Oklahoma! Home of The Mick and the Sooner State Collection How many states does it take to get a collection home from Oklahoma? Unlike the eternal query of "How Many Licks Does it Take to Get to the Center of a Tootsie Pop," the world will know the answer to our question. It takes travel through eight states to get from Oklahoma to New Jersey (OK, MO, IL, IN, OH, WV, PA, and NJ). That's a lot of country to cover and plenty of highways to navigate -- more than 1300 miles and over 20 hours of driving through some stiff winds, snow storms, mountainous roads, and way too much highway construction. Ironically, while we were in Oklahoma, we were nearly as close to Los Angeles as we were to our New Jersey office. In fact, we could've been in Mexico in about half the time it would take to make it to either the Atlantic or Pacific coasts and, had we wanted to, we could've been in Winnipeg, Canada five hours before getting back to NJ!
So Far Away
Why would we drive so many miles to bring back a baseball card collection? Well, because it was quite a bit bigger than a suitcase, the FedEx expense would have been cost prohibitive, and it was worth a heck of a lot of money. In fact, it was almost too much for the suspension of the box truck that we rented to bring it back -- making the return home filled with some white-knuckle excitement navigating the wind gusts across the plains and the winding mountains and construction of Wheeling, West Virginia while trying to control a slightly overloaded vehicle with a wobbly suspension and very loose steering -- just weeks after an accident returning home in a storm from Massachusetts.
It all started innocently enough with an email inquiry from a family from Oklahoma, the birthplace of Mickey Mantle, that was looking to get details on valuing and liquidating a collection that had been assembled by the family's father/father-in-law. The collector's name was Jim and the inquiry was much more involved than many of the initial contacts that we get from collectors and/or their family members. We were advised that the collection consisted of complete and near complete PSA graded sets from 1951 to 1971 and ungraded sets and near sets from 1953 through 1980. That may not sound overly impressive, and on the surface, it is not really that uncommon. However, when we were made aware of the significant quantities of some of these sets and near sets, things became much more intriguing.
Some of the highlights of the collection were a 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle rookie cards in PSA 2.5, numerous 1953 Topps Mickey Mantle cards in varying grades as high as PSA 6, and piles of graded rookie cards of Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Sandy Koufax, Roberto Clemente, Brooks and Frank Robinson, Willie McCovey, Carl Yastrzemski, Lou Brock, Pete Rose, Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan and many, many others.
Just to give an idea of how expansive the collection presented, the 1953 Topps graded cards contained one complete PSA graded set (averaging PSA 6), two nearly complete PSA graded sets and hundreds of extra PSA graded cards. Of the more recent graded cards, the 1971 Topps issue featured two complete PSA graded sets (averaging a bit better than PSA 7.5 and PSA 7, respectively) and three more nearly complete graded sets ranging from PSA 6 to PSA 7.
The collection was Jim's passion and as was related to us by Jim's daughters, a way for him to remain connected to the game that he grew up loving:
"Baseball was a huge part of Jim's life starting as a young boy. He could pitch a no-hitter and then also get the clutch hit to win a game. He was fortunate to play college baseball but in 1962 was dealt a blow when he received a devastating rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis at the age of nineteen. Many believed he had the potential to play Major League Baseball, but due to his RA, playing in the big leagues was not his fate. Instead, he focused his talents as a coach of many successful high school teams. He was also an educator sharing his love of English and literature."
"After his retirement from education and coaching, collecting baseball cards became his passion and 'job.' He maintained meticulous spreadsheets as he built set after set. His impressive and large collection was a source of great pride. His two daughters (who inherited the collection after his death in 2019) felt that, since he was robbed of the ability to play at such a young age, baseball card collecting gave their father the perfect way to connect to the game he loved so dearly."
Reviewing the graded collection, there were approximately 15,000 total graded cards, almost entirely PSA graded. For the sake of understanding the collection, at PSA's current bulk grading rate of $8.50 a card, that's over $125,000 just in grading fees!
Collection Details Provided to Us in Microsoft Excel The great advantage of this collection was that the graded sets had been collated and were presented to us in an Excel spreadsheet arranged by individual set with each card listed by actual grade and any qualifiers were also noted. The time that the man's daughters and son-in-law invested in preparing this collection made the preliminary evaluations much easier that collections that have been far smaller. This allowed us to evaluate each of the sets and near sets by line item and offer the seller the full break down and valuation of each set. Yes, each card in each set was valued individually, that's about 15,000 individual card evaluations for just the graded portion of the collection.
Plenty of Ungraded Just because the collection had a mountain of graded cards, don't get the idea that it was only graded cards. There were tens of thousands of ungraded cards that comprised complete sets and partial sets from the 1950's through 1980! As an example, 1953 Topps contained 8 complete or near sets while 1971 Topps consisted of an astonishing total of 16 complete or nearly complete sets (there were more than 10,000 1971 Topps cards just in the ungraded).
Imagine how much fun it is, while scrutinizing each of the ungraded sets, to review stacks of Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays cards in the early 1950's sets.
We'll Have to Travel To Oklahoma Some may be wondering, how long does it take to review a collection of this size? Well, it literally took days of office hours to research and complete the graded card spreadsheets and value the graded collection. Early on, we prepared a valuation on a limited sample of the graded cards to verify that we were going to be on the same page with the family. We discussed the value of specific cards and how we would make our purchase offer based upon these values. There was an agreement in principle and we agreed that it would be beneficial to continue the full evaluation – which we eventually completed and presented to the family and they agreed with the totals and offer for the graded portion of the collection.
The ungraded cards in the collection would prove to be a little trickier with respect to providing an "unseen" evaluation and offer. The wide range on the ungraded cards wouyld require in-person evaluation to accurately assess and value. We agreed upon a deal in principle on the graded and felt confident that we would have a meeting of the minds on the ungraded material after we were able to evaluate it. We then worked on setting a date that worked for all parties and eventually agreed upon a meeting in Oklahoma early in January at the home of the late gentleman that had built this impressive collection.
The Evaluation and Review
Leighton and Scott flew in to Oklahoma the Saturday night before (connecting through Houston, TX), and met with the daughters and son-in-law on Sunday morning. Once at the home, more than 11 hours were spent diligently working to review and assess the ungraded collection and to verify the counts and grades of the graded cards. That's over 22 man-hours on the first day just to review and verify the collection. Leighton and Scott left the home and spent several additional hours that evening reviewing the data, crunching the numbers, and preparing the final offer for their meeting the family on Monday morning.
We had originally discussed a potential range of values for the ungraded collection. The condition of some of the ungraded and the sheer volume of duplication presented the ungraded portion of the collection in such a manner that was a bit lower than we had anticipated. The collection of the ungraded sets and partial sets were also slightly over-graded by the sellers and put a significant kink into the negotiations. For awhile, it appeared that the deal might not get done as the family wanted to sell the collection in its entirety despite that we had agreed on the graded cards. We just seemed too far apart on the value and what we could offer for the ungraded portion of the collection. There was a legitimate chance that we might have to cancel the rental truck and that we would be flying home empty-handed. The family asked to meet in private to discuss our offer and they deliberated for close to an hour. We spent nearly two more hours discussing the collection and working on further negotiations. Eventually, we were able to come to agreement and close the deal!
Mountains of Stars
We wish that we could share the sheer volume of this collection, but pictures will not do it justice. Perhaps if we laid the collection out on a football field and took an aerial shot, maybe it would work. Anyway, here's just a a teaser and if you multiply this image 100 times, you can image about half of the collection.
How Long Did it Take to Pack So, how do you move a collection that takes up two rooms in the home? Well, first you have to get it onto the truck. Luckily, we were able to contract with a local mover to provide some hourly help to take the boxes from the home and load them into the box truck for transport. Even with experienced movers, it took several hours to get the collection transferred. There were hundreds of set boxes and hundreds of chutes and "vaults" containing thousands upon thousands of cards. After it was loaded up, stacked several layers high in the truck, it still took a few days of intense cross-country driving to get it back to our office safely.
The Video of The Sooner State 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'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.
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