Monday, September 25, 2023

Eight-Year Update

Hi, how are ya?

Yes, I'm still alive. But I believe I may be close to tapped out on this project.

It's been a nice run. I started this all just on a whim eight years ago, thinking that even getting half of these cards signed would be pretty nice. Instead it went much better than I ever could have expected: a complete signed 1987-88 set including all errors and variations, a trip to Las Vegas where I ended up playing in goal with and against some MISL greats, and mailed successes all over the world (Netherlands, Denmark, Canada, Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina). I've met collectors from all over the country. I solved one mystery of a missing player, and worked to try to track down a missing referee. And all told, I made it to over 90% completion.

Back in July 2022 at the National, collector Rob Parker helped me out with Chico Borja and Diego Mandagaran for my 1992-93 NPSL set.

Zoran Karic was my most recent TTM success, knocking out the last sig needed on the 1990-91 San Diego All-Stars card after a lengthy wait. I also got Carl Valentine since my last post.

But aside from that... I'm just throwing up my hands. I have tried to do whatever I can for the last few in each set and I'm close to the end.

I'm not killing this project. Never that. But I think it definitely has fallen to the backburner. I'll need assistance and luck to get it the rest of the way over the hump.

And it hurts a bit. Getting SO close to being complete and just not quite being able to get there despite all efforts is hard. As of right now, this is the unsigned list. Players in bold red are confirmed to be deceased.

1988-89: 2 Stan Stamenkovic; 48 Frank Rasmussen

1989-90: 67 Chris Hundelt (corrected); 67 Kevin Hundelt (photo and info actually Chris)

1990-91: 18 Mike Reynolds; 29 Gregg Willin; 34 Slobo Ilijevski; 37 Claudio De Oliveira; 39 Stan Terlecki; 53 Steve Kinsey; 58 Dennis Mepham; 75 Nenad Nikolic; 84 Barry Wallace; 111 Pedro DeBrito; 114 David Byrne; 150 Greg Ion; 159 SD Sockers (need Ralph Black, Donald Cogsville, Jacques Ladouceur, Wes Wade, Paul Wright, and Rene Ortiz); 166 Majid Jay; 173 Tacoma All-Stars (need to restart this, need all players); 177 Wichita All-Stars (need to restart this, need all players); 178 St. Louis All-Stars (need Ilijevski, deceased); 189 Domenic Mobilio; 192 Preki; 204 West Goal (need Kia); 205 Byrne/Fernandez (need Byrne); 217 Earl Foreman

1991-92: 20 Greg Ion; 37 Keith Weller; 40 Omar Gomez; 41 David Byrne; 56 Domenic Mobilio; 68 Chris Simon; 79 Pedro DeBrito; 83 Dali; 84 Marcelo Carrera; 113 Rick Snyder; 118 Claudio De Oliveira; 140 Gregg Willin; 155 KC All-Stars (need Goosens); 158 Wichita All-Stars (need Weller, deceased); 2 Claudio De Oliveira

1992-93: 30 Teddy Krafft; 63 Pedro DeBrito; 87 Joe Kirk; 104 Dale Ervine; 9 Kia (Gold)

That corrected Chris Hundelt corrected card is a killer. I had one copy, mailed it to the last address I had for him, and never saw it again. If you have this card in bulk, I need multiple copies (or just a single signed one). I have six copies of the error; it appears to be much more prolific.

The multi-player cards are just too hard. When you get two of three, mail to the third, and never get it back, it's frustrating to restart. Once you get to five and six player cards, losing one at 80+% completion is a back breaker (90-91 cards 159, 173, and 177 are prima facie evidence of this). I always try to start with the hardest one first and finish with the easiest, but with this project it's tough to know who is going to be easy and who is not.

And so, this may be the end. I'll still have these in my book of want lists, but I think I've done about all that I can. eBay has dried up, with only stuff I already have popping up for sale. Ray in Baltimore has sold off most, if not all of his stuff, and anyways I bought out everything that I needed from him already anyway.

If you don't see another update here, don't be surprised. The flame of hope still burns on these last sigs, but it dims further and further with each passing year.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Chipping Away

Not a whole lot to talk about here over the past few months.

I did finally get my second Pato Margetic knocked out at least, this one being for the 1990-91 set. It was about an eight-month wait, but hey, it's done at least. Considering he signed just one of two for me several years ago and I had seen a few unsigned returns, I was kind of wondering if I'd get the second one done or not.

Others that I forgot to mention since my last update in September: Kevin Crow, Branko Segota, and Brian Quinn all signed my 1990-91 San Diego All-Stars card; Tim Schulz on my 1992-93 NPSL card (mailed to New York City and returned from Colorado); Jim Gorsek signed a team All-Star card; and Terry Rowe and Erik Rasmussen each signed multiples through addresses in Europe.

Unfortunately I'm still waiting on a few that were mailed around the same time as these guys: Carl Valentine to the Vancouver Whitecaps, Preki to a home address, and Zoran Karic to a home address. Karic is the aforementioned San Diego All-Stars card, so clearly I'm highly hopeful for its return. I'd rather not have to restart yet another All-Star card project.

I'll be making a trip all over the east coast this summer mostly for minor league baseball autographs and the National Sports Collectors Convention (NSCC) in Atlantic City. So if any of you like baseball and happen to be in the places we're stopping, come on out, let's meet up. Here's my schedule:

Friday July 22: Huntsville, AL
Saturday July 23: Indianapolis, IN
Sunday July 24: Toledo, OH
Monday, July 25: Sandusky, OH
Tuesday July 26: Akron, OH
Wednesday July 27 through Sunday July 31: Atlantic City, NJ (NSCC)
Saturday July 30: Wilmington, DE
Monday, August 1: Cooperstown, NY
Tuesday August 2: Portland, ME
Wednesday August 3: Worcester, MA and Manchester, NH
Thursday August 4: Scranton, PA
Friday August 5: Baltimore, MD
Saturday August 6: Harrisburg, PA
Sunday August 7: Norfolk, VA
Monday, August 8: Williamsburg, VA
Tuesday August 9: Durham, NC
Wednesday August 10: Greensboro and Winston-Salem, NC
Thursday August 11: Chattanooga, TN
Friday August 12: Little Rock, AR
Saturday August 13: Frisco, TX
Sunday, August 14: RIP Drew. Cause of Death: Exhaustion and Autograph Overdose

My want list (from my previous entry in January) is fully updated. I'm hoping by some crazy outside chance I can find something from it at the National, but I'm not too hopeful. All I've ever found are a few complete sets and boxes.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

2022: Another Want List Update

Another turning of the calendar, so let's update what I still need on this project and see what I can knock out this year! I'd love it if I could finish off the 1988-89, 1989-90, and 1992-93 sets with some buying and trading.

1987-88 Pacific: COMPLETED!

1988-89 Pacific
2 Stan Stamenkovic
48 Frank Rasmussen

1989-90 Pacific
67 Error Chris/Kevin Hundelt (I'd like to get this signed by both of them)
67 Corrected Chris Hundelt

1990-91 Pacific
18 Mike Reynolds
29 Gregg Willin
34 Slobo Ilijevski
37 Claudio De Oliveira
39 Stan Terlecki
53 Steve Kinsey
58 Dennis Mepham
75 Nenad Nikolic
84 Barry Wallace
111 Pedro DeBrito
114 David Byrne
150 Greg Ion
159 SD Sockers
166 Majid Jay
173 Tacoma All-Stars
174 San Diego All-Stars
177 Wichita All-Stars
178 St. Louis All-Stars
189 Domenic Mobilio
192 Preki
204 West Goal
205 David Byrne, George Fernandez
217 Earl Foreman

1991-92 Pacific
20 Greg Ion
37 Keith Weller
40 Omar Gomez
41 David Byrne
56 Domenic Mobilio
68 Chris Simon
79 Pedro DeBrito
83 Dali
84 Marcelo Carrera
95 Carl Valentine
113 Rick Snyder
118 Claudio De Oliveira
140 Gregg Willin
155 KC All-Stars
158 Wichita All-Stars
Claudio De Oliveira

1992-93 Pacific
30 Teddy Krafft
63 Pedro DeBrito
80 Diego Mandagaran
87 Joe Kirk
102 Chico Borja
104 Dale Ervine
9 Kia (GOLD)

The multi-player cards (mostly team All-Stars) I may have partially-completed.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

I don't think so, Tim

I had an interesting success today from Diego Mandagaran.

As with my request a few years ago, Diego included several additional items, namely two signed photos. But as I looked at them, one was personalized to Tim.

Along with it, there was a hand-written letter, also to Tim.

And I then realized the card in there (1990-91 Pacific MISL) was not the one I sent (1992-93 Pacific NPSL).

So, I believe that Tim may have the card I sent and need for my project.

Tim, if you're out there and somehow happen to see this, please contact me so we can swap our items!

And if anyone reading this knows who Tim might be, let me know or let him know. I already messaged indoor soccer video guru Tim Nichols via Facebook to see if it might happen to be him. Other ideas are appreciated!

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

New arrivals and the six year mark

Finishing off the 1987-88 set and grabbing a few needed ones from the 88-89 and 89-90 sets in a trade with a collector in Virginia has put a bit of a spring back in my step, and I dropped twelve requests in the mail a week and a half ago. Four already came back today: Jimmy Daka, Terry Brown, and Alex Tarnoczi for the 1992-93 set, and Yilmaz Orhan, who I asked to sign the 1990-91 St. Louis Arena card. He scored the first MISL goal in the arena's history while playing for Hartford. I also have a 1989-90 Dennis Mepham headed my way, courtesy of a collector in Canada. My other mailings include Erik Rasmussen after I emailed and asked him about signing, and Terry Rowe with an address from a Wichita Wings fan who has been in recent contact with him. On the domestic side, Tim Schulz, Pato Margetic, Diego Mandagaran, Branko Segota, Kevin Crow, and Jim Gorsek were asked to ink their last remaining card-- or add ink to some already-signed multi-player cards.

This week marks six years since I really started this project. At this point, it's getting down to the real nitty gritty-- guys with only one card (Chris Simon, Marcelo Carrera, Rick Snyder), guys living overseas (Jan Goossens, Ron Fearon, David Byrne), guys I can't find at all (Claudio De Oliveira, Steve Kinsey, and all together now-- Majid Jay), the deceased who I can possibly trade for (Keith Weller, Pedro DeBrito, Domenic Mobilio), the deceased who may never have even signed their card at any point (90-91 Mike Reynolds, Stan Terlecki, Nenad Nikolic), and the tough ones needed to finish off a multi-player card but I'm too paranoid to send to because I don't want to risk losing it a second time and starting over again a third time (George Fernandez, Kia, and Dale Ervine).

I've been doing far more lately via trades and purchases than any other method. A little peek at some numbers...

Stats    2015       2016       2017       2018       2019       2020       2021   
Received   62 68 40 5 11 5 6
Sent 88 98 59 6 28 9 17
Pctg. 70.5 69.4 67.8 83.3 39.3 55.6 35.3

Clearly I've slowed my output of letters since 2017, and my rate of success has dropped vastly since 2018. And that's what makes the home stretch of this whole project tough. It sucks to mail one out that you haven't gotten... and then never receive it back at all.

But it's worse when you mail off something already signed by a few players and never see it again. I've lost count of how many times I've had to retry a multi-player card. It's why that success percentage on the right side of this blog has fluctuated a bit on the 1990-91 and 1991-92 sets. Get a card signed by three of four, send to the fourth... and if it disappears you're back to a card signed by zero of four.

And that's why-- especially in-person-- I try to get several copies of a multi-player card signed. You never know when you'll have to try again, so it's nice to have a head start.

When I first started this project out, I never really thought completing it would be a possibility. I knew that there were a few who were dead, a few overseas, and probably would be a few who don't want to sign for whatever reason. In my mind, 75% was going to be a nearly unattainable goal. Instead, I hit that in three years. A year ago I said "I'd like to get to 90% overall in the next year. I'm only six away from having the 1987-88 set kicked; let's see if I can finish that one off too." I achieved both of those goals this year.

So what's my goal for September of 2022? I don't really know. I'd love to have this whole thing finished by then but I know that's a pipe dream-- it's tough to complete a set that has one "white whale" in it (in hobby parlance, it's THE card/autograph/item you need that-- if it exists-- may be a true one-of-a-kind), but the 1990-91 set has at least two in Jay and Nikolic.

The final two 1980's sets are doable. So, I think that's my 2022 goal: finish off the 1988-89 and 1989-90 sets. If my mailings all come back successfully, then I'll be left needing only a 1988-89 Stan Stamenkovich, a 1989-90 Chris Hundelt, and a 1989-90 Chris/Kevin Hundelt error signed by both players. I know there's at least one copy out there of the Stamenkovich signed. And I had an error Hundelt signed by Kevin at one point (before it disappeared in mailing to Chris). I need a few unsigned corrected Chris versions-- I'm tapped out on that one.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

LEVEL UP! Set completed!


When you get this far into a project, victories get to be few and far between. You've already mailed to the guys that are still coaching and therefore easy to find. You've even dug into LinkedIn profiles and Facebook searches, and attended events in Dallas and Las Vegas. You've even emailed former players to enlist their help in tracking some down. You've traded with and bought from everyone you could find.

The early explosion is long over. Now comes the point of frustration-- finding the wrong person with the same name, the dreaded yellow sticker telling they've moved and have no forwarding address on file with USPS, the ones who moved back to Europe, the ones who died, the ones who just don't want to be bothered.

It just makes the successes mean that much more when you do see them.

Hugo Perez was the last one I needed to complete my 1987-88 set. The problem is that his name isn't exactly uncommon. He's still in the public eye, but I don't know much about the postal system of El Salvador to toss out a letter via their National Team. He didn't answer me on Twitter-- either via direct message or public tweet. So, I found what I hoped was an up-to-date address, and threw caution to the wind and gave it a shot.

After five months I wasn't too hopeful. And then today, a couple weeks after the conclusion of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, my Hugo Perez card came back signed.

After getting my first card for it signed almost 20 years ago, the 1987-88 Pacific set... finally... is complete.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

On Display!

First off, a big thanks to Ray for reminding me to post it on here. I think I promoted this everywhere but my blog!

After about a month of work throughout May, I have my site done for showing off everything in the sets I'm doing. It covers every sport, plus my writing and media work. Eventually I may add a page for my trade items or something. I'm not really sure yet.

But go ahead and check it out. It's best viewed on a computer rather than a phone or tablet. The tabbing that I had to do for the set pages' layouts doesn't translate well to smaller screens.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Knocking one out from New Jersey

About a week and a half ago I got another response the Facebook messages I sent out a while back (almost a year ago, I think!). Bobby Joe Esposito said I could just send my cards to his office and he'd sign them for me. So I did.

And he did.

So, that puts me at 103 signed and only ten left to go on the 1988-89 set.

I'm also working on a project right now dealing with all things related to my autograph collection, specifically my signed sets and a place to show off what I have so far. It's online already but only a few people have seen it so far; I don't want to really publicize it until it's completely finished. Once it's totally done, I'll promote it here. The tough part is linking all the photos to the site itself. It takes some repetitive work that gets to be downright mind-numbing. But it should be ready to go by next week if I can keep to my current pace.

It also has several articles I've written for various sites and publications over the years. So if you like what you're reading here, there's even more wide-ranging sports writing there.

Monday, March 1, 2021

A seller's market in the card and autograph hobby

In my last post, I mentioned that Ray in Baltimore was putting up a bunch of signed soccer cards for sale on eBay. Those started going up the other day, so make sure you check the link in my previous post here and see if he has what you need. Good prices on them as well.

I have my eBay account set up so anytime someone puts up a new listing up for any signed Pacific soccer cards (and a few other projects), I get a notification email. Typically I get a new listing every few days on the soccer stuff, and it's often the same ones over and over that are overpriced getting relisted since they didn't sell the first time (sorry random seller, but no one is paying $30 for a signed Tatu card or $10 for Peter Ward). At least a few from Ray were listed on there, but imagine my surprise when I got a bunch of new listings that weren't his!

Even more surprising, one is from Ray's town, but wasn't Ray. I found that it's a guy I've dealt with before though. That person has a couple singles I need as part of a couple lots, plus a small Cleveland Crunch lot I may snag. I messaged him and he wants to see my want list.

And in a posting that had me excited, then dismayed, and finally enraged, another seller has a lot of 104 1987-88 Pacific cards, including the Hugo Perez card I need to finish that set. Excited since the signed card is out there so I don't have to hope for a longshot TTM. Dismayed because the lot is $250. Maybe I'll get lucky and someone I know will pick it up and I can acquire Perez. There are a few others in there that would be nice condition upgrades, but again, I just can't do $250 right now when I'd need maybe 20 of them at most.

I put in a lowball offer that was predictably rejected, and asked the seller if they would be willing to sell the Perez alone if the lot doesn't sell. Adding to the disappointment the answer was no, that it would just go to a big auction house if it doesn't sell (though if it doesn't sell on eBay, do you really think it will sell there?).

And after looking at them very closely with input from two other indoor collectors, that's where the rage sets in: I have some questions about the authenticity of several in the lot. Similar pens, similar slant, similar placement, and at least two in the exact same handwriting (the same capital B which does not match the sigs I have gotten from reliable sources). What's weird is the toughest sigs in the lot all looked good. It was guys who are easier to get who have the questionable sigs. Sure, it's possible that signatures change over time (mine certainly has over the previous 20 years), but that drastically? Whatever it is, it's enough for me to question the Perez. Hard pass: back to the mailbox.

For better or for worse, it's definitely a seller's market right now. The card hobby and industry rebound/bubble has been making news nationwide. My mom up in Oregon said she saw a package on their news about it. Buying supplies like pages, sleeves, and toploaders has been near-impossible online without paying a premium. Junk wax boxes and packs have been going for prices that were unheard of a year or two ago. Grading companies have been forced to raise their prices in an effort to stem the tide of people sending in bulk submissions (45-day gradings are now taking 8-10 months).

So, perhaps the time is right for sellers of even a niche product like indoor soccer cards and autographs to come out of the woodwork and hope to capitalize. But caveat emptor. Do your homework on making sure what you're buying is good. If you ever have questions and want to see some examples for comparisons, feel free to ask me.

Personally, I don't sell any autographs (or at least VERY rarely) but seeing these prices any sane person would have to be considering it. Even with all the doubles I have the most I'll do is trade. I put up a trade post in a Facebook group and have gotten a few bites (one from Germany, one from Hungary). Maybe I'll be able to swing a trade somewhere for Perez and others.

Anyways, Ray's stuff is good, so go and check out his auctions now that he's getting them listed. I think he said he'll be putting up 20 lots every two weeks in what will likely be a multi-year process. Currently it's 5 women, 5 indoor, 5 USA outdoor, and 5 international.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Check out some eBay action!

Texas is finally returning to normal now after a week.

My wife and I were some of the luckier ones in all of this. Our electric bill won't hit $5000. We only were without power for 36 hours (got down to 35 degrees inside). And had our outage lasted longer, we had a plan in place to pack up the cats and live out of her office that had power, heat, internet, and TV still operating.

We still have no water right now but we'll survive that just fine. I try not to get overly political on my autograph-related places and try to maintain a fairly centrist approach, but Greg Abbott's unpreparedness and Ted Cruz's cowardice are bullshit. I can't say the last few years have made me a Democrat, but they have certainly guaranteed that I'm not a Republican.

Anyways, last time I was here I mentioned that I bought a lot from Ray who is liquidating his collection. He just emailed a group of us to let us know that he's going to start putting items up on eBay soon.

So go and check out his sales. His eBay is 02cruiser and the listings will likely start next weekend.