Taking My Hacks

Needle in the Haystack

Joe Orlando


Collectors often dream of unearthing a high-grade example of a vintage card. In some cases, you might have a better chance at winning the lottery, but as we have seen over the last thirty or so years, it can happen. In some cases, the discoveries are so significant that they can single-handedly change the entire market.

Back in the 1980s, and even the 1990s, it wasn't uncommon for a great collection to walk into a show, whether it was one card or a run of nice sets. For the most part, those days are over, but there is always hope. While many great cards have come from old collections over the years, a good portion of the exceptional quality cards have come from finds.

So what is the difference between an old collection and a find?

Often times, I see the term "find" misused in the hobby. It is used all too frequently and, unfortunately, it is often used to describe the mere acquisition of an old collection. Finding an old collection is great and it often bears numerous treasures, but a true find is something altogether different and impactful.

In my opinion, a find is something that separates cards which found their way into circulation by traditional means from those that often never made it into mainstream circulation to begin with. A find can also be large or small in nature. The key is where they came from and how they were preserved. If you look back over hobby history, you can see evidence of finds in a variety of areas.

There are the famous finds like the massive 1952 Topps find of the 1980s; then there are the very small but important finds, like the 1955 Topps All-American Football cello box find of the last decade. One find produced infinitely more cards, but while the football card find was tiny in comparison, the percentage of high-grade cards that originated from those packs completely changed the market.

Most of you probably remember last year's Black Swamp find, a miraculous group of 1910 E98 baseball cards. These weren't cards that were simply kept by an old collector; these cards were never distributed like all the other E98s during the period. The cards were kept and protected in small bundles, never entering circulation or reaching collectors. That is the difference. Not all of them were pristine, but a large percentage of the cards were in remarkable condition.

The list of finds, both big and small, goes on and on. There have been finds of 1909-11 T206 baseball cards (Southern Find), Topps Test cards from the 1960s and plenty of unopened finds from the sports and non-sports genre. This also includes vending finds and finds of Topps presentation sets, still residing in their original boxes.

Recently, I heard someone say that high-grade, vintage cards are "impossible" simply because they were too old and had to endure decades of handling. That person couldn't be more wrong. While high-grade cards are often rare, and sometimes incredibly rare versus the normal population of cards from a particular issue, they can and do exist. Why? Many of them never had to weather the long journey.

Discovering cards like this may be harder to find than a needle in a haystack, but once in a while, that needle is found and pokes the hobby.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
Editor In Chief