BASEBALL RETIREMENT FUND; GOLDEN OLDIE RELIEVERS

March 7, 2010

Candice Choi is a financial writer for the AP and she wrote, in the Boston Globe, about that secret retirement fund that you  have in your bottom drawer (if you were lucky enough to save it from Mom’s clean ups).
“The boxes of baseball cards you so carefully collected are invaluable for the memories they evoke. But do they have any real value?
Many collectors hope their hobbies will one day bring them a fortune. And with the recent sales of Batman and Superman comic books for about $1 million each, the fantasy of a big windfall may have crossed your mind. Here’s what anyone with a collection should know.
Sizing up value: Three big factors generally determine a card’s value: the player pictured, the card’s condition, and its rarity.
Hall of Famers and marquee names are obviously more sought after, but even a player no one remembers can command thousands of dollars.
That’s because collectors aim to complete sets, or obtain all cards issued in a given year or edition. So a 1963 card of a forgotten player can still be valuable.
A card’s condition can also produce big swings in price.
You should also know that vintage cards – generally those from before 1970 – are in greater demand since they’re harder to come by. To get a baseline for how much your cards are worth, browse the websites of auction houses such as Heritage Auction Galleries (www.ha.com) or Lelands (www.lelands.com) for price listings on comparable cards.
You could always bring your cards to a hobby store, too. A knowledgeable worker should be able to give you an idea of what they’re worth for free.
How to sell: If you have cards worth $500 or more, consider selling through an auction house. This gives you access to a pool of experienced buyers willing to pay top dollar for quality cards, says Joe Clemens, price guide editor at Tuff Stuff’s Sports Collectors Monthly.
Auction houses typically take a commission of about 15 percent, although that figure can vary depending on the sale price. So for a card that sells for $500, you’d pay a commission of $75.
Cards of lesser value can be sold at hobby stores or baseball card conventions. EBay is another option, although Clemens notes that the overall breadth and quality of cards isn’t as great.
Notes on collecting: Topps issued its first cards in 1951, and is the most well-known publisher of baseball cards. The company last year also won exclusive rights to use the logos for Major League Baseball and its teams. But issuers such as Panini and Upper Deck have their followers too, and you may prefer the style of those cards.
As for which players and teams to hold onto, it’s no secret which cards will gain the most value.
“Collect players you believe are going to do well, rookies you think are going to have long, good careers, and stand the test of time,’’ said Warren Friss, Topps general manager.
Beyond that, collecting should be inspired by your love of baseball and the cards themselves.”

Ron Borges, of The Boston Herald, wrote about a group of young men (ed. young compared to me) who seem like senior citizens in the world of professional sports.
“They sit together every day, like three old guys over on Sanibel Island, chewing the fat while the world rushes by without paying them much attention.
They are the Red Sox version of the Golden Girls – three aging free agent relief pitchers trying to do what a lot of seniors are doing these days. Trying to find a job. Bullpen greeter? Wal-Mart greeter? What’s the diff?
Brian Shouse is 41, a left-handed pitcher who was one of only 10 pitchers in baseball last year aged 40 or older.
Joe Nelson is a 35-year-old relief pitcher who was a teammate of Shouse’s last year in Tampa, where he made his first Opening Day roster in a 14-year career in professional baseball.
The third is the whipper-snapper of the group, 34-year-old Scott Atchison, who a year ago had a 1.70 ERA for the Hanshin Tigers in the Japanese Central League. He’d been there the past two years but decided to come home and take one last shot at the Big Show before it became time to let loose his grip on a game that has a stronger grip on him than he has had on it.
Most of the Red Sox clubhouse is jammed with fresh-faced kids, the beginning of a “bridge year” (or two) reloading process general manager Theo Epstein has adopted. Often the music is loud and not all that familiar to Shouse or his two peers. Down the other end of the clubhouse sits the idol of all the guys like them.
That’s where 42-year-old Tim Wakefield, the alpha dog of the aging set, resides. An All-Star last year at 41, Wake is the kind of guy who gives baseball’s old guys hope. He’s like the retiree with the 35-year-old blonde girlfriend driving a Jag around the retirement home grounds.
They’d all like to be Wake, but his story is the exception, just like his pitch, and they know it.
Yet when Terry Francona was asked how Wakefield was coming along in his battle to stay in the starting rotation, the manager said yesterday, “He’s right where he’s supposed to be, but he’s got a lot of things. He’s got age. He’s got surgery. You don’t want to beat him up.”
Those aren’t the kind of things a manager says about Casey Kelly or Jose Iglesias, kids at the other end of the calendar. It’s what you say about an athlete experiencing old age before his time.
That’s what’s going on along the far wall, where Shouse, Nelson and Atchison sit, three guys who still read a paper made out of paper and have nothing on their ears but ears. They’re old school because what’s the other option?
Like most of the residents around Fort Myers, they eat early, leaving the Sox dining room long before most of their teammates chow down. The Early Bird Special is big in Florida, including in one part of the Sox clubhouse.
Yesterday, 29-year-old Daisuke Matsuzaka walked by them, a heat pack or an ice pack or both wrapped around his arm. Guys like Shouse prefer a little Worner’s Famous Liniment. It’s a generational thing.
Last night, the Sox played the Twins, the only night game on the Grapefruit League schedule. Most major leaguers hate night games in spring training because they’ve got places to go. The three guys against the far wall? They like night games in spring. Means they can get a nap in.
In most workplaces, Shouse, Nelson and Atchison would be young men. They’d be successful guys on the rise in whatever business they chose. But in a baseball clubhouse they are guys who don’t take the team bus to games. They ride the senior van.
That’s the bedevilment of sports. It’s a young man’s game, which means a man becomes old before his time but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to let go. It’s why Shouse, Nelson and Atchison are happy just to have three lockers at City of Palms Park and a chance to dream for a little longer. A dream that was fulfilled for a few minutes last night when Atchison came on in relief and pitched well enough to get a spring training win while Nelson followed him and got the save in
a 2-1 victory that was all but meaningless to everyone but them.
They may not have much of a shot to start the year with the Sox, but that’s not the point. The real point is they’re three old baseball players still doing what they love – playing a kids’ game long after most people had to stop.”

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