A Rare Card, Wrong Address, Damaged Package — And Not Caring One Bit

After nearly two years of looking, a rare card made its way into my collection … barely

Two of the many sets I’ve been collecting for a while have been the W512 and W513 Famous People strip cards. They are among the more common strip issues and, while they are classified as two different sets (W512 was issued from 1925-27 while W513 came in 1928), they are really one big set. The biggest evidence for that is the numbering of the cards. W512 covers cards No. 1-50 while W513 picks up at 51 and goes through 100. While there are 100 cards in the set, technically there are more as the set has several variations.

Babe Ruth W512 Strip CardThe entire set covers a wide range of subjects. 80 of the 100 cards feature athletes, so it’s mostly a sports issue. But there are 20 cards of famous actors and actresses, too. Still, it’s primarily a sports set and it appeals to baseball card collectors since more than 1/3 (36 cards) of the entire set feature baseball players.

I’d had relatively little trouble making good progress in the set. The W513 cards are tougher since they were only believed to have been printed in one year as opposed to three years of the W512 printing. still, since about half of them (W513 cards) are baseball players, you see them for sale quite a bit because there’s a good market for them.

A while back, I’d gotten near completion, accumulating 98 of the 100 cards. A year ago, I picked up the card of boxer Phil Scott to get to 97 and a couple of months after that, I found aviator Charles Lindbergh to get me to 98.

And then, I was stuck.

The big one I needed was Babe Ruth. Now, Ruth’s card is always available. The prices are usually a bit more than I want to pay with even low-grade cards usually hovering in the $500 range. But I wasn’t going to buy that card first unless I found an unbelievable deal, which I had not.

No, I wanted to get another aviator, Richard Byrd, out of the way first. His was the only other card stopping me from completion. The problem was that, I’d not seen one for sale. I’m sure one has been somewhere — I’d just not seen it in nearly two years of looking. Admittedly, I’d not been looking all that closely for about a year. But in the past year, I’d checked seemingly everywhere and the only time I remember seeing it was as part of an uncut sheet of 25 cards that was several hundred dollars. Byrd was elusive.

I looked everywhere. And given that I’d been able to find every other card relatively easy, I was starting to think that the card may even be being hoarded for some dumb reason. To be fair, aviator cards like Byrd and Chamberlain are certainly collected. The thing I found particularly odd was that in the time building the set, I’d seen several Chamberlain cards and not a single Byrd.

And then it happened.

The Find and a Poor Delivery of a Not So Poor Card

I’d been looking for the Byrd card for some time and had it listed as a saved search in my eBay account. I’d seen hits for that search nearly every day. The only problem was that since the card can easily be miscategorized as a W512 or even just called a basic strip card, I couldn’t just search for a Byrd W513. I’d been searching for anything related to Byrd. Thus, the hits were always other items I was not interested in.

That changed recently when I clicked on the saved search and, to my surprise, there in all its glory was a W513 Byrd card.

I look for a lot of rarer cards and the thrill of finding one is always the same — these are the steps that usually take place:

  1. Initial excitement, often accompanied by a sound a 12-year-old girl might make
  2. A quick check to make sure it’s not a reprint or scam
  3. More excitement, sometimes followed by more odd sounds (pending the results of #2)
  4. Genuine relief
  5. A pause for reflection (This is where I say I’d like to thank the Academy for this award)
  6. Oh, crap, I better buy it

Now, the card was a PSA 6. Technically, it is the second highest graded copy out there (there’s one PSA 7 and only five total Byrd cards graded). But all of the cards in my set (aside from my Ty Cobb and, ultimately, my Babe Ruth when I get it) are ungraded and in a binder. So I would much rather have found a lesser raw copy. But, hey, when you don’t see a card in two years you stop acting picky.

Damaged Envelope

At this point, honestly, if I had to pay over $100 for an even high grade card, I would have. For some perspective, a decent raw Byrd card would probably sell for like $10-$15. The thought of paying that much for an aviator would have made me sick but that’s how desperately I needed it.

I paid a bit more for this card than I wanted to but given its grade and the rarity, had no problems buying it.

I wasted little time and paid for it immediately. It showed up promptly today with one problem — The package was nearly destroyed.

I was a little concerned when I saw the envelope in the mailbox. It was heavily soiled with ‘something’ and, while still sealed, it had several tears in it, including a rather large one. Note that the end here where it is torn is from me opening it from that part. But the rest is how it showed up. Addresses and shipping information are covered up with the pretty orange boxes, obviously.

Richard Byrd W513 PSA 6I wasn’t sure what the card inside was initially. I buy so much stuff that that’s pretty common. And upon opening it, I found the Byrd card, still in the PSA case but with the case significantly cracked.

The good news, if there can be any, is that the card did show up. I’ve seen envelopes like this show up inside one of those We Care USPS envelopes (which essentially means, ‘We tried but tough luck’) with or without the contents. This was probably close to that but not quite.

Better yet, the card was not damaged. The crack in the case extends right to the inset of the case for the card but stops short of the card itself. I do not see any damage at all to the card — only the case.

While some deliveries can be the fault of USPS, the seller really slipped up here. First, he actually had my address wrong on the package so it’s a wonder it showed up at all. Second, the card was shipped without any sort of cardboard and simply dropped into a bubble envelope. While I personally ship inexpensive cards like that inside of toploaders only, graded cards have to be at least wrapped in some cardboard or extra bubble wrap because the cases are too fragile (except for Beckett cases, which apparently were designed to be run over by Mack trucks).

So, given the circumstances, what do I do? I suppose there are three options:

  1. Keep the card as is and deal with it
  2. Return the card for a refund
  3. Ask the seller for a discount and see if he’ll let me keep the card

Option 3 is never really all that appealing to me. Like, I’m the guy that will go to a restaurant, have a terrible meal, and just not say anything. If the food is entirely wrong, that’s a different story. Otherwise, I simply won’t go back and chalk it up to the cost of doing business. It isn’t worth the hassle of trying to finagle my way into a free meal. Not that there’s anything wrong with complaining if the food is bad — just not my style.

Option 2 could be a choice if the card wasn’t so rare. But there’s no way on earth I’d return this card because of the incredibly hard time I’ve had in trying to find one.

For me, it’s Option 1. As an addendum to that, I suppose I could contact PSA for a reholder job. But the additional cost to reslab a card I never wanted slabbed in the first place isn’t real attractive, either. That’s not even mentioning that it could take months to even get back. No thanks, fam, I’m good.

I will probably drop the seller a note and let him know that the card arrived damaged. But that’s less about me trying to get any kind of a partial refund and more about wanting to make sure he doesn’t try to ship other graded cards like that in the future. It’s one thing to do that on a sub $50 card. A $500 card is another story entirely.

Damaged case? Whatever — I’m just glad Byrd is out of the way.

Now if someone could direct me to a Ruth …

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