Tuesday, May 30, 2023

This is a 100 Dollar Bill*

*or equivalent

First of all, yeah, I know.

I've been busy for a minute.

Anyway, there is a story behind this Mantle card I'm giving away. I'm documenting it here so I can make sure I communicate complete thoughts, and not just produce tweet-induced fragments and then forget what number I'm on in my own thread.

I've had this 1967 Topps Mickey Mantle #150 since late 2006. I know this because the top loader I bought it in still has the price sticker(s) on it. My LCS at the time had a habit of dating their stickers so that they could track their own price adjustments, as well as show customers how (usually) more affordable an item became over time.

Luckily for me, my girlfriend literally lived across the street from a LCS. I started to frequent this shop because the staff were friendly, prices were good, and it was an easy way to spend 45 minutes while I waited for her to get home after work if we were planning for me to visit. That shop only lasted a couple more years after 2006, by which time they reduced their sports card footprint to a quadrant of busted up asphalt at the off-downtown weekend flea market.

This LCS was unusual, in that it did more than dabble in both sports cards and comic books. They regularly had new wax behind the counter, and new books on the racks every week. This was during a quiet period for #TheHobby, well past the JWE but no new boom on the horizon, and for comic books the MCU was still two years away from even getting started.

I participated in in-person box break events at the shop back then, where everybody who bought in opened their product right next to everybody else at the same time (often termed a "rip party"). It was a good opportunity to swap with other collectors on the spot for players, teams, or mojo hits. Since smart phones didn't yet exist, conducting an unsatisfying and alienating web conference streaming app to crack wax was still years away.

Sometimes these events would be styled as a pack war, where someone who opened the first/most/best cards could win additional door prizes from the shop. This LCS only had one playing-days Mickey Mantle the the whole store.

This one.

I could see that he was a bit wrinkly and fuzzy, but not beat, and still had strong eye appeal. Even then, it was evident that the shop's original list price of $249.99 was basically a low NM price guide estimate. They had put their initial counter-price sticker on it, and as it sat inert for months, they did lower the price to $99.99.

Month after month, rip event after rip event, Mick's big ol' face stared at me from under the glass.

The LCS shop owner knew I was a vintage guy, and at every visit, he let me know that Mick was still there. Finally, after I had received a bonus at work, I decided to throw Mick in with a purchase of a bunch of other stuff. I got my frequent visitor LCS discount of a few bucks, and I remember leaving the shop thinking, "Well, at least Mantles will never go *down* in price."

Little did I know I would be right, but more like hobby-monkey's-paw kind of right.

My fuzzy little Mickey still presents well (that's what she said), but if it were ever to get graded, receiving a solid PSA 2 is the best that could be hoped for. 

There also appears to be a tiny bit of staining on the back, right around the RBI total for 1963.

When I unearthed Mickey from within my own crypt a couple of years ago, multiple thoughts popped into my head, in succession:

1) I found that what I paid for this Mantle card in 2006 is worth about the same, SEVENTEEN years later, easily verified on Bay.

2) On the surface, it appeared like my Mantle at least did not decrease in value.

3) Unless you consider inflation. Technically, the cumulative rate of US inflation between 2006 and 2023 has already eaten my original purchase value down to $66.46 (a decrease of ~33.5%). That'll teach me to HODL a MNTL.

4) Getting it graded and slabbed is a waste of money and effort--even in a PSA slab.

5) There are a LOT more playing days Mickey Mantle cards out there than we realize. It makes sense that among all the cards that got thrown out, especially in the 1960s when his popularity was well-established, his cards would be the most likely to be physically over-loved, yet held onto the longest.

6) The worth of a sports card is always a estimated range, until it is realized by a legitimate transaction price--every time, each time.

As I looked into Mick's mildly bemused image, he seemed to be asking "So, what are you going to do with me now, dingus?"

I could always sell it. 

Get what I get. 

eBay or whomever gets their cut of whatever.

I live very comfortably amidst the Dark Matter of The Hobby, in that space between caring a great deal about the expected monetary value of any particular sports card, and a collector's total lack of caring about ROI and profit and maximizing every possible transactional opportunity.

Even though I think Marie Kondo is monumentally overrated and weird, I realized that, over seventeen years, I've already received nearly my full measure of joy owning this particular Mantle card.

Just over the course of my term of ownership, Mickey would be graduating high school next month.

Indeed, what would spark my last bit of joy out of my wrinkly Mickey?

1) On Twitter, I have NEVER seen anyone give away a vintage Mantle for free, in any condition. I could be the first, as far as I'm aware.

2) I can pass on this particular Mantle's joy to someone else, no questions asked, and refill that karma bucket.

So, off Mickey will go, and I already feel good about the whole thing.

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