And then I told the guy his Wayne Gretzky rookie wasn’t real. He then experienced an immediate reaction of panic. Yea, we’ll get to this in a moment.
A small hold-me-over-until-the-next-big-show event took place over the weekend in Fort Worth. This was my first time being in the area so it was a nice little learning experience. Texas is such a big beautiful state filled with tons of interesting places. Fort Worth is about 40 minutes from my office but I enjoyed the morning drive.
This event was reminiscent of one of those hotel ballroom shows of the 1990s. It took place in a similar atmosphere and was well attended but much smaller than the bi-monthly shows. However, it still possessed the same level of hobby charisma. As soon as I got there, I began my rounds in search of the usual suspects. After about two hours and no buys, I began to wonder if this would be the second show I’d walk away empty handed, which wasn’t at all a bad thing. One important aspect of shows is the opportunity to meet with new and existing contacts. The social aspect is something I cherish and not just because of the incessant lockdowns of the past year. We’re social beings; we desire social opportunities. It’s in our nature; it’s who we are.
Attend a Show and Maybe Not Buy Anything
Back to my thought. So there I was, walking around searching this box and reviewing that showcase, walking around some more, rinse and repeat about 6x times over throughout the day. During which time I’d stop and talk to dealers and catch up with friends. However, by about 4:30p, I’d made mental notes of where certain cards were in the showroom but I still hadn’t made a purchase.
At that time, I was watching over a dealer’s booth while he ran a quick errand. I’ve done this many times in the past for various dealers as a courtesy. This particular dealer had some pretty good $0.10 boxes of which I pulled 60+ cards. For my brief time watching his table, he just gave the cards to me at no charge (free). Here they are:
Junk Wax RCs are getting harder to find in bargain bins. As you can see here, the caliber isn’t at the top but it’s still pretty solid and while I’m always grateful for the convenient cost of free, I’d have happily paid for this stack of RCs of guys like Ron Gant, Matt Williams, Mike Mussina (HOF), Juan Gonzalez, Will Clark, Johnny Damon, and a 1985 Topps Rod Carew (HOF) for good measure. I had fun cherry picking this little block of otherwise mostly overlooked utility stars.
Closing Time Quickly Approaching
By this time, it was approaching 5p (closing time) so I quickly made my way to a dealer with which I’ve transacted at previous shows. He always has nice things and his prices are usually very fair. He’s also just a really nice guy. Earlier in the day, I rummaged through his various boxes and found a 1991 Donruss Elite Nolan Ryan, which even with the 7500 print run is a nearly impossible pull (we’ll discuss why in a moment). I was excited about the $20 price tag but not stoked on the dinged bottom left corner so I put it back. Well, come 4:50p and since it was the first time I’d seen the card in the wild, I decided I wanted it so I was pleased to learn it was still available. I don’t think I’ll ever be given the opportunity to buy this card again at $20 in any condition, ever.
Earlier in the day, another dealer had a pretty interesting little collection of 1990s inserts. One of which was a 1997 Circa Rave Brian Giles, which I immediately wanted but passed on the $20 asking price. Well, I leaned the dealer neighboring the guy who sold me the Nolan Ryan bought that Brian Giles card along with a bunch of other cards from that same seller (and he wasn’t $20 in on the card). I told him I wanted the card when I saw it but didn’t want the $20 asking price. He responded by selling it to me for $10. ::Gosh, I think this is the longest I’ve ever talked about Brian Giles.:: Anyway, here’s a close up of the pair:
→ To see what’s currently available on eBay from 1997 Circa Rave, click here.
1991 Donruss Elite By The Numbers
The seller who sold me the Giles said he opened 20 cases, you read that right – cases, of 1991 Donruss and didn’t pull a single card from the impossibly elusive 1991 Donruss Elite set. To put this into perspective, a case of 1991 Donruss contains 20 boxes, each box contains 36 packs, and each pack contains 15 cards, which equates to 14,400 packs, or 216,000 cards. The 1991 Donruss Elite set contains 10 cards, 8 of which have print runs of 10,000 with the other two having print runs to 7500 and 5000, which brings the printed total of 1991 Donruss Elites to 92,500. If what the seller said was in fact true, it would mean the insertion ratio for 1991 Donruss Elites is something beyond 1:14,000 packs. Just for fun, let’s say the seller was just one case short of pulling a 1991 Donruss Elite and they were inserted at a rate of 1:21 cases (1:15,120 packs).
If that’s accurate, I’d have had to buy 21 cases to pull an Elite, not guaranteeing the Nolan Ryan either. Let’s keep digging. In the current market, you can buy a case of 1991 Donruss shipped for about $300. 300*21=6300. So if you wanted to go the long route and spend those resources opening all that 1991 Donruss to pull just one Donruss Elite, you’d have to spend $6300. Considering how much time and money I saved buying the Nolan Ryan at $20, I think I can accept the corner ding.
Just for fun, let’s do some math -> 15,120 (packs required to pull an Elite) * 92,500 (total production of 1991 Donruss Elite) = 1,398,600,000 (nearly 1.4 billion) cards, or 129,500 cases, which would be the total production number of 1991 Donruss, which although sounds high still feels conservative.
→ To see the current eBay auctions for 1991 Donruss Elite, click here.
Hey, man; can I see that Gretzky rookie?
I see all sorts of interesting things at shows. Sometimes I even see stuff that’s not even real. When this happens, I ask questions.
One dealer had a Wayne Gretzky rookie card in his showcase slabbed by some random no-name grading company. As soon as I saw the card, I knew it wasn’t the real thing. I’ve been at this hobby for a long time and have pretty much seen it all many times over. I can spot authenticity almost immediately and as such can also spot so-called, “art projects” too. ::Let’s see if we can get away with writing this story without using the “F-Word.” No, not that F-Word, the other F-Word. You know the one, yea that one.::
I started asking the dealer questions. I began subtly by asking how long he’s had it, how much he paid for it, and what he’s asking for it. He said he’d consider offers and asked if I was interested. I told him even if I was, I couldn’t buy it but not because I couldn’t afford it. He asked why I was asking all the questions. I paused for a moment, looked at the card, looked back up at him, then said:
This card… it isn’t real.
It was at that very moment that I could see an immediate overwhelming sense of panic in his face and overall body language. I then proceeded to ask him again how much he paid for it and when he bought it. He provided those details and I just said it would be to his advantage to attempt to contact the seller and see if a return could be processed. Either that or use it as a learning experience and take the card to big shows to compare it with authentic examples on the show floor to gain a better understanding what what constitutes authenticity regarding the Wayne Gretzky rookie card. The contrast is stark and immediate.
We all make purchasing mistakes from time to time. The goal is to minimize the frequency with which they occur.
Over the next several minutes we talked about the collectibles industry and how it’s ripe with skulduggery and we, as collectors/buyers, absolutely must arm ourselves with knowledge. The more we know, the less likely we are to buy crap. Write that down. This kind of thinking can be applied to any industry, any category, and any market. We also discussed which cards are susceptible to forgeries (different F-Word) and why it’s important to buy only those examples graded by one of the big three (possibly four with CSG) grading companies. This is especially important when buying high profile cards such as the Wayne Grezky RC.
He seemed to take it well and I’m glad we spoke. Look out for your fellow humans; they’re people too.
→ To view the current eBay auctions for Wayne Gretzky rookie cards, click here.