Taking My Hacks

The Pack Heard 'Round the Show

Joe Orlando

When you have been in the hobby your whole life and have had the privilege of seeing so many historic items and finds, it gets increasingly difficult to be left impressed or moved by the collectibles in front of you. At this summer's National Sports Collectors Convention, however, one of those special moments gave all who were fortunate enough to witness it a memory that will last forever and a card that reminded us of why we love the hobby.

Many of you are familiar with The Great American Collectibles Show, hosted by Tom Zappala and former Boston Red Sox All-Star Rico Petrocelli. The hosts decided to take their show to The National and broadcast live from the main stage on the convention center floor. Tom and Rico rotated an assortment of guests throughout the live broadcast, but the most memorable moment happened when Leighton Sheldon and the crew from Vintage Breaks entered the fold.

Each week, Vintage Breaks opens old sports wax and cello packs on the internet and collectors can not only watch the unveiling as it happens, they can also buy a spot in the pack in hopes of acquiring a classic gem. Once a spot is purchased, you are then entered into a drawing, which determines what exact slot you will be given in the pack right before the action starts. The tension begins to mount as the packaging is removed and each card inside the pack is revealed.

Mantle
Podres
Gilliam

The reality is that many cards that are removed from vintage packs do not enter the world in top condition. A large percentage of vintage cards are subject to condition obstacles such as poor centering, print defects, staining from wax or gum, factory wrinkles, and stock imperfections from the manufacturing process. Too many collectors still believe that cards emerge from packs in perfect condition. Nothing could be farther from the truth ... but there are exceptions.

On the day in question and in front of a crowd at the show, Vintage Breaks decided to open a 20-card cello pack from the 1955 Bowman baseball series. The final effort from the brand during their 1948-1955 run, Bowman decided to design the cards like a miniature color television set, accompanied by faux woodgrain borders that vary in color. These horizontal cards are considered condition sensitive because of that design, so you never know what kind of quality you might get once the pack is opened.

By the time this pack reveal was finished, and the cards were submitted for grading, the 20 cards ranged from PSA EX 5 to PSA Mint 9, which clearly shows the variance, or risk, involved. Beyond the uncertainty of each card's condition, of course, is the mystery of what names are contained in each pack. The reality is that most of the cards in the set are not stars but instead common names. That doesn't mean pulling a tough, low population "common" in high grade isn't a prize, but let's face it... collectors are almost always looking for the shining stars in the set.

Coleman
Antonelli
Pillette

In this case, like most other cases from the period, Mickey Mantle is the crown jewel, and there is no doubt he remains the most valuable card in the 1955 Bowman set. As the pack was slowly opened, card by card, some recognizable names were discovered, which included two examples of Brooklyn Dodgers' infielder Junior Gilliam and even one of Hall of Famer Ernie Banks. There was only one more unknown name to go at slot number 19, since the clear cellophane packaging revealed the final card on the back. Once the 19th card was revealed, the emotions surged and a roar from the crowd followed. It was, indeed, Mr. Mantle.

For anyone who was present or watched the reaction on video, you could tell how authentic the excitement was and it is easy to understand why. These are the moments that collectors dream about, finding buried treasure in a pack that was sealed decades before most of the witnesses were born. Oh, and by the way, the card graded a PSA Mint 9 and has terrific eye appeal. It was so beautiful that offers came in on the card immediately in the $50,000 range.

Each card in the pack was given a special pedigree on the PSA label so future collectors can link the cards back to this special moment at our hobby's annual showcase. For those who were there at the show, it will be hard to forget.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
CEO, Collectors Universe, Inc.