Travelogue with Reed Kasaoka of Baseball Card Exchange Pt. 2

I hope that you’ve enjoyed the first part of this two-part segment with Mr. Kasaoka of BBCE.  It definitely seems like a ton of fun showing up and finding out the collections are more magnificent than orginally thought, but I bet it’s definitely a lot of work to load those larger collections in the truck solo.

Here are the remaining posts for you to enjoy:

Day 11 –

If you recall, the last time I posted (almost two weeks ago), I was in Orlando, checking out a lifelong autograph collection. Over two days, I managed to spend $40,000 on autographs – trading cards, magazine covers and pages, index cards, HOF plaques, and more. The really messed up thing is I think I only saw about a third of the collection, and there were quite a few items we couldn’t agree on a price. This truly will take three or four more trips to see and try to buy it all. I guess every trip to Florida will include a stop to Orlando.

Day 12 and 13 –

With the truck about half full, day 12 was spent driving to Charleston, SC. Not a bad trip, and because that was all I had scheduled, I was able to sleep in late and get my laundry done. Day 13 started bright and early with a short drive to Isle of Palms, SC, right on the Atlantic Ocean. The seller was a widow whose husband had passed several years ago, and what she had was the remains of a card shop inventory that closed in the early 2000s. However, while there were a few hundred unopened boxes from all four sports and even gaming, there must have been at least 1,500 hand collated sets – and that is not an exaggeration. Seems this store owner couldn’t resist the fun of opening packs and boxes to chase inserts and make sets, and really, who could blame him? Well, similar to the Orlando deal, this collection will also take a couple of visits to try and sort through everything. When sellers contact me, I never really know how much is “a lot” until I can see it in person. Unfortunately, I need to stick to some sort of schedule on these buying trips, so deals like this need to be revisited. I ended up buying all the unopened product (at least what I could find), and will be back to sort through all the sets and hopefully find boxes loaded with inserts in the future.

Day 14 –

As a winter storm was bearing down on the Southeast, I needed to work quickly just in case travel became difficult. I was up before sunrise and made the short drive to Myrtle Beach, SC. The seller, also a widow, had the remains of her husband’s collection taking up a ton of space in the garage – enough space to park a car. It was pretty much junk wax and hand collated sets from the overproduced years, but she was happy that anything could be salvaged from a collection she thought was just about worthless. Took a couple of hours to sort through it all, but I bought enough junk wax where the profits would pay for the truck rental for the two weeks. I then headed towards Atlanta, but as I got closer, the reports were coming in that the weather could be disastrous. Figured I would stay overnight in Augusta, GA, then re-assess my trip to Atlanta the next morning. It’s a good thing I didn’t go, because I might have been stuck on the freeway all night! By not heading to Atlanta, I missed that epic ice/snow storm that shut down the city.

Day 15 and 16 –

Having called an audible to skip Atlanta, I took the back road to Knoxville, TN. The weather was still bad and I’m sure many of the roads were not cleared properly, which in a 26 foot truck is bad news, so I tried to pick “safe” roads. That meant driving around the mountains rather than through it, so I skipped the I-40 drive through Smoky Mountain National Park. The following day, I looked at yet another autograph collection. While the seller and I could not agree on a price for everything, he did allow me to pick and choose items I thought presented well. I bought over 80 mini helmets, the majority signed by HOFs, a lot of nice 8×10 photos with images you don’t normally see for certain players, and a bunch more magazine covers.

It was during this appointment that I received a call from an antique auction house in North Carolina. A collection I have been trying to view/buy for over a year, but could never match schedules with the seller, went to this auction house. It made sense for the seller, since his parent’s estate also included antique furniture and other collectibles. The auctioneer gave me a rundown about the auction and how it was going to work, but it was being held two days from now! I decided it was worth checking out, so I was off to Wilson, NC, about a half-hour east of Raleigh.

Day 17 and 18 –

Woke up early yet again, for the seven hour drive to North Carolina. I needed to get there as early as possible, because viewing the auction lots was only from 9am – 5pm, and I needed as much time as possible to check out all the items. While the collection was all over the board (vintage, modern, Pittsburgh teams related, autographs, magazines, Starting Lineups, unopened), there were a lot nice items. There were several dozen graded cards of vintage HOFs which are always a no-brainer, and thousands of vintage cards, grouped either by year or era, with a lot of potential for grading. I took tons of notes, then it was to the hotel to do my research and get ready for the auction.

The auction employees told me on a few people had come in during the week to preview the items, so I was wondering exactly how empty the room would be at the start of the auction? I was quite excited when only three people were in the room an hour before the start. Of course, over 20 more people showed up by 9:30am, and the hope of stealing an entire collection quickly fell apart. Then, the bidding started. I will say that the room had quite a few weekend warriors there, wannabe dealers, who were looking to buy stuff to flip, but I’m not sure they went in to the bidding doing the proper due diligence. Cards that looked to be in Excellent condition, but upon closer inspection were miscut, had writing, or paper loss, were going for 20-30% of Beckett. The graded cards were bringing good money, sometimes well over VCP or full retail, but I managed to buy about 40 cards that we could re-sell for a decent profit. One lot full of 1980s unopened wax and cello boxes went for only half of what current retail is, but I didn’t end up as the winning bidder. Was I not paying attention? How could I let unopened boxes, the thing BBCE is most known for, get away for such a steal? Well, the buyer must not have been fully educated on the nuances of pack resealing, because a partial box (about 15 packs) of 1975 Topps Football Wax were all resealed.

The good thing about an auction like this is most buyers come with a budget, and are looking to find a few good lots that seem like a good deal. Towards the end of the auction, some have already been eliminated because they shot their load on early lots. Having the deepest pockets in the room meant I could push the bidding quickly on any lot I was interested in, and force others to drop out when the price of a lot went over a few hundred dollars. This worked especially well with the vintage lots. Steve now has several thousands of 50s and 60s cards to look over for grading, and I think we’re going to do fairly well. If you’ve never been to a live auction before, it’s something you need to experience. Sure if you are willing to bid the most money, you will own it, but there are psychological factors that go into bidding, who you are bidding against, how you bid, and letting the room know who you are. Every time I won a lot, I wanted the other bidders to know I got a deal, and every time I lost a lot, I needed the high bidder to know they paid retail for it. While I only spent several thousand at the auction, I feel it was worth the two days I spent working on this deal, and didn’t have to buy all the other stuff in the collection I didn’t want. There must have been close to 1,000 pounds of magazines in this collection!

Day 19 –

Drove to Northern Virginia to hang out and watch TV with my high school classmate. After all, it was Super Bowl Sunday! I wouldn’t dream of trying to work on this unofficial national holiday. Sure the game could have been closer, but it was entertaining.

Day 20 and 21 –

The weather has been a major factor on this trip, and now that I was heading even further north, it started to dictate the itinerary. Before leaving the Northern Virginia, I stopped to see a collection near Dulles Airport. Not many collections surprise me anymore, but when viewing, inventorying, pricing, offering, packing, and loading a truck takes more than two days, I sometimes pause for a minute and wonder what I just got myself into. This collection, in my estimation, might take five full days to complete. There were several hundred unopened boxes covering the last 30 years, maybe a thousand hand collated sets, hundreds of autographed items, and a couple of closets full of stuff that I couldn’t even get to because of an obstructed walkway. I’ll be back for this one sometime after the National. It’s definitely a stand alone deal, as it could fill an entire truck by itself.

I left Dulles by 10am and headed to Philadelphia. The drive took much longer than anticipated, as I drove straight into a frickin’ winter storm. Not my brightest idea, but the deal on Tuesday was not to be missed, so I did what I had to do. I saw a few cars that wiped out in the snow, but it is always the tractor trailers stuck in a ditch or jack-knifed in the middle of the road that really hit home. I never want that to be me, which is why I drive these trucks around like a grandma on her way to church. Steve doesn’t know it yet, but he sprang for a Crowne Plaza Hotel for me, as the seller wanted to meet me at my hotel the following morning to do the deal. Did I mention that another winter storm was coming through again?

Day 22, 23, and 24 –

My appointment in the Philadelphia area was with a retired Topps executive. As far as potential sellers go, the words I love to hear “former card shop owner”, “mom & pop store”, and “retired card manufacturer employee.” When he called me last week to sell what was left of his collection, I knew I had to make this deal work at any cost. The highlights?

– Lots of Topps cards from various events they hosted over the years, like the Super Bowl, Pro Bowl, MLB All-Star Game, Hawaii Trade Conference, etc. Not very mainstream, but quite popular with the player collectors who have to have it all. Some of these cards are made in such limited quantities (and before eBay took off) that they are almost never seen for sale.

– 1979/80 Topps Hockey Vending Boxes…that’s right, Wayne Gretzky’s rookie year. These boxes are sick. Packed vending fresh and tight, with the nice curve and pattern to them, and the boxes themselves are in pristine condition.

– Even though he was a Topps employee in the Philadelphia area, you can’t forget Fleer was also nearby. Which is why the seller had not one, but two 1986/87 Fleer Basketball Wax Boxes. These boxes are absolutely ridiculous! I never believe anyone who has this box says they are the original owner from 1986. Well I believe this seller, because lid on both boxes has probably never been lifted. The packs are absolutely killer, with no wear, clean seals, and even the gum does not stick to the top card! Stored with the rest of his collection in a climate-controlled room; this is how all boxes should be stored. I took my time inspecting both boxes, and they check out beautifully. In fact, one box, the first pack in the bottom right stack, has a Jordan rookie showing!

At this point, I’ve spent close to $250,000 on this trip, which makes it the best buying trip I’ve ever had. Went to dinner at Maggiano’s with my cousin to celebrate, but then the reality of the weather set it yet again. One night at the Crowne Plaza turned into three nights, because Philadelphia and Pennsylvania got hit hard. Had I left on Wednesday morning for the office as planned, I would have spent the rest of the day or longer stuck at a truck stop. Pennsylvania shut down the interstate in several different places. So I enjoyed my comfortable hotel room, working on pricing stuff for sale (check out eBay ID bbcexchange, as we have a collection of close to 140 different autographed HOF plaques, all PSA/DNA, up or going up soon. There are some tough ones here, including Jackie Robinson, Sam Crawford, and Cal Hubbard.)

So this brings us up to speed with today, Thursday February 6th. I drove 650 miles from King of Prussia, PA to South Bend, IN. While bitterly cold, there was hardly any precipitation. As I was leaving Eastern PA, you could see why the roads were shut down yesterday. Fallen trees were all over the place, and the road crews must have spent all day cutting branches to clear the roads. Throughout the 12 hour drive, the evidence of brave/foolish drivers were everywhere. At least a dozen tractor trailers were flipped or stuck in the snow on the side of the road. Many didn’t even look like they were in any rush to remove them, as depth of the snow made it look like it would be close to impossible to do so without blocking off multiple lanes of traffic.

Will be heading into the office tomorrow morning, and looking forward to four full days of unloading the truck and sorting through all the stuff!