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Diamonds in the Desert: Former Topps Employee’s Massive Collection

Massive Collection Included a Lot of Almost Everything!

  • September 05, 2018
  • Leighton Sheldon

Desert Collection - Not Your Run of the Mill Collection

The sports card and the collecting community is vast. Being in this hobby, we've developed a great many friendships and connections. Recently, one of those relationships provided us with a lead to a sizable collection assembled by a long time collector, Stan Marks, who resided in the Scottsdale, Stanley MarksArizona area for more than 50 years. Stan, originally from Pennsylvania, also worked with Topps to help recruit athletes for card signings and this relationship helped him in adding some unique and very limited items to his collection as well as forging close personal relationships with many famous athletes. Unfortunately, Mr. Marks passed late last summer and the family was interested in liquidating the collection that Stan had assembled. It was not necessarily about the value of the collection, but because of the volume of space that it occupied among several homes among the family.

The collection was a lifetime accumulation of baseball, basketball, football, hockey, wrestling, boxing, entertainment and non-sports. The collection included complete and partial sets, rarities, type cards, unique examples, prototypes, autographs, photographs, programs, publications, schedules, giveaways, oddities, bats, balls, hats, jerseys, uniforms, memorabilia and so much more. This wasn't a collection for the faint of heart and wasn't one that would be easy to assess and value. Add the logistical nightmare of the collection being 2,500 miles away from our Somerset, NJ office and we could see this collection presenting some daunting challenges.

Fortunately, we were able to dientify the challenges, addressed them and were able to make an offer that was accepted by the family and we purchased the collection.  Below, we'll share how we approached the massive amount of material in the collection, the distance and the two trips we'd take to Arizona (the first to collect data and the second to physically inspect, finalize the offer and make payment).

How Do You Eat an Elephant?

Eating an elephantEvaluating a collection of this size could be likened to being asked to eat an elephant. And how does one go about eating an elephant? You start with one part and take one bite at a time. You can't look at the entire elephant and try to tackle it in one sitting. It creates far too daunting a task. Fortunately, we've had some experience with large and wide-ranging collections of this sort, so we were able to step back, look at the overall scope and develop a game-plan that would allow us to accurately accumulate and process the data and allow us to formulate and prepare an accurate evaluation and purchase offer.

One advantage that we had was that most of the collection had been cataloged in a database. While it wasn't in a format that we typically use, it provided us with a document that would could readily convert and prepare in a familiar format to begin organizing the breadth of the collection.

Honestly, at first glance, it appeared daunting, but we were certain that we could accomplish the task at hand. It wasn't going to be easy, and it would have to be tackled by taking bites out of the elephant. So, that's how we approached it. We couldn't just fly out, look at the collection and throw out a wild-card guess at a number. That wouldn't be fair to the family selling the collection and wouldn't be fair to the way that we do business. We discussed our game-plan with the sellers and explained that this would be a multi-step process. They agreed and we began the process.

We're Flying Out

We flew an employee that was familiar with the family to Arizona to review the collection and take notes and pictures of as much of the collection as possible. The pictures and note taking took the better part of three days, required visits to two different locations and that was just the beginning of the work. Upon his return, he reviewed the images and notes with one of our vintage specialists and they began working with the data and the spreadsheet to assign preliminary descriptions and conditions to as much of the collection as possible. This allowed us to coordinate and get the collection into a style and format that we were accustomed to working with. Although strictly preliminary, because of our specialists experience and expertise with the process, it did afford us a reasonably accurate assessment and subsequent valuation of the collection. We were well on our way to working through the elephant.

Reviewing the collection, condition didn't appear to be as much of a concern on many of the vintage cards. This is not out of the norm with old-school collectors. The old days of collecting, long before third-party grading and the Internet was more about finding and acquiring an item rather than the condition. In fact, there is a collectors club called "OBC - Collectors of Old Baseball Cards," that has many members that specialize in building complete sets without much regard to the overall condition. This isn't to suggest that all of the collection was in less condition. There was much of the collection that was in Near Mint or better condition.

There were quite a few star cards sprinkled throughout this collection, including Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Honus Wagner, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and many others!

Rare, Scarce and Seldom Seen

Without going into too much detail, how about we just provide a brief list of some of the wide ranging samples of the type of cards included in this collection outside of the normal Topps, Bowman, Fleer, Leaf, Play Ball, Chicle and Goudey issues:

  • 1887 Allen and Ginter N28
  • 1887 Old Judge N172
  • 1887 Buchner Gold Coin N284
  • 1888 Allen and Ginter N29
  • 1888 Goodwin Champions N162
  • Caramel cards from 1908-1911: Including E90, E91, E92, E98, E100 and E101
  • Tobacco cards from 1909-1912: Including T201, T202, T205, T206, T207, T 209, T210, T212, T216 and T218
  • 1911 Brunner's General Baking Company D304
  • 1912 Imperial Tobacco C46
  • 1911 and 1912 Imperial Tobacco C55, C56 Hockey and C59 Lacrosse
  • 1914 and 1915 Cracker Jack
  • A wide range of W Strip cards including W514, W515, W551, W560 and W572
  • A variety of cards from the E120, E121 and E122 issues
  • Miscellaneous issues across the 20th Century like National Game, Tom Barker Game, B18 Blankets, Colgan's Chips, Zeenut, DeLong, Tattoo Orbit, Mello-Mint, Bond Bread, Tip Top Bread, M.P. & Co., Signal Gasoline, Johnston Cookies, Mother's Cookies, Hunter Weiner's, Wilson Weiner's, Rodeo Meats, Red Heart, Dan-Dee Chips, Diamond Matchbooks, Famous Matchbooks, Drakes, Philadelphia, Exhibits, Parkhurst, O-Pee-Chee, Icee Bear and many other unique and limited issues.

Evaluating cards from scarce or rarely traded issues could present problems for some collectors or dealers, but Just Collect's knowledge and expertise allows us to identify and evaluate these seldom seen issues in all conditions.  Armed with more than 6 decades of hobby knowledge, we dove into the collection and began working conditions and values for specific cards, sets and lots and slowly but surely, the spreadsheet was filling up and we were vanquiching the elephant.

What Do You Want to See?

Many times, when we buy a collection, we have a pretty easy time identifying the key card or cards from the colleciton and it is pretty easy to share those with our blog readers.  This collection, however, presents quite a challenge.  Not only is it vast in the volume of material and quantity of stars that it contains, but it litterally holds a little something for everyone.  If you want to see it, this collection probably contains it.

Desert Collection - 1Desert Collection - 2
Desert Collection - 3Desert Collection - 4
Desert Collection - 5

Do you want to see 19th Century cards?  There are plenty of those, including a few Hall of Famers.  Do you want to see Ty Cobb?  Got him!  Babe Ruth?  Plenty of those, too.  How about signed cards?  Maybe a signed T206 card?  Got it!  Are you a modern collector?  Maybe Joe Montana, Jerry Rice or Kobe Bryant?  Yup!  Mario Lemieux?  Sure!  How about tough cards like the 2006 Topps Alex Gordon?  Yup, plenty of those, too.  Wait, you want to see a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle?  That's there, too.  Perhaps not the prettiest looking example, but it is authentic.  

1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle1952 Bowman Mickey Mantle
1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle and 1952 Bowman #101 Mickey Mantle

Trying to stump us?  Maybe you want to see Hulk Hogan?  Well, his rookie card is in there with the rest of the 1982 Wrestling All-Stars from Series A, B and C!

Leaf and Ringside Boxing and Wrestling All-StarsWrestling All-Stars with Hulk Hogan
1951 Topps Ringside Boxing, 1948 Leaf Boxing and 1982 Wrestling All-Star w. Hulk Hogan

Here's a few more samples from the collection, including TWO 1939 Play Ball Joe DiMaggio cards!

1939 Play Ball Joe DiMaggio1939 Play Ball Joe DiMaggio
Joe Dimaggio Rookie Cards

Some other significant rookies and stars:

1949 Bowman Jackie Robinson1948 Leaf Jackie Robinson
Jackie Robinson Rookie Cards

1951 Bowman Willie Mays1959 Fleer #68 Ted Signs
Willie Mays Rookie Card and 1959 Fleer #68 Ted Signs (Short Print)

1939 Play Ball #92 Ted Williams1941 Play Ball Ted Williams

Ted Williams 1939 Play Ball Rookie Card and 1941 Play Ball

Babe RuthRube Marquard
1921 Strip Card of Babe Ruth and 1909-11 T206 Signed by Rube Marquard

And Tiny, Too

There was a little bit of everything in this collection.  Large cards, posters, full magazine page inserts, you name it!  One of the more interesting and also one of the smallest issues was a set of 1948 Topps Magic Photos.  The small cards measure in at 7/8" x 1 7/16" and consisted of 256 different cards featuring famous people, animals, places and landmarks including:  Albert Einstein, Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Clark Gable, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, George Patton, Abraham Lincoln, Sitting Bull, Billy the Kid, the Sphinx and the Leaning Tower of Pizza.  

1948 Topps Magic Photos

Pallets Inbound!

After finalizing the deal, the complicated matter of getting the collection packed up and back to our office had to be addressed.  Again, we've been down this road before, so we packed the most valuable material to bring back with us on the plane, packaged some additional material for FedEx delivery and the larger, bulkier portion of the collection was loaded onto pallets and shipped back via a private gorund trasportation service.

This collection again demonstrates the ability of Just Collect to successfully overcome many logistical issues, satisfy the needs of the customer and finalize the transaction.  Another WIN/WIN deal in the ledger for Just Collect and the Marks family!  Thank you so much for allowing us to bid for Stan's fantastic 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, it will be at the IX Center in Cleveland, OH and it has been in Chicago, Atlantic City 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.

The "Diamonds in the Desert: Former Topps Employee's Massive Collection" Video:

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