Thursday, December 24, 2009 update and Happy Holidays to all!

Hi folks, well it is Christmas eve. The kids are settled in bed with thoughts of presents, Santa Claus and the
excitement of Christmas morning filling their heads.

In our family it has been a long tradition that each child gets a new pair of pajamas to wear to bed for Christmas eve.
My son, who is 4 years old, has a new pair of Montreal Canadian's pajamas. Yet today he was sporting a Toronto Maple Leafs
"Santa" hat !!! Talk about conflicted!!!

Some new mail yesterday contained my the "proceeds" of my first trade on the website. To get things going I decided to sort my dupes from 1990-91 O-Pee-Chee Hockey to begin another set. I figured it would be easy enough for people to hit. Thanks to Terry for the first trade and a few hits to my wantlist. To be honest I have been a little underwhelmed with the response so far on In the new year I will have to increase my postings to their trading boards to try to generate a few more trades.

May your holiday season be everything you want it to be. I will return shortly with continuations of my sequence of posts on online trading sites and new series of posts on online price guides - including the old stand-bys and a few new ones that you may not know so much about. Till next time.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009 (Internet Trading Websites Part 3.) is quite possibly the premier destination for sportscard enthusiasts in the world. Beckett's history in the hobby
dates back to 1984 with the publication of the first Beckett Baseball Card Monthly. Beckett maintains price guides for hockey, baseball, football, basketball, non-sports, mixed martial arts, and so on and so on.

Signing up for an account on the website is free and relatively simple. The website allows users to trade for free but does charge if you wish to sell your cards through their marketplace. Read the rules in the discussion group carefully. I almost got banned from the site by trying to publicize this blog!!!

There are two main ways to facilitate trades on their website, one is to post to their discussion groups (simply click on discuss in the main beckett banner). Currently the hockey discussion group
is the third most active discussion group behind baseball and football. People post wants and traders directly into the discussion board. Other users can reply directly to the thread or post a private message to you.

An alternative is to add your tradelist and wantlist to your "My Organize" section. This is relatively simple to do, just search for the card you have or need in the search box and then click the little "+" sign next to the search result. Cards can be organized in different collections and tagged as wants or needs. Other users can then search for a card they need and find it in your tradelist.

An additional advantage to this setup is the ability to have your collections priced automatically using the Beckett price guides. This option will cost you however. Subscriptions are available at about $5 per month per sport with discounts for longer term memberships and multiple sports.

Till next time folks, happy holidays!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

1980-81 O-Pee-Chee Hockey (Part 2.)

Recently I wrote about the 1980-81 O-Pee-Chee set, the first set I revisited from my childhood and seriously put together a high grade set. Shortly after that post Kevin Glew with PSA wrote a great article talking about the set and gave particular
stats about PSA graded cards from the set.

The article quotes one of the top vintage hockey card dealers in Canada, Gerry Chartrand, who says "The 80-81 OPC set is
probably the premier hockey set of the 80s".. "A lot of 80s sets only have one key rookie, this set has three.. Bourque, Messier and Gartner".

The article mentions (as I did!) that the Bourque Record Breaker (card #2) is difficult to find in top condition - there have only been 2 PSA 10s and five PSA 9s. The Gretzky record breaker is also reported to be very difficult. The article also mentions the tribute to the 1980 USA Olympic team which keeps the set in the minds of collectors south of the border.

The rookies from this set are in high demand with recent auction results yielding $1725 for a PSA 10 Messier and $1500 for a PSA 10 Bourque. A great article from PSA. The complete article can be found here.

Thursday, December 17, 2009 (Internet Trading Sites Part 2.)

Many of you are probably familiar with
Signing up for this site is free. The website consists of primarily of seven message boards: baseball, basketball, football, hockey, vintage, all other sports, and non-sports cards.

Users post trade offers to the appropriate message board and other users reply to the poster directly via an email either sent internally through the website or by regular email should a user wish to make their email address public. As far as I can tell no discussion can take place in the "discussion" groups themselves. The website provides a free webpage space for each user that can be used to post a wantlist and tradelist.

It is possible to leave feedback on trades via the website's Trusted Trader Points system. Until 10 successful trades are completed all posts to the message boards have to be approved by moderators. After 10 points you are added to the Point Standings Room in which you can compare yourself to other traders and steadily climb the ranks.

Other useful tools on the site include a Trade Tracker tool which allows you to record details of trades in progress: to whom, what, when and how and so on. If your trading really takes off this can be useful to manage multiple trades in progress and provide some details should a trade start to go off the rails.

I have completed over 250 successful trades online (that is alot of stamps!!) but I have only been a member of this site for a few days. I have made a couple of trade postings on the message boards and one trade is in progress. I will let everyone know how it works out. Till next time.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Internet trading sites (Part 1.)

Online trading forums have a long history and over the next few blog posts I figured I would highlight a few.
One of the earliest that I have read about is OBC, see, a group with its beginnings on the Prodigy message boards of the early 1990s. The front page of their website indicates they are "celebrating 18 years of excellence". And indeed this group represents to me the gold standard of what an online trading group can be all about.

The focus of the group is collecting older baseball cards - the parameters are a little vague but I would say that most of the cards that get swapped are pre-1980 baseball.

The groups directory of members lists about 120 current members. The activities of the group are overseen by an advisory board which sets policy and rules of conduct. There is an application process. Quoting from their website:

All new applicants must be recommended by a current OBC member who has been a member for a minimum of 2 years. This Member or another Member will be assigned to serve as his mentor for a period of six months. The new applicants must also have two additional sponsors from current OBC members who have been members for a minimum of 2 years(OBCAC 5/00) (Revised AC 8/27/08). Each of the above 3 sponsors must provide a written recommendation for the applicant. At that time go to the application page and fill out the application. It normally takes 2 to 3 weeks for approval.

As compared to other trading venues online this may seem to be not worth the bother. But from my own experience with the Canadian Sports Card Traders (I will highlight the CSCT in a future post) the trust and friendship that can result from a group like this is well worth the effort.

I have developed quite an interest in pre 1980 O-Pee-Chee baseball cards and I hope to join this fine group in the near future. I will let everyone know how I make out. Till next time.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Favourite Vintage Sets

Recently the Vintage Hockey Collectors Forum polled the members on their favourite sets of all time. Indeed there were some obvious choices that were repeated but some others that I was not really familiar with - thank goodness for Google Images. So I decided to include a sample of sets that received multiple votes. Great looking cards for sure. Some of these sets were pre-war and hence pre-confederation in Newfoundland. I wonder about the distribution of these cards pre 1949 - I certainly don't see a large quantity of these cards around these parts.

Probably my favourite is the V252 set - another favourite search to add to Ebay.
Here are a few images that I hope you enjoy. If you are interested in learning a little more about Pre-War Hockey read the
following article from PSA - it is a little dated now but a great read.

What are your favourites? Write a comment on let us know. Till next time.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

1980-81 O-Pee-Chee Hockey

The 1980-81 O-Pee-Chee set was the first set I went after seriously when I first began to collect again in university. I had a stack of these cards that I purchased as a kid - or were purchased for me (I was 6!), however these were in "childhood" condition (a term that is being used by more and more sellers on Ebay). So I initially used these as fillers and went from there.
I was helped greated by a show at the PNE in Vancouver in the late 90s where I spotted a guy cracking a fresh wax box of 1980-81 OPC - he was grabbing the RCs (see below) and Gretzky's and allowed me to pillage the rest!!

This set was appealing because it was relatively affordable and has some huge RCs - Ray Bourque #140, Mike Gartner #195 and Mark Messier #289 plus a huge number of RCs of other great players - Mike Liut, Brian Propp, Rick Vaive, etc. Added to this is Gretzky's 2nd year card #250 plus a ton of other Gretzky's: Record Breaker #3, 2nd team all-star #87, assists leaders #162, scoring leaders #163 (with two other chumps named Lafleur and Dionne!) and a Oiler's team leader card #182.

The design is classic - white background with the main pic framed by different color borders, team name along the bottom with the player name and position in a puck in the bottom right. The backs of the cards are appealing as well - great yellow background with green and white.

Quality control appears to have been improved for this issue - cuts are typically smooth and centering is decent with a few notable exceptions - the Bourque Record Breaker #2 and a couple of the main checklists are really tough. And although I wouldn't say these cards are scarce - they do appear to be less available than the 1979-80 issue (Gretzky's RC year) which were known to be double printed. Till next time.

Friday, December 11, 2009

O-Pee-Chee versus Topps

From 1968-1989 there were only two major hockey card issues each year - a Topps issue marketed to our American friends and an O-Pee-Chee set distributed across Canada. To Canadian collectors there is no competition - because of familiarity and nostalgia the O-Pee-Chee issues reign supreme. Book values (and actual selling values) of the O-Pee-Chee are often many multiples of the very similar Topps issues.

Although no definitive print run numbers are known I would suspect that selling price of O-Pee-Chee sets is a function of demand alone not scarcity. O-Pee-Chee singles abound (really high end singles are another story...) when compared to their Topps counterparts. I would suspect that the print run of O-Pee-Chee cards (to serve the hockey made markets in Canada) were many times that of the Topps issue. In fact filling wantlists for Topps sets is a difficult process especially for sets from the late sixties and seventies. When found, however, Topps cards tend to be better condition - a product of better cardstock and quality control.

I suspect that this relative scarcity of Topps hockey (in Canada at least) will ultimately bode well for the value of of those Topps sets from 20-30 years ago as collectors finish their O-Pee-Chee runs and want to move on to the next challenge.

This situation is the exact opposite of the situation for baseball collectors. Well-heeled baseball collectors in the US are finally realizing that there is a "parallel" issue for each of their Topps baseball sets from 1965 on. And indeed vintage O-Pee-Chee baseball sets provide a distinct challenge both north and south of the border. Till next time.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

1933-34 O-Pee-Chee - the set that started it all

The Canadian candy company O-Pee-Chee, started by brothers John and Duncan
McDermid in 1911 produced its flagship set of trading cards in 1933. The first
two releases - possibly in 1933-34 and 1934-35, are the colorful issues often labelled as 1933-34 O-Pee-Chee Series A (V304A) and Series B (V304B).

The V304A set consists of 48 cards measuring 2-5/16" x 3-9/16" - most cards in the set are rookie cards (!!!), while V304B was a smaller release of 24 cards numbered consecutively from Series A, that is from numbers 49 through to 72. This numbering system is continued with the next two releases V304C and V304D released in 1935-1937. See a complete checklist at the bottom of this post.

Each card has 4 variations with differing background colors - the four possibilities are blue, green, red and orange. It is possible to collect the complete set in each of the 4 colors - a collecting task which is nearly impossible given the scarcity (and expense) of these cards.

PSA reports very low numbers of these cards have been graded and the number of high grade examples is very small, for example none of #3 Shore cards have graded above a PSA 6 EXMT condition.

Not surprisingly getting involved with this set can be difficult on the pocket book. None of the V304A singles currently listed on Ebay (there are only 30 or so) are listed for less than $100 each. However deals can be had - a near set of 43/48 recently sold in the November 2009 Legendary auction for $1442 plus buyer's premium and shipping. Till next time.

Checklist for V304A from

1 Danny Cox
2 Joe Lamb
3 Eddie Shore
4 Ken Doraty
5 Lionel Hitchman
6 Nels Stewart
7 Percy "Perk" Galbraith
8 Aubrey "Dit" Clapper
9 Harry Oliver
10 Reginald "Red" Horner
11 Alex Levinsky
12 Joe Primeau
13 Irvine "Ace" Bailey
14 George Patterson
15 George Hainsworth
16 Ehrhardt "Ott" Heller
17 Art Somers
18 Lorne Chabot
19 Johnny Gagnon
20 Alfred "Pit" Lepine
21 Wildor Larochelle
22 Georges Mantha
23 Howie Morenz
24 Syd Howe
25 Frank Finnigan
26 Bill Touhey
27 Ralph "Cooney" Weiland
28 Leo Bourgeault
29 Norman Himes
30 John Sheppard
31 Francis "King" Clancy
32 Clarence "Happy" Day
33 Harvey "Busher" Jackson
34 Charlie Conacher
35 Harold "Baldy" Cotton
36 Melville "Butch" Keeling
37 Murray Murdoch
38 Bill Cook
39 Ivan "Ching" Johnson
40 Leighton "Happy" Emms
41 Bert McInenly
42 John Sorrell
43 Merlyn "Bill" Phillips
44 Charles "Rabbit" McVeigh
45 Roy Worters
46 Albert "Battleship" Leduc
47 Nick Wasnie
48 Armand Mondou

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Buying local the Ebay way

Ebay is THE central hub for finding just about any sportcard (or anything else for that matter) that your little heart could desire. Even with recent changes to listing fees that disenfranchised many dealers there are still more sportscards sold on Ebay than probably all other venues combined.

In Canada, at least, shipping charges are often the rusty nail in the bag. Even if sellers charge actual shipping and the cost of shipping materials the shipping charge can often be many multiples of the selling price of the lot. Trying to find those last few singles to finish a set (the white whales I discussed in a previous post) can get quite a bit more expensive.

To deal with this I have taken to searching Ebay listings sorted by distance and contacting sellers to see if they will allow local pickups. Often in this way I am able to avoid shipping charges entirely or negotiate a much reduced "pickup" fee. Some sellers will not allow local pickups - and I can understand this. It is a hassle to arrange at times - the seller is forced to schedule a time and place for the pickup, possibly identifying their home address in the process or instead find a time to meet in a public place. And of course safety is paramount so make sure you make the usual precautions before arranging such a transaction - take a friend, meet in a coffee shop and so on. In spite of these potential difficulties I have been able to purchase numerous quantities of cards from local sellers - indeed I often end up buying cards that I didn't set out to purchase - which the sellers enjoy. The sellers avoid having to package up the cards and avoid a trip to the post office and I get cards and save a few dollars in the process.

The way to do this on Ebay has changed over the years - currently browse to the appropriate category and then watch the left pane of the screen as you scroll down and you will see a "Distance" menu item, click on this and you can specify a distance and a postal code.

In NS I developed a nice list of local ebay sellers who were willing to allow local pickups. These folks got to know the type of stuff I liked and the price I would pay and would end up sending me emails periodically to offer their goods.

As mentioned previously in this blog I recently moved to Newfoundland. And although I haven't yet made a purchase from a local seller I have added the local search to my usual ebay browsing
and I would guess it is only a matter of time before I take advantage of this option. Till next time.

Monday, December 7, 2009

nice looking storage

As I mentioned a few days back I store the bulk of my cards in a 48 drawer library card catalog cabinet like the one pictured to the right (Image liberally borrowed from a crafter who also sees the appeal of these units!). Just search google images for library card catalog. These units not only provide functional storage for cards, thread, ribbons, buttons, nails, screws etc. they also act as a nice piece of furniture. Many of the units are made of solid hardwood - oak in my case, and would look right at home in a home den or library.

But what about your binders which store the 9 pocket pages ? Currently mine is a hodge podge of mismatched binders, some decent looking ones from Ultra Pro, others just basic D-ring units from Office Depot. At some point I would like to buy a large quantity of nice matching albums and take the time to type up nice identifiers for the spines. MJ Roop - now out of business had beautiful (but very expensive) albums which came custom ordered for each particular set. Something like the binders pictured on the top right with protective sleeves.

Unfortunately when it comes to spending the limited hobby budget I always find something I want more than nice binders. What about decent looking boxes to store completed sets which don't make it to the binders? You know that 89-90 O-Pee-Chee set that you want to keep but don't feel like filling a $10 dollar binder with $10 dollars in 9 pocket pages. Like most people I have a ton of the plain white cardboard boxes of various lengths - half of which are marked up with the scars of past contents. Feel free to share your ideas - who knows maybe if you can make the stuff look somewhat appealing the wife or better half will allow you to take it out of those big rubbermaid containers. Till next time.

A few white whales...

OK first rule of card trading - don't show your hand. Never admit how much you need a card, indeed this article discusses best strategies should you ever have someone's white whale or should you have one on your wantlist.

I tend to take a more laid back approach. My complete wantlist is posted on my public website by set, so it is it not much of a challenge to see I am down to one or two cards.

In my case I have no sets with single final cards on the wantlist. I do, however, have two sets from the mid to late 1990s which are down to 2 cards:

1997-98 Upper Deck SPx

Needed: # 17 (Doug Weight), 42 (Jagr)

1997-98 McDonald's

Game Films: F6 Kariya, F10 Sundin

I didn't buy a single pack of 97-98 SPX (fairly expensive stuff in 1998) and I obtained most of the cards in large quantity purchase I made. When I finally sorted the cards I was only 10-12 away from the small 50 card set so I figured I would compile a list. Early on traders from the Canadian Sports Card Trader Group (of which I was an original charter member) quickly whittled the list away. But as happens quite frequently sets that don't get finished shortly after release can sit and languish. The McDonald's game films (see the elusive Sundin above!) were fairly tough pulls, I managed to get a few the old fashioned way (eating fries and opening packs!!) the rest were purchased directly or obtained by trades. Can you help beach a whale? Till next time.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

After the storm

So the snow fell and fell and fell. 38 cm in total. With the high winds the drifts were a couple of feet in places. A lot of shovelling and a sore back this morning - probably no huge need to hit the gym today.

Finally finished filing my bulk cards in my card catalogue cabinet. I was quite happy to see that I have quite a nice stash of 1985-86 O-Pee-Chee Hockey dupes. Compared to 81-84 the 1985-86 issue had a smaller print run (it appears!) and indeed the set is condition sensitive. I have a 85-86 set almost finished, just waiting to pull the trigger on the right Lemieux RC.
If I was to purchase a raw example I would like to be able to inspect it in person. Unfortunately there are not a ton of raw cards available in these parts to inspect so I might purchase a graded example. These come up very regularly on Ebay and a PSA 7 example can be had for $80-90 plus shipping.

I have a couple of sets (1980-81 OPC for example) for which the large majority are raw and are placed in 9 pocket pages in a binder but a few of the star cards are graded. I haven't figured out the best way to store these. I would like to be able to store the set together in some way so that I could browse the complete set as a whole. The empty places in the 9 pocket pages always freak me out until I realize that the card is sitting in a slab in a shoebox somewhere. Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated. Till next time.

A Nor'Easter is blowing in

Good morning, well the snow is falling in St. John's, NL, Canada. This will be our first significant snow fall of the year. It is a classic nor'easter - a low pressure system off the east coast of the US/Canada where the rotation of the system causes the winds to hit land from the north-easterly direction - couple that with temps below freezing and you guessed it - snow! high winds! The forecast is calling for about 20cm (or 8 inches) but the range is about 20-40cm so who knows.

Going to head out with the family and do a few chores this morning and then hunker down for the rest of the day. Good day to finish filing my cards from those monster boxes.

There are quite a few sets I noticed that are probably close enough to completion that I will have to decide if I want to move them from the trader boxes to the "sets in waiting'' boxes. I will have to create wantlists for these sets and add to my master wantlist file which can be found at my hobby webpage.

I also collect Newfoundland born hockey players and keep a list (now a couple of years out of date unfortunately) at this page. Alex Faulkner was the first Newfoundland born player to play in the NHL and as a result he has a huge following amongst Newfoundland hockey collectors. Last night I was reading the vintage hockey board and discovered there was a tremendous player by the name of Harry Watson who was born in St. John's in 1898 and became a famous amateur player - see his wikipedia page for more info. He has two cards from the 1920s that I will need to get - too bad I have already sent my wishlist to Santa. Till next time.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Organizing a regular collectibles show

The card show is dying or dead depending on who you ask. In Canada there are relatively few regular card shows. Of course we have the Sportcard Expo held in Toronto each fall and spring.
On the west coast Bossa Productions organizes a series of shows in Burnaby (just outside of Vancouver) and also in Edmonton and Calgary. I am sure there are other examples around the country as well but not many.

Here in Newfoundland there are no longer regular shows except for a couple of tables at the weekly flea market. It has made me contemplate the idea of organizing a semi-regular collectables show. I think it will be necessary to expand the audience a little and include other "collectables" including coins, stamps, militaria etc.

I have started to rough out a business plan - I don't really care to make a ton of money but it best not be a money loser. Lots of things to think about - location, cost of venue, advertising, table fees, admission fees, table fees for the dealers, concessions and the list goes on and on. It is not something I want to rush into - I will update my exploits along these lines in this blog in the weeks to come. Till next time.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


My family and I recently moved back to Newfoundland. My guess is that almost anyone reading this would have experienced at least one move in their life. It is complete chaos. The boxes, the tape, the surprises that each box holds.

We have been in our new house for a few months but I am just getting around to unpacking my hobby room.

All of my cards were packed in some 12-15 D-Ring binders, 7 or 8 monster boxes and various "shoeboxes" packed full of higher priced singles. I store most of my singles (from the monster boxes) in a couple of old library card catalogue cabinets.

So over the last few days I have been unpacking my cards - shelving the albums, and getting my singles out of the monster boxes and into my card catalogue cabinet. To help find things in the cabinet I am keeping a relatively simple text file which records the contents of each drawer in the card cabinet. So if I need my 85-86 OPC hockey singles I can search for it in my text file and see it is in drawer D13. Pull out D13 and voila!

Of course refiling everything gives me a chance to organize a little more - sort those piles of 78-79 OPC that have been sitting there in a mess for years, take that misc stack of stuff I got in a trade a couple of years back and sort them into the 20 or so sets represented.

My little guy has taken an interest in cards - so I have set him up with a binder, a small stack of 9 pocket pages and a few stacks of cards. It will soon be time for another trip to McDonald's to get a few packs of the new stuff to help complete his set. Till next time.

About Me and Welcome

In my professional life I am an applied Mathematician. I use (sometimes) complicated mathematics and computer algorithms to solve real world problems (or at least try to understand these problems a little better). Sometimes I simply study the algorithms themselves. I teach undergraduate and graduate level mathematics.

I have a "million'' dollar family - a beautiful wife and two kids: a boy (4) and a girl (6). Busy times but I enjoy every minute.

For the last 30 years (on and off) I have been a collector - stamps, coins, books, and sports cards - with an emphasis on hockey, hence the name of the blog.

In the days, weeks, and years to come I will share aspects of my life - work, family and hobbies. Hope you enjoy. Till next time.