A native of the great state of Ohio, Adam Sanders and I link up from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean to talk Svengoolie, Sports Cards, and Blogging. I am Adam’s 58th Follower on Cardboard Clubhouse, but wish I would have discovered his blog years ago. Articulate and fun, Cardboard Clubhouse is a great read in the blogging community. We both share a lot in common and so am excited to chat more in this interview. Thanks for tuning in and I hope you enjoy our discussion!
[Ryan] Hey Adam, congratulations on being the first guest of 2019. Thanks for taking the time to do this interview for the “Fellow Card Collector” series. You and I share a lot of common interests. I collect older Japanese Pro Wrestling Mini Cards, Menko, and Bromides from the 1970s and early 1980s and I know you also have an interest in Japanese pro wrestling. Plus, you are in the Ohio area and I spent three great years of my life up in Dayton. My son is a die-hard Bengals fan to boot. This interview was bound to happen sooner or later!
[Adam] Hi Ryan and greetings from Trenton, Ohio, which is about 30 minutes or so from the south end of the Dayton metro area. Thanks for having me. I appreciate the opportunity to do this. When I first saw that you were doing these, I knew I had to throw my name in the hat. Now that you mention it, I guess we do share a lot of interests, especially towards Japanese pro wrestling. I’m not just a fan of Japanese pro wrestling, but I’m an avid fan of pro wrestling in general. I’m super excited to get started with this interview. I’m a bit of a talker, especially went I get talking about subjects I’m passionate about, so be warned, some of these answers might be a bit lengthy.
[Ryan] No worries, I’m excited we were able to tag up and I’m looking forward to hearing more of your story. But before we begin, let’s chat about the white elephant in the room….what the heck is a Svengoolie?
[Adam] I see you’ve read my profile! *laughs* Ok, so, Svengoolie is a TV horror host with a program that airs Saturday nights at 8:00 on the MeTV network where he shows classic horror and sci-fi. Stuff like the original “Dracula” film with Bela Lugosi, “Creature from the Black Lagoon”, all the original Frankenstein movies. He also shows stuff like the Godzilla films from the 70s and even showed “Duel” a while back. So, it’s all over the map and there’s even some comedies like “Ghost and Mr. Chicken” and “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein”. To be honest though, I usually only watch it when there’s a film on there that I’m interested in but there’s something for everyone. If you check your local listings, MeTV should be listed on your guide. If you don’t have cable, hook up some old-fashioned rabbit ears and it should be a sub-channel of one of your local stations if it’s available in your area. His website has information about what movie will be showing on the next episode and the MeTV website has a channel finder as well if you want to see if it’s available in your area. For a Halloween geek like me, it’s something fun to watch on occasion and spreads a bit of Halloween cheer each week.
[Ryan] Oh wow, okay, you have me sold on checking out an episode. It’ll have to wait a few months until we get back in the States, though. Any trading cards of him by chance?
[Adam] No, unfortunately, no trading cards of him that I know of, but his store does have buttons and magnets you can buy. I would like to see cards of horror hosts though! That’d be a fun set to collect.
[Ryan] I bet, it would be a pretty niche, but unique set for sure. Alright, let’s talk about how you got interested in baseball and your passion for baseball cards. You kind of hit the tail end of the 1980s/1990s card boom with your first pack in 1991. Had you been born a few years later, you might have missed card collecting all together.
[Adam] You know, I can’t really recall exactly how I got interested in baseball and baseball cards. From what I can remember, the first pack I ever opened was a 1991 Donruss pack from Series 1, that means I would’ve been six years old at the time. I believe it was my uncle who’d bought it for me and I remember thumbing through the cards while my mom and I were in line at the drive-thru at Hardee’s. The only two cards I remember from the pack are Scott Chiamparino and Hector Villanueva. I think there may have been a Norm Charlton or Rob Dibble card in there too but I’m not sure. I was hooked after that. Baseball cards will always be number one for me just because I grew up a baseball fan as my grandparents and my mom would watch Reds games on TV. I think I probably would’ve still gotten into card collecting had I been born a few years later, although it would’ve been stuff more in the late 90s probably.
[Ryan] Nice, it sounds like your family bleeds Reds throughout! I like to ask everyone this…..what was running through your mind on Tuesday, July 21, 2015 at 4:00PM when you published your first post at Cardboard Clubhouse?
[Adam] I think before answering that I should preface it by saying that when I thought of baseball card blogs, I had this misconception in my head that they were all about showing off crazy hits, high end cards, case breaks, etc. Basically, I thought that’s all baseball card blogs would be. Then I came across two blogs, Night Owl Cards run by the eponymous Night Owl, and the Dime Boxes blog run by Nick, which I really enjoyed reading. I realized after reading those blogs that anything I’d previously thought about the card collecting community was wrong. So, that’s what inspired me to start a blog, Dime Boxes in particular was probably the most influential as it spoke to me as I’m more of a budget minded collector and don’t chase crazy hits, super expensive cards, and things like that.
So, after reading the blogs one day I just decided to start up my own. That first post I consider more of an introduction of myself to the fellow card bloggers out there. But to be honest, when I hit the “publish” button on that first post, there was a twinge of self-doubt more than anything and my first initial thought was “there’s no way anyone will ever read this” and that’s the truth. But then, a funny thing happened, people started reading it and I started getting followers and I realized that “hey, you’ve got something here” so I just kept on writing about cards and whatever else I could find. It’s something I really enjoy doing and it’s something I’m passionate about so I think that’s what keeps me motivated to write.
You know, I’d done some blogging previously and it never got off the ground, with the exception of a pro wrestling review blog I did with some friends of mine back in the mid-to-late 2000’s that had a decent little following. Most times when I would do a solo blog venture, it would flame out or I would lose interest after a few posts. I’d actually attempted a baseball card blog with the same name around 2012 or so and I tried to model it based on a baseball history blog I was reading at the time. I think that’s where I went wrong with that first attempt. Instead of trying to make it my own, I tried to be a clone of another successful blog.
[Ryan] Well, you’ve hit upon the right mix it seems of originality, passion, and fun with 60 Followers! I’m proud to be your 58th Follower as I really like your writing style and you do a great job of making your blog flow well and fun! It’d be great to sit down and have a beer to discuss all things sports cards someday. What have you learned in these 3.5 years of blogging that have contributed to your blog’s success? What do the next 3.5 year bring to you and the blogging world?
[Adam] Thanks for the kind words. I really appreciate it. I try to keep things loose and fun on the blog. I also try to perhaps educate here and there if possible, as well. If you ever come back through Dayton or Cincinnati, let me know, I’d love to sit down and have a drink with you as well.
I think that the one thing I’ve learned is to have fun. The thing I enjoy most is writing for fun and it helps that I also enjoy writing about a topic I’m passionate about, that being sports cards. I also like to throw in other things from time to time that are not sports card related, like posts about stuff I do during the Halloween season, or posts about old video tapes, or even stuff inside old baseball programs I happen to find, just to mix up the flavor every now and then and I think that my readers have enjoyed that as well.
[Ryan] Speaking of old video tapes, I’ve heard VHS tapes are making a comeback since movies made on VHS sometimes contain extra parts of the movie not found anywhere else. Any truth to the popularity reemergence in your experience?[Adam] I haven’t heard of VHS tapes making a comeback but with the current nostalgia trend it wouldn’t honestly surprise me. I think if VHS tapes did start coming back though the problem would be having something to play them on. I don’t think anyone makes standalone VCRs anymore except for maybe the occasional DVD/VCR combo player that I’ve seen here and there. The last VCR I had broke a few years ago so trying to find a reliable one has been a challenge to say the least. The thing is though, they wouldn’t be the same. At least it wouldn’t feel the same to me. Besides cards, I like to collect old pro wrestling VHS tapes and even some horror movie tapes (mainly for the cool box art). Popping those in and watching those tapes just brings back a feeling of nostalgia that I don’t think could be accomplished with a modern comeback on VHS tapes.
[Ryan] Back to Cardboard Clubhouse…you’ve been reestablished in the hobby for about 6 years now which is similar to a lot of stories with the current community of bloggers. We all collected in the 1980s/1990s, got out for a while, and the came back in it with more focus and expendable income. How do you like to distinguish yourself as a collector in the vast blogging community where a lot of us have the same background?
[Adam] Overall, I think the generation who grew up as kids in the 80s/90s is getting back into their old toys, video games, etc. That’s why you see toy shops popping up selling toys from the 80s and 90s, classic gaming systems like the NES, Super NES, and Genesis are coming back into style. Heck, I was in Target the other day and I saw records for sale! I guess you could say what’s old is new again, right?
Anyway, I think the thing that made me want to get back into baseball card collecting was the fact that I needed a hobby to occupy my time. My wife was working 50-60 hours a week as a general manager of a local bakery chain and I was only working part-time maybe about 30-32 hours a week as an assistant manager of an independent movie theater that had just opened up. So, at lot of the time, my wife would be at work and I’d be at home watching TV if I wasn’t doing chores. I needed something to occupy my time like I said. So, one day, out of the blue, I asked if her if we could stop by the baseball card shop. She said sure, I’m guessing since it was right by the library and we had to stop there anyway to return some movies. So, we stopped at the shop, Hooterville Sports Cards in Fairfield, Ohio, and I remember distinctly what I bought that day … a 1974 Topps Willie McCovey error card and a Beckett Magazine. That one little trip is what got me back into collecting. From there, I’ve never looked back.
As far as distinguishing myself as a collector, I want to be known as the person who collects for fun. Because, at the end of the day, that’s what collecting is supposed to be, fun. It’s a hobby … an escape. Now, there are those out there who look at it more as a business and that’s fine. There are also some who enjoy trolling people on social media and taking the fun out of everything. That’s one of the main reasons I deleted my Twitter page, it was taking the fun out of everything. But anyway, having fun is the name of the game and that’s one of the reasons I enjoy writing and chatting about cards.
[Ryan] Ah okay, I am starting to see the movie connection with movie theaters, VHS tapes and VHS blog posts, and Svengoolie. Was there something early on before baseball cards that got you into movies?
[Adam] You know, kind of like baseball itself, I really don’t remember how I got into movies. I think the first movie my mom ever took me to see was one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies, maybe the 2nd one, I think? Not sure. Anyway, I remember being amazed by the size of the theater lobby and I remember seeing “Coming Soon: Joe vs The Volcano” on the inside marquee. I didn’t make it through the whole movie just probably because I was like 5 or 6 at the time but going to the movies or going to the local video store and renting movies was a constant thing in my childhood.
Working in and out of movie theaters since 2002 has really lessened the desire for me to actually go out to a theater and watch a movie. I prefer to watch stuff at home because it’s just more comfortable. I’ve got a decent blu-ray collection and I still pick-up recent movies on blu-ray from the library. It’s nice because the library is literally around the corner from my house and I just request online what I want then I get an email when it’s in. I can also request items from any other library in Ohio and they’ll get shipped right to the library in town for me to pick up. It’s super convenient as I’m not really into streaming movies. Libraries just aren’t for stuffy old books anymore!
[Ryan] I imagine we are going to see a decline in movie theaters like we have with cards shops, especially since you can enjoy a lot of them from home. Every time I see a card shop, I have to stop though. You never know what you are going to find. Plus, they make for great blog posts. Speaking of posts, what has been your most well-received series of posts? I personally like your flea-market/yard-sale finds and card shop reviews.
[Adam] Thanks! I appreciate that! The card shop reviews are pretty well received and I enjoyed writing them but I’ve run out of shops to feature.
The yard sale posts are my favorite to write, especially when I go hunting for cards amongst the chaos known as the annual city-wide garage sale in mid-May. I usually put up a post on the community Facebook page and ask about cards. I then check out those leads based on the comments and messages I get. I mentioned doing videos in my post about my collecting hopes this year and I think that would be the perfect opportunity to launch that.
As far as the ones that get the best reception, I think people seem to be enjoying my ongoing “Around the Horn” series where I’m looking at cards in my collection from each team. I’m about halfway through the American League currently. I also get a lot of good feedback from wrestling fans in regards to my “Wacky Wrestling VHS Boxes” series that looks at classic pro wrestling VHS boxes from the 80s and 90s.
[Ryan] Ooo, tell me about this glorious-sounding Trenton city-wide garage sale in May!
[Adam] It’s probably the biggest event in town the whole year! *laughs* I still live in the town I grew up in so as long as I can remember, the third weekend in May is the annual city-wide garage sale and it’s the most insane thing you’ll ever see. Think of a small country town turning into a giant flea market for one weekend a year. Tons of people in town set-up big sales and not only sell trinkets and unwanted stuff but even food like funnel cakes, hot dogs, burgers, walking tacos, etc. There are even those who come from out of town to set up and a few of the local churches will even sell spots in their parking lots for people to set up for a donation to the church. Then everyone descends on the town like a pack of locusts. On a nice weekend, the streets in neighborhoods and up on the main road are just jammed with people and cars going everywhere. I’ve seen cars from as far south as Alabama and as far west as Missouri. It’s absolutely one of the craziest things you’ll ever see.
[Ryan] Now that is my kind of shopping! You mentioned doing videos, my son and I are planning on starting a YouTube channel focused around Japanese box breaks. Good luck on yours, maybe we can do a duo one someday. Looking across the sports card bloggiverse, what are your favorite series that your fellow bloggers run?
[Adam] There are a lot of good series out there, too many to name honestly. But a few I really like in no particular order:
“Short-Term Stops” by Nick at Dime Boxes
“Buyback Frankenset” and the “COMC Blaster” by ShoeboxLegends
The “Topps Rookie Cup” series by Brian at HSCA
“Awesome Night Card” by Night Owl
The “Sports Card Tour” by Chris at The Collector
“Buyback Frankenset” and the “COMC Blaster” by ShoeboxLegends
The “Topps Rookie Cup” series by Brian at HSCA
“Awesome Night Card” by Night Owl
The “Sports Card Tour” by Chris at The Collector
Like I said, there are just too many good series out there but off the top of my head, those are my favorites to read. Some of them I’m actually going back and getting caught up on. I’m looking forward to Night Owl’s Top Cards of the 80s when that starts up.
[Ryan] You definitely have some heavy hitters on the list. Let’s shift a little bit and talk about cards shops now as it sounds like card shops have helped shape you as a collector. Tell me about the time when you used to work at a card shop. What was it like? Where was it at? What sparked you to get a job there?
[Adam] Well, that was actually my first job ever! Forgive me if I get long winded here, but it’s quite the story.
It was probably late 2001 and I was kind of in, kind of out of collecting. I don’t remember how I came across it but I found this place called Steve’s Sports Cards in Middletown, Ohio. It was a small shop that split the shopping center suite it was in with a line of post office boxes. Strange, I know. Anyway, this was about the time I got my license and I was a junior in high school and every other day after school I would go see my grandparents for a little bit. I would also stop in that card shop as it was about 10 minutes from their house. I thought it’d be so cool to work in a card shop so I kept asking the owner, Steve, every time I went in there if he needed any help. Finally, he told me he would hire me if I got two reference letters from my teachers. So, I did. I brought those back a week or so later, and he gave me a job. I started on Super Bowl Sunday in 2002. It wasn’t much, just 4-5 hours watching the shop on a Sunday to start with. Eventually though, he gave me more responsibility, like running tables at card shows and covering the shop on Saturdays and after school if needed. Then came the crazy summer of 2003 and working the booth every Saturday at the flea market.
By the summer of 2003, I had graduated high school and was working weekends with some friends of mine at a run down, 10-screen movie theater in Hamilton, Ohio. At the time too, I was still doing some side work for Steve at the card shop. Here’s how insane my weekends would be …. Friday, go to the card shop in the afternoon and load up my Honda Accord with everything needed for the flea market the next day. I’m talking tables, monster boxes, portable display cases, wax packs, everything. You name it, I probably somehow stuffed it in that car. Then, I would go from there and work at the theater from 6-midnight. I’d usually get home around 2AM after having an after-work meal with friends, then get up the next morning, which would be Saturday, be at the flea market for set-up by 8AM, and set up everything. I’d work the flea market until about 2:30 or 3:00, then I’d break everything down, and put it back in my card, drive back to the shop, take everything from my car and help load it into the owner’s car for the next day, drive from Middletown to Hamilton, stopping at home to have a quick bite to eat and change clothes, and then head off to the theater to work another 6-midnight shift, and then another after work meal with friends and then to bed at about 2:00 AM. Sunday would either be an off-day or I’d work from Noon-6 at the theater or help cover the shop if I wasn’t working the theater.
I did that craziness all through that summer until I started college at Miami University Middletown that fall. By then, I gave up the card shop for working at the theater but I would still get called from time to time to cover the shop until it closed in 2004. Working at that shop was the last bit of my original collecting bug. I ended up selling my old collection once I got out of it (something I definitely regret doing since) and I never really had a second thought about collecting again until that fateful day that I got back into it.
[Ryan] Oh wow, did you ever set up at the Nutter Center card shows in Dayton that summer? I remember attending some shows in late summer-early fall that year. Who knows, we might have run across each other already. Do you remember what you had in that first iteration of you collection?
[Adam] Unfortunately, I never did get the opportunity to set up at the Nutter Center show. That was a show that Steve, the shop owner, would set up at. However, I did assist him with set-up at a Hara Arena show once and ran a table a few times at the Sharonville show. The main show I would do for him was the Dayton Mall Holiday Inn show every few months.
As far as the first iteration of my collection goes, I remember clearly having a little bit of everything. I used to spend days on my summer break sorting and organizing my cards at my grandparents’ house. I had everything in binders at that point and when I wanted something to do or a project to occupy my time, I’d sort my cards. Sometimes it would be by team, other times it would be by set. They had a big table in the basement along with a hangout room where I would just leave my cards if I was in the middle of sorting. Another fun thing I would do would build a baseball diamond out of those K’Nex toys in the middle of the hangout room and find some cards and do a 3-4 inning game with them.
I’d say the first run of cards I had went up until about ’97 or so, maybe some early ’98 stuff. By then I’d kind of gotten out of it.
[Ryan] Speaking of sorting, you were dabbling in COMC back in 2015 way before I had even heard of it. I imagine there is a struggle between wanting to visit local card shops that you detail extremely well on your blog and wanting an affordable selection of singles to choose from that COMC offers. Where is the balance where both can survive?
[Adam] Yeah, the struggle is real no doubt! *laughs*. I really wish I had more time to get out to the card shops but in reality, I don’t and the times I do get a chance to go in, I don’t get to sift through the bargain boxes there as much as I’d like because it’s usually a quick stop for supplies or to grab some packs while I’m out with the family. A lot of the older card shops, at least in my area, seem to be surviving on sales of packs and boxes, and none of them have any sort of online store either. There’s a new shop that opened up a while back that seems to be catering to the more mid to high end crowd with autograph signings and selling lots of memorabilia more than cards and does a lot of online sales. They seem to be more in tune with the current generation of collectors.
COMC is great because I can go through and look at cards for sale from the comfort of my couch, or if I’m killing time at the library or wherever I happen to be. I’ll usually just go through, put the cards I like on my watch list, and then from there, I’ll order cards. I don’t order a lot from COMC, maybe about 2-3 times a year but when I do order, I like to make it count and I’ll do a 50-60 card order.
It’s a delicate balance for both being able to survive though. I think the biggest thing is that the stores probably need to invest in promotions to bring people in the door. Two of my favorite shops often run promotions to bring people in. One of them actually does a small in-store card show 2-3 times a year and the other one, which is more geared towards comics and gaming, runs a promotion every Saturday where they give you 20% off all Pokemon purchases. I would think also it would benefit shop owners to set up a table or two at a local show and pass out business cards with each purchase.
[Ryan] It’ll be interesting to see the direction that brick-and-mortar card shops take in the next few decades. What are some of the prominent card shops in the greater Cincinnati area these days? Any regular card shows in the area besides the Nutter Center?
[Adam] I think there’s one or two card shops out on the West End of Cincinnati itself, but it’s too far from where I live for me to consider venturing out there. The shops that I tend to frequent are Hooterville Sports Cards in Fairfield; Maverick’s in Kettering, which is about a mile from the big shopping center called The Greene and also in the same plaza as a really cool retro game store called Game Swap; and TCI Sports Fan in Dayton. There’s also a shop in Lebanon called Cin-City Collectibles that has a candy store attached to it.
Funny you should mention the Nutter Center show, that’s actually my favorite show that I go to! I like it because it’s not a huge show but always has enough vendors to where there’s a good variety and it feels very laid back and relaxed, especially when it’s set up in the gym, which is where it is 95% of the time. That’s a big thing for me when I go to shows, the vibe. I can tell instantly if it’s going to be chill or if it’s going to be kind of an uptight thing. The vibe at Nutter Center is always friendly and welcoming and the guy who runs it is super cool. It’s been running monthly since 1992 which is a heck of a long time.
In terms of other shows, the only other notable ones are the shows at the Sharonville Clarion off of I-275 in northern Cincinnati and the twice a year mega-show at Moeller High School that brings in autograph guests and has nearly 100 tables.
[Ryan] That’s good to hear about the Nutter Center, but Moeller High School sounds like a great one too. I’ve looked at your want list and you are a very eclectic collector these days! Describe for your readers what the consistency of your collection is? Which sports? More modern? What is your favorite brand? Favorite set? What is your collection’s pride-and-joy?
[Adam] I’d have to say my collection is 75% baseball, 10% hockey, 5% wrestling/MMA, 3% football, and 2% everything else (which would include non-sports, basketball, racing, etc.). As I said earlier, I collect a wide variety of things. If I kept my collection to just Reds cards for example, then I’d honestly get bored because it would be too focused. Which is why I like to collect a wide variety of different things I’m interested in, there’s always something to discover.
As far as modern cards go, the brands I really like to collect from Topps are Flagship, Heritage, Gypsy Queen, occasionally Stadium Club, and Archives, although I felt a bit let down by Archives this past year. From Panini I, usually like to pick up packs of Donruss and Diamond Kings. I’ll also pick up some WWE, hockey, or football cards from Target if I’m there and I have some extra cash on me. I’d have to say my favorite brand is probably Heritage if I really had to pick one. Last year’s Heritage baseball cards were just tremendous and the wrestling Heritage cards were almost just as good.
I’ve got a couple cards I could consider the “pride and joy” of my collection. I think the first would be a 1952 Topps Owen Friend card. It’s a special card to me because it’s the first 1952 Topps card I ever bought. I found it in a vintage markdown bin at a card shop and when I saw it, I just had to have it. The other card I could make that claim for would be the 1985 Donruss Pete Rose card. It’s one of the first cards I bought when I got back into collecting and it’s also the first card I bought that featured Pete Rose in an Expos uniform of all things.
[Ryan] I’m not much of a collector of modern US cards, but I really like the Heritage prodcuts you mention. As an avid collector and a person who showcases their retail pulls, what are the card companies doing right to keep you spending your hard-earned money on their products? Where do they need to improve?
[Adam] That’s something I’ve never really thought about to be quite honest. Here’s the way I kind of think about it, and this may be sort of an indirect answer, but in my opinion the card companies tend to do a good job of making cards fun. Topps really improved on their picture quality, using more Stadium Club-esque pictures, on the 2018 flagship and the design was definitely one of the better ones of the past few years. Also, Heritage was a good throwback to the 1969 design. Also, I liked the introduction of Big League this year as another affordable set geared towards budget collectors like myself. I guess you could say it’s the little things they are doing right.
As far as improvements go, I would like to see cutting back on the parallels and I think it’s gone a bit overboard on those. Donruss was kind especially guilty of that last year with all the nickname variations, parallels of those variations, and so on.
I hope that sort of answers your question.
[Ryan] It does, thanks! Okay, let’s wrap this up and get it out to the readers. Thanks so much for taking the time and I’m hoping we get a lot of positive feedback with the interview.
[Adam] I hope so too! Again, I appreciate you having me on to do this interview it’s been a lot of fun and some of the questions really made me think. I’m looking forward to reading more of these. Also, I want to say thank you to everyone who reads and comments on my blog. You really don’t know how much I appreciate that. It really keeps me motivated to continue writing and sharing things with the card collection blogosphere. I’m really going to make a conscious effort this year to return the favor and leave more comments on other blogs as well.
If anyone has any questions, leave them in the comments section below. Thanks!