I was a big baseball card collector as a kid and, as I just sat down at home to read the New Yorker, I found the first article deals with the recent sale of a Honus Wagner baseball card – a piece of cardboard that recently sold for $2.1 million dollars. The Honus Wagner card was the Holy Grail of baseball cards in the 1980s when I was still collecting. Knowing what I now know about whisky, I can only imagine where the hobby is today. The article focuses on the fact that the most recent purchaser, a man named Ken Golden, bought the card for investment purposes, rather than any actual love for sports memorabilia. Read on:
"It's my belief that none of this is an investment," Jonathon Gallen, a sports-memorabilia obsessive who supports his hobby by running a hedge fund, said the other day. Goldin had invited Gallen to look at the Wagner – "like a drug dealer invites an addict to his party," Gallen said – but he wasn't interested. "Calling it an investment is just to rationalize your purchases to your wife," he went on. "I am in no doubt warped but not warped enough to pay two million for a baseball card."
Gallen once worked in the memorabilia business, and has spent some time thinking about the economics of the trade. The high-end memorabilia game, he said, has been overrun by "checkbook collectors" with little emotional attachment to the merchandise. The influx has sent memorabilia prices soaring, with a recognizable accomplice: Professional Sports Authenticators, the Moody's of the card world, which gives number grades to the goods, making it easier for untrained eyes to invest. Sound familiar?
Oh man, does it ever!!!!!!!!
"Both securities and baseball cards have attracted a great deal of money from people who really don't know the fundamentals of the securities or the cards," Gallen said. "In both my job and my hobby, I listen to my own voice. It's like having someone tell you whether your girlfriend is a seven or an eight. Well, does she make you happy? Is she pretty to you? What difference does it make?"
Just something to think about. Somewhere out there, baseball card geeks are having the same conversation on their own blogosphere, taking quotes from our writings, and using them as analogous antedotes for their own esoteric conversations.