Collector Profile

Mark's Century Marks: Deputy AG Collects Rare Autograph Cards

Mark Soble serves as a deputy attorney general with the State of California Department of Justice. His present responsibilities include all phases of investigating and litigating civil fraud cases. Soble has also served for over eleven years as a civil enforcement attorney for the California Fair Political Practices Commission, where he prosecuted or settled more cases than any other staff attorney in that agency's history. During his tenure at the FPPC, he handled over forty-campaign money laundering cases, including almost half of the agency's twenty largest money-laundering prosecutions.

When this 38 year-old attorney is not busy fighting corporate fraud or political corruption, he is fighting to find new additions for his baseball card collection. Mark took a bit of time away from his demanding schedule to discuss his collection for this month's Collector Profile.

SMR: When did you start collecting?

MS: I first started collecting baseball cards in the early 1970s. I collected a large number of 1973 Topps Baseball cards and continued collecting for four or five years. This was during the time that I played little league and went to an occasional Los Angeles Dodgers game with my parents. I still have a few of my original cards of the 1970s, although many of them were thrown out or lost over the years. I did not collect any cards during the 1980s and then resumed in the 1990s, particularly over the past five years.

SMR: What is the focus of your collection today?

MS: The centerpiece of my current collection is my almost-finished set of 1998 Donruss Signature Series Century Marks autographed baseball cards. This is a rare parallel insert set with 122 cards, each sequentially numbered from 0001 to 0100. I have 119 different cards of the 122, along with 15 duplicates. I have had PSA grade and encapsulate all 135 of these cards. Due to the original insertion process of these autograph cards, almost all of the cards have graded either PSA 7 or 8.

SMR: Why did you pick this set to collect?

MS: This is a great group of autographed baseball cards. The cards are attractive and sequentially numbered. The insert set includes autographs of superstars such as Barry Bonds, Cal Ripken, Jr., and Tony Gwynn. It also includes great pitchers such as Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, and Randy Johnson. The set also contains the new wave of power shortstops: Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Jeter.

Mark & Leslye
Collector Mark Soble and his wife, Leslye.

SMR: How much is this insert set worth?

MS: I have read that the high book value for this set is well over $6,000. The 1998 Century Marks autograph cards of Bonds, Ripken, Garciaparra and Jeter all have high book values of $250.00. Maddux, Clemens and Alex Rodriguez are not far behind with high book values of $200.00. Gwynn, Randy Johnson and Chipper Jones have high book values set at $150.00. So that adds up to just ten cards with high book values cumulatively totaling over two thousand dollars. The minor stars have a high book value of $40.00 and the common players have a high book value of $25.00. Including my duplicates, which include a duplicate of Barry Bonds, I am guessing that my collection of Century Marks is worth approximately $7,000.

SMR: Why have you had these cards graded?

MS: These cards are worth far more than my other sports cards and memorabilia. The encapsulation process protects the card and allows handling your cards without fear of accidental damage. It's also nice to have a third-party's assessment of the card's genuineness and condition.

SMR: What cards do you still need to complete this set?

MS: Eric Karros, Javier Lopez and Darryl Strawberry. The Karros card was the only card in the set limited to a quantity of fifty. There are various rumors as to why that happened. I am not sure which one is the accurate reason for the reduced quantity.

SMR: How do you go about collecting such a rare insert set?

MS: I have found most of these cards on the Internet, but I have also come across a few of them from card dealers and from trading with other collectors.

tickets Standford vs. Wisconsin Wolverines
Along with cards, Mark is also a collector of tickets and Rose Bowl memorabilia.

SMR: What other sports cards do you collect?

MS: I have other graded and non-graded baseball cards. I have about forty other PSA graded cards that are mostly cards of specific players that I liked or thought would become stars. For example, I have a 1996 Bowman's Best atomic refractor rookie card of Luis Castillo, graded PSA 9. A few of these cards are older cards, such as a 1978 Topps rookie card of Eddie Murray, graded PSA 9 (OC). I am guessing that the Castillo and Murray cards are worth around $50 and $100, respectively. I also have some of my original older cards from the 1970s that I had graded several years ago by a company in Florida that has since gone out of business. I also still have around three thousand 1990 Bowman Jose Offerman rookie cards that I bought a dozen years ago. Does anyone have any interest in them? If so, please get in contact with me. I also had purchased bulk rookie cards of Ramon Martinez and Darren Holmes. I long ago traded or sold most of the Ramon Martinez cards. I sent several thousand of the Darren Holmes cards in a package to his attention at the address for the Atlanta Braves, with a delivery confirmation receipt that confirmed delivery, but I never received a response.

SMR: What other sports memorabilia do you collect?

MS: I have a collection of pennants from numerous Rose Bowl games and some baseball playoff games. I graduated from Stanford University in 1985 and the University of Michigan Law School in 1988. From the time that I graduated from law school to the present, my father and I have attended many of the Rose Bowl games where either Michigan or Stanford was a participant. I also have some buttons, coins, and ticket stubs from some of those Rose Bowl games. Finally, I have a few autographed baseballs and some baseballs from major league baseball games. I have a baseball autographed by most of the players on the 1997 Colorado Rockies that I purchased several years back at a fundraiser for Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation. I also have baseballs autographed by Tony La Russa and Jose Offerman. Although I am a Los Angeles Dodgers fan, I like Tony La Russa because, like myself, he is an attorney, a vegetarian, and is concerned about animals. I also have baseballs that Don Sutton and Terry Forster, respectively, tossed to me in the stands when I attended Los Angeles Dodgers games as a child.

SMR: What are your favorite sports teams?

MS: The Sacramento Kings, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Sacramento River Cats, and all collegiate teams from Stanford University and the University of Michigan.

SMR: You seem to enjoy your collection quite a bit. Do you ever consider selling it?

MS: It is very possible that, at some point in the distant future, I'll decide to sell my Century Marks autograph cards. I never anticipated collecting so many rare, valuable autograph cards. Once you've started, it's hard to resist augmenting your collecting. So if there is something important for which I need the money, selling some or all of the Century Marks cards remains an option. I am guessing that all of my non-Century Marks cards and memorabilia are worth less than a couple thousand dollars combined, so it's unlikely that I would sell any of the remainder of my collection.