I Just Spent $50 on Baseball Cards and I Blame You


The damning evidence.

One of my favorite games to play is the Blame Game, which is why I’d like to begin this post by blaming the parties most directly responsible for my heinous actions on the afternoon of February 9th, 2012 — which actions involved mainly the prolonged research, and subsequent purchase, of 24 baseball cards, coming to a total of approximately $50.

I blame the internet’s Common Man for forcing me to attend TwinsFest the weekend before last, an event (i.e. TwinsFest) that forced me to become curious about The State of the Hobby. I blame the editors of BaseballCardPedia (and recent podcast guests) Chrises Harris and Thomas for patiently answering all my questions about The State of the Hobby. I blame my wife for leaving me at home, unattended, for hours at a time, as if I knew how to take care of myself. I blame the neurotransmitter dopamine — and the reward system of my brain, generally — for somehow allowing the research, and subsequent purchase, of baseball cards to provide me with great pleasure. And finally, I blame Big Oil — which, even though they didn’t do anything specifically, they’re probably somehow involved.

Phrased differently, what I mean to say is that, just today, I’ve made my first meaningful purchase of baseball cards since probably 1990. I don’t know if, in this case, meaningful is synonymous with fiscally sound.

I’ve listed my purchases below. Essentially, my strategy has been to target players whom I see as perhaps being undervalued relative to their future potential. In some cases (Mike Stanton and Mike Trout), it’s because I view the player in question as an eventual Hall of Fame candidate. In other cases (Brent Morel, Juan Nicasio, Chris Sale, Dayan Viciedo), it’s because I suspect the player in question will considerably raise his profile this coming season in the eyes of fans and collectors.

In every case, my goal has been to find at least two versions of each player’s rookie card — both from a base set and then some kind of numbered parallel set (gold or black, it generally is, for Topps), which I’m assuming will be more valuable than the base version.

I purchased all the following cards using the site Check Out My Cards, which gives dealers and collectors a very clean forum for selling their cards — and gives buyers a chance to see a scan of literally every card they’re considering for purchase. And again, I’ve found the site BaseballCardPedia very helpful.

Below are today’s purchases. I’ve included a key at the bottom of this post.


Player Year Set Series Card# Insert/Parallel #d RC? # $
Brent Morel 2011 Bowman 196 AU Chrome RC Y 1 $3.00
Brent Morel 2011 Bowman 196 Base Y 2 $1.50
Brent Morel 2011 Topps 1 322 Base Y 2 $1.50
Brent Morel 2011 Topps 1 322 Gold 2011 Y 1 $1.50
Chris Sale 2011 Bowman 220 Base Y 2 $1.50
Chris Sale 2011 Topps 1 65 Base Y 2 $1.50
Chris Sale 2011 Topps 1 65 Gold 2011 Y 2 $2.00
Dayan Viciedo 2010 Topps U US2 Base Y 2 $3.00
Dayan Viciedo 2010 Topps U US2 Gold 2010 Y 1 $2.00
Juan Nicasio 2011 Topps U US203 Base Y 2 $2.00
Juan Nicasio 2011 Topps U US203 Black 60 Y 1 $9.50
Mike Stanton 2010 Topps U US50 Base Y 2 $4.50
Mike Stanton 2010 Topps U US50 Gold 2010 Y 1 $4.50
Mike Trout 2011 Topps U US175 Base Y 2 $4.00
Mike Trout 2011 Topps U US175 Gold 2011 Y 1 $6.50

Series — Generally either First (1), Second (2), or Update (U). Bowman appears to produce just a single series each year.
#d — For inserts and parallels, how many cards were produced.
Insert/Parallel — AU means autographed. Everything else is pretty self-evident.
RC? — Is it a player’s rookie card?
# — How many I bought.
$ — Total spent on all cards bought, rounded to nearest half dollar.




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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.


30 Responses to “I Just Spent $50 on Baseball Cards and I Blame You”

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  1. Peter R says:

    I see a saber baseball card hobby blooming. Coming up with formula for which cards will be worth more for resale etc.

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  2. JWay says:

    I once sold a Bowman Chrome Autographed Gold Refractor RC of Ryan Zimmerman for $650. I opened it from one pack. I do believe its worth more now. Oh well.

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  3. Matt says:

    Unfortunately, none of those cards you bought are actually rookie cards.

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    • JWay says:

      I noticed that too.. I would recommend investing in a Beckett, and shopping at places like http://www.tpsc.net and ebay. :)

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      • I don’t understand. I’m an idiot. Please elaborate.

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        • JWay says:

          I take that back, the Stantons look like RCs. I forgot that they standardized the RCs so they couldn’t come out years before they debut in the MLB.

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        • Matt says:

          Topps started doing something recently in putting the RC logo on the player’s first Topps card. To most people outside of the hobby, it would seem that this would be their rookie card. Inside of the hobby, the first card produced of the player is considered a rookie, and most time it is from either Bowman/Bowman Chrome/Bowman Draft or another “prospect” licensed issue, and the card is produced when the player is in the lower levels of the minors. For example, Stanton’s best RC is a 2008 Bowman Chrome autographed card. For Trout, it is 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft autographed card.

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          • JWay says:

            This is what I thought, but even Beckett designated the 2010 Stantons as RCs… Which didn’t used to happen.

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          • It seems to me that it’d be ideal if there were official designations for Rookie Card, on one hand, and First Card, on the other.

            Do such designations exist? or only informally?

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        • JWay says:

          The Morrell’s are “RCs”, but there’s “draft pick” cards before that. Back when I was in the game, usually the hobby valued the first cards made over the ones designated RC.

          Either way, if you want to do the prospecting deal, Bowman Chrome was the real deal.

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          • Matt says:

            They designate it, but nobody really acknowledges that. To me, if you have a card come out in 2008 by a licensed manufacturer, anything after that is not a rookie, no matter what Beckett or Topps says.

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          • JWay says:

            I agree, but when I quit collecting, they were transitioning to that and Beckett didn’t acknowledge them as RCs despite Topps printing RC on the card. This was in 2007-08. Obviously a lot can change since then.

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  4. JWay says:

    Then I sold my Josh Beckett collection to pay for my honeymoon to Jamaica. That’s not worth more now. Hooray.

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  5. Don’t blame me for your own inherent weakness. And only $50? You got off easy. Toughen up, buttercup.

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  6. Marc Hulet says:

    Dayan Viciedo is going to surprise people? Ha! Funny Cistulli.

    Good call on Sale, though.

    I want a set of the 2011 heritage prospect cards… those look cool.

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  7. Make a desktop wallpaper.

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  8. Nu? Billy Baroo says:

    This is a slippery-slope I have recently been pushed down as well. After not having collected in 20 years, I now find myself on CHECKOUTMYCARDS.com multiple times a day collecting obscure cards, ones that remind me of my youth, and current players and prospects…. help!!!!!!!!

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  9. Nu? Billy Baroo says:

    I try and spend very little – under $1 per card to keep it interesting and cheap.

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  10. MikeS says:

    Pretty heavy on young White Socks considering their utter inability to develop young talent the last few years.

    There ar precious few pkayers on tht roster that have spent a year ir more in their minor league system. Sale might be ok, Viciedo we’ll see and Morel will be lucky to be replacement level.

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  11. NoWayJose says:

    I’m addicted to both your podcast and baseball cards so thanks for today. Nothing beats buying a hobby box of cards for that type of money. If you have the money buy that one card you always wanted.

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    • That’s excellent of you to say. Much appreciated.

      Question: what are you most excited about collecting? Specific teams, sets, players?

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      • nubillybaroo says:

        fun stuff. stuff you like.

        recent pick ups:

        1984 Fleer Pine tar incident card (had already, but in bad condition)
        1955 & 1956 Al Rosen
        2011 Topps Mike Trout (cause he’s a beast, and I like the main base set each year more than these wacky sets)
        Topps Marquee – Sandy Koufax (cool pic!)
        1987 Topps Tiffany Mike Greenwell (can’t have too many of these)
        2010 Obak Moe Berg (its the only Moe Berg card I can afford, and he was a cool spy!)
        2010 Topps Vintage Legends Cy Young, Jimmie Foxx (one of the coolest retro sets) BoSox classic players
        Lots of Youkilis & Lavarnway (contrary to popular belief he will rake in the bigs)
        some Jurickson Profar (he will rake in the bigs)
        1966 Richie Allen (cuz)
        1968 Mike Epstein (cuz)
        1983 Topps Don Baylor
        1981 Dave Winfield
        1983 Yaz
        some weird New Retro Babe Ruth cards, cause he’s the Babe, and I can’t afford real Ruth cards, but the photos are cool
        (cause they were cool when I was young0

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  12. Congratulations on your purchase, Chairman. Your blame game is tight.

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  13. nathan says:

    If I can sound stodgy for a moment… I miss the way baseball cards were when I was a kid. There were just a couple manufacturers, a few sets per year, and the goal was to get a couple packs per week for $5 or so, open them up, and work the whole season on collecting the full set.

    Then it got all weird like Wall Street. People stopped caring about the charm of baseball cards, and commoditized it. Don’t get me wrong — I love the collecting aspect and always loved picking up a Beckett and getting the latest valuations on my coolest cards — but now it’s just like a competition of comparing cock size. It’s like, oh man, I might have Stanton’s rookie card, but I don’t have the double-bonus-extra-parallel-redish gold-refractorization-triple gloss-game used bat shards-autographed edition, so I’m basically just a pussy.

    Screw you, trading card industry. We are the 99%.

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    • Peter R says:

      I could never get into it because by the time I came around it had turned into that madness. How is a guy supposed to get in to it when everything is so damn confusing.

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    • Matt says:

      Totally agree, which is why there are fewer and fewer collectors today. The newer stuff, mostly because of its crazy price point, is straight up gambling. When you have kids spending $200 of their money or their parents’ money to buy 1 pack with 5 cards in it, something is wrong.

      To me, that is why collecting vintage stuff is the way to go for new collectors. You don’t have to spend a ton of money (stars from the 70’s are dirt cheap), you don’t take a risk in losing a bunch of money, and you can have fun with pieces of baseball history.

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  14. Chris says:

    I enjoyed Carson’s description of his collecting experience, because the same thing has happened to me recently. Although I think I’m with Nathan on this: there’s a difference between collecting for the nostalgic joy of it, and there’s collecting as an investment. To each his own, but is that Brent Morel going to be worth anything in 20 years? Buy it cause you like it.

    I have boxes full of cards and complete sets from the 80s that I don’t think are worth much more now than they were at the time I bought them.

    what I did recently was buy a bunch of old cards of my favorite team from the ’50s-80s (when the Orioles were actually good). I didn’t care about condition so much, so $3 for a dog-eared ’58 Brooks Robinson seemed a lot more interesting to me than a $3 Chrome Prospect Walter Young.

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  15. Tony says:

    I started collecting again after a very long lay off. It really has gotten complicated. I started off buying cheap cards of players I liked and gradually started paying more and speculating on who might become a HOFer. I’m paying way to much now for cards. My name is Tony and I’m a cardaholic. HELP! I think focusing on cheap cards of player you like is a good idea. They bring back lots of memories and look good no matter what shape they’re in.

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  16. Ed Osinski says:

    I ran across your discussion thread. Silly question from someone who hasn’t collected in 30+ years, how does the card grading system work (SGC for ex.), how would go about getting a card graded, and does it add value?

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