Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"Mr. Gold" and the Cal Ripken, Jr. custom Lego figure

Recently, a colleague told me a very interesting story about his son and some fantastic luck.  His son is an avid Lego collector and Rube Goldberg machine aficionado. For those who don’t know, Rube Goldberg machines are the kind where a row of dominoes might knock into a marble and the marble rolls into a cup and so on. There have been some very interesting Rube Goldberg machines on YouTube and I suggest you take a moment and watch some of them in action. They can be quite impressive. This type of activity requires great attention to detail and that translates very well into building Lego structures.

One day, this young man and his father went to the toy store and purchased a Lego pack that contained a single figure for about $3. This is where it gets interesting. He opened up the pack and found a very rare figure called “Mr. Gold”. “Mr. Gold” is limited to 5000 pieces.  I never realized this, but Lego collectors are apparently a very intense bunch and when they want something, they will pay dearly for it.  With high hopes, they put the figure on eBay with a starting bid of $500 and ended up netting $560 on a $3 purchase! This is quite a feat for a kid! My hat's off to you along with well-deserved bragging rights.

Here is a picture of the “Mr. Gold” figure this young man found:

Mr. Gold Lego Figure #4950/5000
Just so this post has something to do with Cal Ripken, Jr., here is a Ripken custom Lego figure for your enjoyment:

Cal Ripken, Jr. Custom Lego Figure

Thursday, April 11, 2013

esaslo's 1993 U.S. Playing Card Aces Cal Ripken, Jr. Autograph card

I have been collecting Cal Ripken, Jr. cards since the early 90's and have seen nearly everything there is to see at this point.  However, I had always wondered about the autographed cards at the bottom of the SCD listings for the 1993 U.S. Playing Card Aces set.  In 20 years, I had never seen any of the four players available for sale.  I'm sure they were out there, but I never saw them and never heard anything about them.  As my collection grew, it seemed harder and harder to find items I had never seen before.  I have found the 1990 Donruss Blue/White Test Issue, 1990 Donruss Aqueous, 1992 Donruss Diamond Kings Supers, and other unusual test cards.  But probably the most interesting story about Ripken cards in the last decade started at by a user known as "esaslo".

Elmer P. Saslo III
esaslo had enjoyed the forum for some time and one night mentioned he and a friend had been wanting to play some cards, so he broke out his deck of 1993 Aces and found an unusual card.  He found the elusive Ripken autograph!  He reported his find on the message boards and the interest reached epic levels.  He said he had been offered $4,000 for the card.  Then it became $6,500 on the condition the card grade a BGS 9.  The stipulations for this arrangement were very interesting.  Should another example of this card surface within three years time, he was required to refund $4,500 of the purchase price.  In addition, he wrote into the agreement the right to repurchase the card in the next three years for $10,000!  Sadly, the card graded a BGS 8.5 and the deal fell through and the card never sold, until now.

I found the card esaslo was touting as the $6,500 - $10,000 card on eBay.  I was naturally skeptical and figured it was someone who stole the scan and was trying to make some quick cash.  I inquired further and found out esaslo had actually passed away and his mother was selling the card.  I purchased the card and still have it.  I recently purchased another of the 3 known copies.

When I received esaslo's card in the mail, I felt a little sad.  He had drummed up all this interest and never realized any of it.  He never will know that I got PSA to officially recognize this card and grade it.  He will never know that it is ranked as one of the most treasured sports cards in my collection.  It also made me sad to realize that when it is all said and done, we can't take our cardboard with us.  Ultimately, it fades away into someone's else collection or is lost altogether.  The things we value in this life are just that, things.  I'm happy to have my family, my wife, 2 step-children, and my baby boy.  I hope esaslo had as much or more in his life.

The following is a recap of esaslo's (Elmer P. Saslo III) life from the Scranton Times:
Elmer P. Saslo III, 29, Fairfax, Va., died suddenly after a seizure while visiting in Peckville, Pa., on Friday, March 30, 2012. Born in Scranton, he was the son of Elmer and Jean (Mamera) Saslo Jr., Orlando, Fla., the brother of Tami Rose, and the grandson of the late George and Beatrice (Pilch) Mamera, and Elmer and Isabelle (Osborne) Saslo. His girlfriend was Amy and his best friend was Melissa. He also cherished his two kittens.

He was the Executive Vice-President and Director of Information Technology at Corporate Sport Incentives in Fairfax, Va., since 2002. He attended high school for two years at Oak Ridge High School and Edgewater High School, Orlando, Fla., in the Science, Engineering and Technology magnet program, and Valencia Community College in dual enrollment. He was the recipient of many, many science awards, the Army and Navy Awards, and the Orange County Garden Club's University of Florida's summer scholarships, which were awarded to less than the top 1% of all junior or senior students, approximately 30 per year, in the State of Florida. He was the recipient of a full academic Florida Bright Futures Scholarship to any college in the State of Florida, but he chose instead the George Washington University Alumni Scholarship, graduating from George Washington University in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics with a focus on computational programming dynamics, cryptography. He also directed the website in Washington, D.C., for several years. He worked diligently with then-Florida Governor Jeb Bush's office, the Dept. of Education, and various teachers to clean out corruption in the Orange county School District in 1999, paving a pathway to make things better for students who came after. He was a supporter for online education in the classroom under that administration. He was the main supporter for his grandmother, both financially and emotionally, over the last seven years, and helped other people financially who were in need throughout his life. Most recently, his incentive ideas were adopted by Ebay. His job took him to many places throughout the country and many event venues, which his dad accompanied him sometimes. He accomplished many, many good things in his life that only others dream about. He was also an honorary member of the Liberty Fire Department No. 6, Olyphant, Pa.

He was an extremely brilliant, personable, caring and loving individual. He cherished his close friends and his family. He was a supporter of the Pope John Paul Cultural Center and also contributed to many political campaigns, regardless of party, and to different organizations/causes. He accepted everyone regardless. He was truly an angel, a gift from God, who was selfless in thinking of others first and how he could help them. He was Roman Catholic and worshiped at the Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

Other survivors include his Godfather and uncle, George Mamera Jr., Old Forge, Pa.; uncle, Thomas Mamera, N.Y.; Godmother and aunt, Shirley Bonacci, Peckville, Pa.; cousins, Jeffrey Mamera, Westport, Conn., and his children, Ethan, Lauren, and Matthew; and Jamie Mamera, Clarks Summit, Pa., and his children, Christian and Chloe; and cousin, Emily Bonacci, Peckville, Pa.

The funeral will be Monday at 9 a.m. from the John J. Turko and Sons Funeral Home, 404 Susquehanna Ave., Olyphant, with Mass of Christian Burial at 9:30 in Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, Peckville, to be celebrated by Monsignor Peter Madus, pastor. Interment, St. Michael's Cemetery, Blakely.

Published in Scranton Times on April 1, 2012

Monday, March 18, 2013

The 1992 Donruss Super DK Debacle

3/18/2013: Another complete set has surface and has been added to the list below.  I now know of six complete sets.

Earlier this week I purchased a Cal Ripken, Jr. 1992 Donruss Super DK card for $1,250 off eBay.  The Super DK is exactly the same card as the regular issue Diamond King, but it is much larger.  The seller sent me some information on how he acquired the card which supports the details in the price guides about these cards being produced for use as salesperson samples:
"The set came from a guy who's mother was a sales rep at Donruss.  She went to the strategy meeting where they handed these out.  They never ended up going through with the proposal they had at that meeting, and the only cards that remained were the ones handed out to the sales reps.  He kept them in their original outer packaging for 20 years prior to selling it on ebay about a month ago.  The person that I bought the set from acquired them from this person.  Unfortunately the guy I bought from did not ask a question like:  "How many sales reps were there at that meeting".  If it were like any big company I would imagine that there were probably the heads of each region there, as well as maybe their assistants.  One person I know that is a big Frank Thomas collector thinks that there were less than 10 given out, which I could see.  I think that far less were kept, as if 10 were handed out, then that means there is a total of 270 cards out there (27 cards per set).  I have seen 1 listing prior to mine of a David Justice card during the past 4 years on ebay.  I'm thinking that there may be less than 5 or 6 still out there, and even less of the common guys in the set."
1992 Donruss Super DK
Cal Ripken, Jr. #DK-5
[Regular card for comparison]

These cards are certainly some of the most rare cards from the 1990s.  Typically they are found with white spots on the front where the salesperson's folder has become stuck to the front of the card.  You can see an example of the front damage on a Frank Thomas Super DK here.  Given this fact, it is nearly impossible to find them in mint condition.  The price guides are so completely off the mark on the values it's ridiculous.  They are so rare they really can't be priced accurately.  The Beckett information I have lists the Cal Ripken, Jr. card for $150.  I would buy all I could find at that price!

This particular card comes from an original sealed set handed out at the company meeting described above.  A special thanks to the seller for taking the pictures below specifically for my blog:

UPDATE (2/7/2012 11:49 PM CST): I was searching completed eBay auctions and found three 1992 Donruss Super DK sets sold for a grand total of $560 due to poor titles (Oversize versus Super DK), lack of decent starting prices or reserves, lack of rarity/origin information, and for being confused with the smaller, common versions of the cards.  The third auction listed below is incredibly crazy since it simply lists the cards as "Over Sized Jumbo Lot" in the title.  Since the third auction occurred later, people were probably watching the original owner for more sets at that point.

Don't be fooled by these auction results though.  These cards are worth significantly more than any of these auctions would indicate, perhaps in the thousands.  Sadly, these auctions are probably what Beckett would notice since my transaction was not public, only adding to the vast undervaluing of these cards in the price guide.

A sealed set was also sold to the person I bought my Ripken from, however, he wasn't the high bidder in any of the sealed set auctions since his feedback number doesn't match the winning bidder's feedback number.  I'm guessing he purchased it from one of the people who won the original auctions.  In addition to the Ripken he sold me, he also sold another Ripken for $1,250 in a private transaction.  Where did that one come from?

It made me a little sick to my stomach to see I could have bid on the entire set, not once, but three times, for a mere fraction of what I paid for one card from the set.

I seriously hope that is all I find out about because this is getting a little ridiculous.  Although rare, given these new findings, perhaps these cards may not be as rare as originally thought and another small hoard awaits us.

UPDATE (2/8/2012 10:07 AM CST): The seller I purchased my Ripken from contacted me this morning and shed some light on where he got his first Ripken as well as the series of events surrounding the sale of these sets:
"Here is the sequence of events from the original seller of those two and a half sets:

$30/each for two sets ------->  One of the original buyers flips it for a BIN of $500 that lasted less than 3 minutes on ebay to a big time baseball card buyer on ebay, the other buyer contacts me thanks to my original Ripken listing and I make him a blind offer of $2k for the set and he accepts.  I actually offered him $1k for the Thomas or $2k for the set and he took the money for the set.

The original seller was contacted by the person that bought the BIN for $500 and agrees to list the remaining cards he has from a third set for $500 as a BIN.

My first Ripken came from a card shop in MN called Southpaw Cards.  He bought the set from a dealer back in the early 90's and sold off the cards individually over the next 15+ years, with the Ripken being the last one.

I bought that Ripken prior to this whole sequence of events just hoping someone had the Frank Thomas from the same set to trade for it."
I have created a table listing the sales of these cards I am aware of:

Sale DateBuyerSellerItem
[# indicates origin sale]
1.1/?/2012toohot1999Southpaw Cards Cal Ripken, Jr. singlePaid $500 / Asking $600? [Sat for 2 years unsold at this price!]
2.1/8/2012d***cedye1286 - Donruss Rep's Son Sealed Set$27.09 eBay Auction
3.1/8/2012o***e / ryanocerausedye1286 - Donruss Rep's Son Sealed Set$32.00 eBay Auction
4.1/27/2012clarkfanedye1286 - Donruss Rep's Son Partial Set $500.00 eBay BIN
5.1/30/2012UNSOLDtoohot1999Cal Ripken, Jr. single [1]$1,999.99 BIN - 1 Best Offer Declined
6.?/?/2012toohot1999d***c Sealed Set [2]$2,000.00 Private Transaction
7.2/2/2012UNKNOWNtoohot1999Cal Ripken, Jr. single [1]$0.99 Opening Bid / $999.99 BIN - Auction canceled and card sold in private transaction for $1,250.00]
8.2/6/2012mystorageshed (ME)toohot1999Cal Ripken, Jr. single [2]$1,250.00 private transaction
9.2/13/2012UNKNOWNclarkfanCal Ripken, Jr. single [4]$1,495.95 eBay BIN
10.2/21/2012UNSOLDo***e / ryanocerausCal Ripken, Jr. single [3]$1,999.99 eBay BIN 
11.12/30/2012SOLDa***k / ddamerSealed Set [6]$1.04 + $2.50 S+H Auction

I now know of a total of five six Ripken cards:
  1. Sealed Set #1 [Available for $1,999.99 eBay BIN]
  2. Sealed Set #2 [My Ripken came from this set - Sold for $1,250.00]
  3. Partial Set [Sold for $1,495.95]
  4. Single Ripken purchased from Southpaw Cards [Sold for $500.00 and then sold for $1,250.00]
  5. There is another collector on the Collector's Universe message boards who I know has one of these Ripken cards as well
  6. Sealed Set #3 [Sold at auction 12/30/2012 for a whopping $1.04 plus shipping]
I think there are likely more than 10 of each card available.  Especially given the fact that one person who worked for Donruss had three of them!

    Saturday, February 23, 2013

    1993 U.S. Playing Card Aces Cal Ripken, Jr. Autograph

    I recently found the message boards and found a very interesting thread on a little-known card issued with the 1993 U.S. Playing Card Aces decks. The U.S. Playing Card Co. did a promotion where they issued four autographed cards in the decks: Greg Maddux, Fred McGriff, Terry Pendleton, and Cal Ripken, Jr. Shown below is a store display where apparently 1 autographed card was issued per display:

    1993 U.S. Playing Card Co. In-Store Display

    In the price guides, only the McGriff, Pendleton, and Ripken are mentioned.  The Maddux card is left out, although it does exist.

    What makes the Ripken autograph card interesting is both its rarity and the fact it can't easily be authenticated, that is, until now.  I have two different Ripken autograph images shown below.  Can you pick out the card that didn't come autographed out of the original deck?

    Card #1

    Card #2

    If you chose "Card #2", you are right!  Card #1 was signed after-market and card #2 was signed before being included in the U.S. Playing Card deck.

    Here are the tell-tale signs of a real, deck-issued autographed card:
    1. The finish covers the autograph.  You can determine this by viewing the card at an angle under good light.
    2. The autograph is always in black ink.
    3. The autograph placement is always directly under Ripken's chin and right above the name.
    4. The authentic autographed card is the older version of his autograph with "Ripken" in full rather than the shortened version "Ri" you see on today's cards.  Also the "C" in "Cal" and the "J" in "Jr." are not nearly as pronounced on the authentic card as they are on the fake.
    5. Possible clue: The photo cropping is different between a regular card and an autographed card.  Essentially, the image has been moved further to the right on the authentic card, causing some of the design elements not to line up the same.  This is most obvious when looking at the "W" in "WILD" and its placement relative to Cal's helmet.  I haven't determined if this cropping variation is specific to authentic, deck-issued autographs, but so far it seems to be.
    The following images show several examples of this card.  Based on the signs listed above, can you pick out the fakes?  The answer is at the bottom of the post.

    Card #1
    Card #2

    Card #3
    Card #4

    Answer: #1, #2, and #4 are authentic.  #3 is a fake due to the cropping.  The autograph also doesn't look the same as the others.  The "C" and "J" are different than the other 3 cards shown.