Card grader and authenticator by day, cartoonist at night, American Andy Broome's recently published collection of cartoons, Collecting the Collector, illuminates the amusing side of the hobby.
Here he discusses the book, as well as the prognosis for the trading card sector, following a standout year.
Paul Fraser Collectibles: Do you view yourself as an appraiser first and a cartoonist second? Perhaps the success of the book may make you reconsider?
Andy Broome: First, I am a card grader and authenticator. That has been my "day job" for 14 years. Cartooning has been my passion nearly all of my life and my second job and hobby for 10 years. I love my job working in the collectibles industry. While not all of my cartoons are collecting related, cartooning will most likely remain second to my life in collectibles. But, who knows what the future holds!
Are the cartoons taken from your own experiences? What are your most amusing stories from your years in the business?
Absolutely, they are all drawn from my experiences both from my professional life and from my personal collecting life. I travel to card shows all across the US and Canada. (I just logged 25,000 air miles for 2012.) Working and grading at the Beckett booth [Beckett Grading Services] allows me to talk with many collectors and dealers. I hear their stories and experiences. I think I may have heard it all. I've been actively buying and selling and working in the hobby for a total of 25 years now.
Collecting can be like fishing. Everyone has a "big fish" story. If I had a dollar for every time I have heard someone say they have a Wagner that was found in their grandmother's Bible. Is the Bible part of the story supposed to authenticate the card? Man, doesn't a lie that includes the Bible warrant instant lightning?
Collectors are often portrayed as an eccentric bunch. Will this book do anything to dispel that "myth"?!
I think the book enhances it! If anything, it exacerbates the stereotype that we collectors are all a bit crazy. I mean, we have to be a little crazy to be a collector. The cartoons in the book give us an opportunity to laugh at ourselves. We are a funny bunch, after all!
Which collectors have the best sense of humour?
I think every group of collectors has its own sense of humor. Sometimes we make fun of each other, like when a card collector gives a comic book collector a wedgie. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure stamp collectors are just bitter. I'm kidding all you philatelists that are still out there. Don't send me hate mail. If you do, please use really cool stamps.
If I may get serious for a moment. As a trading card authenticator, how do you think the recent revelations about the Gretzky Wagner card [reportedly manually trimmed in recent years] affect its value?
Well, for those that have been in the hobby for a long time, it really wasn't a revelation. I haven't held the card in my hands but I have seen it up close in the holder more than once. I deal with T206 cards every single day. The edges just do not look natural. Now, the card is a special card. I mean, it has a Piedmont back. The Wagner cards that were issued in cigarette packs carried a Sweet Caporal back. The card came from a different source. Whether it was from an uncut strip that was taken out the backdoor of American Lithograph or it was some type of sample card, the card most likely was hand cut.
What happened after that? Was it cut even more in an attempt to improve the grade? Up until now, we could only assume. Now, I guess, we have the final piece of the puzzle. Will this all somehow impact the future price of this card or any other high-end card? I don't think so. I believe previous owners of the Wagner card had thoughts of the possibility of alterations. It hasn't lost money yet.
What is the general long-term outlook for the trading card sector?
If you had asked me this question two years ago I would have said I just don't know where we are headed, but the market has made a turn.
In the 11 year history of Beckett Grading, 2012 was a record year. Business has been incredible. We have hired four new graders just in the last quarter. The market for cards seems quite strong. Like everything else, there are some areas that are softer than others but areas like high-end graded and pre-war continues to set auction records.
Are there any particular trading card sectors that are currently undervalued?
Believe it or not, hockey remains fairly strong despite the lockout. Hockey will be back and collectors still want their favourite players and potential hot rookies.
I think there are still some bargains in vintage and pre-war non-sport. I see non-sport cards continuing to grow. Modern non-sport cards certainly have grown in the last few years. Celebrity autographs are hot.
Do finds like the Black Swamp discovery earlier this year re-energise the market or dilute it?
I believe any positive publicity for the hobby is good. A feel-good story like the Black Swamp find running in the mainstream media does nothing but good for all of us. It just shows that there are still some amazing treasures out there waiting to be found.
The T206 Wagner we graded in 2008 was also a find. It remained packed away in a home for many years before being discovered by the family.
Where can we buy the book?
It is available on Amazon and Amazon UK but if anyone wants a signed copy and aren't able to attend a show where I am, go to CollectingTheCollector.com - they make great beer coasters, too!
If you really want to waste time while at work, follow me on Twitter @broomewithaview.
We're giving away two free signed copies of Collecting the Collector. To claim yours just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, but be quick!