Saturday, April 1, 2017

King of Fools

It's April Fools Day - every office prankster's Christmas.  No doubt, someone (maybe even you) at your place of work or schooling has worn the proverbial "egg on their" face as the result of some tired, old gag.

With that in mind, today seemed like the perfect day to tell a story about how I was made to feel like a fool.  It's a hobby-related tale from days past long before I had a blog, when my only online presence was a now embarrassing MySpace account.  So, gather 'round and allow me of when I learned the lesson of "buyer beware."

Not so long after I first re-entered the hobby, in my latter high school years, I discovered the treasure trove of online baseball card shopping that was Ebay.  In a previous collecting life, my pre-teen years, I spent an inordinate amount of time browsing that ubiquitous online auction site in search of rare NASCAR die-cast models; or, rare to me, anyway.  Neil Bonnet's ill-fated Country Time Lemonade paint scheme, Ralph Earnhardt's late model sportsman car, Lee Petty's inaugural Daytona 500 winning ride, these were what I sought out.  When my parent's dime permitted, of course.

That collection has since been passed down to my little brother

Fast forward a few years, after the baseball card collecting bug officially sunk it's teeth back into my tuchus, I naturally gravitated towards Ebay, curious to see what "rarities" I could find to boost my still-developing Cubs All-Time Roster Collection.  Being that I was barely old enough to drive and just naive enough to trust random, online vendors, it was only a matter of time before I was bitten in a much different manner.

One night of web surfing (instead of being a hooligan out on the streets, like all of the cool kids), I came across a listing for a card of the legendary, 19th century superstar, Mike "King" Kelly.  Without being fully aware of Kelly's modern cardboard presence, I was heretofore unaware that the man once sold for $10,000 to Boston had appeared in a handful of fairly recent sets.  Furthermore, I was determined to track down Kelly in a Chicago uniform (or listed as such).  Thus, I figured a reprint was my only option.  Unfortunately, critical thinking was not yet a strong suit in this adolescent mind.

When this image popped up in a search, I foolhardily assumed that the listing was for some sort of reprint set built around the antiquated Old Judge tobacco cards that I'd read about online. For whatever reason, I wrote off the distorted, gray-scaled image you see above (with an obvious tear, at that), assuming that the vendor just used the best available picture of the original card for his or her's listing. Why the synapses in my brain didn't fire off warning signals, I'll never know; but, then again, we all made some pretty stupid decisions in our teenage years, right?

With that, I pulled the trigger on the auction, for a price that I can't recall.  It couldn't have been much, since I definitely didn't have much available scratch of my own in those days.  But, I do recall being super excited to receive my professionally done, reprint of the Hall of Famer of days long since passed.

I'm sure you've guessed how this story turns out, right?

Instead of getting a professionally made reprint, in the style of CCC, Renata Galasso, or Dover, I got a distorted, sepia-toned scan of a ripped copy of the original Goodwin card, printed on card stock only slightly thicker than traditional computer paper.   The crummy image used for this handmade card is even lifted directly from the Wikipedia entry for the man they called "$10,000 Kelly."  

On the other hand, at least the back of the card shows that a little bit of work and effort went into creating this crude, baseball card reprint:

So, whoever created this clearly thought of themselves as a baseball card creator, rather than a straight up con artist.  They certainly did some research in order to bang out the write-up on the back side, which did a fair job in summing up Kelly's 16-year career, spent mostly with the White Stockings (aka Cubs) and Boston Beaneaters (aka Braves).  However, as I recall, the hyperlink included in red at the bottom did not work at the time and it certainly leads to a dead end now; thus, I have no idea what else is available in this "Hall of Fame Series."  Also, seeing as the account with which I purchased this card is long since deactivated, I have no longer have any idea who I even bought it from.

At the time, I was super upset about having the wool pulled over my eyes.  However, I can really only blame myself - all the warning signs were there, but I willfully ignored them because I wanted to believe I was getting a card of a tobacco era super star.  Furthermore, I don't know that there was any malicious intent behind the listing - this person was just trying to hawk their creations - I just wasn't paying close enough attention.  Thus, I was definitely playing the fool, in April or any other month of the calendar year.

Even though I was substantially disappointed, I still hung onto this scrap of paper; it still sits with the rest of my oddballs in my miscellaneous Cubs boxes.  First of all, I'm super cheap and I spent good money on this item, so, no matter what, I wasn't about to just toss it out.  Second of all, I kept it as a reminder - buyer beware and buyer better use some damn critical thinking skills.

Alls well that ends well - I didn't screw myself out of a significant amount of money and I learned a valuable lesson about online shopping.  Furthermore, I eventually discovered that Kelly appears in a decent amount of modern products and acquired, not one, but two King Kelly cards for use in my CATRC binder.  One of those, the Panini Golden Age single to the right, is what I believe to be the first card to officially list him as a member of the Chicago National League Ballclub, since the 1880's.

And, best of all. damn near ten years later, I got a blog post out of the whole ordeal - how about that?

That's one of many stories in which I came out looking like a fool; but, it's the most significant cardboard related tale that I haven't yet told on this humble, little blog.  Believe me, there are plenty of similar yarns that don't have anything to do with the hobby, but I'm going to keep those to myself, for now.  For those reading, do any of you have any similar stories about being psyched out my an online, or even a brick and mortar, vendor?  Did you get suckered into buying a reprint that perhaps you thought was the real deal?  Please feel free to share in the comments section below - I think we've all had those moments, so there's no need to feel any shame.

I mean, it isn't just me, right?....


  1. I've probably been suckered into an eBay auction a time or two as a teenage but conveniently my mind no longer recalls any such events.

    BTW I'm digging that diecast collection! Hopefully your brother treats it well. The display case is really neat

  2. ...They spelled history wrong...fools (pun intended)

  3. I think early on in my ebay days I bought some signed cards too impulsively thinking they were the certified versions. They weren't and I'm still not sure if they're legit. Maybe I should post them. (If I can locate them.)

  4. I'm sure there's at least one reprint/counterfeit card in my collection that I don't know about. Part of me would want to know... but the other half doesn't.