By CHRIS OLDS | Beckett Baseball
Plenty has been written about the Stephen Strasburg SuperFractor from 2010 Bowman that sold for $16,403 recently, and plenty has been said about the hobby in the wake of the behemoth of a popular baseball card product that created it.
And all of that was well before Strasburg’s dominating MLB debut.
We’ve heard from Leo Kim, the finder of the Strasburg, the lucky person who beat the one in 1,210,000 odds of finding the card. And, on Tuesday, Beckett Media learned a bit about the buyer of the card, Robert J. Power, a 37-year-old accountant from Michigan who purchased the card last month.
“A card like this is just what the industry needs,” said Power, who talked about his collecting past, his reasoning for buying the card — and even his wife’s reaction to making a pretty substantial purchase — in this exclusive Q&A with Beckett.
Beckett: What’s your collecting background … how long have you collected, who do you collect and so on?
Power: Got started collected baseball cards as a kid in the early 1980s with my father, Jim, as my mentor. I remember getting a pack of cards from my father every now and then for a good report card or for helping out around the house. I collected cards throughout the 1980s — Boggs, Ripken, Gwynn, Sandberg, Gooden, Strawberry, Mattingly. I think the 1984 Tigers really got me seriously collecting.
Always liked older cards from the 1960s and ’70s — I have all the cards of Rod Carew, including his Rookie, and all Roberto Clemente cards except his Rookie. I collected full sets here and there from the ’70s — favorite set owned 1975 Topps Mini cards, which has many nice Rookie Cards. I also have the 1973 full set with Mike Schmidt Rookie. I also accidentally bought one pack of hockey cards as a kid — and as it turns out got a Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card.
I stopped collecting cards in the 1990s when too many sets and makers came out. Plus, card values seemed to drop so dramatically.
Beckett: What made you focus on this card in particular?
Power: I focused on this card because I believe Stephen Strasburg is truly the LeBron James of baseball. His pitching is compared to Nolan Ryan, probably the greatest pitcher ever. He is a player that comes around once every other decade. He is highly respected by Tony Gwynn (one of the game’s greatest hitters), and I have never heard a bad story about him. It’s nice to hear positive talk about athletes as opposed to drug stories, steroids, criminal activity, etc.
This past presidential election, everyone wanted “change.” Well, I think baseball and sports needs the same and players like Stephen Strasburg can provide that change while being positive role models for today’s children. I highly doubt we’ll see Strasburg strike someone out and then do a crazy dance on the mound to taunt the opposing team. He is married, has a great work ethic, has succeeded on all levels and even represented the United States at the Olympics.
I also consider this card to be one-of-a-kind as this is the only copy, and I think there’s something to be said about that. No mass production on this card, which I believe overproduction destroyed the industry in the 1990s. Plus, this is a beautiful card.
Beckett: How did you find out about the auction?
Power: I saw the article on Yahoo about this “crazy auction.” And it really piqued my interest. It actually made me go and look at some of my cards from way back when I was younger. So many good memories. It brought back the days of playing little league, and someone declaring “I’m Dwight Gooden” and another kid saying “Well, I’m Wade Boggs” or “I’m Darryl Strawberry.” I can picture kids today yelling “I’m Stephen Strasburg.”
So I thought I’d take a stab at winning the auction. I have read online that some people think a card like this will bring some attention to the card-collecting industry — and that is overall good for the industry. Although I’ve read some negative articles, too. One guy referred to me as “Mr. $16,403” and how morally corrupt I must be. Ridiculous! I just shook my head, even though I wanted to have a couple of my elderly tax clients call him and tell him how I did their returns at no charge. But why bother.
Beckett: How focused were you on owning the card… did it go for more or less than you expected? Would you have gone higher?
Power: Once I started watching the auction, it was addictive. I called the seller, Leonard Kim, to get pre-approved for bidding. I wanted to verify he was legit, and also wanted to let him know that I was a “real bidder,” not a “bad eBayer.” Leonard was a nice guy to talk with. He seems to really have a passion for cards. Sure, he’s making a profit, but there’s nothing wrong with that. I think he is one of the good guys in the industry.
So I would look the price up every hour or so. I actually put the winning bid in over my iPhone at a Memorial Day get together with a group of friends while playing a board game. I was expecting the last minute bidding to go crazy, but luckily for me it didn’t.
I thought the winning bid would be around $22,000. My max would have been $20,000 — so I guess technically I didn’t think I’d win the auction. So once I won at $16,403, I was very excited.
Beckett: Have you made any other card/memorabilia purchase like this one?
Power: I haven’t purchased any baseball cards or memorabilia in many years. I bought a couple of cards here and there a few years back to fill some of my sets, but nothing like this purchase. I think there has been a lot of negativity recently in sports, so someone like Strasburg coming along is just what sports needs. And a card like this is just what the industry needs to attract both the young collectors, and hopefully to bring back some collectors who have been absent for awhile, like myself.
Beckett: Did you have any thoughts of trying to re-sell the card after Strasburg’s first start? Or is this purchase a long-term one?
Power: His first start was amazing. My wife, Michele, and I went to a sports bar to watch it, and it was amazing how everyone was cheering and clapping for every pitch. I actually hadn’t received the card as of his first start, so I got nervous something would go wrong with the transaction.
I was glad the auction was over before his first start, otherwise the sales price would have been much higher in my opinion.
I didn’t think of selling the card. I was just anxious to actually receive it. As for this being a long-term purchase or not, it’s difficult to say. Luckily, my wife is very supportive, even though her first response was “Are you crazy? That is a lot of money for one baseball card.” But I think after his first start, she was even more supportive.
I would like to keep it displayed at my office, but I suppose everything has its price. I do consider it to be an investment, hopefully in the best pitcher of all time. But with Strasburg-mania running so high, I have thought about posting it on eBay just to gauge the interest. I guess we’ll see.
Beckett: What other types of cards or items might you be looking to add to a collection?
Power: Being originally from Ohio, I have been looking at purchasing some autographed college jerseys of some of the Ohio State Buckeyes to decorate my office. My buddy and I have had some debates on which five jerseys would be the best to have. I always say Eddie George, Troy Smith, Orlando Pace, Craig Krenzel and Chris Spielman. But now living in the Detroit area, I’ve also been thinking of adding some autographed Red Wings jerseys. I suppose I could add a combination of Buckeyes and Red Wings, along with a Stephen Strasburg jersey, since they are all the color red.
Beckett: Now that you have what many say is a dream card, what is one dream item you’d want to add to your collection?
Power: Actually this card is my dream, especially if its purchase can help an industry that was once great … although a Clemente Rookie Card would be nice, too.
While it wasn’t part of the formal Q&A, we couldn’t help but bring up the 1/1 Strasburg Red Bowman autograph — the one card in 2010 Bowman that might trump the SuperFractor in its significance — a card that’s presently listed on eBay with a $50,000 Buy It Now pricetag.
Power didn’t commit to being interested in that card, but offered this thought:
“I’m happy to see the final 1/1 card has been found,” he said. “Not sure I agree with the $50,000 price tag, but I suppose if it sells for that, then I will be a happy man with my card at $16,403.”
Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an e-mail to him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.