A 1969 Topps baseball case sold for $930 last week.
No, not a case full of cards. A shipping case. An empty shipping case. One of the containers Topps used to pack 24 boxes full of five-cent packs and send off to distributors who circulated them into drug stores, five and dime shops, gas stations, and any other place that was willing to stock bubble gum cards 52 years ago. Writing on the side in vintage marker were the words “very small baby jars,” leaving no doubt about the job that empty case had after all of the 1969 Topps baseball boxes were removed.
Writing on it, and it still brought in nearly a thousand bucks.
Crazy? Many people would think so but I’ll guarantee you this: There aren’t more than a few that have survived, if that many. Those that weren’t thrown out were probably used to store stuff until they wore out and eventually wound up in the landfill. They weren’t thought of as collectors items back then. Even now, a lot of folks don’t understand why anyone would pay that much for a box with nothing in it. If you’re actually a collector, though, you get it. Not only is it a pretty neat display item, owning something only a few other people do is pretty cool.
It’s why despite rising prices of new boxes (yes, the ones with cards in them), sports collecting should never be discouraging. If you want to get into a break in hopes of pulling a few great cards, you can do that. If you need a break from breaking, there’s plenty of fun stuff out there to chase. Maybe you want to do a little of both.
One auction house is offering one card from a rare 19th century tobacco set right now. The card of “Orater” Jim O’Rourke carries a pre-sale estimate of $100,000-$150,000. While that seems like a lot of money, compared to selling prices for some high-grade modern cards over the last couple of years, it might be undervalued, and with a coolness factor that’s off the charts.
In fact, there are hundreds of old sets that have cards with total known examples of a few dozen or less. Yet, when they’re offered for sale or in an auction, they sell for well under the cost of a popular rookie card with hundreds or even thousands of high-grade examples. Of course, if you’re not into guys who quit playing long before you were born, they may not be of interest to you, but that’s why the hobby attracts so many people. It has options.
I’ve seen people complain on social media that something is “ruining the hobby.” The same curmudgeons and their relatives have been spewing that nonsense for years. If your inability to buy a new box of cards for what you did a couple of years ago — or 50 years ago — has made you that sour, dig a little deeper. There’s always something you can buy for less that might be a lot more fun to own anyway.