Thinking about sports trading cards

Yesterday, at the Target store I picked up two boxes of the 2021-22 Upper Deck, “NHL Star Rookies Hockey Trading Card Blaster Box.” This one is a nice box of sports trading cards to pick up as it has exactly what it says it has in the box. Those boxes each contained 25 star rookies from around the league. It’s not a wild box of trading cards to break open where something super valuable might be in the box. This is a predictable box to open like opening a complete set box. In the late 1980’s and 1990’s opening packs of trading cards was a big part of my adventures. A lot of those cards that were opened and sorted are sitting behind me right now in my office. Unfortunately, the vast majority of those cards were from what they call the junk wax era of the hobby. Overprinting did help get the cards into every grocery store and make the hobby accessible to anybody at a very low price point. 

These days getting sports trading cards is a very different proposition. I have active collections of ungraded Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs autograph cards. A lot of them are on card autographs, but sometimes I just buy them for the look and end up with on card stickers. Those cards for the most part I keep in a binder that I can look at from time to time in my office. My larger active collection these days includes graded George Brett cards. I have been slowly building a complete vertical of common George Brett cards in PSA/BGS. I generally don’t chase the insert and one off cards, but sometimes they are very tempting. All three of those collections are very targeted and are not the kind of thing you would get from opening a single pack of trading cards. For the most part my current collecting efforts involve watching and participating in auctions. Generally, I’m just hoping things sell at the lowest possible price point. 

My bidding strategy is highly transparent. On eBay I generally will just place a single bid for the maximum value I’m willing to pay for the sports trading card up for auction. That pretty much means that my bids to wins ratio is not very close. I put a lot more bids in on items as the first or a very early bidder and sometimes I win that auction and most of the time somebody else outbids me to win the item. That is an outcome that I’m perfectly comfortable with occurring. It lets me pretty comfortably watch and understand the bottom of the market. As a hobby, this is one where I don’t really want to be in the top end of the market. Some of the sales at the highest end are shocking. Please keep in mind that I’m a buy and hold collector of sports trading cards. I still have the vast majority of cards acquired during my collecting efforts. When I get cards graded it is generally just for my personal collection to make long term storage better. 

When the grading card companies lower prices I’ll submit a block of autographed cards mostly to have them authenticated and put in storage capsules for my personal collection. I just like having graded cards. They do take up more space at about a 1:20 ratio compared to just raw cards in a box. However, I enjoy bringing them all together into a collection. That is the value they have to me as a set of things. For the most part they are just a reminder of memories of specific players and moments in sports that bring me some type of joy. They are the kind of distraction that a solid hobby brings you from the normal routines and practices of day to day efforts.

Some digital housekeeping

It is that time of year when I open the bookmark manager in Google Chrome and try to clean things up a little bit. The next few observations about the links I’m keeping around the top of my browser.

I have a guitar pedal link saved that I’m considering for purchase. It’s up first on the bar just below the tabs. That link will probably end up getting transferred to the “Older” links folder at some point. That is the final resting spot for links that get accumulated in Google Chrome. 

Next up is a link to the Google Doc that holds all of my Substack posts both previously written and outlined for the future. That document holds countless hours of effort from the previous year. At this point, I don’t really need to make a new document and storing all of the posts in one document has been useful overall. 

Right next to that Google Doc is my link to YouTube subscriptions. This is a stream of all the videos from channels where I’m a subscriber. Honestly, this is the best way to use YouTube to display the most recent content you care about. If you are just using the regular stream, then you are missing out on seeing all the content the channels you subscribe to in one list based on upload time. 

For some ineffable reason, I still have a link to the Newegg Shuffle right in the middle of my screen. I was checking this daily at one point to buy a new graphics card at retail pricing from Newegg. Right after typing this sentence that link is getting moved to the “Older” folder. 

After that link was removed the next 6 are just eBay searches that I like to scan every day as a sort of relaxing way to consider something different. I created a folder and put all 6 of the links into the folder to make the bookmark bar a little bit more tidy. Now it is very easy to right click on the new eBay folder and just open all of the tabs at one time. This will save me a bit of time moving forward. 

9 more bookmarks were hanging out after the eBay folder and I just moved them all to the “Older” folder as they are not currently important to me on a daily basis.

Selling a computer case on eBay

Winning that graphics card in the Newegg shuffle involved having to purchase and take possession of an unwanted computer case. It arrived yesterday basically in the box from ASUS with a shipping label on it. A lot of people are selling brand new listings of this case on eBay.[1] That tells me that a lot of the other people who purchased this case immediately turned around to sell it online. I’m probably going to end up selling mine at a loss, but I really wanted the graphics cards so that is the cost of doing business with Newegg and the shuffle system. The ASUS ROG z11 mini-itx/dtx mid-tower pc gaming case is smaller than any computer case I have ever used to build a machine. Sometime next year I will be replacing a few parts in this computer that I’m using right now. As of right now, the Windows Insider preview build of Windows 11 Pro has flagged that my computer does not meet the minimum hardware requirements. 

For some reason Microsoft has decided to come up with a hardware requirement standard for WIndows 11 that will literally make more than half of all computers obsolete. The environmental cost and consequence alone of such a decision is mind boggling. Whoever came up with this decision should probably have to develop a method to handle all the elecontics waste they just created worldwide. That is a problem anyway for the computer industry. A good portion of the precious metals used to make a computer are very difficult to separate from the build making recycling very difficult. A large portion of old computer hardware ends up in landfills. 

Footnotes:

[1] It looks like this case has 16 listings on eBay and none of them have any visible traffic https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_nkw=ASUS+ROG+Z11+Mini-ITX%2FDTX+Mid-Tower+PC+Gaming+Case&_sacat=0&_sop=15 

Oh graded card prices

Right now I have 9 open bids on eBay and that always seems somewhat exciting. Right now the sports grading card services have raised prices and reduced outputs. Part of that happened due to the pandemic and the other part was due to the sheer demand in the market that outpaced capacity for grading. That means generally the graded sports cards that I spend time bidding on have gone up in price recently. It seems like the sports card collecting hobby has gotten a little bit out of control. I generally just watch the rookie card prices of George Brett and Joe Montana. Sometimes I look them up in the Market Movers application from Sports Card Investor. 

People are generally sending in more modern cards for grading and a few high value cards vs. the mass of general player cards that I slowly collect. One of my side collections has been to generally pick up the complete catalog of George Brett cards in graded form. Right now I’m focused on working my way back from 1975 to present. However, the prices have been slowly escalating and it is somewhat interesting. For the lower graded cards I could pick them up slowly over time, but right now for some reason it seems like all the graded cards are getting purchased at a premium. Not only is that very possible due to the decline in grading, availability, and market factors, but also it is possible that another collect is building up the same set and bidding against me all the time. It would only take two of us to generally raise the card values on the market floor of a very targeted collection of a specific player.