A simple day trip to Anaheim turned into one of my best days in California yet, and one of my top days as a collector and Orioles fan.  After finishing up the visit to the hometown of the Angels, I at least got to see the stadium, I had an idea to look up the address for South Bay Sports Cards.  It turned out to only be half an hour away and it would mean I could detour through Long Beach for lunch on my way home.  I have wanted to visit South Bay Cards for some time now and yesterday it finally happened.

Upon arriving at the store in Lomita, I started talking with Ian, the father/partner of the owner, Scott.  Jen and I were given a warm welcome and talk immediately went to my love of the Orioles and baseball.  After explaining my Wax Cracker Project, Ian mentioned he had something he needed to share with me if since I am an Orioles fan.  He went on to tell me the story of Allan Roth, the writer of Who’s Who in Baseball.  South Bay Sports Cards has begun to acquire pieces from Roth’s collection.  Part of their recent acquisition was a 1970 World Series Orioles Press Box Press pin.  Ian shared that these pins are rare and are only given out to members of the press.  I have to admit, I had never seen or heard of one of these.

Here is the beauty:

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Allan Roth’s 1970 Orioles Press Box Pin for the 1970 World Series.
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The story to go with the pin…
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One of Roth’s many books. (Scott- I want to get one of these books to go with the pin the next time I visit.)

Ian went right at my heart strings with an item that would be the centerpiece for just about any Orioles collection.  Could this be the piece to accent my Manny Machado authenticated signed bat I had picked up for a steal at a silent auction at Camden Yards? Yes, yes it could be that perfect accent.  It was time to flip the trinket box holding the pin over to see how much it would set me back.  It was priced at $125. That was a lot for a mere pin, but the story that went with it was right up my alley.  With my love of baseball and my years of wanting to somehow be part of the sports industry, this pin encompassed everything about who I am as a sports fan, especially of my beloved Orioles.  My recent trip through the Padres Press Box felt the same as when I visited the Hall of Fame as a kid.  There was an overwhelming connection to the game just sitting in the box.  This could be my link to a MLB Press Box.

I forced myself to let Ian put the pin back in the display case. I told him I wanted to look through the rest of the store while thinking about the pin.  South Bay Sports is loaded with cards, unopened boxes, and memorabilia…the good stuff, the true smack for any addicted card collector.

I started to have sports card convulsions.  There was just an overload of everything from my childhood to modern times in this shop.  I needed to get myself together and remember I was there for the Wax Cracker Project.  I needed to find something good to crack and share with you guys, not that I am cheating on Steel City Collectibles.  I will explain more about the South Bay/Steel City Collection later on.  I once again approached Ian and asked if he had any hard hitting boxes he could recommend for me to crack.  He went on to introduce me to his son, Scott.  Scott and Ian have been running South Bay Sports cards for almost 30 years now.  That is almost unheard of in the sports card shop world.  It’s tough to keep the doors open to a physical location for a card shop in an era of many shops shuttering their doors or taking flight online.  Only the savvy have survived, in most part because they have embraced the internet as another wing for sales.

Scott was a true pleasure to talk to, and to be honest I had no idea who I was actually talking to at first.  A few months ago I had watched an interview on ESPN done by ESPN MInt Condition.  ESPN MC had interviewed the creator of the Super Box and I thought it was a hell of an interview.  In one of the Super Boxes was a 1/1 Yasiel Puig signed Rookie Card, a Superfractor, the one below:


The card was thought to be valued at $20,000.  I didn’t realize I was standing face to face with the gentleman from the interview.  When I arrived at South Bay Sports Cards I thought this just happened to be the location where the Super Box was cracked, not the actual company that had produced the product.  My apologies for not brushing up on the whole story before my visit, but I found myself at the one time home of the Puig card.

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Scott and I at South Bay Cards.

I was told a gentleman from Canada landed the card, and was then able to flip the card for a cool $18,000.  I can’t even imagine such a hit.  Hopefully on my upcoming trip I can replicate that kind of hit on a video poker machine!

I think I could have stayed and talked to the guys at South Bay until closing, but Jen and I entered the shop hungry.  We had planned to grab lunch before our visit, but as tourists to Lomita, we didn’t find anything on the way in that called our name.  One can’t find sustenance in cardboard alone.

While looking around I came across some of these finds:

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The two blaster boxes were picked up at another stop along the way.  Everything else besides the Animal Pez was picked up at South Bay.

It was time to make a purchase.  After Scott’s recommendation, I ended up bringing home a Hobby Box of 2010 Panini Donruss Elite, which has some hard hitting cards in it.  I then grabbed the last 3 envelopes from South Bay’s 25th Anniversary grab bag promotion at $10 a pop, but getting out with 3 for $25.  I then got away with a box of 1989 Donruss for $9.95, which also has some hard hitting rookies in it.

While Jen and Scott were talking Ian approached me again to point out this gem below:

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Hand painted and postal stamped on the day Ripken tied and broke Gehrig’s record.
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#’s 114 of 750.
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Now I have three pillars for my Orioles collection: my Machado bat, the World Series pin from Allan Roth, & this Ripken/Gehrig piece. Now all I need is dirt from the infield at Camden Yards. Can anybody out there help make that happen?

Holy crap was this piece a beauty.  Someone please get me out of this store before I spend all my income tax return!  Ian said he wanted the piece to end up in the hands of an Orioles fan, and that he would cut me a deal on the hand painted commemorative of Cal Ripken, Jr. breaking the Iron Man’s streak.  Deal!  This would have been a piece that I would have hated myself on the two hour car ride home for not buying.  Still weighing in the back of my mind was the Orioles pin.

My attention turned back to Scott.  I told him of the interest I had in the pin, but that I would have to hold off until my next trip to South Bay to purchase it and hope it would still be there waiting on me.  Scott mentioned he would be willing to hold it for me for a small deposit.  Ok, we have a deal!  Scott walked away briefly to ask Ian more about the pin.  Jen knew I really wanted the pin.  She stepped in and decided to buy it for my upcoming birthday.  Other than the day I got my Hoyt Wilhelm Orioles jersey that I had hunted years for, which Jen also purchased as a birthday gift for me, this was one of my best moments as an Orioles fan.  Memories of meeting Chris Hoiles, Arthur Rhodes,  steroid cheat David Segui, Boog Powell, Paul Blair, Mike Mussina, and many more all floated through my head.  Damn, I wish I had worn my Wilhelm jersey!

After trying to collect myself and feeling like a kid on Christmas morning, I told myself I had to cash out before I bought anything more.  Just before leaving a young gentleman walked in and I could tell he was a frequent shopper at South Bay.  Scott went on to tell us how this gentleman pulled a rare Michael Jordan worth around $10,000 at the shop.  He then went on to sell the card and donate the profits to an autism charity he volunteers for called autspot.com.  The site aids families with autistic children.  Don’t let anyone tell you there aren’t big hearts out there in the collecting world.  What a generous move it was for this guy to hit one of the best Jordan cards ever and then give it up in the name of a cause he fully believes in.  My hats off to you sir!

Back to my original story.  While talking with Scott I mentioned my partnership with Sean from Steel City Collectibles.  In a small world moment Scott mentioned that he knows Sean quite well.  3,000 miles from home and I run in to someone that knows the same person as me, thus proving how connected the collecting community can be sometimes.  I am hoping to get the chance to catch up with Sean and Scott while I am in Vegas soon.  I accidentally planned my visited during the Sports Card Industry Summit, no seriously I did!  I hope these two fine gentleman have time to grab dinner or some beers while we are all there.

I could go on and on about how excited I am from my visit to South Bay, along with the pleasure it has been to work with Sean so far, and the chance to interact with you all about sports and collecting.  Yesterday and today I have felt like I am on Cloud 9 because of the Wax Cracker Project.  This first 69 days has been a complete joy and I can’t wait to see what other stories this project leads to.  Cheers everyone, and go crack some wax!

*A special thank you goes out to Scott and Ian from South Bay Collectibles for letting me take time away from their day yesterday to talk about wax cracking.  Best of luck with the shop and I hope to attend your next Beckett Grading session, and hopefully get the chance at meeting Puig at your place one of the days!

You can follow South Bay Sports Cards on Twitter @sbaycards.