Klein’s Korner: Money for Nothing and your chicks for free – Well, if you are a man who grew up in the 1980’s, this lyric makes a ton of sense. After all, who does not want something for nothing and the extra stuff on the side. So let’s discuss how this works.
First, you do realize that to some extent this whole hobby is based on money for nothing. During the 1970’s, when I was starting to get interested in this hobby, there was not nearly as much detailed information as there is today. Those dealers who truly knew the business could make a very nice living purchasing cards from two groups of people. First was the collector/dealer who set up at many shows to get their collections paid for. For those people, the duplicates they sold was just money to be used for purchasing more items for their collection.
The second group the really astute dealers bought from was from the general public. Many of us have heard the trips of what would turn up on buying trips when a group of dealers would advertise in the newspapers and people would bring in collections to sell. There is no way of knowing how much material was turned up in that fashion. Many cards still floating around the hobby were discovered during those buying sessions. Of course, no one knew just how pervasive the hobby would become over the next decade. Remember in 1978, Dr. Jim Beckett had just published his second annual survey and we were still a year away from the first of his annual guides. For those collectors who are less than 50 years old, yes there was an actual time without a printed or today, online price guide. Today, you can find prices via a multitude of online sites. The pricing information is certainly more available for families today than it was back then.
Then when we hit the 1980’s and cello and rack packs start becoming prevalent in the major stores the next trick was to learn the pack sequencing. If you could remember the pack sequencing you could go through packs to get the hot rookie of the moment. Truly helped in 1984 to know the Darryl Strawberry or Don Mattingly sequence or a few years later to learn the sequence of rookies such as Will Clark or even where the 1989 Fleer Bill Ripken was likely to be in a box. If I remember correctly, the Ripken was in the bottom couple of packs on the left side of the box. Of course, today, those 1980’s cards can truly be purchased for almost nothing. Some cards are now worth almost nothing and these can be purchased for less than change from your favorite vending machine after putting in a dollar. I remember in the New York area where several dealers all would haunt these stores and buy the freshly put out rack packs. One of my collecting friends, once brought note paper with them and let another person know via message that save your energy, I’ve already gone through these packs. Yes, we all knew who the pack searchers were back then.
And today, if you check any message board you hear about how collectors make such great purchases of really difficult cards and they claim never to come close to pay full price. And who can really argue with getting a good deal. But sometimes this money for nothing bit can infuriate other collectors. How about those who go to the big box stores and pack search by bringing in a scale or using other methods? We almost all agree that is not cool but to those people, knowing how to do that is their way of surviving in the hobby. I remember when I used to go to New Jersey back in the day and a collector/dealer named Chris Takacs could go through any box and tell you what packs had the hits just by feel. We once got the cooperation of a local New Jersey dealer on a cheap box (I think it was price reduced as an overstock) and I challenged him to get the hits. I think there were six hits in the box including inserts and damned if he did not get the hits in seven packs. Hard to defeat someone with that much skill.
I think because of how this hobby was built, there can be natural distrust at times with someone with a new idea. I know from personal experience that it can be difficult to convince some people to make donations instead of just consigning material to an silent auction. Our synagogue show runs a bit differently and we don’t do silent auctions but we give away prizes. The local dealers and retailers all know what we do and are on board but outside DFW it can be difficult to explain that we don’t do silent auctions but give prizes to collectors. I’m going to pick on Steiner here as I had a pleasant but not fruitful discussion with their non-profit head because I don’t do one big prize. I do a lot of little prizes with one big prize. I would rather get a donation of 100 autograph photos with a $5-10 price tag than one big item such as Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera 16 x 20 signed photo. Not that I would turn those big items down, but for our purposes, the more prizes we have the better. Prizes just don’t have to be expensive. One of the best donations we received last year was a grouping of Hank Blalock signed bats and photos. Now, Blalock is hard to sell in the DFW area as it has been nearly a decade since he played here but he is still enough of a name where a signed item is appreciated. Other great donations include Starting Lineups which you can’t sell for much, but people love to get as prizes. To me, those type of donations are perfection.
So, yes I’m as guilty as everyone else when the expression “money for nothing” comes from as I ask people to give up items they think they might sell and just trade them a tax donation sheet. I will give Ken Goldin a shout-out here as last year when he posted about cleaning out his warehouse I was able to send him a copy of our 501-C “license” and received in turn a wonderful box full of really cool prizes. None of those prizes were expensive but everyone loved getting Mickey Mantle, LeBron James, Tom Brady cards and more. These cheaper items were all big hits at the show and I can verify that as I spent at least half the day working the prize table. I’m also as guilty if I know something somebody misses at a show and buy some cards. And I’m sure other people have done great buying from me in the past by knowing something I did not.
So, as long as we all accept that human nature is to try to get the best deal we can and just be as fair as we can than an occasional win never hurts anyone as long as the seller knows what he or she is doing and is happy as well. Money for nothing indeed truly makes the hobby go round. And if you have any donations, I’m always all ears! Reach out to me on Twitter @sabrgeek.
Check out last month’s article HERE.
Rich’s vast experience and knowledge of the hobby has been well documented through the years. GTS is happy to feature his thoughts on collecting in Klein’s Korner. The opinions expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect those of GTS Distribution.