Into the Blogosphere

    This is my blog. I am a 56-year-old formerly computer-phobic weenie who now finds himself quite unceremoniously propelled into cyberspace. I am the editor of Sports Collectors Digest; I have been here at SCD for nearly 14 years and worked for several years before that as a freelancer. I would still have the original Topps cards that I bought as a 9-year-old in 1959, since I politely asked my mother not to throw them away while I was overseas in the Navy from 1968-72, but I have upgraded most of them over time. If that sounds like I am – at some bizarre level – ashamed of ts1.jpghaving done so, then there it is.

   I am not so much a reluctant cyberspace traveler as I am a bit intimidated by the undertaking. That’s odd, since I trace my computer roots back to 1969 when I operated a UNIVAC 1004 computer at the Naval Communications Center at Subic Bay in the Philippines. That particular contraption was roughly the size of old Crosley Field; as the computer age rolled on through nearly four decades, the actual hardware kept getting smaller and smaller, as did my comfort level with each new advancing generation.

   I whine like this because I welcome any help that loyal readers can provide in terms of pushing me in this or that direction, with this or that nuance or emphasis. Remember, I was the guy who thought Pong was breathtaking in 1975 with its graphic sophistication and frenetic pace.

   So with that convoluted introduction, here I go. I will be updating this periodically, as they say, so hopefully there will be good reason to revisit from time to time.
Five, four, three, two, one …

 * * * * *

   One of the main reasons I love going to shows, aside from seeing old friends and great cards and collectibles, are the reminders that I get from those very same friends and collectibles about why our hobby has such an enormous underlying strength and resilience.

   For many years when I would get treasured opportunities to visit with famed collector Barry Halper, I would come away from virtually every meeting with an overwhelming admiration for his scholarly interest in the game of baseball and its history, rather than an overriding preoccupation with investment value or other such details concerning dollars and cents.

   Naysayers might pooh pooh all that, saying, with some sarcasm, something to the effect of, “Yeah, and he wound up with nearly $40 million for all his scholarly pursuits.” True enough, but I can promise you that when you talked with Halper about his stuff (which will be the kind of exchanges I’ll be featuring in this blog), it wasn’t about what he paid or what he could get for something: it was about the item and its history, and no detail was spared.

   Anyway, when I was at the Chicago Sun-Times Show over the St. Patrick’s Day Weekend, I ran into a host of old friends – just as I usually do at George Johnson’s biannual show, our own SportsFest show, the Philly shows and other major East Coast events (read auctions) and at the National Convention.

   And speaking of the National Convention, I briefly saw John Broggi, National Convention co-manager, who was there in his official capacity to check out details for the 2008 National. I also ran into one of my favorite people in the hobby, Steve Juskewycz, president of Megacards, the company that produced the wonderful Conlon Collection cards from 1991-95. Juskewycz is a standout golfer; he was buying autographs from another friend, Kip Ingle, who is regarded as one of the top sources in the hobby for golf items.

   On Saturday at the show – St. Patrick’s Day – I was walking around in a garish, bright-green jacket, a bit of sartorial splendor mildly out of character for somebody who dresses in the dark and thinks that “dressing up” means finding a T-shirt that doesn’t have any advertising logos on it.

   Anyway, the jacket was loud enough to prompt Mounted ts2.jpgMemories president Mitch Adelstein to ask if I had won the Masters, but it also elicited a wave from another friend, autograph expert/dealer Phil Marks from New Jersey.

   “Who’s the second-most-famous Irishman in Chicago,” he asked. I was pretty sure I wasn’t it. “Charlie Comiskey,” Marks said, and he proceeded to produce a great pile of artifacts, including photographs and postcards, from the Hall of Famer’s estate.

   He had items from a 1907 spring training trip by the White Sox to Mexico City, a number of stunning Indian postcards from Comiskey’s travels out west, and even PC’s from the 1924 World Tour. And the whole time I was talking to Phil about the Comiskey cards (listening, really), he never once mentioned the price of anything. Not that he doesn’t sell stuff, just that he has that estimable Halper-like quality of being so genuinely interested in his own material that the monetary aspect isn’t the overriding focus.

   I was also personally interested in four or five images from Comiskey’s summer home in Eagle River, Wis., the place where he died in 1930. My grandmother had owned a “cottage” in nearby Three Lakes, Wis., where we vacationed nearly every year until 1960 or so, and my cousins still own the summer home now, though calling it a cottage would be akin to calling an aircraft carrier a boat. It’s one of the most beautiful areas in the state, if a bit forbidding in the winter, unless you’re a snowmobiler or skier.

   And on the subject of that neon-green sport coat, I wanted to point out that I had actually been given the jacket the night before from my mother. My father, who died 11 years ago, was as natty a dresser as I am, uh, less than fashionable. I had stopped to see my mother in Stoughton, Wis., en route to Chicago for the show, and the only remarkable thing about her giving me his boisterous green jacket was the mystery of why she had waited more than a decade to do it.

                                                             * * * * *

   Fathers and sons; that’s big-time stuff. It’s still fun when old-time collectors remember my dad from the early 1980s and the days of O’Connell & Son Ink. Lots of people still recall that quirky little outfit we started in 1982, though not that many actually remember meeting my dad, except for a few dealers in Indiana who met him when we first started selling the Baseball Greats set in 1983.

   Around that time I was the director of public relations for the Empire State Games in New York, the prototype of virtually every state-sponsored “State Games” in the country, and I still have a staff jacket from that time, now all of 25 years old. I was wearing the jacket the other day when it occurred to me that it was a bit on the snug side.

   As I sort of wondered why I hadn’t sent it to Goodwill or otherwise retired it, it reminded of a remembrance of my father when I was a kid and I was always wondering why in casual situations on Saturdays (like Connie Mack, he always wore a suit and tie to work), mostly, he would wear things that often seemed to be too small. And with the green jacket fresh in my mind, I suddenly realized that now I was doing the same kind of thing. We attach a lot of sentimental power to some garments, a power that keeps them in the closet long past the point when traditional notions of utility and/or style might have relegated them to the dumpster.

   Keeping my Navy uniforms would be an obvious one, but I’ve still got a custom-made shirt from the Philippines, circa 1969. It’s the only custom-made shirt I’ve ever owned, and unlike my Navy dress blues or dress whites, I am pretty sure I can still fit into it.

   At age 56, finding more evidence that I either already am or am continuing to become my father is hardly stunning, but it’s comforting in a spiritual sense. Heck, I’ve got his driver’s license and other such ephemera since his passing, and I could easily use it in some official capacity, if needed, since we have the same name. And for those youngsters who think this is a lot of maudlin claptrap, I can only remind you that you, too, are becoming your father. It’s just a matter of time.

* * * * *

   Barry Bonds, he of considerable fame in his own right but also the son of a famous father, is nowhere to be found in the first couple of Topps sets this year, after a two-year run as an exclusive with the iconic card company.

   I gotta admit I might not have noticed this, except that I took a lot of interest in the 2007 Heritage issue which came out a couple of weeks ago. As readers of my column in Sports Collectors Digest probably know, I am a big fan of these Heritage issues, so it’s a lot of fun when we open up the sample boxes that we receive here. I am also a fan of the idea of intermittent reinforcement, a notion that collides with the card companies’ modern emphasis on creating contrived scarcity.

   There was something to be said about the way they did it i
n the old days, but of course, that relied to a great deal on the idea of printing cards in six or seven series every summer. If you opened packs of 1959 Topps, you would get (in theory, anyway) as many Mickey Mantles as you would Coot Veals. There was/is a good deal of power to the intermittent reinforcement concept; I don’t know if B.F. Skinner had baseball cards in mind with his revolutionary study in 1957 (is it just coincidence that this was the first year of the standard, 21/2-by-31/2-inch Topps card?), but I am convinced the application is completely relevant for collectors.

   Being the online whiz that I am (facetious), I noted somewhere online that somebody likened the underlying principles of IR to the often seemingly addictive quality of e-mails and slot machines. I’ll confess to a substantial hankering for the latter; with the former, I have a bit more of a conflicted relationship.

   I guess there’s irony in Barry Bonds’ absence from a baseball card issue prompting all this fuss and investigation, but he is the biggest star in the game, if not the most popular player in the game. In the spirit of this blogging business, I would note that Bonds has a good relationship with Topps, based on my understanding of the two years when he was exclusive with the company, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Topps eventually brought him back into the fold. I’ve never heard any rumblings to suggest that “His Barryness” might be inclined to exercise his egalitarian side and sign with the MLBPA; turns out his report card says he doesn’t play well with others.

   One last thing in the Topps department: As I waddle around cyberspace both in my official capacity as editor of SCD and in preparation for this blogging venture, I wound up on a message board on the Collectors Universe website. There I found some of the original photos that were used on vintage Topps cards, including Willie Mays from 1952 Topps (and the image used for the painting in 1953), the background of several 1956 Topps cards, including Mantle, Nellie Fox and Monte Irvin, and a couple of others. It’s the kind of stuff I love, so here’s the link, as they say: CU Forum

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16 thoughts on “Into the Blogosphere

  1. peg on said:

    Join the cyberspace – and get a cell phone too!

  2. The Piledriver on said:

    You got bloggin’ skills, old-timer. Good luck with the new blog. I’ll be reading.

  3. gary radnich on said:

    wHEN IS YOUR "SCD" going to have real articles and such not ones that promote collecors corner and their supposed real autographs.

    How about stating that most of the auctions articles are "paid for by the advertisements" That is a misleading practice and should he told to the public!!

  4. gary radnich on said:

    wHEN IS YOUR "SCD" going to have real articles and such not ones that promote collecors corner and their supposed real autographs. Bet you owe them lots since they buy many pages of advertisements and keep you gainfully employed> Not a conflice of interest the person who writes those pr articles on them is also on of the
    Authenticators of their autographs?

    How about stating that most of the auctions articles are "paid for by the advertisers " That is a misleading practice and should he told to the public!!


    WELL I GIVE YOUR PAPER A YEAR AT THE MOST AND THEN YOU WILL OUT LOOKING FOR ANOTHER JOB. thier is no content just reharsh of your advertisers auctions.

  5. Dave on said:

    I have been in the hobby for 30 plus years and have always found the pages of SCD to be interesting, thought provoking, informative, up to date , and never afraid to encourage some healthy debate. There has been no other publication that covers the hobby in such a comprehensive fashion, period. We look forward to more of your stories and thoughts. Keep up the good work T.S.

    Carry on.

  6. Lisa Jankovich on said:

    Just because your publication is based in wisconsin does not mean the rest or whatever is left of your "audience" by the way what is now anyways say compared to 2 years ago? cares about the Green Bay Packers.

    How about articles discussing grading and what ever happened to your coverage of recent cards no checklists etc on them> Is this due to the fact the major card companies do not advetise with you anymore.

    Is that what takes these days like the above mentioned person that artcles and companies getting favorable treatment based on advertising revenue to you. Your publication sure sold itself out and is no longer crediable just like your grading company that you sold and still use the same NAME.

    oh well subscription will be running out and will find another source for bird cage.

    good luck and maybe new blood will cure the ills of magazine.



  7. Phil on said:

    Wow… Some angry people out there, and a few are not hooked on phonics! Had some trouble reading/understanding the last post.

    However, two of the last three posts did get it right (in theroy). SCD caters solely to the advertisers in their magazine. Don’t get me wrong, nobody else gets out information to the readers on sports collectibles like SCD does, however, reading about the same auction companies and items I could never dream of bidding on doesn’t always keep my attention.

    I’m more disappointed in how SCD doesn’t expose the companies that take advantage of the new collectors. IronClad,, Steiner, Mounted Memories… Have you seen what these companies charge for an autograph? Outrageous and criminal, and we wonder why so many people turn away from collecting cards/autographs.

    The grading system has gone haywire, spiraling into a battle between companies to see who can come up with the next novelty. Rookie ball autographs? Are you kidding me? How about Beckett’s BCCG grading system. Did you know a BCCG 10 regraded comes back a BGS 8.5 90% of the time? I got this directly from a Beckett grader at one of the recent Ft. Washington shows.

    Once SCD puts some pressure on the companies and dealers who give our hobby a bad name, then, and only then will SCD realize that they can have a positive impact on the hobby. In the meantime, let’s try to keep it real and keep things in perspective.

    One last thing, please stop portraying Alan "Mr. Mint" Rosen as the second coming of Jesus in the hobby. He buys low and sells high, and for that, he needs to be congratulated every week in SCD? Come on, let’s get real and recognize the people who truly make a difference in the sports collectibles hobby.

    Wilmington, DE

  8. Dave on said:

    Autograph prices for many of today’s athletes are ridiculous. Don’t buy them. I have control of my wallet(well, most of the time). SCD does not need to point out to me that an autograph fee is too high for my budget. Why would these companies listen to SCD anyway? There is very little to "expose" with some of the larger autograph companies. They are businesses trying to maximize profits. Now, if these companies were selling fraudelent product, that would need to be exposed. If these companies were in collussion, that would need to be exposed. If these companies were using autograph profit to fund terrorism, that would need to be exposed.

    It is capitalism. There is an idea in economics called supply and demand. There are many in the hobby who gladly plunk down cash for these autographs and that is the main reason many prices have risen. There is no charade about what an autograph costs from a company. These companies are businesses that keep an eye on their bottom line. Until collectors start speaking with their wallets, the prices will continue to have an upward spike.

    If we were talking about food and medications, the price issue becomes more vital as these are necessities. Collectors need to ease off the throttle of accumulation and realize that they do not "need" an autograph.

    At the last show I attended, I was frustrated that I could not pick up some autographs of Jerome Bettis due to his price. I should rephrase that statement. I "could of" but "refused to". Instead , I ended up spending $10 for an autograph of 1949 Rookie of the Year Roy Sievers. The money from the autograph went to a breast cancer charity and I spoke with Mr Sievers for 20 minutes. I will never forget that conversation with Mr Sievers and will always enjoy looking at the autograph in the gameroom. I have found that walking down the less travel road at a show often turns out to be the most rewarding road.

    There can be good and bad things said about the advertising . I will say this. I had a problem with an advertiser once revolving around fraudelent Ted Williams autograph. Ironically, I discovered this was a forgery through reading one of SCD’s "autograph analysis" articles about Ted Williams. SCD led me through the refund process even assisting all the way up to dealing with the Better Business Bureau in the sellers state. I was eventually refunded my money.

    I share concern about getting AND keeping youngsters in the hobby. In regards to autographs, it is disturbing that some super star athletes sign an exclusive autograph deal with a company and, for a price, agree to refuse to sign items free for the public in other venues. I have actually seen an athlete tell a kid that they cannot sign an autograph because they are not "allowed to" due to a contract they signed. That one really left me shaking my head.

  9. Phil on said:


    You bring up some very good points. And yes, I completely understand supply and demand in a market economy. Yet, we shouldn’t forget that there are many people who enter our hobby without any background knowledge about purchasing cards and/or autographs.

    For example, if you purchase a pack of cards from Target, K-Mart, Wal-Mart, etc., you have no chance of pulling a high-end card due to the fact that these packs are considered "retail" packs and not "hobby" packs. Most kids and adults have no idea what this means and what the difference is between the two.

    Next, grading has become a joke of sorts. I do have a tremendous amount of respect for PSA, however, I don’t necessarily agree with all of their marketing tactics. Beckett is down right fraudulent with their BCCG grading system. For example, a BCCG 10 card is listed as MINT or better on the slab. Yet, 90% of these cards regrade as a BGS 8.5, which is not a MINT card. Only 5% regrade a BGS 9, with the remaining 5% being BGS 9.5’s. Does any of this make sense? BGS gets to grade the same card twice, capitalizing on profits.

    What’s my point? If a regular Joe like me can figure this all out, why aren’t the experts at SCD exposing these criminal practices?

    Whether it be "Rookie Ball Autographs" or "Retail" pack-stabbing, the average collector just doesn’t know.

    Why is it that a Warren Spahn singed ball, PSA/DNA or GAI is worth more than the ball I had signed by Spahn at a show? Does this make sense? Who has the control here? The collector or the corporation? Do both companies advertise with SCD?

    As I mentioned earlier, IronClad, Steiner, and Mounted Memories charge rediculous prices for their merchandise, to the point where I consider it to be criminal. Someone is buying this stuff…Who, the uneducated. The same people who realize they’ve been had shortly after their purchase(s) and leave the hobby quickly thereafter.

    How can a kid afford collecting? The hobby has shifted towards 30 somethings, poeple with incomes to purchase $500 packs of cards and spend $75 on a Marvin Miller autograph. Nobody really needs ANYTHING, but people often make foolish choices. So should ignorance fuel a market economy? I like to think no, however, I understand that the world we live in today is driven by dollars, no matter what it takes.

    The hobby was pure at one time, and SCD has the power, the "Voice of the Hobby" so to say to help fuel some healthy changes in the hobby. RARELY have I seen any of the writer’s step up and take a shot when a shot needs to be taken. How about a unifed grading system? How about realistic price guides? How about stiffer penalites for dealers who peddle fake autographs? How about national programs to promote collecting amongst kids?

    My soapbox just crumbled below my feet. Enough said.

    Wilmington, DE

  10. Dave on said:

    Hi Phil,

    You raise many important issues, some are complex with no quick fix. I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable collector(still learning ) but the card grading topic has me stumped. In theory, I can understand a collector wanting to put together a card set in a certain grade and know the card is encapsulated and protected for eternity. Ideally, a card in a certain grade should not get a higher grade if resubmitted at a later date(but it happens).

    Unfortunately, humans are involved in the grading process and that means that errors are inevitable. There is also a lot of money involved in the process of grading and selling graded cards. That brings up a whole other ethics question we can save for a rainy day. Is there a solution in fixing the current system or should we perhaps be looking at utilizing a better system?

    Let us look in the future a bit. Consider advances in technology and computer programming that will be and are taking place. How much time is going to elapse before someone developes a computer program that automatically evaluates a card for grading. The criteria could be the same things that the naked eye is looking for: color, the hue, vividness, the centering, stains, print marks, alterations, etc. Different computer formulas can be contrived and weighted based on certain quirks in sets, like O-PEE-CHEE cards having a rougher cuts on the edges in certain years. Ideally, you would run the card through the machine 100 times and it would spit out the same grade 100 times. That kind of objective consistency may make grading more valid in my eyes. It is just too subjective in its present form.

    I think that another topic we should look at is collectors willingness to learn. Many new collectors just do not want to take the time to properly educate themselves. Maybe they do not have enough time in their day or they are overwhelmed by the amount of information(including some disinformation and misinformation) or they are just a bit lazy. It takes time, research, patience, a willingness to learn and a fair share of mistakes before someone becomes an educated person in any particular field.

    Some collectors do not want to invest in any of these parts of the education process and they will pay a premium for someone else’s "educated opinion". I have seen a PSA/DNA Jim "Catfish" Hunter encapsulated baseball sell for a premium even though it is signed in sharpie (which is bleeding), on the side panel of a Little League ball. There are negative charactersitics that should bring the ball value down, but it shows you the premium value is attached to little else than the sticker on the ball. This does not entirely make sense .

    Some collectors have a drive through mentality, " I will take two PSA/DNA Hank Aaron baseballs, a GAI Troy Aikman football, a JSA Tony Conigliaro cut, and a Bonds Hologram Rookie Year Signature Baseball, supersize the Bonds ball, I want it on a softball, to go, bag it, I am in a hurry."

    Hopefully, these forums can grow with some friendly debate,discussion, shared experiences, thoughts and a few chuckles .

  11. Phil on said:


    Good stuff… You should be writing for SCD! I think we both think along the same lines. Do you think SCD has the power to do the educating or are people only reading the publication for auction information?

    Not to take a shot at T.S., but he referenced one of my posts recently.

    I stated that Alan Rosen is given too much credit in SCD, the second coming of Jesus in many of the references towards him. T.S. responded by saying my point was "soooo last week" and he considers Alan a friend.

    This is my point exactly. Is SCD a true news publication, or is it the glorified, self-appointed, voice of the hobby? How can a reporter be objective and unbiased when reporting on friends or companies that spend big dollars advertising? T.S., are you a reporter? If not, what exactly is your role at Krause Publications?

    T.S., if you read this, please don’t take it as a shot. It isn’t. I’m only asking a question, and one that I think many would deem valid. I truly feel that if SCD expanded its coverage into the "questionable" practices of sports cards/memorabilia companies, more people would subscribe to SCD. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a subscriber for nearly 5 years, however, my boredom has begun to set in recently with the same information being delivered. I do like the new forum created here on the web with blogging (as you’ve noticed).

    Hopefully, other subscribers will chime in and share their two cents and the staff at SCD will realize that there are many issues within the hobby that need to be/should be addressed.

    Looking forward to reading T.S.’s response along with your response as well Dave.

    "The Diamond State"

  12. Dave on said:

    Hi Phil,

    Thanks for the words, I like to chip in when I can and enjoy reading the blogs. You have again raised many excellent topics(let’s touch on a few) and I look forward discussing, sharing, and learning. The forum is an excellent opportunity for collectors and readers to….well…blog. Although I alluded to some collectors willingness to learn in a previous post, I also want to say that I am constantly amazed at the level of knowledge some collectors have, it is downright humbling at times.

    Can SCD educate? Certainly. Can SCD also learn from its readers? Certainly. Is it possible that positive changes can occur in SCD with readers input? Yup. All three of these things have happened in the past and will happen in the future.

    SCD has gone through transformations before and this will continue, you HAVE to in order to survive(just like any long lasting entity). SCD has created this neat addition and I think it is natural for loyal readers to want to put in their two cents about what improvements they would like to see. Readers want to look forward to reading a good issue every week.

    I want to add to my fund of knowledge and keep a pulse on the current hobby happenings and trends. I enjoy reading others opinions and sifting through them, sometimes I find I have a change in my perspective on an issue.

    SCD listens to readers and you sometimes see that in form of subtle and not so subtle changes. I think this blog is one of those changes where readers have an opportunity to express what’s on their cranium(hopefully it is somewhat hobby related and not total venting). I am sure that some issues raised and discussed here will be more than just water cooler talk at SCD .

    I am not Alan Rosen’s personal accoutant but I am sure he spends alot of money to advertise in SCD(and many, many other places). He seems omnipresent in hobby publications. With or without SCD, I am sure this fellow would be wheeling and dealing. His advertising bill comes due just like everybody elses. He is a very successful businessman that loves his work, I admire that in certain respects . That also makes him a bit of a target. He is a unique character who generally brings good publicity to the hobby. His ads make me laugh, and I enjoy a good laugh once in a while. I do not know Mr Rosen personally(nor am I starting a fan club here) but I know Mr Rosen has just had recent heart surgery, so I will just say "Get Well".

    Can you imagine being a fly on the wall at his cardiologists office? "Hey Doc, I got a stunning opportunity to to inspect an unopened 1953 TOPPS baseball wax case discovered in the Yukon. I have to parachute in. I am healthy enough to go? I have a plane on stand by in 45 minutes. Come on Doc, What do you say? You can go with me! We will get steaks later! Or maybe a healthy salad this time around. What do you say!"


  13. Harold C. on said:

    I have a suggestion give Alan Rosen and Collectors Corners the magazine. Since they practically "own" or pay for the magazine without them SCD would be be as popular as a Bob Feller autograph.

    They could not due any worse as it is with few orginal articles that do not promtoe an advertiser or product.

    I agree with the person who states that their our other teams them the Green Bay Packers.

    Articles such as timmed cards counterfit cards etc should be looked at although you do have to do some research not just sit back and wait for the "Auction press releases and people wanting to sell stuff. Or those Book reviews too which our a joke .

    SCD moto should be "Voice of any advertiser who wants to spend some money with us"

    If i send you a check for $$$ could i get a nice spread in your magazine? And i have lots !!

    Why should somebody "subscribe to your magazine" as delviery in California is the pits.

    Magazine arrives at least a week or two late or not at all. I recieved one over a month old.

    Also Fyi whats with your "policy" of only replacing 4 issues a year of your magazine.

    Its not my fault you cannot deliver them on time or not at all?

    Get your act in order or pretty soon you will be writing to yourself and wondering why nobody reads your rag anymore.

  14. waitingformyredemptionscards. on said:

    Suggestion how about doing an investigation about redemptions cards that are in packs that are never sent or honored for the items stated on cards.

    Thats another major issue that i am sure lots want an anwer to as wel.

  15. Say No to High Priced wax packs on said:

    Cannot wait for your "article" or should i say Press releases concerning thats sports conference thats all well in the industry coming out with more value products for the consumer!!

    I see the other guy must be the paid ‘AUCTION RELEASE PERSON lol

  16. Levitra on said:

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