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March 13, 2013

BP Unfiltered

I worry what you just heard was give me a lot of Tim Wallachs. What I said was give me all the Tim Wallachs you have.

by Sam Miller

When I was a kid I loved money, and one of my first money-making schemes was to corner a market. I had heard about those brothers who (disastrously) tried to corner the silver market in 1980 and thought it sounded like a great plan that had probably just been executed poorly, so I wanted to execute a similar plan better. What I intended to corner was Kevin Mitchell 1989 Topps cards, chosen because a) I liked Kevin Mitchell, b) he was a good enough player that the cards naturally had some value and c) it wasn't valuable enough to be prohibitively expensive for a 10-year-old boy to acquire. YET.

I didn't know many people and there was only one card shop in town, so I ended up with around eight. It didn't move the market. This concludes the portion of this post that is about me. Thank you for indulging me. 

You may have already seen this blog over the years but I hadn't, and it's great. The writer, a New Mexico attorney named Corey Stackhouse, is trying to collect every Tim Wallach card, which is not to say that he is trying to collect the few hundred Tim Wallach cards that have been produced, but that he is trying to collect the millions of Wallach cards that have been produced—every single copy of every single card. So far he has cataloged more than 6,000 copies that he owns, comprising more than 300 different Wallach cards, but he actually has more that he hasn't written about yet. He hasn't written about the 1988 Topps All-Star card, for instance. He has more than 100 of those. He has written about the 1987 Topps, which is his most-collected card, at 411 copies. 

Obviously, 6,000 copies won't move a market—I was 10!—but there is the possibility that it will move the Selling-to-Corey-Stackhouse market, and it has. He wrote about one eBay seller

Since I started this blog, I've noticed a few sellers on ebay who seem to have also taken notice of this blog.  For instance, there was one who would repeatedly list single Wallach cards, like say, a 1988 Topps All-Star from the base set, at $5 on ebay.  Multiple listings of single, common Wallach's for $5 a pop.  Now, sometimes people list cards at crazy prices.  I assume its people who just don't know what they're doing.  Like if I was given a box of 1970's marbles, I wouldn't know how to list them or what to ask for.  So I checked their other items, and they didn't have any other $5 cards.  They had other cards, but they were priced in a half-way sane manner. Yes, I want all the Wallach cards out there.  No I will not pay $5 for a card that list for 1 to 8 cents.

I told a friend about this blog and he, quite sincerely, proposed selling 100 Tim Wallachs to Corey for $100. They would be the first 100 cards my friend has ever sold, and those 100 probably list for about $4, so the impulse to gouge is probably common. "I get a lot of offers from people through email," Corey told me. "I don't think most of them are trying to gouge me, so much as they are just ignorant to what cards are worth."

The other common impulse is to just give Corey the cards, which is what I'm doing. (I've got two sitting here with me now, but have many thousands of worthless cards to sift through to find the rest.)

"For the most part people don't ask for anything in return," he said. "They are surprisingly happy to part with their Wallachs for free. I always try to send something in return of greater value. Most people who bother to send cards are also collectors who have needs/wants, be it a player, team, or set they are working on. My collection includes more than just Wallachs, so I can usually find something to stick in an envelope. At some point I'm hoping someone shows up with some rare low numbered insert, like a 2005 Rookie Cup Relic, at which point I may have to actually negotiate beyond 'yes I want it.'"

His favorite is the 1983 Topps, the first one he ever got. "I declared Wallach my favorite player in '83. I was given a box of cards every year of my life by a family friend from the time I was born. 1983 was the first year I was anywhere near old enough to know what cards were. I was 3 and I liked the Expos uniforms, my brother's name was Tim, and per my Father, Wallach was a good player (he had a great season in '82). I insisted the Wallach be set aside with the other ones my father said were "good," Rose, Carew, et al. In '84 the Wallach got set aside again, and in '85, and by '86 I was old enough to understand cards, trade with friends etc. I had cards going back a few years of my favorite player and most kids my age didn't. It just grew from there."

There are an insane amount of cards left for him to get. It's impossible to know just how many, but in 1993 Donruss took the rare step of releasing its production run numbers. Donruss that year produced the equivalent of 496,364 sets, meaning there are roughly 496,364 versions of this card, 

and that set was, according to Donruss, its lowest run since 1985. "I'm sure it's an obscene number that I'm nowhere close to," he said. "When I hit the 10,000 mark for a given card, investigating the total number will take on a higher priority."

Anyway, it's a great blog because of the premise, but also because Corey gives us an interesting tour through the baseball card industry in the 1980s and 1990s, of mass production, inserts, parallels, errors, low-quality giveaways, rare promotionals, and all the changes that were happening just before card collecting went askew. Some of Corey's most interesting posts: 

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

Related Content:  Tim Wallach

16 comments have been left for this article.

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