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At the 'Topp' of his game

Sports memorabilia appraiser to visit Newton

Published: Thursday, May 9, 2013 12:16 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, May 9, 2013 12:57 p.m. CDT

For any child who grew up collecting and trading baseball cards, doing it for a living would seem like nothing more than a dream job.  Michael Osacky has transformed that hobby into a profession and travels across the country appraising vintage baseball cards and other sports memorabilia.

“It’s fun,” Osacky said. “I’ve been involved in this business for about 15 years.”

Osacky credits a “shoe box” for his start in the business.

“I got started in 1997, when my grandfather brought me home a shoe box full of old baseball cards for my birthday,” Osacky said. “Up until that point, I was buying all the new stuff, all the new cards. When I opened up the shoe box there was some very, very old cards in there and it got me on the hunt to try to find these items.”

“I would post ads in newspapers and I would go to card shows and whatnot,” Osacky continued. “It’s fun. It’s never a dull moment. There’s still a lot thing left to be discovered in barns, garages and attics.”

That initial shoe box from his grandfather didn’t contain too many high value cards Osacky said. But he said it was enough to really peak his interest.

“It had a Mike Schmidt rookie card which is a 1973 Topps,” Osacky said. “It had Mickey Mantle’s second to last season, so 1968—which actually isn’t very valuable. A lot of times people think, ‘Oh it’s a Mickey Mantle card,’ which is funny. 1968 he was pretty much at the end of his career, so if it’s from the 60s as far as Mickey Mantle is concerned it’s not worth as much as if it (would be) from the 50s”

Osacky also mentioned that the condition on those cards wasn’t that great.  As he has progressed in his career he said he said he has learned a lot on how condition affects the value of cards and memorabilia and offers tips on what to look for.

Things to look for when it comes to value:

• Creasing. You want to make sure that there are not any creases on the front or back. Creases affect the prices a lot.

• Corners. How sharp are the corners? Are they square or are they rounded corners. He said that in this industry what people do to make a baseball card look like it has sharp corners is take scissors and trim the cards. He said he always brings a ruler to measure the dimensions.

• Paper loss. He said it’s not as common with 1950s and 1960s cards, but more so associated with tobacco cards from a hundred years ago and 1930s value cards. He said that people would glue those cards into scrapbooks and when people attempted to take them out they would usually lose the back of the card.

Osacky also said that cards from 1970-2013 are not worth a lot.

“(There are) a couple of reasons,” Osacky said. “One is supply and demand. In the late 60s and early 70s people starting becoming hoarders and recognized, ‘Hey, I have all these cards. Maybe one day this stuff is going to be worth something.’”

“Whereas back in the 50s people didn’t have that mentality and weren’t thinking like that,” Osacky continued. “People use to put their cards in their bicycle spokes and didn’t really care for them. The second reason is because the printing presses started to churn out the cards in mass quantity, where as in the 50s the technology wasn’t there to mass produce some of these cards.”

In addition to this being his profession, Osacky is still a major collector himself.

“I own some pretty cool cards,” Osacky said. “Some of my favorites come from a 1933 value set. There are 240 cards in a set and what’s really interesting is there are four Babe Ruth cards and 2 Lou Gehrig cards. I have all four of the Babe Ruth cards, including number 53 which is the very first card of the set.”

Another favorite of his is a 1968 program signed by Willie Mays and he noted that he owned “tens of thousands of cards.”

Osacky and his company baseballintheattic.com are based out of Chicago. He will be in Newton this weekend offering free appraisals on a first come first serve basis. He said he will be at the Newton Public Library from 11 a.m. to noon. He may also be contacted at (312) 379-9090 or via email at info@baseballintheattic.com.

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