Taking a swing at the 2nd Blog Bat Around

December 17, 2008 at 11:32 pm | Posted in Blogs, My Cards, Personal | 9 Comments


I want to thank Gellman of Sports Cards Uncensored for organizing the sports card blog community for another Blog Bat Around.  In case anyone missed it, here was my entry in the first Blog Bat Around last month.

This time, the topic is the centerpiece of our collections.  As you might expect, since my collecting habits are all over the map, it’s not easy to narrow down what the centerpiece of my collection is.  But I like to think of it this way – if I knew that a bomb was going to destroy my house in five minutes, what items from my collection would I rush to save?  Of course, I would only worry about my collection after securing the safety of my wife and cat first…

Anyway, I can narrow it all down to three true centerpieces of my collection.  These centerpieces represent what I’ll call my past, present, and future as a collector.

I’ll start with my past.  As any reader of my blog knows, I have a very large collection of Don Mattingly cards.  The current tally is 1,061 different Mattingly cards, and that number is constantly growing.  In fact, it’s been growing since 1985 when I pulled my first Don Mattingly card (1985 Topps) from a pack.  My Mattingly cards have been the main centerpiece of my collection ever since then.  Back in the 1980s, I never could have imagined that I’d someday own over 1,000 different Mattingly cards.  I collected his Topps cards each year, his Topps All Star cards, and I tried to get some Donruss, Fleer, and Score cards too.  By the early 1990s, I had a lot of his “oddball” cards, such as Kmart cards, cereal cards, and Panini stickers.  When I stopped collecting in 1994, I had about 200 different Mattingly cards.  My financial limitations prevented me from pursuing most of the pricier insert cards that were coming out, and the super premium cards like Topps Finest and Flair.  But in the back of my mind, I always knew that someday when I was an adult and had a full-time job, I’d try to complete my Don Mattingly collection by obtaining every one of his cards that were ever made.  Little did I know at the time that this would be an impossible pursuit due to the huge number of Mattingly cards that would be produced each year after his retirement…

In the summer of 2003, I pulled out my old collection of Mattingly cards, put each card into a penny sleeve and top loader (they were in pages in a binder before this), and printed out a list of every Mattingly card that had been produced from Beckett’s web site.  I checked off every card that I owned and went to work scouring eBay to find the ones that I didn’t have.  I quickly figured out that I’d never be able to own every card that was made after Mattingly’s retirement, but I thought that it was a reasonable goal to collect everything from his playing days (through the 1996 card sets).  Now, five and a half years later, I’m up to 1,061 cards (including some post-retirement cards), and there are only 12 cards from Mattingly’s playing days that I want and don’t have (some of the items on Beckett’s checklist are discs and not cards, and I’m not collecting those).

I take a huge amount of pride in my Mattingly collection because of all of the work that I’ve put into it for so many years.  I love the feeling of acquiring a card that I don’t have and checking it off of my list, especially if it took me a really long time to find the card.  It feels great to move closer toward a goal that I set for myself when I was still a kid.  I don’t plan to ever sell my collection.  Individually, few of the cards are worth very much (I think that the 1993 Topps Finest refractor is worth the most – it books for $300 and sells for $150 – $200 on eBay), but the value of having all of the cards, with all of the time and effort that I’ve put into it, is immeasurable.

After I acquire all of the cards that I need from Mattingly’s playing days, I’ll start trying to obtain more cards from after his retirement, which includes a lot of autographs, memorabilia cards, and low-numbered cards, including 1/1s.  I’m going to try to get as many base cards as I can, but I’ll obviously never be able to get all of the autographs, memorabilia cards, and all of the variations and parallels.  I think that to keep your sanity as a player collector, you have to set reasonable limits and establish attainable goals.

I’ve written about my Don Mattingly collection many times before, but now for the first time, here are some pictures of what it looks like.

This shelf contains 7 stacks of cards:


In the very front are the minor league cards and oddball cards that are not listed on Beckett’s checklist (the card on top is a 1982 TCMA minor league card).  In back of that is a stack of 1984-1985 cards, 1986 cards, and 1987 cards.  In the very back are the 1988, 1989, and 1990 cards.  For each year, I have the cards in a specific order: Topps (and O-Pee-Chee) on top, and then Donruss (and Leaf), Fleer, Score/Pinnacle, and Upper Deck.  Below those are the Classic cards, Panini stickers, and then the oddball cards from that year in alphabetical order.

The shelf right above it contains my cards from 1991 – 1996, organized the same way:


You can see that the stacks are much higher because of the inserts and parallel cards that began to appear in the 1990s.  That huge stack in the middle of the back row are the 1995 cards.  The amount of Mattingly cards that came out increased each year, but then decreased in 1996 because Mattingly stopped playing after 1995 (he officially retired after the 1996 season).

Finally, here’s the shelf that contains my post-retirement Mattingly cards.  They’re all in the stack on the left:


My 2008 Mattingly cards aren’t in there yet, because I’m still organizing them.  The two stacks on the right are my PSA-graded vintage cards.  But those are another story…

I also have some of my Mattingly cards in pages.  These include some Star and CMC player sets from the 1980s.  They sit on a shelf on the other side of the room with my Mattingly cards that are too big for top loaders or pages.  Finally, I want to show you what’s known as the “Don Mattingly shrine” in my bedroom.  It’s amazing that my wife let me set this up in our house:


I got that plaque as a present sometime in the late 1990s.  On my dresser, you can see my 7 Don Mattingly Starting Lineup figures (from 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1994, and 1996, plus a special dual figure with his future teammate Wade Boggs).  Next to them are my three Mattingly bobble heads.  Two of them were given out at Columbus Clippers games (where Don played in Triple-A) in the early 2000s and the other one was given out at a Nashville Sounds game (where Don played in Double-A).  I bought them all off of eBay about five years ago.

So, as I said earlier, my Mattingly collection represents my collecting past.  Now let’s talk about my collecting present.  In 2008, I have started to build a collection of Tampa Bay Rays cards.  I like cards of every Rays player, but Evan Longoria really stands out above all of the rest.  Not only is Longoria already arguably the Rays best player and the Rookie of the Year, but it’s easy for me to keep track of his cards since most of them came out in 2008, which was my first year back in the hobby (or at least the collecting new cards part of the hobby).  I have 64 different cards in my Evan Longoria collection right now, and I’ve shown many of them on this blog, but none of the cards are the centerpiece of my Evan Longoria collection.

So what is my Evan Longoria centerpiece?  Check this out:


Meet my autographed, game-used Evan Longoria Durham Bulls jersey.  I got this at Durham Bulls Athletic Park on August 31, 2007.  The Bulls usually have a few games a year where they auction off the jerseys that the players wore in the game to benefit a charity.  The players autograph the jerseys too.  I bought a Joey Gathright autographed game-used jersey in 2004.  He was a huge prospect at the time, and he was one of my favorite players, but he still hasn’t become a star in the major leagues, and he probably never will.  Anyway, I didn’t get another one after that until 2007.  I didn’t want a jersey from a mediocre player, and I saw B.J. Upton and Delmon Young jerseys go for up to $500 when they were auctioned off.  That was out of my price range.

Anyway, at the game on August 31, 2007 against the Charlotte Knights, they announced that the jerseys worn that day would be auctioned off.  They didn’t announce this ahead of time on their web site, like they normally do, and I suspect that’s the reason why the really big spenders weren’t there.  This wasn’t long after Evan Longoria had been promoted to Durham from Double-A.  After watching Longoria hit a towering home run (the 5th of his Triple-A career) in the 3rd inning off of Lance Broadway, I wandered over to the table where the bidding was taking place.  I entered a bid, and walked back over there when the bids were being finalized.  I ended up winning, and I got the jersey for less than I was expecting, just $240.  The guy who was taking the bids was shocked that it went for such a low amount, and he told me that a Longoria jersey had sold for $1000 a couple of weeks before that.  I was very, very happy.  I picked up my new prized possession in the Bulls offices after the game ended and saw that beautiful Longoria signature on the Bulls logo patch for the first time.  I bought a frame for it a couple of months later, and it’s currently hanging up in the bonus room at my house.

Due to Evan Longoria’s phenomenal rookie season and his newfound fame, I’d estimate that I could get about $2000 on eBay if I wanted to sell the jersey now.  I imagine that it’ll only go up in value if he continues to fulfill his vast potential throughout his career.  I don’t know if I’ll ever sell it.  As you know, I’m a huge Evan Longoria fan, and I love owning this jersey.  However, if it becomes valuable enough to pay for my kids’ college education someday, it sure would be tempting to sell it.

Finally, I want to talk about the centerpiece of my collecting future.  You’re probably surprised to see that it’s a card that’s 52 years old:


This is my favorite card from my collection of PSA-graded vintage cards.  I’ve been adding cards to that collection for a few years, and as much as I enjoy the cards, my biggest goal is to be able to share and eventually pass down some very historic and valuable cards to my kids (who at this point are still unborn and unconceived).  This is one of my three most valuable cards.  One of the others is the one that I wrote about here, and I’ll write about the third one another time.  Anyway, Jackie Robinson is one of my all-time favorite players, and I can’t think of any player that ever lived who I’d consider to be a better role model for my future kids.

I was inspired to buy this card by volunteering with my wife’s third grade class.  Toward the end of every school year, she has the kids divide into small groups and act in a short play.  One of the plays that they perform is about Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in 1947 and then winning the World Series with the Dodgers in 1955.  The kids really love this play and they love learning about Jackie Robinson.  I get to help them rehearse, and I’ve even gotten to play the part of Pee Wee Reese a few times.

Someday, I’m going to teach my own kids about Jackie Robinson and the huge impact that he had on making our country a better place.  When I tell them about him, I’ll be able to show them this great looking card.  And since it’s protected in a PSA holder, I won’t even have to worry about them damaging it.  I think that the 1956 Topps set is one of the nicest looking sets of all-time, and this is one of the best cards in it.  The card represents the future of my collection because when I think about the future, all that I think about is becoming a dad, and I know that this is a card that I’ll proudly share with my kids.  I can’t imagine that I’d ever sell it, and I hope that it’ll be owned by my kids, my grandkids, and future generations of my family for many, many years.



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  1. I can’t relate to being a player collector, I can’t relate to being a jersey/memorabilia collector, but I can DEFINITELY relate to being a a collector of the ’56 Topps Jackie Robinson. Robinson and ’56 Topps are two of my all-time favorites. I’d love to own that card.

  2. Great presentation of your player collection. Do you know anyone who has a larger Mattingly collection than your own? I think your Longoria collection is going to skyrocket soon.

  3. Night Owl – if you ever get a chance to buy one, you should go for it. It was definitely a better purchase for me than any high-end hobby box ever was.

    Bailey – I got an email recently from a guy who owns 10,000 Mattingly cards (including a lot of duplicates). So I think he wins. I agree about Longoria. The value of his cards skyrocketed big time after the World Series and his Rookie of the Year award. The prices on eBay have come a little bit back down to earth over the last few weeks though. I’m lucky that I was able to buy a bunch of his auto’s before the explosion.

  4. Dave, great post. That Longoria jersey is very cool.

    You need to display those Mattingly cards! I’m sure you have some good ones in there. I picked up some nice little acrylic card stands off ebay for my Morneau cards. You should look into those.

  5. Centerpiece #1 & #2 are nice, but #3 is perfect!! The Robinson card is a true work of art, and it appears to be in very good collection. I’m jealous!

  6. I’m doing the same collecting “one of every card of this player” thing too, but on a slightly smaller star with slightly less cards….Steve Sax. I’ve amassed quite the collection, of his 400 or so cards, I’m getting close to three hundred. Another reason I like attempting this is he appears in almost all the 80’s sets. So I have a nice timeline of my favorite cards like ’84 Donruss or ’87 Topps, it’s a great way to reminisce about the sets I started with.

  7. Oh yeah, and trade me your Sax cards!!

  8. JRen – Steve Sax is an awesome player for you to collect! He was actually my second favorite player in 1990 and 1991 when he was with the Yankees. I’ll bet that you can find his cards a lot cheaper than Mattingly’s cards.

  9. Great post! I am also an avid Don Mattingly collector and have taken the same approach at collecting only 1981-2000 cards of Don Mattingly, especially since the # of cards produced each year skyrocket after 2000. There are only two dozen or so that are between 1996-2000, so the main focus is on the 1981-1995. I would be very interested in knowing which 12 cards you are missing, perhaps I have a duplicate that can help fill your set. My collection, for the same range of years, is nearing 900 and many of those are not listed in Beckett. It always amazes me when a new, undocumented, card pops up on eBay or the likes. Anyways, great collection and I loved the article as I certainly relate to the happiness of collecting outweighing the monetary value. Thanks!

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