Would you rather own a single-family rental property or a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card? Depending on where you live, the latter might be a much better investment (and definitely sounds cooler at a cocktail party). In this episode, we dive into our childhood hobby and compare the similarities of investing in trading cards, stocks, and real estate.
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How To Build A One-Of-A-Kind Trading Card Collection (On A Steelworker’s Salary)
For all of our readers, you need to get over to YouTube to see this because this is a revealing episode. Frankie and I are getting heavy into our childhood hobby of baseball card collecting but we are doing it with an eye toward making some cash. Frank went out and bought himself a bunch of wax packs. We are going to look at them.
Let’s have a quick moment here. Ian and I went away for a couple of weeks. We had some things changed in our lives. We will leave it at that. Ian has his hands on a baseball card collection. How many cards do you think that total collection? I have been telling people it’s two million cards.
We could talk about it. My father passed away on August 25th, 2022, which sucks. He was 78 years old. One of the coolest gifts that he left my dad and me was a steelworker. He never had a lot of money. My mom was a teacher. They grew up in Michigan, and we weren’t poor but we were pretty damn blue-collar but he collected baseball cards since I can remember. For 50 some years of his life, he was a collector. My friends loved coming over because his office, which Frank has now seen, it’s tremendous. It’s like a sports collector’s dream to go in there and look. He’s got thousands of cards.
Let me tell people what it’s like being the first time there. I went in there, sadly, after he had passed away. I went into the basement, and the smile and the pride on Ian’s face to show me his dad’s collection was incredible. First of all. Second of all, you walk down there, and it’s a fucking den of collector items.
There are helmets from the USFL in the ’80s. He’s got all this cool shit. As you look around, he’s got pictures of Babe Ruth. All this stuff is on the wall, framed and signed. The coolest thing. I was like, “Who’s that?” He goes, “That’s me.” Underneath Ian, between Ian and Nomar Garciaparra, who was Ian’s son. The cool thing about this is that the man was passionate about it.
He was good at collecting things. It’s a lot of fun to see. It’s like going to Disney World for card collecting and one of my absolute best friends in the world, going in the basement and seeing that. I have heard stories but it did this. It got us excited about something. I was a baseball card collector until I basically discovered girls in 1991. About ‘85, ‘86 when I was 10 to about 16 is when I was into it. I used to look at like the rankings. Back then, it was all through magazines.
We would have a Beckett pricing guide at the house. We would buy one every year at the 7/11 but what’s happened is this. A few years ago, I went out and bought a Dan Marino rookie card, and it was signed. I had one when I was a kid and sold it, and I sold it because I wanted to buy the 1988 Topps Olympic baseball team set. In ’88, there was a guy named Mike Fiore, and I was pretty positive Mike Fiore was going to become Mark McGwire, who was on the ‘84 team and had become incredible.
I got my ass fleeced, and my dad was always mad that I got taken advantage of. A few years ago, cards started coming back into the vernacular, and I went out and spent $300 on Marino rookie $300 or $400. It’s worth $5,000 now because it’s a Gem Mint 10. It’s the tightest quality, signed, and there is not a lot of them in existence. Ian and I have started to get into it.
We are starting to chat and text. We are going on the internet and getting super excited about stuff. As per usual, when we get into something, Ian has an enormous head start over me. He’s got this incredible collection. I have got a Troy Aikman 1998 card. He got all this shit from the ‘30s or the 1800s that was in a Wiener package.
Frank’s starting with a Dan Marino and a Billy Bean era card where the bat says fuck face on the knob. He’s pretty excited.
Not Billy Bean. Billy Ripken.
The cool thing about this, for months, Frank, every day, gets 3 or 4 text messages for me like, “Look at this card.” I’m trying to help you understand the magnitude of what I’m trying to go through. I went home. I flew home for three days to start going through it. I’m hanging out in my dad’s office. He’s got a big ass desk. Hundreds of binders and drawers with cards. They are organized in different ways.
It’s important to say something really quickly. All this stuff was in his dad’s house but Ian’s moved it. It’s all in a safe now somewhere else for safety. It’s no longer in his house. It’s gone. We have moved it to a different and more secure location.
That was one of my big things. One of the big things is that I had this huge collection in my mom’s house. For me, I had to get it out of there, so it’s gone. Now I have got it in safety deposit boxes. I have got a lot of it coming and back from my office to my house. The expensive stuff my dad still has in his own safety deposit box, which he didn’t have in my mom’s name. It was in his name. He thought that it would be accessible because they are both of the same bank but whatever. We are going through probate but that’s the exciting stuff that’s all stuck there.
He’s got the 1952 Mickey Mantle Topps, which is the most iconic baseball card in collecting. He has all of the Babe Ruth Goudey cards, which are on anyone’s top ten list of cards you try to acquire. He is got all those crazy old Ty Cobb cards. Pretty much any card from 1950 to 2010. He owns it but he has it organized in lots of different ways. He has them in binders.The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle is the most iconic baseball card in collecting. Click To Tweet
He has them in stacks. Frankie, I’m going through the Bees. You are flipping through, and the Bees could be everything. You are going through, and it’s like, “Here are some Bob Boones and Bill Buckners.” All of them are worth nothing, and then you are like, “Here are 60 Yogi Berra cards,” of which 40 are worth over $1,000.
Really old, and they are in this section that you are flipping through. You flip through some more and are like, “Here’s George Brett. Most of these aren’t worth anything, but there are two of his rookies.” That’s worth a lot of money. I have to flip through, and I’m building a spreadsheet, putting it into my own organization because what I want to do is help my mom know how to appraise it. You can hire services that will come in, and they will give you a ballpark and try to do a big auction off but you absolutely don’t maximize value by doing that.”
Whoever’s going to bid on it is trying to bid on it so they can flip it. The way I’m doing it, let’s be honest, I’m not going to sell much of it because it’s my dad’s collection, and I love it, and my mom does too. We are trying to get an appraised value on it. To do that, there’s a grading system. Frank and I have invested in stocks and real estate, residential and commercial. Before I’m going to buy a commercial real estate property, I’m going to look at comps.
What’s fascinating about this is all the stuff that we know about from our disciplines of management, things we talk about here, buying and selling right, all these different things. A little bit of secrecy and strategy all come through in this. The fun thing is that it all applies but it’s around the fun asset. I love the stuff I own from a housing standpoint or a building standpoint. It’s super fun when you unpack something, and you are like, “A Barry Bonds.” It’s very fun.
Frank and I have been talking a lot about it. In this episode, the one thing we wanted to talk about is maybe lessons. My dad’s nickname was The Beast, so I will say, “Frankie, look at this. Look at what The Beast owned. Look at this card.” I will send him a picture of it, and he will be like, “What is that?” I’m like, “This came out of a Wiener pack.” He told me to be really careful with it because most of the cards were ruined because they shipped in the actual hotdog pack. Most of these cards have Wiener juice on them but he has one that doesn’t have Wiener juice on it. It’s rare, and it’s expensive. When we look at this, let’s get to the appraising piece of it.
Frank and I, if we buy a piece of real estate, we are going to look at comparables. What we care about is what’s closed in the last six months. Frank is going to look at, “Is pricing going up in that area? What are the rent comparables?” He’s got certain metrics he’s looking at but you want to see what is a good price. It’s the same if you are buying a house. You are going to look at what’s listed on the market, what the size is, and what dollars per square foot. Same deal.
Let me tell you about a house and how it’s relevant. You do a couple of things. When we buy a house, we do address it. That would be Babe Ruth is your address. You do square footage. We do that. We look at the square foot, the beds, and the baths, and then we look at the condition. What we do is we say there’s an as is value, and then there’s an after-repair value.
Where we make the majority of our money is in that difference between the as is or purchase price. If we can buy it for less than it’s worth as is, we can make money on it, which is what we try and do, and then what we do is we try and force the value. I’m good at this, and our average is around $22,000 on the immediate flip but this is relevant to what we are talking about.
I’m in the process of selling a portfolio of 51 houses, and I could have made $5,000 to $10,000 per house had I sold those when I acquired them but I held them through the Coronavirus. Through two years of inflation, and now instead of making $5,000 to $10,000 a house, I’m making $60,000. What happens when there are periods of inflation and when you have a strong asset that’s cashflowing or desirable is that they appreciate over time.
What I have got is stuff that’s a decade or two old from when there was euphoria around collecting. What his dad has is that his dad was the first to market, bought stuff that was old, and bought things before there were tons of people who were printing them number 1) and collecting them, number 2). He’s early.
What he did is he bought his properties or his baseball cards in the path of progress. He’s got some of the best players that have ever played. He bought them when they were not Hall of Famers. He bought it when they were in their eighth season, and he thought. His dad also went to a bunch of AA baseball games, which was cool because he would see young kids, and he knew. I know his dad knew Miguel Cabrera was going to be incredible because he could hear how he hit the ball. He knew that several years ago and started loading up on stuff with Miguel Cabrera before anyone had heard of it because he was scouting, which is fascinating.
A great story on this. My dad comes home from a Toledo Mud Hens game, an AAA game, and with a bat, and it’s a signed bat. I look at it, and I’m like, “Who’s Jim Thome?” He goes, “I have been watching baseball a long time, and I have never heard a noise like the noise that comes off this kid’s bat. I had to buy a bat, and I went and asked him if he would sign it. Hold that bat. He’s going to be a Hall of Famer.” Jim Thome became one of the greatest home run hitters of all time. To Frank’s point, my dad had season tickets to a Minor League team in Toledo, which is 40 minutes from our house, and he went there for decades.
He would go watch all these kids as they were coming up and would always say like, “Keep an eye on that one. He’s going to be ridiculous,” but he would go load up on their rookie cards if he saw that they were incredible. He has batches of rookies of good players throughout here. Let me get back to the appraisal piece. Frank talked about how you do it in real estate. In the trading card game, in the ’80s and ’90s, cards started to get graded. There wasn’t really consistency. Back then, it was an honor. You would say, “My cards Mint.”
What did that mean? All card collectors always look at the corners. Are the corners nice and square? You also don’t want the picture to be offset. You want to see an equal amount of white at the top border, bottom border-left, and right. The back needs to be good. It can’t have writing on it. Scuffs. Lots of the old cards had printing issues, so they would be offset tilted off to the side because they were hand cut. Someone is taking a press and literally pressing it down, and so if they did it off the edge.
There could be blotches of ink. These weren’t the greatest machines. In the ’80s and ’90s, groups that would grade your cards started coming along, and PSA was the biggest. Another group is Beckett. What they do is you send it to them, and they have an independent appraiser look at the card. They get a magnifying glass out. They wear white gloves when they look at it. They look at the corners. They compare it to other things.
They will tell you if it’s authentic or if it’s a counterfeit. You can also have these appraisers say whether an autograph is real or if it was counterfeited. You send them to these groups, and then they send them back to you in a plastic sealed case that can’t be opened because to open it, you have to break it. Inside of it is your preserved card with a score of 1 through 10.
When I tell people, “My dad has the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card.” People say, “That card sold for $12 million.” I say, “He doesn’t have that Mickey Mantle card.” What I mean by that is there are only so many Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps that graded at 9 or 10. There are only three that have ever graded at what’s called a Gem Mint 10.
That’s a perfect score, and it’s hard to get. You have to have everything perfect. Frank bought a Troy Aikman. He didn’t even get a Gem Mint because that’s a brand-new card. That’s what he showed the screen. My old man’s, Mickey Mantle, thinks it’s like a 6, which probably means it’s a 4 or 5, which is fine but it’s still a very expensive card but he never got them graded. He didn’t because he started the collection so long. He thought it was a racket.
He didn’t trust the people he was sending the card to. He didn’t trust whether he would get it back or if he did get it back, what grade would they put on it? He was old school. They traded back then by looking at whether he would be the appraiser. He would stare at it for ten minutes at a card convention. What I have to do is any card that’s worth over $100, and trust me, there are thousands of cards he has that aren’t worth a penny. That’s how it is. They are overproduced and have crappy names. No one wants it.
Like Greg Harris, 1991 Donruss. Garbage.
Absolute garbage. My mom throws it in the garbage. No one will pay you a penny for that. It’s not worth the shipping to even give it away. Use that as kindling for a nice holiday fire. For the ones that are over $100, I’m starting with, “I have to start getting these graded.”
This is Scott Bankhead. It’s also a worthless but incredible stash.
I have to get these things appraised, so I have to send them to a rating agency, depending on the value. There’s a racket in that too. It’s $22 for a more common card. If you have an expensive card, they could charge you up to $2,000 or $3,000 to appraise it. They do that because they know they can. If I had a $300,000 Mickey Mantle card in my hand that could grade high, they are like, “Who else are you going to take this to?” It’s got to be serious. They could charge you $3,000 for that, a percent, which is almost like a loan officer keeping an origination on your loan amount.
I’m in the process of having to get all of these appraised. When I look at a card, there are some of my cards. I will take an example. This is a 1959 Bazooka Hand Cut giant card. Hand cut, meaning this probably came on the back of a Bazooka gum box, and you had to cut it out. You can see even the edges. It’s authentic. Someone cut this off of a Bazooka box.
This card, even if it got graded a 3, is a $1,200 card. Anything higher than that, and it starts to get significantly more expensive. If you look at that card, I don’t know what this thing would grade at. It doesn’t have any blemishes on it. The edges are rough because it was hand cut by someone. As you can see, the corners look fine, but it’s not going to get an 8 or 9 because it’s hand-cut.
It’s not going to get an 8 or 9 because it’s hand cut but that means you have to look at each asset individually like you do with real estate, stocks or other things, and look at the comparatives. There is no comparative ten because it was hand cut that. They don’t exist.When grading a trading card, you have to look at each asset individually, just like you do with real estate or stocks. Click To Tweet
There’s no ten in the package.
If you have a 5 or 6 and the score only goes up to a 7, you have 90% of the max value in that piece of it. What you’ve got to be very careful of within any asset is that you’ve got to know what the floor and the ceiling are. When Ian got here, he got a high ceiling card because there were no tens.
That’s important to say here. This is something I have been talking to Frank about is I’m getting into it. He’s starting to understand my thinking. For the record, I inherited this cool group of cards, and I’m working on this for my mom, and everyone was like, “That’s neat. You got this asset.” All I have done is buy $20,000 worth of cards. I’m not selling anything, and I probably won’t. My dad never sold anything. My son will probably inherit this, and my sister will get some of it but I’m buying more than anything.
To give you an example of this, Frank. I’m glad you brought out these. There are zero 10s that have ever been graded a 10 on this card. It’s because it’s a hand-cut card. There are also zero 9s ever that have been graded on this. There is only one 8 that has ever been graded and only one 7. There are only 53 that have ever been graded in the population of this card.
This is an incredibly rare card because there weren’t many of these Bazooka boxes. Most people throw the Bazooka box away or if they cut it out, it’s also awkward because it’s big. It didn’t fit in your card box or in your rubber band box, so not everyone would keep it. This is one good example. If this thing was all beat up, written on, and it wasn’t good, this card might be worth $800.
If it got a decently high grade, it could be worth $10,000. What Frank said is absolutely right. I have to go through each asset to see what the ceiling is and the floor is and then get it appraised. Until this is appraised, I have no idea what it is worth. It could be $800 or $8,000. I don’t know. It could be that big of a drop from grade to grade.
There is a third option. You can do nothing. That’s the fun thing about owning things and not needing to do anything with them. Most people own things that they must do stuff with, so they feel pressure. When Ian first got into these cards, he felt pressure to move them or sell them but there’s no debt on them. All it is memories associated with it, and every day I get a couple of texts from me where he’s super excited about what he’s uncovered from his old man.
I’m like, “The old man was onto something.” Like there’s almost a closeness but there’s no pressure to it. That’s the difference between acquiring to flip and being a buy-and-hold investor. Warren Buffett doesn’t feel any pressure to sell. Warren Buffett feels the opposite of pressure to sell. He feels pressure to buy because he’s sitting on hundreds of billions of dollars with inflation he’s got to buy where this is the cool thing amount like graduating.
This has been an interesting microcosm about business, friendship, and your relationship with your dad. What you take from this is that in the beginning, you do things because you feel you must or have to. You eventually get to a place of discretion where you don’t must or have to. You get to. What Ian does every day when he flips these cards, he gets to. He gets to look up. It’s fun. Something else I haven’t told you yet, Ian, and I will tell you here because it’s going to be fun.
I told a bunch of people what you are doing like what’s going on and how you are doing it. All of them have said to me, people who know you, “Ian is such a good writer. I wish he wrote a book about what it has been going through these cards and fun things he’s done.” Even if he does it in a blog and turns it into a book later or turns it into something, they are like, “I would read that. I’m interested. Ian’s a compelling writer, and it would be interesting to see what Ian’s learning about his dad and what he’s going through as he’s doing it.” I have told you that offline but I thought it would be worthwhile to say it here. Many people have said that to me.
I will stay on this a little bit longer. When you think about lessons in investing, I was telling Frank this. My dad is the farthest thing from Warren Buffett in a lot of ways. Warren Buffett is a big-time business tycoon. My dad was a low-key hard-working steel worker. When it came to collecting, there are a lot of the same things in there.
Warren Buffett is a buy-and-hold guy. He buys stuff when it’s cheap, holds it for 50 years, never sells it, and grows explosively in value. This is a good example where I don’t know if my dad cut this out himself or if he bought it at a card show for $20. Probably the latter on this one because it’s Willie Mays but I’m willing to bet he bought it for a deal.
He knew all kinds of different dealers. He had a big network. Let’s compare that to Frank. Frank got a lot of realtors he knows. He gets leads from lots of unconventional sources. Frank has a profitable business because he buys right. He buys smart, and he buys stuff that he can hold. He knows that I’m going to buy stuff that, if I can’t flip it, screw it. I will hold it and hold it for a long time. If I wait long enough, it will be worth some money.
There’s the same principle. You take this. Maybe he bought this sometime in the ’60s or ’70s, and he probably bought it for $20 or $30. Now, it could be worth $7,000 or $8,000. He bought it smart. Could my dad buy this card? No chance. If this were rated high, my dad could drop $8,000. He is in the best year of his life. He made $60,000 at the steel mill. He was spending maybe $100 he would budget every couple of weeks for his hobby.
That was what he did, and he spent time on it. The first thing I have been impressed with in going through this is how patient you must be to collect a collection like this and hold it forever. It’s awesome that he did it and how valuable it is. It’s the things he bought these cards for that have done so much better than the stock market over the last many years.
He couldn’t spend $20 on a stock. He could spend $20, buy a bunch of cards, put them away, and keep them organized. He built that asset over time with by compounding results. Let Charlie Munger talk about it all the time to let your gains rip. Let your profits compound. For me, I now see what he left to my mom, me, and my sister. Organizing it is awesome because I’m looking at things and like, “I wonder how low of a price he paid for this thing that has exploded in value.” I paid $5,000 for a John Elway Gem Mint 10 rookie card. That’s a 1984 Topps card.
My dad wasn’t big into football card set collecting back then but he would buy the guys that were pretty good. He wasn’t buying sets but if there’s any card that was made from ‘52 to ‘92, he has it somewhere in baseball. He doesn’t have the football but it’s expensive for me to get Elway now. Whereas my dad bought a set back then for $30, and Elway might be in it.
If it grades at a ten, then that’s pretty explosive. It’s fascinating to see how he was able to pick all this stuff up on the cheap but that takes patience, which takes knowing who to buy from and who to trust. He had a strong network and a network of people that trusted him and that he trusted and traded with, almost always buying.
My dad never went to conventions and sold. He always would go, nibble away, and buy and add to his collection. To me, we are trying to get in this now, but you and I are cheating. You and I have a bank role to go in and start building something. I don’t think you and I have the patience to start buying 2022 Topps Chrome sets and holding them for 50 years. We are going in, playing, and picking away at some of our favorite players. To do this right, it would take an insane amount of patience if you had no capital to start.
I don’t think this needs to be a terribly long episode. What we could do is we could do something fun where I pull a pack, and you reach your hand into your bag if you have your bag with you. We each pull one out and tell a fun story and call it a day for this but the point is this. I was stale. I wasn’t in a bad mood but I was a little stale. I’m looking at things like the Dan Marino card I referenced earlier. I bought it for $400, which wasn’t cheap, and it’s worth $5,000 now. Ian bought basically the equivalent of that card in John Elway now, and he paid the market for it.
Am I going to retire on $4,000? No, but is it fun to know that I did that and bought a second card that’s absolutely worthless, and I probably lost $30 on it? Yes. There are some fun things in this for us. It’s also fun sometimes to do things that bring a smile to your face that it gets your brain stimulated. This reminds me of a way of dusting up an old classic. Going back and reading Steinbeck or reading something from Faulkner.
There’s beauty in it, and there’s something fun and nostalgia but there’s brilliance too. That’s what this is. Ian seemed more of it because his dad, on a very limited budget made smart moves over time. Ian didn’t say this. His dad did leave some notes about how much he spent on certain things. He’s like 1969, $48. In 1969, $48 was several hundred or thousand dollars now.
It’s a big deal to him.
In relative terms, that money left in a checking account would be worth $100, and now it’s worth tens of thousands of dollars in these cards. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s nostalgic. There’s a broader lesson, and you said it your way. I will say on my way. You build skills and don’t know where the skills are going to be needed or used but you have the skills.
I’m teaching both my kids how to swim. I’m basically teaching them how not to drown. Someday they will be able to enjoy swimming but if they know how not to drown, they can get out of a tub. They fall into the pool. They can get out. Ian and I have learned how to assess things. Talented business employees and staff members who get promoted or don’t get promoted. Assets through stock acquisitions or real estate acquisitions, and all of those skills are transferable here.
We never thought Beast was teaching us lessons about acquiring but he was and he did it his way. There are so many unbelievable lessons in this. Sometimes you shut up and listen to people. It’s like, “That person’s got interesting things to say,” and they landed the same place I would have but came about it in a very different way. It opens your mind.
There are so many cool things out of it. There’s the 10,000-hour rule that we have talked about here. The Malcolm Gladwell. My dad’s got way more than 10,000 hours into this but he could spot a deal. He could say that that’s a good price for that card. I’m going to buy it. If I hold it, it’s going to be worth a lot. You are so right. In investing, in general, the same principles apply. I talked about Warren Buffett saying, “Hold forever. Buy at a good price. Don’t get in and out of things too much. Buy high-quality assets.” He has a huge collection. He has some stuff that turned out to be worth nothing.
You can’t get everything right.
I have gone through his first thousand cards, and some of them I get excited about, and they are not worth a lot when I go look at auction prices. Some are worth way more than I would think. I have passed through them a few times and looked at them. By going in and looking at it, a number of things stand out. For me, with collecting, go with the high quality as much as you can.
Frank and I, in an episode, talked about how he’s looking at real estate with a recession looming. He’s going to tighten up his zip codes. He’s going to tighten up the radius that he’s going to look at. He’s not going to get too far out of the path of progress. He’s not going to go on the edges of a ZIP code. Whereas in a hot market, you might stretch yourself a little. When I look at it, it’s still the Mickey Mantles, Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, and Ty Cobb. It’s names that everyone wants. It’s big names and big properties. Hall of Famers.
All of them are worth a lot more money than the non-Hall of Famers, obviously. It’s quality. When I say I’m getting these graded, a 10 will sell for 5X, 6X or 7X. It could be 20X. The other thing I would say that is undefeated is supply and demand. There is a ton of demand for vintage Mickey Mantle cards. Mickey Mantle is the guy. It’s like the Picasso of art. He’s the icon of the sport. That will stay that way.
I never saw Mickey Mantle play, and I want Mickey Mantle. He’s cool. Babe Ruth is cool but those cards make them expensive. There wasn’t a lot made, and there certainly isn’t a lot left that is in good condition. If you have one in good condition, supply and demand are on your side. The one thing that the way Frank and I are looking at this, I won and bought five cards in an auction, and I was going back and forth with Frank for two weeks about it, and I bought guys that I love. I love Lawrence Taylor. He’s one of my favorite players of all time.
The thing that’s unique about Lawrence Taylor is that it doesn’t matter what team you rooted for. You could be an Eagles, Redskins or Cowboys fan. You are like, “He was the best defensive player I ever saw in my life.” There are only 200 of his rookie cards in a Gem Mint out there, and I don’t know who owns them but there are only 200. One of them is now the property of Ian Mathews.
I bid on that thing and was willing to overbid if I needed it, but I’m going to hold it forever because there are not a lot of them. There’s scarcity. In 1982 when Lawrence Taylor was a rookie, there was only Topps making rookie cards for him. There’s only 1 of them, and there are only 200 in great condition. I’m going to hold that thing because when people of my age get into their 60s and 70s and are insanely rich and don’t know what to do with their money, they are going to buy the guys they know that they grew up watching.
I did the same with Elway. I did the same with Cal Ripken Jr. I did the same with Ronnie Lott. I’m looking for cards that are rated ten high-quality cards. Hall of Fame elite people that there is a lot of demand for their rookie. I know there will be demand for the names that I gave you. I’m sure of it but the supply will be low.
When people start getting more and more money and getting more into football, they are going to find that there are not a lot of Lawrence Taylors, Ronnie Lotts, Barry Sanders, Dan Marinos, and John Elways like Frank bought. As they get more discretionary income and they are willing to put $5,000, $10,000, $15,000 or $20,000 into rookie, they are going to find that you can’t go online and buy it like you could buy a stock at Scottrade. You have to go to auctions like the places Frank is going to find easy in the murky underworld of eBay, trying to find some of these and get them graded.
It’s fun for me. I don’t have a duffle bag full of shit that someone gave me. I want to feel the treasure hunt. I also might find Daryl Boston. Donruss. I have already shown you my George Brett. I’m excited about my George Brett, $15. I spent $11.
The way you and I are looking at it now, investing is differently than Beast did because we have other investments, and we were applying the same thing. Low supply, high demand like real estate. You want ZIP codes that are in high demand where if you buy a house in the best ZIP code, your value will hold up in a recession more than if you are in the outskirts. You talked about farther out from the city. Gas prices go up. Do prices drop on real estate? It’s the same thing with collecting baseball cards.
The other piece of it is that this is speculative. Ian and I are not playing with tons of money. We are doing it with money that we can afford to have some fun or have a hobby with. We might be wrong. Lawrence Taylor maybe come to the next OJ Simpson, and he’s not as valuable but I did buy an OJ in 1970 Gem and ten FYI. The point of the matter, the fun part about this is that there is a hobby to it but we are using the same fundamentals and could be wrong.
My guess is that we are going to be more right than wrong because we are using fundamentals that are tried and true in a multitude of different businesses and industries. We are flying to quality or buying the best things that the people who change the game or the best type of assets, and we are holding them. With that type of strategy, it might lose but there are two things. It probably won’t, and we are going to have a hell of a lot of fun doing it.
Something you said is important. We are not 23 years old and trying to turn this into a career. I’m buying stuff that I’m going to hold for twenty years. It’s fun and going to appreciate in value. It’s not money that is a waste. I will give another example. My dad sold one card in the late-’80s, and we put a pool in our backyard. We were the only house in Trenton around us that had an inground pool.Buy things you'll hold for 20 years and will appreciate in value. Click To Tweet
I had friends over all the time. My dad still would lament about, “I shouldn’t have sold that card. You know it would be worth it now?” I always say, “It was a piece of cardboard for ten years of amazing summer memories.” That trade is, “I take it all day. Who cares about that piece of cardboard?” He did sell a couple to make our lives better, and maybe one day I will sell some of it but I’m not doing this looking to flip. Like in real estate, people that get into it to try to make a quick buck or investment. If you get into real estate, get in it thinking, I might have to own this thing for 10, 15 or 20 years and do it for cashflow. It’s the same thing with this hobby.
I’m not buying anything that I wouldn’t want to own in twenty years. I’m not buying anything speculating that in six months it will be worth more money. I don’t need this income. Thinking about it like retirement or mutual fund that I get to. My stock advisor is also a good friend, and I told him my plan and how much money I was planning to put into and he’s freaking out.
He’s like, “Baseball cards, you are going to go?” I’m like, “Yeah. Tell me how that’s a worse idea than stocks, which is your line of work.” Like how great has that been going the last few years?” For me, this is not a way to make quick money but I’m pretty sure that if I do this smart, I could get a 5 10X on it over 20 years.
I’m looking to trade some of my dad’s lower-quality stuff for higher quality 8, 9, and 10-graded stuff with only Hall of Fame baseball players in low-supply cards. That’s what I’m looking to trade. Maybe not have tens of thousands of cards. Have a lot less cards but higher quality. That’s what I’m looking to do with this portfolio over the next several years, and it’s going to be fun.
One last thing I’m going to say that reminds me a little bit of what you do in your business that my dad did, is on the autograph side. My dad has one of the greatest autograph collections in the country. If you play baseball from 1955 to 2015, he has your autograph. When I say play baseball, I mean won a bat or 1 inning pitch. He has those people’s autographs too and put that together.
A lot of it is with hard work. Roll your sleeves up, take a box of 400 cards to a Marriott because the Yankees are in town playing the Tigers, and wait at the hotel until they are going to the stadium and bring your son and be like, “That’s Don Baylor and giving me ten cards,” and I got to run over and get an autograph.
There’s Don Mattingly. I remember going through all of that but he would take cheap assets cards. By getting an autograph, he added value, and now they are worth significantly more. A lot of the cards you are pulling, they are worth nothing. Sure, but that Ryne Sandberg if it was autographed. It’d be worth $50 to $60, maybe $100 to somebody. As it is now in your hand, it’s worthless. It’s not worth anything.
The way Frank goes and buys an asset at a low price but he’s got the infrastructure and the know-how to go upgrade right and put the right money in the right areas, and then he can flip it for more money. You got to have the ability to add value. When my dad added value to cards, he got them autographed. Now he has thousands of autographs which made a bunch of otherwise worthless cardboard into assets.
There was a thing your dad did incredibly well that we have talked about a little bit here. Prior to getting on doing this and it was about being a completionist. This was his dad’s passion. I’m guessing that at some point, Ian’s mom and his dad had fought over baseball cards. His obsession with baseball cards, collecting, knowing things, and getting signatures.
You don’t become great at something without obsessing over it. He’s obsessed over it but what’s lacking is a cool set of stories and a cool history and legacy. It’s neat but he put in hours, weeks, months, and years and it turned out to be decades. He did this for six decades. He was at a very long time and wanted to acquire things because they brought him joy.
One of the big regrets in my life is that I never met Ian’s dad. Sadly, it didn’t happen but what I always knew of him is he was a happy guy. He used some incredible disciplines but found something that brought him incredible joy. I almost got held back in second grade. I’m not that smart. I had to beg to get into the university floor. Literally, we didn’t do anything illegal but my guidance counselor to call and said, “This is a good student. Would you think of maybe taking his deferral and making him a gator?” I got in. I was on thin ice. I had barely got in.
The point is, people, look at me now and say, “I’m so smart.” I’m so smart because I found something I love, and all I do is do it. I don’t have a lot of hobbies now. I have about 300 baseball cards but besides that, that’s it. I’m a dad, a father, and a real estate guy in Richmond, Virginia. I knew who I was, and I poured everything I can into it.
That’s what Ian’s dad did with this. It’s tangible and fun. Had you done this with something that we didn’t understand? We couldn’t be having this episode but it’s baseball and football cards. It’s people who we love and things that we rooted for. These were men in the arena when we were children. These were the titans of our youth, and we got the root for them, and now it’s fun to have the relics.
I will close up here. It’s a hell of an inheritance for me because it has been a hard few months. My dad was my best friend. One of the greatest gifts he could give me is this collection to play with. I tell my mom every day that I feel close to dad. I pulled out a card that I remembered going and getting an autograph with him. Many of these cards are from my childhood with him, and I got away from the collection for a long time. Raising kids, trying to make money in a job, and doing all that. It has been so fun for me to get back into the hobby to have his collection to play with. It’s keeping me close to him.
What’s fun is that I’m coming home with 50 cards in my hand, and my son wants to see him. He’s a big baseball player and getting into baseball cards a little more. I bought him a couple of wax sets, and it’s something for us to talk to. If I could go take $200,000 or $300,000 out of some 401(k), that’s in a bunch of mutual funds that I don’t know anything of and go put it into something like this and say, “I’m going to hold this for 20 or 30 years as well,” this a hell of a lot more fun. It will keep me close with my son.
Now Frank and I are talking about the time. I’m here to tell everyone that Frank will have $300,000 in baseball cards within months. He’s wired the same way I am, and we are going to be trading back and forth and going to conventions. Everything I talk about that Frank ends up investing with. He gets excited about my text or I get excited about his real estate. It’s what we do. This is going to end up being the exact same but it’s fun.
If you are going to invest in things, Frank is so right. I am running. I’m taking IJ to football, bringing him back, and having dinner with my family. 9:00, I’m coming to my office until midnight, sitting here, going through cards, putting them into spreadsheets, looking up auction prices, trying to appraise them, and looking at how I can upgrade them. Can I get this 6 and a 9 and upgrade it and make it even better? I’m passionate about it. I’m studying it. I’m paying attention. We have often said you can’t always chase passion.
When it comes to investing, I do believe you should invest in things that you are passionate about. Invest in stocks, companies that you know that you are passionate about and that you want to own. Invest in real estate that you know the territories or areas, or certain types of assets that you are excited about. It’s the same thing with this.If you're going to invest in things, invest in things you're passionate about. Click To Tweet
This is a different realm of the world, so it’s fun for us to talk about it. All the lessons of stock investing in companies, whether startups, stocks, or real estate, apply to this. It has been an absolute blast, and I’m getting started. I’m scared of how much this thing might take off because I got a lot of my dad’s passion in me when it comes to this hobby, and it’s something I’m looking forward to expanding on.
Should we end with this, Ian? I’m going to give you 1 of 3 packs. We will open it and see if there’s anything worth it here. Pick one.
Let’s do it. Let’s do the 1990 Fleer. What year’s the Donruss?
The Donruss, they don’t tell you what fucking year.
Let’s open. It’s even better.
The red or the orange?
Let’s see if I can tell you what year by looking at it. Let’s go with the red.
Here’s the pack. Donruss. It’s after 1988 because there is something on the back about a statistic from 1988, so it might be 1989. Who was a rookie in 1989?
Lot of good ones around them. That’s Ken Griffey’s year.
It’s the ‘88 set.
I think Gary Sheffield. If you pull a Gary Sheffield, that’s a money card. Let me see. What was the last year?
This is the ‘88 set. Donruss ‘88.
I think Barry Bonds was in ‘87.
He was in ‘87. Dave Dravecky is worthless. Rick Sutcliffe. Throw him in the pile of shit to look at. Ken Oberkfell. Nickel, knows this guy. He knows the length of his mustache and who his mom and dad are, and where he went to middle school. This is a good one.
Kevin Mitchell. I don’t think that’s a rookie. That might be close, though.
That’s his third year. That was before he had all the home runs.
You need a rookie for anything to be worth any money in that pack.
It’s worthless. Tom Browning. I had never heard of them. Mark Davis, Giants. Steve Bedrosian. This is a fun one. Not a rookie but they need a stretch.
Nolan Ryan. There we go. It’s like his twentieth year in the league.
All of these are in really good shape. This guy I have never heard of Danny Cox.
José De Leon.
I don’t know him. Manny Hernandez. I like his first name.
It’s worthless. Good mustache.
Tim Belcher is a rookie. Did he do anything?
Belcher was okay.
Let’s look it up the stack. Bill Gullickson and then Jeff Sellers.
Fun opening that up. He didn’t spend a lot of money. We were hoping for a rookie. We didn’t get one. The wax pack situation is always a good time. I’m going to finish since you said we are going to do it this way. Frankie, I am going to put a card up there, and you are going to try to guess the year.
For those of you reading, this thing it’s got a green bottom and a yellow top. It looks insanely old. It looks hand-cut. The corners are not 90-degree angles. They are almost like 45-degree angles. The guy’s got socks up past his cabs.
It’s a mini card. About half the size of a typical card now.
He soft cap in his baseball swing. Red sleeves. I’m going to guess that it is from 1910.
You came close. This is a 1911 D304 General Baking Company. This card came in a loaf of bread as it as it came in. The guy’s name is Charles Herzog. Clearly, not anyone has ever heard of but even in an authentic of this, it’s probably a $200 to $300 card but a 110-year-old card. For me, when I look at something like this, probably one I would never think of getting rid of because it’s probably a fun story of how my old man would have come across something this old in the first place.
Usually from another old guy that was getting ready to die and didn’t want his collection to go to some young jerk and wanted someone older to have it. That’s how a lot of that happened. We have fun with this. I know this is a little different than our typical episodes but I also think Frank and I don’t have an actual typical episode anyway, so I had a little fun talking about hobbies.
1990, not 111 years old but I will show you the highlights of this pack.
Only pull out someone if they are a Hall of Famer because the rest will brew to look at.
José Rijo. Not a Hall of Famer.
Stop. He’s got to be great to show it.
Good player. Borderline Hall of Famer.
Griffey Diamond King. That’s a nice card. I’d put that aside.
Did pretty good, Frankie. Great episode. Keep bolstering that collection. You will get to where I’m at someday. This reminds me of the old quote, “Some people are born on third and think they hit a triple.” I’m going to be rubbing it in on Frank all the time on how my collection is so much better than his.
He literally had sent me two texts and an email apologizing for being such an asshole.
Apologize for rubbing it in but look at this shit.
See you, Ian.
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