Category Archives: REFLECTIONS

Boasting MJ’s Best, The DrPSA Michael Jordan Fleer Showcase Heads Back To Auction At Small Traditions Starting Wed. 8/19 & Ending Sat. 8/29

21320a_lg

The DrPSA ’86 Fleer Jordan #57, possibly the finest Jordan rookie card in existence, is back up for auction after 15 years in hiding

August 6th, 2015 – Auction Open Aug. 19th to 29th

Denver, CO – If you think that sports memorabilia and collectibles are hot commodities right now, then you’ve probably forgotten all about the 1990s, and who could blame you? It was in the 90s that personal computers and email became part of our daily lives, followed of course by the massive growth of the Internet, the dotcom boom, and the ensuing redistribution of trillions of dollars to businesses around the world, both real and imaginary. Indeed, by the late 90s, perhaps the only things keeping up with the unprecedented growth in dotcom stocks were the equally unprecedented growth in bicep sizes of Major League Baseball players and, in the same Herculean ways, prices paid for Michael Jordan basketball cards.

We’re talking about the Silicon-coated late 1990s here, folks, years before many readers were even born. It’s late in the summer of 1998, and while Slammin’ Sammy battles Big Mac for home run heroism on Professional Sports Authenticatorthe field, inflated bottom lines and cheap muscle mass reach deeply into the furthest corners of American popular culture. Previously for the most part innocent, even the baseball card and collectibles communities witness a massive proliferation in forged autographs, counterfeit memorabilia, and fake and altered cards and other material.

21324b_lg

Tougher than it looks, this 86 Fleer Jordan Sticker RC is 1 of only 79 copies ever graded PSA 10

Enter PSA. Under the umbrella of its Nasdaq-traded parent company, Collectors Universe (CLT), and following the 1985 lead of its sister company PCGS, or Profressional Coin Grading Service, Professional Sports Authenticator was founded in 1991 as the world’s first, third-party grading and authentication service for collectible trading cards. In 1998, the Newport Beach-based grading firm then expanded its service to also include autograph authentication under its PSA/DNA label, specifically, as the company’s constantly improving website states, “in response to widespread counterfeiting, forgery and piracy of autographed collectibles.” Two decades later and both PSA and PSA/DNA are the undisputed leaders in their respective fields, growing their expertise to include the “slabbing” and authentication of wax packs, tickets, baseballs, gloves, bats, photos, rings, awards, and even trophies.

Simultaneously working his way through the early years of sports card grading and authentication was a young optometry student by the name of Stephen Hlis. Veterans of the hobby might better remember Stephen by his nickname, DrPSA. After buying his first Michael Jordan rookie card with $300 of his student loan money in the early 90s, Hlis was hooked. Determined to find the finest Michael Jordan cards in existence, he set out across the country, attending card shows big and small, where he would characteristically employ his optometry equipment to measure the centering, first and foremost, on any decent Jordan encountered — on both sides — and then the corners, edges, surfaces… A pioneer in his own right, his quest was perfection.

21322b_lgBy the early 2000s, Hlis had amassed a legendary Michael Jordan collection. His goal had been to own the finest possible examples of each of Mike’s regular 1980s Fleer cards, all 12 of them. Condition was everything, and so when he learned about PSA and the concept of third-party card grading, he started submitting the special cards he himself identified as high-grade. Constantly seeking to upgrade each and every one of those 12 regularly issued Fleer Jordan cards from 1986 through 1989, Hlis (and the rest of the card world) soon learned that some of those iconic Jordans would prove to be far more difficult to find in perfect condition than others. On the rare occasions that he did find a higher-grade copy than he already owned, however, he’d proudly place it into what he soon dubbed his “Fleer Showcase,” the creme de la creme of his graded card collection, and he’d then sell or trade the inferior copies to finance his Jordan insert efforts or to feed his growing Carl Yastrzemski appetite.

21323b_lg

Hlis paid $40,000 for the first ’87 Fleer MJ Sticker PSA 10 in 2000

When someone offered $115,000 for the collection in 1999, DrPSA reluctantly decided it was time to tell his wife what he’d been doing with his optometry equipment after hours. Although she was upset to have been uninformed, MrsPSA encouraged the young doctor, who had just opened his own optometry practice, to keep his cards. Happy she did, Hlis made a website for the collection, and he continued to add to it, paying a record $40,000 for the first 1987 Fleer Sticker to surface in PSA 10 Gem Mint condition in early 2000. Like we said at the start, if you think that sports cards are hot now, then you’re forgetting the years preceding the dotcom and sports card crashes of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

21350b_lg

Hlis paid $22,500 for the first ’88 Fleer MJ Sticker PSA 10 in 2000

Case in point, when Hlis ultimately decided to sell his collection the following year, it fetched an astounding sum of $475,000, on eBay of all places, a record for basketball cards. Payment for the entire collection was split in two parts, with $250,000 paid up front for the inserts and non-traditional cards, and the $225,000 balance to be paid for the Fleer Showcase. The sale can still be verified to this day with surviving bank records, showing the first $250,000 payment, but when the dotcom bubble soon burst, precipitating an even steeper crash in the sports card market, DrPSA was stuck with his Showcase, albeit with a quarter million dollars in toe.

21312d_lgFinally making its way back to market for the first time in nearly 15 years is the DrPSA Michael Jordan Fleer Showcase Collection, which consists of all regularly issued 1980s Michael Jordan Fleer cards, all graded PSA 10 Gem Mint, except for the regular ’88 and ’89 cards which are in BGS holders. Because he was truly a freak — and we say that with all due respect and admiration — the DrPSA Fleer Showcase collection also contains another extremely high-grade 1986 Fleer #57 Michael Jordan rookie card. To be complete, Hlis insisted that his collection also contain the finest BGS-graded 1986 Fleer #57 Michael Jordan rookie card that he could locate through his obsessive searching for the ever-more-perfect Jordan, which at the time meant this incredibly high-grade BGS 9.5 Gem Mint 21321d_lgspecimen pictured here, boasting Pristine 10 subgrades for both its perfect centering and perfect corners. On top of this, the DrPSA Michael Jordan Fleer Showcase Collection contains yet a third high-grade 1986 Fleer #57 rookie card, chosen to represent the very upper limit of the Mint 9 grade from PSA, that is, a card that looks Gem Mint on first inspection but later reveals a few microscopic imperfections inconsistent with the top grade.

All 15 cards are currently available in Buy-It-Now listings with the option to make offers in the Small Traditions web store and on eBay, where we are previewing them for the first two weeks of August, in accordance with our consignor’s wishes. Any cards that have not sold by August 19th will then be listed with no reserve in our Third Annual Exclusive 100-Lot Summer Premium Auction, featuring The Supermen of The Hobby: Superman, Mickey Mantle, Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter and Mike Trout. In addition to some incredible items featuring these other hobby icons, the complete DrPSA Michael Jordan Fleer Showcase will be available in one lot, and the individual cards will also be listed in individual lots, with the cards selling via whichever format delivers the highest aggregate price for our consignor.

Additional reading:  Please click here to read an article about Dr. Hlis and his Michael Jordan collection, published by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Visit the auction August 18th to the 29th: http://smalltraditions.com/catalog.aspx

Limited Consignments Considered at 0% by Aug 17th

To make private offers, or to consign additional Jordan, Mantle, Jeter, Trout, or Superman items, please write info@smalltraditions.com or call 303.832.1975.

Collecting The Captain

10 Important Things To Know About Collecting Derek Jeter

14462a_lgby Dave Thorn

Dave Thorn is the founder of Small Traditions LLC, an online sports and Americana auction company that conducts monthly auctions in which selling is completely free and buyers pay the fees instead of sellers. This month’s Exclusive Derek Jeter September Farewell Auction features the key highlights from one of the most admired Derek Jeter collections in the hobby. With so many significant Jeter items coming to market this month, here are 10 important things to know about collecting Derek Jeter, especially for those who want to better understand his many different types of cards produced over the last 23 yeras — rookies, proofs, parallels, oddballs, inserts, autographs, Refractors, etc. — and which are the most valuable.

14480b_lg1. Derek Jeter has accomplished all of the following (see #s 2-10) without any remote suspicion of using Performance Enhancing Drugs. Quite the opposite, the mission of Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation is to “motivate young people to turn away from drugs and alcohol and ‘TURN 2’ healthy lifestyles.” Just as his perennial postseason heroics in the late 90s helped baseball’s popularity to recover from the embarrassment of the strike-shortened 1994 season, Jeter’s consistently clean and classy style of play has helped to preserve the integrity of the National Pastime throughout its steroid era.

15395a_lg2. Some of his pinstripe predecessors might have won more World Series rings than Jeter’s 5 — Yogi has 10, DiMaggio 9, Mantle and Ruth both 7 — but Mr. November has more postseason batting records than any other player, not just in the Yankees’ books but in all of baseball history. Keeping in mind that baseball only played one round of playoffs until 1969 and that it now plays three, Jeter is the all-time postseason hitting leader in ten categories, including hits (200), runs (111), total bases (302), singles (143), doubles (32), triples (5), games played (158), at bats (650), and plate appearances (734). He ranks third in postseason home runs (20), fourth in postseason RBI (61), fifth in postseason walks (66), and sixth in postseason stolen bases (18). His postseason numbers represent an entire season’s worth of games, and a very good season at that. And for those who say hooey to postseason records, then consider that Derek is also one of just two players to ever accumulate 3,000 hits, 250 home runs, 300 stolen bases, and 1,200 RBI in the history of the game. The other player? Willie Mays.

15622a_lg3. Derek is one of just 28 players in baseball’s elite 3,000 hit club. He achieved his 3,000th hit on the biggest stage in baseball and with more pomp than any other player before him, hitting a home run off one of the best pitchers in baseball, going 5-5 on the day, and driving in the game’s winning run, a performance that will be remembered and replayed forever.

14501a_lg4. And the hits didn’t stop there. This summer, Derek passed the immortal Honus Wagner for most hits ever by a shortstop, and then he passed Adrian “Cap” Anson to earn the #6 spot on baseball’s all-time hits leaders list. Those who will remain ahead of him in the top five are Tris Speaker, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb, and Pete Rose. That’s not just good company he’s in; it’s the greatest ever. What is perhaps most remarkable about Jeter’s standing among these players, however, is that Speaker and Musial both played 22 seasons, Aaron played 23, and Cobb and Rose both played 24. Jeter, just 20. His way, and on his terms.

14495b_lg

5. In short, Derek Jeter is one of baseball’s all-time greats, and we’ve been more than lucky to watch his career. His famous “flip” play in the bottom of the seventh inning in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS, his gutsy “dive” into the stands against the Red Sox, and his clutch hitting and never-ever-hesitating hustle will be highlights for the eternity of baseball. He stands in direct lineage to those who wore single-digit NY Yankee jerseys before him: 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, and 1. Like all these legends in pinstripes, Derek’s legacy will only continue to grow after he retires, bridging the generation gap as only baseball can do, as millions of fans face the existential question: will there really ever be another like him?

15758a_lg6. Drafted straight out of Kalamazoo Central High School and quickly becoming one of the most touted prospects in Yankee history, Derek can be found on 325 different baseball cards produced between his draft year of 1992 and his rookie season of 1996, and there is considerable debate about whether or not all of these cards should be considered rookie cards. His traditional rookie card year has always been 1993, but collecting has changed in recent years, and most collectors are now more inclined to pursue his many more challenging cards produced during his ROY-winning season of 1996, when we watched with wonder as the rookie helped lead the Yankees to their first World Series Championship in nearly two decades, than to collect only his cards from 1993, when he batted .295 in his first full season of Single A, still three seasons away from his official MLB rookie season.

15335a_lg7. Jeter’s rookie years of 1992 to 1996 correspond to the hobby development of insert or “chase” cards — special, limited edition cards randomly inserted into packs, many of which were super-short-printed variations, or parallel versions, of a player’s regular or base card — and his rookie season of 1996 would be the first year that saw products with significantly more than the two basic tiers of print runs that had thus far characterized the insert card development of the early to mid 1990s. Instead of products with just a regularly issued card and a single parallel insert of that regular issue — like Finest Refractors, Topps Gold, and Upper Deck Electric Diamond, for example — there were now products by Bowman, Leaf, and Select Certified that had as many as a half dozen different parallels, each one produced in smaller quantities than the last, some with print runs as small as just 30. Scarcer than even the T206 Wagner, cards like the famous 1996 Select Certified Mirror Gold are also some of the most beautiful cards ever made. Their development happened during Derek’s rookie season, which makes collecting his rookie season cards that much more challenging and fun.15619a_lg

8. If 1992-1996 is the birth of modern insert cards, then 1997-1999 is their renaissance or golden age. During the late ’90s, modern card manufacturers developed several more innovations that now, two decades later, still dominate the industry. These innovations included game-used cards, serial-numbered cards, and the development of the ever coveted 1/1 or one-of-one masterpiece cards, when manufacturers produced an ultimate parallel of a particular card limited to just one single copy made. Finally, let’s also not forget the incredible die-cut cards developed during the period, which may be common encounters in packs today, but in the late 90s they were among the most special pulls imaginable, some of which have remained non-existent in PSA 10 Gem Mint condition and were so intricate and cutting-edge — ha! — that they will most likely always will.

15443a_lg9. Just as the development of insert cards corresponded with Derek’s rookie years of 1992 to 1996, this distinct period of later 1990s inserts directly corresponds to the New York Yankees dynasty years of 1996 to 2000. Game-used and serial-numbered autograph cards, and even 1/1 cards, are now extremely common in today’s products, but in the late 90s they were new and exciting, as was the printing technology that had made them possible, and they remain among the most collected cards in the hobby. For Yankees fans and for those who collect The Captain, the appeal of collecting cards from these years is therefore twofold, since so many of the innovative cards from these years were groundbreaking, and since they also document one of the last real dynasties in the history of the game.

14455c_lg10. Finally, let’s not forget that Derek has played his entire 20-year career with the most successful franchise in all of sports history and with all of us watching as closely as New York City watches anything, and he’s done it all with class, integrity, and grace. For this reason, wherever the Yankees have traveled during his farewell season, millions of fans have stood in ovation, and thousands more have held signs saying “Thank You.” But thank you for what? For the memories? Sure. And for the championships? Yes, of course. But the thanks we owe Derek Jeter have as much if not more to do with those three little words — class, integrity, and grace — than with anything. I’m not even sure what those things are these days, but I know that I’ve seen them whenever I’ve watched Derek play, and for that I will always be grateful.

15530b_lgDerek’s retirement announcement earlier this year took many of us by surprise, but it was in reality the ultimate classy act. Knowing that this would be his last season has helped him to pace and to preserve himself, and I’d certainly rather watch him with the knowledge of his retirement than to see him slowly decline over the next several seasons, even if those additional years could have brought him greater personal achievements, namely, the all-time hits record. But Derek doesn’t play for personal records, and he never has. He plays for wins, and that’s how he’ll be remembered. Although there were others before him and there will be many more to follow, years and years from now, he’ll be remembered best by his most common nickname: The Captain.

To consign your Derek Jeter and other New York Yankees items to Small Traditions November Holiday Auction, and to learn about the company’s popular Cost-Free Grading and Collection Management Services, please call 303.832.1975 or write info@smalltraditions.com, and be sure to follow the company on Facebook and on Twitter for more updates.