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2020 In Review: A $20 Baseball Card Changed My Life

Twenty years from now, we will look back on the year 2020 and tell stories to people who have yet to be born all about the year we couldn’t leave our houses. They won’t be able to relate. When they walk outside, they won’t have to take a mask with them. They won’t think twice about meeting their friends at a restaurant or a ballgame. They won’t be able to imagine what life was like replacing their family holiday parties with Zoom meetings. They won’t have to worry about accidentally infecting their family members with a virus that they might not even know they had. It’s all of our hope that the world never has to go through another year like that. 

That said, I have one hell of a story to tell those people about the year 2020, and it revolves around a baseball card.

Never Underestimate Nostalgia
Getty Images

The date was March 13th, and the media was inundated with Covid-19 talk. The first cases were popping up in the United States, and the epicenter of it was basically right where I grew up, in the New York City suburbs. I was working for an events company where I currently reside in South Florida, and the phone calls were ringing in all week, canceling weddings, corporate events, and Bar Mitzvah’s one-by-one. The world was changing overnight, and we still hadn’t grasped the full scope of it. I went home from work that day, not knowing when I would be going back. 

I spent the next two weeks bored out of my mind, sitting at home alone. Because of my love of sports, I knew of an artist named Tyson Beck that I had found years earlier on Instagram. Tyson does some of the sickest edits of athletes you’ll ever see. 

During the quarantine, Topps launched their Project 2020 series in which some of the world’s top sports artists redesign iconic vintage Topps baseball cards. One of the first cards that they introduced just happened to be the marriage of my favorite artist and my all-time favorite baseball player, Dwight Gooden. 

I grew up in Northern New Jersey in the 1980s as a die-hard New York Mets fan. When I was seven years old, I was in attendance at the 1986 World Series with my grandfather. Back then, my brother and I collected two things: Baseball cards and comic books. The Dwight Gooden 1984 Topps Traded and the 1985 Topps rookie card were the “Holy Grails” of our collection. It was the Mets, it was Dr. K, and they were worth more than a month’s worth of my allowance. For my 7-year-old self, it felt like owning bars of gold. 

When I saw that Tyson would be redesigning the 1985 Topps Dwight Gooden card, nostalgia set in, and I had to have it. I always loved the sports card hobby, but I hadn’t bought anything in years. I wasn’t working, with no end to the pandemic in sight, so money was extremely tight. But I figured, “what the hell. It’s $20, and it’s something I’ll keep for the rest of my life”.

The Start of Something Big

A few weeks later, the card arrived in the mail. It was awesome. I had it proudly displayed next to my computer. The next day, I logged on to Instagram and I saw that Tyson Beck had posted an update that the card was selling on eBay for $3,495!

I couldn’t believe it. As much as I loved and wanted to keep the card, there was no way I could turn down a 175x return on my $20 investment at a time when I wasn’t even working. I posted the card as a five-day auction, and it wound up selling for around $2400.

To say that turning $20 into $2400 almost overnight was thrilling would be an understatement. It was a godsend at a time when I needed the money the most. With that, I was fully hooked back into the hobby. 

I started thinking of ways to reinvest some of the money and was introduced to card breaks on Instagram. For those that have never heard of a break, check out this article. It became clear to me almost immediately that the only person involved in these breaks who was always making money was the breaker. I decided that I wanted to be that guy.

One of my good friends who collects cards introduced me to his friend Brandon who had access to an assortment of boxes, and we started a new Instagram page almost overnight. Within days, we were filling our breaks, and things were starting to take off. 

A few weeks after starting the page, I logged on to Twitter to post a graphic promoting our latest break and saw this tweet from Tyler Schmitt, whose content I was introduced to because of my love of all things Gary Vee, and who I had met a few times through our mutual fandom of the New York Jets. 

Always Shoot Your Shot
Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

I immediately reached out, and a few days later, we jumped on a phone call. Tyler explained that the bulk of the work he was looking for help with was based around sports cards and a new podcast that they had just launched Card Talk Pod. I couldn’t believe it. The idea of working with people whose content I had been consuming daily for years was exciting enough, but creating sports card content for them after the way the year started would be like a dream come true. 

Since you made it this far into the article, I suppose you’ve figured that I got the job. Every single day, I wake up, and my “work” centers around sports cards. I put “work” in quotes because it doesn’t actually feel like a job. I wake up and love what I do every single day. One of the biggest reasons I got the job was because of the card breaking page that I started and the education I got in that short time about what was hot and trending in the hobby. The only reason I started that breaks page was because the money I made off of my $20 Tyson Beck Topps Project 2020 Dwight Gooden card rekindled my interest in the hobby. 

It’s crazy to think how much better off I am today because of a series of events that was kicked off by that one small purchase. 2020 was quite a roller coaster ride, but I begin 2021 excited and thankful to be working with such amazing people at such a great company. That’s the story I’m going to tell about 2020, the year sports cards changed my life. 

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