radar", "MLB Showdown", "nonexistent or airbrushed logos"

Okay, I threw in that MLB Showdown thing for myself.

You caught me.

They've got to get some representation around here, right?

I really don't have a good definition for the word "oddball". It can be anything you want it to be.

When Fleer and Donruss first hit the market in 1981, I'm sure a lot of collectors considered those to be "oddballs". Perhaps some still do.

Since the 1968 Topps "Game" cards, like the McCarver, are often lost in the annals of cardboard history, I tend to place them in the oddball category. I'd imagine that not mant people remember these things.

I can't think of any other reason for why I found this one in a fifty-cent bin.

And then there's this one.

"Mojo" -- noun: Any card that contains a great deal of personal value to a collector. Often followed by multiple exclamation points. Does not, I repeat, DOES NOT have to be a relic, autograph, or any type of high "book value" card.

See also: "hit", "pull"

I've had quite the experience with this one.

In fact, I remember it clear as day.

Early on in my trading forum career, I "broadcast" the results of a 2006 A&G blaster live to my fellow forum members.

One of the cards I pulled was a rookie card of then-White Sox outfielder Brian Anderson. It was my first card of his. It was "mojo" for me, and I let that be known to the rest of the online forum community.

Somebody thought otherwise. In basic terms, one of the forum members said I shouldn't be using the term "mojo" for such a "worthless" card.

To that, I thought...well, I probably shouldn't say exactly what I was thinking at the time.

I was mad. Let's just go with that.

If your type of "mojo" is a jersey card, I'm fine with that. In fact, I'm one hundred percent fine with that.

Just let me have my "low-end mojo" as well. Let me have my Brian Anderson or Tony Campana "mojos".

That's all I ask.

Well, that's all I'll add to the "dictionary" for now.

I'm sure there's a ton of other card collecting terms out there that I should include. Maybe a sequel is in order.

But let's just stick with these for now.

If you're wondering, no, I don't use the term "mojo" much anymore. But I wore the heck out of it when I was fifteen.

It's still got a nice ring to it, though. Much more than the word "hit".

Plus, it's bound to confuse anyone who doesn't collect baseball cards.

Like I said, it's like we're speaking a different language sometimes.

We're hooked.


Unknown said...

now that was epic!

Spiegel83 said...

The blog world does need a dictionary. Great post. The Tony Campana is mojo. Photography and design make a great card not the price tag.

Ana Lu said...

WoW. You've done it this time! You've put the bar way up high!

Great post! Since I'm a newbie to this hobby world (as collector and blog writer/reader) I'm confused about some expressions I read on many blogs. Of course we start to get used to it. But having the main expressions put together in a dictionary is quite useful.

I think 'oddball' might have been the weirdest one I've read. I think that by now I might identify one if I see it.