Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lightning Card of the Week - Hamrlik's Back Again

Shiny cards and scanners don't mix

Roman Hamrlik 1995-96 Donruss Elite #36

We’ve been over Hamrlik’s story before so instead – a brief story on how the card came into my collection.

A few weeks, or months, ago I received a small brown parcel in the mail.  My first thought was, “Sweet! My cocaine is here!” Then I saw the postmark was from North Carolina and remembered that I don’t get my cocaine from The Tar Heel state.  In fact I don’t get me cocaine from anywhere because I’m not rich enough to have a coke habit. What I mean is - DON’T DO DRUGS!

I wasn’t really expecting anything in the mail so I was intrigued as I started to rip off the brown wrapping paper and newspaper (which was secured really, really well).  I didn’t trade with too many folks in North Carolina and hadn’t bid on anything on eBay (well, anything that would constitute an actual package) so I was completely stumped as to what was in the box.

When I finally tore through the last bits of paper I saw a plastic cube filled with cards and a note on top.  The cards were shiny and the note was from my Pops, apparently he had spent a day at a flea market in Stuart, Florida (Sailfish Capital of the World) spending my inheritance and stumbled across a guy selling sets of cards.

I then remembered a voicemail he had left me a couple of weeks before asking me to call him back to see if I wanted him to buy some “ope dee or whatever you call them” sets.  I missed his call because I was sleeping off an overnight and assumed he had passed and moved on to the guy selling golf equipment.

Instead, because he is an awesome dad, he grabbed one set and sent it to me when he got back home. Now I own the 1995-96 Donruss Elite base set.  Not a bad set for a couple of bucks as it had all of the stars from the mid-nineties (including Jaromir Jagr’s fabulous mullet).   In addition to the Hamrlik card Brian Bradley makes an appearance in a Lightning uniform.  Hey there wasn’t much to choose from in the early days!

One card did make me laugh when I saw it.

"I wonder if Roman Vopat is at the beach right now. I liked the beach."

The Great One with a, “What the heck did I do to end up here?” look on his face as he rocks the St. Louis Blues uniform. 

If my memory serves me right this is the third set my old man has bought me over the years.  The first one being a 1987 Topps Baseball base set which is, to this day, my all around favorite set of all time.  I’m pretty sure he paid about $15 for it and the last time I checked I think it was still worth $15.  Not much of a return on investment, but I still page through that one from time to time just to look at the wooden borders and cool “Future Star” script that was a staple of the late 80s sets.

The second set he bought me was a Christmas present.  And back in the junk wax era it was one of the sets to have.  I’m talking about the 1990 Leaf set that was released as competition to Upper Deck’s 1989 base set and kind of cemented the idea of “premium” sets.  The big card of the day Frank Thomas’ rookie, but marquee names from the 90’s were also in there.  Names like John Olerud, Marquis Grissom, Dave Justice and Larry Walker.

It’s kind of funny to type those names and realize that they probably don’t mean much to kids under 25 these days.  But back then, those guys were the stars and that set demanded a premium.  So much so that I actually broke the set to make a little money.  No it wasn’t Thomas that I sold, or Ken Griffey’s second-year card.  It was a rookie card of young slugger in Cleveland named Albert Jujuan Belle.  I believe I got $10 from my buddy Mike at the time. 

There would be a hole in the set for many, many years until one day I was combing through a dime box at a flea market in Florida (odd how that seems to be a running theme) and stumbled across a copy of the missing Belle.  I was shocked, shocked and happy, to see one of these cards languishing in a box of commons. Much like the Belle card the value of the set as a whole has taken a bit of a hit. Still, for me it’s the first premium set I owned and now that it is complete again I don’t plan on breaking it up any time soon.

Not only did my ol’ Pappy support my habit financially by paying me an allowance he also instilled the best advice on the industry that I’ve heard, advice that I still follow to this day.  One day when I was rambling on about how much a card was “worth” he put down his pipe, swirled his rocks glass filled scotch and said, “Son. Those cards are only worth what someone is willing to pay for them.” 

If he told the story I bet he would say there was no pipe or newspaper or scotch, but whatever.  To this day, in trades and selling cards I remember what his advice. No matter what Beckett says, or what the “experts” say – the cards are only worth what someone is willing to give up for them.  If no one wants it, then no matter how rare or how foiled up a card is it’s not more than a piece of cardboard.

Of course, that can work for you.  For instance, my buddy Mike who bought the Belle card from me overpaid because he was such a big fan of the recalcitrant slugger. I exploited that and charged him way more than book value to have that card.  Same with the John Rocker cards that I made a mint off of back when yahoo had auctions and the reliever made some dumb comments about Mets fans.

So like the other two sets, this one will get slid into pages and then into a binder. And no matter what Beckett says, it’ll take way more than $15 for someone to pry it out of my collection.   

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