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The Boston Investor's Vintage Baseball Card Collection

Ruth, Cobb, Mantle, Mays and others survive a rough road trip!

  • December 27, 2019

The Making of a Purchase
Original Image with Cobb, Ruth, MantleOur saga begins with a late September email from the son-in-law of a Boston area collector that was interested in getting an assessment and valuation on a few cards in the father-in-law's collection. The initial email featured 6 cards (the image to the immediate left is the image that we received), which included a T206 Ty Cobb, 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth, 1954 Topps Hank Aaron and 1951 Bowman Willie Mays. The cards appeared to range in condition from GD to VG/EX and definitely piqued our interest.

We spoke with the son-in-law and engaged via email and discussion about the collection and the intent of the father-in-law.  Over the course of the next few weeks, we reviewed a few dozen additional images and gathered more details about the cards and the collection.  We prepared and provided several evaluations that the son-in-law would relay to his father-in-law.  After accumulating evaluations of more than $20,000 in gross retail value from a little over 40 images, we were able to agree in principle on prices.  The collector did not want to travel and was not comfortable shipping the collection, so we agreed that we would be able to make the trip north of Boston to review the entire collection in person and make a final purchase offer on the entirety of the collection.

Eliminating Possible Miscommunication

We've done many deals with a family member or a friend being the initial contact. The one thing that we've learned is that it is imperative to make sure that any chance for miscommunication is eliminated. In this case, the son-in-law was the conduit between Just Collect and the collector. He had done a fantastic job in providing images and relaying our preliminary evaluations to his father-in-law.  It was apparent that we had a meeting of the minds with regard to condition, value and the prices that we could pay, so everything seemed like a go.

As we began to narrow down the specifics and expanded the spreadsheet with valuations, the collector and I were finally able to speak and discuss the cards and the tentative sale of the collection. However, a phrase came up in the communication that alarmed me. The phrase was, "sell you some of the collection." The word "some" was concerning and required clarification. While there was plenty of value in the collection to justify the 5 hours one-way drive, if several of the higher value cards were removed from the purchase, it might make the trip far less promising.

After some brief discussion, we concluded that the word "some" was a qualifier used by the father-in-law with respect to protecting himself if the on-site evaluation of the card(s) was less than originally provided. Having provided preliminary evaluations from images and photos for Just Collect customers for more than a decade, we were comfortable with the word "some" being a caveat for the seller as we were confident in our preliminary assessments.  We had to clarify as we wanted to make sure that we weren't going to get the seller's home, review the collection and only be able to purchase some of the lesser value items. 

It doesn't take a Ivy League graduate to realize that miscommunication can be disastrous to a deal.  Ironically, the seller was a Harvard Business School graduate that had been involved in investment banking prior to enjoying retirement.  We run across people from all backgrounds and one of the most common themes is the love of collecting and usually a general passion for sports.  It is a great common denominator and makes each collection special as we review and reminisce.

Buying the Collection

As a light snow fell, I made my way from the hotel to the collector's home to meet with the seller and his son-in-law.  The forecast called for a few inches and was expected to stop snowing early in the afternoon.

The purchase of this collection was a bit unique. We had prepared a preliminary evaluation based upon nearly 4 dozen cards and we had agreement on the purchase price based upon the condition of the cards from previously viewed images pending in-hand evaluation. Those cards included Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Cy Young, Babe Ruth, Sandy Koufax, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and Hank Aaron among many others.  The seller wanted to review those cards initially and verify the condition and value and close that portion of the deal.  Given that a majority of the value in the collection was included in this portion, it was a change to our normal operating practice, but we agreed even though we normally review a collection in its entirety and come up with the value and a purchase offer. Since we work strictly on values and percentages, whether we do the evaluation in portions or in its entirety, the final value won't change, so there's no real advantage or disadvantage working on the collection in a piecemeal fashion.

So, we evaluated the original group of cards in the collection. There were three cards that changed in condition and thus, changed in value. Two were in better condition and one was in lesser and the net change was that the value of this portion of the collection increased the value of the collection an additional several hundred dollars.

Some of the highlights found in the original group of about 45 cards included:

1909-11 T206 Ty Cobb Green Background1911 T205 Christy Mathewson1909-11 T206 Cy Young Portrait
1933 Goudey Babe Ruth1933 Goudey Lou Gehrig
1951 Bowman Willie Mays1955 Topps #123 Sandy Koufax Rookie Card
1954 Topps #128 Hank Aaron1953 Topps #82 Mickey Mantle1953 Topps #220 Satchel Paige
1941 Play Ball Joe DiMaggio1941 Play Ball Ted Williams1948 Leaf Joe DiMaggio

We reviewed the cards and the values with the collector and he agreed with our grades, values and our offer and said, "They're yours. Now, that should make the trip worthwhile. Let's look at the rest of the collection and see what you're interested in buying." So, we had a small amount of cards, but a high dollar value knocked out of the way.

The Remainder of the Collection

And the balance of the collection was a smorgasbord of prewar and postwar cards.  There were about 300 tobacco cards consisting of mostly T205 and T206 cards with dozens of Hall of Famers ranging in condition mostly from PR to VG.  There were hundreds Topps cards from 1952 through 1956 including more than 100 1952 Topps cards.  We found a near complete 1952 Bowman Set missing only Casey Stengel to be complete, partial sets from Play Ball and Goudey and Topps sets and near sets from the 1950's through 1980 and a few other surprises.  One set that couldn't be found was a 1933 Goudey Set which the seller mentioned had the "BIG LEAGUE CHEWING GUM" banners cut from the bottom of the cards.  He was unable to locate the set during our viist, but called us the next day alerting us that is had been found.  We ended up working on that set in another deal that we'll share with you in a future blog.

So, what do several hundred tobacco cards loaded with Hall of Famers look like?

Boston Black Ice Tobacco Cards

Black Ice - The Unpleasant Transport

We completed the deal, I loaded the collection into my Grand Cherokee and began my return as the sun was going down and dusk began to set in. Surprisingly, the precipitation, which had been forecast to stop hours earlier, had not stopped. Accumulations had reached a several inches, but the anticipation was that the weather would lessen and the weather would warm as I headed south, so I carefully began my trek.

Driving back to New Jersey after getting around Boston and out of Massachusetts, I ended up on 84W in Connecticut.  The light snow began to let up and was replaced by a light mist, but the temperature still hovered around freezing. It was still early evening (around 7:15) and barring any setbacks, I was set to arrive home around 10:30. That arrival was suddenly altered.

A few minutes away from Exit 66 and a traditional stop at the Rein Deli when returning from shows we do north of Boston, two tractor trailers passed me on the left on a slight downhill slope heading toward a mild left hand curve in the highway. As the first semi passed, I felt a little wiggle in my vehicle from the draft and feared that I was on black ice. I took my foot off the accelerator and as the second truck passed, I felt the back end of my vehicle get sucked into the draft and start to turn my Jeep sideways. After a straightening the vehicle, the momentum caused me to slide off the highway, across the right shoulder and into the guardrail. A few seconds and about 1500 feet later, I managed to regain some control the vehicle enough to avoid rolling it and was able to stop it safely. A quick inspection revealed that the right side of the Jeep was toast and the right rear wheel was banged up as well as the front end alignment being skewed as the steering wheel was now about 10 degrees offline. Also, the highway was extremely icy and remaining along the road awaiting the emergency services response would not be very safe, so I carefully drove the wounded vehicle to the next exit, called the state police and awaited a response. And waited . . . and waited.

Eventually, as in two hours later, a Connecticut State Trooper showed up.  We discussed the events leading up to the accident and he took notes and double checked the time while preparing his report.  He stated that the reason that there was such a long delay is that a few minutes after my incident, two semis went off the roadway at almost the exact location.  Would they have hit me had I stayed on the side of the highway?  I'm unsure, but suffice it to say, concern for safety may have saved me from serious harm and may have saved the collection from destruction.

Given the damage to the vehicle and the weather conditions, an overnight stay was the wise move and I nursed the vehicle and this amazing collection home the following day.

Video of "The Boston Inverstor's Vintage Baseball Card Collection":

Schedule an Appointment to Meet Just Collect at a Show Near You

Just Collect travels to several shows on a regular basis. In the New York area, we often attend the White Plains Show at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, NY. If you're in the New England area, you can make an appointment to meet with one of our specialists when we're in the area for the Shriner's Show at the Aleppo Auditorium in Wilmington, MA. We also visit the Metro-DC area when we attend the CSA Show in Chantilly, VA. If you're in the South Jersey or Delaware area, you can also schedule appointments while we're in the Philadelphia area when we do The Philly Show in Valley Forge, PA.

We set up at The National Sports Collectors Convention every year and this year.  Next year, 2020, The National will be at the Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, NJ.  It has also been in Cleveland, Chicago and Baltimore in recent years. Additionally, we travel to the Sports Card and Memorabilia Expo in Mississauga, Ontario for those of you in the Toronto area that want to meet with us in Canada.

We would love to meet with you and schedule a private appointment to assess and value your collection while we are in your area, so please check out our show and travel schedule to see when Just Collect will be in your area!

Our Buying Philosophy

We've run into a wide range of people and collections over the past decade. Although we are known for buying vintage sports cards and especially vintage basketball cards, we are also extremely interested in buying non-sports cards, also!

Every collection and every collector is different and we treat EVERY collection with the respect and attention that we show for our own collections. We understand that many have put their heart and soul into building their collection. So when you're ready to sell, Just Collect understands the feelings that you're going through and we will work with you to help you reach a decision that is a WIN/WIN, because if you're not happy, we're not happy.

Won't They Be Worth More if I Grade Them Myself

We discuss all of the selling options with everyone that we meet with. In most cases, selling the collection on their own will put the most money on the bottom line, but it will also take an large commitment of time and energy and one that most are not ready or able to undertake. Another misconception is that grading the collection will return more money. When I hear people say, "You're just going to grade them and get ten times the money," I almost cringe. Grading a collection can be a money losing proposition, especially if you don't know what you're doing. And most times, we grade very few, if any cards, from average collections that we buy.

We value a collection based upon the condition and the value. If a card is worth $100 in a PSA 7 NM, we're going to value it at $100 whether it is ungraded or graded. You can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars grading your cards, but we're still valuing them the same and paying the same regardless of how much you've invested in grading them.

We Are Always Buying

Just Collect is always buying vintage sports and non-sports cards from 1879 to 1979 as well as select modern cards. If you have a collection that you are considering selling, contact us today to discuss your collection and get our industry leading purchase offer. If you have a collection that you want appraised, please contact us and we would be happy to discuss your collection and help you understand the real cash value of your collection in the current marketplace.

Don't hesitate to check out our Google Reviews left by many of the great people that have considered selling collections to Just Collect.

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