Taking My Hacks

A Moment at the 2007 National – Opening a 1952 Topps Pack

Joe Orlando

It is something that most collectors dream of but few could actually afford to do. How would you like to open an original pack of 1952 Topps baseball cards? Well, a longtime collector and dealer Ron Hobbs did just that at our table in Cleveland this year. Ron, one of the most likable gentlemen you could ever meet, decided to roll the dice as they say.

The scarce 1952 Topps Series One pack was worth several thousand dollars as is, preserved in unopened form, so I asked him time and time again, "Are you sure you want to do this?" I guess I felt more nervous than he did even though it was his money and his risk. Ron knew of the risk, clearly, but the experience in opening the pack is priceless. In addition, you just never know what might be inside.

Several years ago, a hobbyist pulled a #1 Andy Pafko card right from the center of the pack and that card turned out to be the only PSA Gem Mint 10 in existence, selling for over $80,000 at the time and worth considerably more today. It's that chance of finding something big that intrigues many collectors and tempts them to risk it all.

So, the stage is set. Ron walked over to the table and proceeded to slowly, and I mean slowly, open the pristine pack. With a small crowd surrounding him, Ron peeled away the paper to reveal the cards underneath. The anticipation reached new heights as everyone around the table was rooting for Ron to unearth a gem from the most important post-war set in the hobby.

As the paper was pulled back from the surface of the top card, Ron revealed a Bill Goodman. The second card was a Ray Boone, father of MLB catcher Bob Boone and grandfather of second baseman Brett Boone. The card protected in the middle of the pack was one featuring Wayne Terwilliger. The fourth card was one featuring pitcher Johnny Sain but it wasn't the tough error variation. Finally, Ferris Fain was the last card in the pack.

After all the cards were revealed, the small crowd praised the quality of the cards. Surprisingly, the cards were far better centered than anticipated but remember that the crowd was evaluating the condition of the cards from a distance. Upon closer inspection, there were a couple of noticeable flaws. First, all of the cards had varying degrees of corner pulls, which is very common for those who risk opening original packs. Second, and not surprisingly, the last card in the pack – Fain – was covered in stains from the gum pressed against its back.

The grades were as follows from best to worst, Terwilliger (PSA NM-MT 8), Boone (PSA NM 7), Sain (PSA EX-MT 6), Goodman (PSA EX-MT 6) and Fain (PSA EX 5). As expected, the middle card (Terwilliger) received the highest grade, being protected in the center. Also as expected, the last card received the worst grade since it suffered from the aforementioned stains.

It was tough to return the cards to Ron because you just cannot help but root for a guy like him but, as they say, the cards are what they are. Is there a lesson to be learned here? Well, in one sense, sure because the risk is truly great when opening vintage packs like this. It proves that even cards that come directly out of the pack are often not Mint or even close to Mint.

On the other hand, you simply cannot put a price on the experience. Just watching it unfold as a spectator was exciting and, no matter how the grades turned out, no one who watched this will ever forget it – especially Ron.


Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
Editor In Chief