Ohio collector readies for his chance to meet Kobe


By Chris Olds | Beckett Basketball Editor

For Nick Gauder, sitting down with his two daughters to open a box of Panini America‘s Gold Standard basketball cards was a chance to share in a moment if there was perhaps a special autograph inside.

It turned out to be something else.

It was something so special that the 33-year-old single dad of two from Columbus, Ohio, ended up turning down a $20,000 offer for the item. It was a Golden Ticket good to meet Kobe Bryant at a Lakers game in Los Angeles. Fast forward a few months and that game is this Sunday as the Lakers host the Dallas Mavericks.

“I really don’t know what I’m going to ask Kobe,” he said. “I just hope I don’t get starstruck when I meet him. I’ve been watching this guy tear it up on the court for 15 years or so now, and have been a huge fan of his and to think I’m about to meet him in person is mind-blowing to me!”

(Click here for a full Gold Standard checklist or to get an OPG.)

How did it all come about? Well, like any other trip to the card shop.

“I bought a box of 2010-11 Panini Gold Standard from my local card shop, Marks Sports Cards Plus, and later that night my two daughters and I opened the box hoping for a Kobe or Kevin Durant auto,” he said. “And I could tell that there was something awkward in the middle of the stack and it wasn’t a card.

“My one daughter Rachel, aka Ray-Ray, thought it was checklist but I knew that wasn’t it, so we went through each card very slowly like we always do. We got to the awkward piece of paper that was a shiny Golden Ticket! I remember watching a video on Panini’s Website a month or so before, where Tracy Hackler was talking about how there were a few Golden Ticket’s randomly inserted in boxes, so once I saw the Ticket I realized what I pulled. I just didn’t know which prize it was until we flipped it over and said a Meet & Greet with Kobe!

“After my daughters and I realized what we pulled, we were all jumping up and down yelling and high-fiving each other,” he said. “It was the best pull we’ve ever had — and we’ve had some good ones.”

While finding something like this might be a tough decision for some, Gauder said there was little chance he was selling the Ticket.

“I never even considered selling it until a couple guys offered me some money for it. A card dealer offered me $10,000 for it and the other guy offered me $20,000,” he said. “Now, I’m a single dad and I’m a barber and that kind of money could do a lot for me and my kids, but me pulling this Golden Ticket to meet Kobe was one-in-a-million and this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.”

And, while the family shared in the fun of finding the Ticket, his daughters also were part of the decision.

“I talked to my kids about it, and they told me to go and not to sell it,” he said. “I might not make six figures, but I make decent money and my daughters are spoiled in a good way, so it’s not like we were barely getting by — because if that was the case I would have had to sell it for them, but thankfully we’re just fine.”

The trip to Los Angeles is only for two people, so rather than make his daughters battle it out he opted to take a different family member along with him — his mom — on his first trip to the City of Angels where they will be staying at the Ritz Carlton.

“She is the best mom in the world,” he said, “and it will be nice to do something nice for her because she’s done so much for me.”

While Gauder is like many collectors — he started in the hobby’s boom years and later returned — the collector of certified autographs and signed memorabilia cards actually had another big pull from Gold Standard after finding the Ticket. Two weeks later, they found a Solid Gold Steve Nash 1/1.

“I’ve pulled a lot of big hits last year, especially from Panini products,” he said. “I love busting boxes, that is my only vice. It’s not a cheap habit, but it is so fun and I love sharing it with my kids. My girls know more about sports than most boys their age thanks to sports cards.”

So, did he have anything else to add after telling his card-collecting story? Yep.

“I am really just so thankful for Panini and this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They have been nothing but great to me and my family, especially Scott Prusha and Tracy Hackler and even the Panini travel agent, Tracy Ingalls. Me and my daughters have been through a lot since my wife left us a year or so ago, but I knew if I kept on being the best dad I can be and keep my faith in God that good things would happen. A year later, my daughters are healthy and both have straight-As in school, my clientele is getting bigger at the barbershop and thanks to everybody at Panini, my mom and I are about to go on this amazing trip.”

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Basketball magazine. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at colds@beckett.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

(Click here for a full Gold Standard checklist or to get an OPG.)


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  1. Richard 9 April, 2012 at 22:25

    No offense, but $20K would potentially do you and awful lot of good in time of need.
    I’d suggest you find a way to leverage this visit into some healthy publicity for your
    shop and I wish you and yours good fortune.

  2. JonathanI 10 April, 2012 at 05:57

    This story is one of the best things I have heard since my Wife told me we were pregnant 13 years ago. I hope Kobe reads this story before meeting Mr. Gauder so he knows how much this means to our winner. Congratulations, Nick!


  3. Tom Waldron 10 April, 2012 at 09:10

    Nice Story my guess is he’s taking a few things to get signed unless the Panini Cops say no Kobe only signs for us.
    I for one am not sure I would turn down 20k but he might have gotten more on Ebay.
    I look forward to the rest of the story after and see what he got.

  4. Richard 10 April, 2012 at 10:58

    I think calling him pathetic is a bit harsh.
    Yes, I personally would have took the money, but then again, Kobe has been his
    hero since he was a kid and he does appear to be a caring dad. He may be able
    to leverage this moment into something to help his business and that may be
    of significant value, perhaps worth more than the 20K he passed on.

  5. XstreamINsanity 10 April, 2012 at 11:00

    Dude, his daughters told him not to pass it up and go. I don’t consider it self-absorbed at all. Mind you, I would have taken the $20,000, put $5K in each of my kids savings account, taken us on a nice trip for a real vacation, and spoiled the kids some (since I don’t get to that often). Congratulations Nick, enjoy your trip.

  6. Joshua (jpleazme805) 10 April, 2012 at 11:10

    I need some luck like that!! I was involuntarily separated from the Navy. Haven’t worked since AUG 2011. Still trying to secure a good paying job that pays similar to what I was making in the Navy as an E-6 with 12+ years…. It is hard out there. I keep my sanity by collecting Basketball cards. Haven’t pulled anything worth mentioning in months… if not since last year.. I spent 6 months of 2011 deployed to South America… Can’t wait for new Panini Products to come out… maybe, they’ll have a “LAKERS PLAYOFF TICKET”. I’ve been watching Kobe since his early years. I remember as a kid going to UC Santa Barbara Thunderdome to watch Kobe & the rest of the Lakers play a charity game. We would always take pictures, then the following year, go get them autographed… I loved those days… but after enlisting in the Navy, those days are no more… only memories of my childhood.

  7. David Johnson 10 April, 2012 at 11:15

    It is a tough call to make in deciding whether to sell it or keep it. It really comes down to how you are doing financially. The guy said he wasn’t struggling and that he spoils his girls, so if that’s the case why not keep it and enjoy the once in a lifetime opportunity. Congratulations on a great pull and hopefully the meet and greet will last for more than just a quick handshake and hello.

  8. mikmouse24 10 April, 2012 at 14:41

    umm- all you guys that are calling him selfish and crazy for not taking the $20k..you are A$$ holes.
    this guy is in it for the hobby OBVIOUSLY and not the money…can you read? he says he didnt NEED the money!
    people like you make me lose my faith in humanity….but this guy…..this guy that chose to take his blessing and share it with his mother and do something nice- and get to experience a once in a life time opportunity…and not get GREEDY like this hobby is now—he replaces my faith. there ARE selfless people out there!
    so those of you that posted AGAINST what the winner did- are just pathetic, greedy, and ruining the hobby for the real collectors
    i award you no points and may god have mercy on your souls

  9. Paul 10 April, 2012 at 15:56

    Kobe is this guys hero?! Do you think Kobe really gives a rats @$$ about this guy and his 2 daughters and what an honor it is to meet him?! Please!!!!! This guy needs to be looking for a real hero for him and his daughters. Ballplayers may be entertaining to watch but are by no means heros, they have done nothing heroic (especially Kobe who raped a woman, cheated on his wife, now is getting a divorce)He should have taken the 20K and put some of it away and splurged on some other cards.

  10. Shaun 10 April, 2012 at 17:30

    It was a trip for 2 correct. Why not go and sell the other spot for some dough. Like take the dealer who offered you the money instead of your mother. I would imagine she could care less, have her babysit the kids. Sucks that Panini couldn’t arrange for both his girls to go. I imagine they wouldn’t need an extra room or anything I mean c’mon… Let him take both his daughters. Another part with selling it woulda been the IRS taxing the crap out of him which I’d bet they are likely to do anyway, wouldn’t they?

  11. Paulo 10 April, 2012 at 18:27

    This guy is very lucky. I agree with most of the comments here, he should have sold it for 20k. He could have bought 4 courtside seats to a LA game and still see Kobe up close, stay in a nice hotel and have some money left to buy another box of Gold standard.

  12. chrisolds 10 April, 2012 at 18:43

    Glad to know the Haterade is flowing … after all, it’s stuff like this that some collectors online have clamored for having for years.

  13. clinton johnson 10 April, 2012 at 22:36

    I think this is a great story, and a great opportunity for him. congratulations

  14. Richard 11 April, 2012 at 00:06

    Chris, while I don’t completely agree with most of the statements (obviously given what I’ve already written) I do understand them.

    1) Kobe is one of the least liked person in sports.

    2) The guy is a single father with responsibilities.

    3) $20,000 is an awful lot of money for most people.

    As to clamoring. Well, I seem to remember some lady on a card with Ken Griffey Jr.
    back in the day because she won some kind of contest. Not a completely new concept.

    As a single father many feel its his duty to ensure that this windfall will help
    secure their future. Personally, I’m hoping he will be able to leverage the
    experience into a win-win.

    I do agree with a previous poster that it would have been smart to have
    a “friend” come with him instead of his mom and who just so happens to be
    paying for the privilege, though that might possibly not have been an option
    available to him.

  15. lani 11 April, 2012 at 06:43

    i wish that people would just be happy for my son and quit critizising him when they know nothing about him. he is a good son and a good father. i’m greatful that he is taking me because i haven’t seen my family that lives in calif for over 10 yrs and haven’t seen my sister for 42 yrs. i know that the money is tempting but who knows if those people would really have given him the money. he never said that kobe was his hero, he just said he’s been a fan of his for a long time so get your story straight paul. it’s a pull of a life time( 1 in a million ) so just let him enjoy no matter what decision he made. Joshua i’m sure that things will get better for you and i will pray for you. thanks for serving our country. panini staff has been nothing but kind to us and we are greatful for this opportunity.

  16. Patricia Gauder 11 April, 2012 at 06:53

    This is my beautiful daughter and her AMAZING father. I am getting so annoyed with the people talking like they have no sense on here. First of all I’m assuming most of the idiots can’t read bc they are running their mouths about things he already said or didn’t say. One, he NEVER said Kobe is his “IDOL”, he said he has watched him play bball since he was a kid and loved him as an athlete. Nick’s “IDOLS” are the men and women who are our soldiers who are brave enough to fight for our country (especially the single parent’s over seas) Second, it is anyone’s OPINION to say if they would have taken the money over the meet and greet and trip. But that would be YOUR choice. His was to take the trip. And although he nor I or anyone else owes anyone any kind of explanation, it’s definately not going to keep our kids from going to college. Not sure who said that, don’t care bc you sound like a total moron. He makes amazing money and my kids will absolutely go to college. First one goes in 5yrs..lol so stupid. My kids dad is an amazing, wonderful father who deserves this more than anyone. I am so happy he pulled it bc he is in this bc he is and has been a COLLECTOR not trying to make money off of stuff, for a long time. And Panini, especially Scott and Tracy are so good to him bc they know hes in this for the fun and collection and not all about money like all the greedy people leaving comments. Nick doesn’t go out blowing money or whatever, he goes to work, comes home, spends time with our girls, goes to the store pretty much every single night to buy my kids something bc he can, he wants to and they deserve it, and he goes to Sport’s Card Plus on the weekends and buys boxes. So he deserves, wants and is going to meet Kobe, so all you “Haters” get a freakin life. Have fun Nick!!!!! :)

  17. Carey Alt 99 11 April, 2012 at 08:40

    Daughter: Daddy can i please have a car

    Father: sorry i can’t afford it

    Daughter: oh right you’d rather meet kobe bryant than do something for me

  18. XstreamINsanity 11 April, 2012 at 08:55

    If lani and Patricia Gauder are who they say they are (can only assume because it’s the internet) then thank you very much for coming here and defending him. I agree, it was his choice and he even talked to his daughters about it. I understand the country is having economic issues, but if he’s well off right now and doesn’t have to worry about the money, the trip is a great opportunity. For those who attack Kobe, most people’s lives under the spot light would look the same if not worse. Yes, he’s a public figure, but he’s still human. For those who say you’d take the money, that’s your opinion (I would to). But for those who say he’s an idiot (essentially) for not taking the money, that also is your opinion, but you don’t live his life, don’t know everything about him, and he may end up just find out of this. Congratulations again Nick and hope you have some pictures to share with us when you get back.

  19. XstreamINsanity 11 April, 2012 at 08:59

    @Carey Alt 99 – It is not a father’s (nor mother’s) responsibility to buy their children a car. Kids have become too spoiled in regards to getting stuff (see “My Sweet 16” on MTV, it’s horrible). When she is of age, she can get a job to save money and if she’s getting an allowance she can save that too. All he has to do is love her, feed her, clothe her, make sure she’s healthy and taken care of, and guide her. Also, as stated before, he spoke to his daughters about this decision.

    “I talked to my kids about it, and they told me to go and not to sell it,” he said.

  20. Cory Furlong 11 April, 2012 at 10:01

    Respect Nicks decision and move on people. Who are any of you to judge? Nick if you read this congrats and enjoy your trip!

  21. chris bradley 11 April, 2012 at 10:33

    From Chris Olds opinion all the way down to the haters opinions,the only one that matters is Nicks.He chose what he wanted and am sure he will have a great time!

  22. Southern 11 April, 2012 at 12:15

    20K is much better than meeting Kobe. Seriously, think Kobe will even remember this guy after it is over? Show me the money! It is a great pull, but the money is much better than meeting a self-absorbed superstar who couldn’t care less about meeting a fan.

  23. RJ 11 April, 2012 at 15:43

    I am happy this gentleman and his family pulled this opportunity from their hobby box. Personally, I would have sold it, but for him it is an experience that can’t have any value. I think it is wonderful that he shares the hobby with his daughters, and now gets to take his mom to California. It truly is a hobby that is shared with the family.

    I’m happy to see this story, someone getting the prize who will cherish and enjoy it, rather than profit off of it.

  24. Walt P 11 April, 2012 at 17:05

    First of all congratulations to the winner. I am a fan of the hobby and collecting, but I like making money and enjoy flipping cards. That opportunity to make that much money or a big hit out a hobby box does not come around that often. Plus, I am not a big fan of meeting celebrity and stars. The majority of them are probably jerks and could care little about the fans or the common man. You got to understand this is all a business. So, I don’t get to attached to my cards especially the high end cards when the market value is high. You can always go back and buy the same card or a less expensive card. I would sold the card and used that money on a once in a lifetime sporting event for me like going to a Super Bowl, World Series, or the NBA Finals. Then you would still have some money left for savings, bills, etc. Congratulations again to the winner. I enjoy collecting cards especially now at 34 years of age. It is a great escape from the stress and issues of the real world and very relaxing especially when you look at the cards from players from the past have conversations with other sport fans and collectors.

  25. Paul 11 April, 2012 at 18:03

    Let me know how it goes after Nick meets Kobe and Kobe blows him off as just another fan. Kobe doesn’t give 2 $h!t$ about his fans, just his money! See how much he admires him then.

  26. Rex 12 April, 2012 at 20:51

    Hey bro! iTs ya boss here. Heck with these haters man. I hope this trip is everything your hoping for and more….. Have fun buddy and enjoy the time with Lani

  27. Princess 17 April, 2012 at 19:47

    All the haters need to stop talking. First of all if he was so self absorbed, he would have took the first offer. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and will get more out of the experience than money can buy. Happy for you and your girls and also the fact your able to reunited with your family from Cali!

  28. Richard 18 April, 2012 at 16:13

    point one was simply made to help explain why so many people would rather
    have the money.

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