...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Getting rid of baseball cards

I gave up 17,000 baseball cards last week.  Seventeen thousand.

Let's break this down, list-style:

1. Reasoning – This massive stash had been holed up in my old bedroom in Santa Barbara.  My mom was in the process of putting her home on the market, so this had to be cleared out of the house along with other old belongings.

Then the boxes took up space in my Accord’s trunk since Kristen and I didn’t have room for them in our apartment.  When we decided to move, the cards had to go due to the sheer weight and space they took up.

2. Quantity – 95% of these cards were commons, thus the bulk.  And at least half of them were from my efforts to assemble Topps sets (1986, 1987, 1992, etc.)  The other 5% were “semi-stars” (a mixed blessing of a label if there ever was one) of which I’d already had double or triples.

3. Finance – These cards made up 67% of my collection, but less than 25% of its value.  This lot’s High book value was about $1200.  Its Low book value – or the price one should expect to sell – was $600.

I failed to sell it for $100.

One month of craiglist posts went nowhere.  My sale price started at $200 with all sorts of sweeteners: better cards, unopened packs, and video games.  No takers.  Week after week, I dropped the price.  $175, $150, $125, $100.

Simultaneously, I listed the same lot on eBay for a few rounds, starting at $150.  eBay and PayPal would take a cut but I didn’t mind.  Even at a Buy It Now price of $100, drew nothing.  I actually wound up taking a hit of a couple bucks.

4. Donation
– Long before I attempted to sell the cards, I had made a dozen phone calls and emails around Los Angeles to see what organization would accept the cards as an in-kind or re-sale donation.  Children’s hospitals?  Goodwill?  Religious centers?  Shelters?  Nope.  Nope.  Nope.  Nope.  Not only were these cards unsellable, but I couldn't give them away to a non-profit because the batch was virtually valueless and required labor to move and process.

5. Emotional value – I’d thought that getting rid of these would be difficult.  A shedding, abandoning of my childhood.  But really, most of them were acquired as I was assembling sets which was actually done in 2002, post-college.  No baby was I then, just unemployed and wasting time.

So I felt nothing.  In fact they became a burden as they blocked half of my trunk. They were always there, slamming around every time I took a right turn. When I walked to my car, I kept picturing those 3200-count boxes taking up space.  If I could only get rid of them, I would be free of ballast.

With two weeks remaining before the move, I tossed up a hail mary (or Baruch Hashem).  I hit up Collectibles With Causes California which I found via Google searches.  They were quick to respond and very friendly.  A couple of phone calls and emails later, a laid-back buzzcut guy in a big white Ford traded me 1 donation receipt for 17,000 cards.

As the pickup drove away, I was surprised that I didn’t feel wistful; just thankful that my car was 100 pounds lighter and that there was one less thing to do for the big move.

In the larger picture, the collections market is dead.  If no one even bites at $100 or makes a counter offer – hell, I would have taken $50 – for 17,000 cards AND if no donation center will take them because they know that they can’t sell them, then all of that cardboard is basically valueless outside of the $5-$10 in recycling redemption value.

Actually, while I was asking a card dealer for advice about this lot, he offered me $15 in case nothing else worked out.  A $15 offer thus establishes the actual Low bid value, not $600.  One could also argue that it represents the High value as well.

At some point I’d like to do a follow-up post about collectables.  I’ve been a collector of different kinds of stuff throughout my life.  And I know some hoarders pretty well; they're a very special breed of collector.  We hold onto things from the past, important to us but worthless to others, and I really don't know why.