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Confronting the paradox of unopened packs ...

I don’t remember when I first realized there had been people clever enough to have saved unopened material, but I suspect it was around 1980 or so when I started attending regular card shows around Albany, N.Y.

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There were a lot of things that were genuine revelations at the time, perhaps the most compelling being the busting of the Topps monopoly and the emergence of two new card sets every year. But for me it was also startling to realize that there was still such a thing as unopened material from earlier decades.

I remember doing the EPSCC show at the Music Pier on the Jersey Shore in the early 1980s when Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen had unopened boxes of 1975 Topps Minis. With his adroit salesmanship, the excitement was palpable as throngs surrounded his table and packs were ripped open in search of Brett, Yount, Ryan, et. al.

That part I can understand, but in the ensuing two decades the escalation of prices for unopened material has meant that now there’s that looming paradox: many purchases of unopened packs are so expensive that the option of actually opening them is almost taken off the table.

Heck, a significant amount of unopened stuff now gets entombed even before it’s sold, adding to the expense and further complicating the idea of indulging in the wanton act of, gulp, opening it up.

That seems to me to largely sterilize the whole undertaking: the very element that made it all so exciting – the prospect of figurative time travel in being able to open a pack of mint cards from an earlier time – is also what attaches the dramatic premiums that people are willing to pay.

What got me to wondering about all of this was the news that Robert Edward Auctions will be auctioning the unopened 1975 Topps Minis from the Charlie Conlon Estate. That stash reportedly includes 26 unopened cases, so it will be fascinating to see how the veteran auctioneer decides to handle that for the sale.

And that, dear friends, is a tease for tomorrow’s blog entry.

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