Interview with Ballout Basketball Cards

Any time I come across basketball card focused content, especially of the blogging variety, it helps me re-engage and remember the reasons I started Hoops Hobby, to engage with other collectors who have the same interests and passion for baskeball cards. It makes me optimistic for the future of the basketball card collecting community when I see quality content emerge.

The author of Ballout Basketball Cards blog was gracious enough to spend the time to answer some questions about his collecting history, his Celtic’s fandom, and his thoughts on the current state of the hobby.

Be sure to check out Hoop Hobby’s interview on Ballout’s site.

Hoops Hobby (HH): Thanks for answering some questions for us. I’ve enjoyed following and reading your content on your blog and Twitter over the last year or so.

You have a great collecting backstory with your father and grandfather. Do you want to share any details with readers here? 

Ballout Cards (BC): My dad certainly got me into basketball, but my collection was really built on lessons I learned from my grandfathers.  One was a bit of a collector himself before he went off to WW2, the other had strong business acumen and told me to focus on quality and long term value.  I think my background might be unique to collecting, but while I easily get caught up in stories about untested rookie cards selling for crazy prices, I try to keep my hobby focus on players I like most and on players that were iconic to the game of basketball.  Most of my favorite players were Dream Team guys, and with a few exceptions I don’t think it gets much better than those players.  

HH: Going along with the previous question, when did you first start collecting basketball cards? 

BC: I first started collecting in the early 90s, probably 1991.  I remember getting super excited with a Shaq rookie back in the day and getting a Patrick Ewing skylights card.  I traded the Shaq for a junky Larry Bird card (thanks Brendan!) but I thankfully continued buying packs up through Lebron’s rookie year and was lucky to pull a Lebron rookie back in 2004.

HH: What era/decade of cards is your favorite? 

BC: I think the late 90s is my favorite.  You had insane inserts then and a lot of beautiful Jordan cards.  I also love a lot of the late 90s rookies (Kobe, Ray Allen, Duncan, Pierce, Carter, etc.).

HH: What motivated you to start a basketball card blog? 

BC: I was really just bored and spending a bit too much on eBay for singles and I thought there must be a better way to get my card fix without spending much money at all and to share some of my favorite cards and research with other people interested in the hobby.  It hasn’t worked quite the way I hoped, because sometimes I get too excited about the cards I write about and have to go find them on eBay, but its still been fun and I like connecting with other collectors and hearing other views about players and the hobby in general.  Its been crazy seeing the fervor and enthusiasm for basketball cards in 2020 and beyond.  

HH: What’s your take on the sports card ‘bubble’? Will we ever return to what the hobby looked like before the market exploded or is this the new normal?

BC: I think we definitely saw a bubble and we will likely see a pullback.  I wrote about the 1986 Fleer stickers and the Jordan sticker stood out to me as undergoing a crazy bubble/spike, but its come down from its early 2021 highs.  I do think we are in a new era of sports card collecting, and I think some of the big players (like PSA) also know this and are expecting something like a sports/basketball card roaring 20s.  Still, I think card prices did get a bit too hot and will possibly come down in value, but if the economy recovers and if cards are cool again, then who knows.

HH: From reading your blog and posts on social media I see you are a Celtics fan. How did you become a Celtics fan and are there any specific memories from being a fan that stand out to you? 

BC: You are absolutely right.  I was a huge Celtics fan growing up and they are still my favorite team.  I really love Brown and Smart on todays squad.  I grew up in Boston and my dad loved the Big 3 from the 80s Celtics teams.  I have a lot of great memories of the Celtics growing up.  I think I cried on Larry Bird night and thought Magic was the coolest guy ever for wearing a Bird Jersey under his warm ups.  I was super happy when the Celtics traded away Antoine Walker and even happier when the Celtics traded for Garnett and Ray Allen.  For most of my late childhood and teenage years the Celtics were terrible (94-2006) so I turned to the Bulls and Spurs.  For Boston kids born in the mid 80s like me, we always had loveable but losing teams, so seeing the Patriots, Red Sox, and Celtics turn things around in the 2000s was really incredible, almost surreal.  

HH: Favorite player, Celtics or otherwise, who would not be considered a ‘star’?

BC: Wow that is a great question.  For the Celtics I would say Kendrick Perkins.  He fit so well with that 2007-08 team and he did exactly what he needed to do.  I’m 100% sure that the C’s would have won a second Championship had Perkins been able to play in game 6 or 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals.  Outside of the Celtics, I always really liked Tayshaun Prince.  I thought he had good court sense and seemed to be able to do a little bit of everything, whatever the Piston’s needed.  

HH: One of the best feelings is pulling a nice card of your favorite team or player from a pack. What’s the best card that fits that description in your collection?

BC: Before he took his talents to South Beach, I actually liked Lebron a lot.  I followed him while he was at SVSM and he was a sensational rookie.  My two best pulls were both Lebron cards while he was with the Cavs.  The first was a Lebron rookie (Upper Deck Black Diamond) and the second was a 2005 Finest Lebron refractor (5/39).  I was SOOO careful putting each of those cards into penny sleeves before putting them into hard plastics.  But it is quite the rush pulling an awesome player from a pack.

HH: Unopened packs and boxes are scarce these days. What’s the last pack of cards you opened and when?

BC: I got a BOX of 2018 Prizm for like $99 or something.  This was obviously back before COVID and the insane demand for cards we see today.  I had a lot of fun ripping packs and selling a few on eBay.  Sadly, I sold a Luka Prizm card that I really wish I had held onto… but live and learn.  Those cards were the last packs I’ve ripped. 

HH: Thoughts on grading cards? Have you personally had any cards graded? How was your experience?

BC: I think its smart to get your cards graded but I’ve never actually sent any in to be graded.  Before PSA upped their prices to $20 for low end cards, I was going to send in some decent cards as a way to feel out the whole grading process and make my mistakes with mediocre cards.  I’m still waiting to do that and plan to send in some cards to PSA this year once they open up operations again.  I’d love it if they had other grading sites, like maybe one on the east coast and one in the Chicago or Texas, because I’d feel much better hand delivering cards than sending valuable cardboard through the mail, but maybe that is just me being paranoid.  I also only own one graded card, its a PSA 9 OC Bird/Magic/Dr. J 1980 Topps card and I got it for a 21st birthday present for myself for I think just over $200.  Not a bad ROI on that baby!

HH: With the recent price changes at PSA, new grading options coming into play, has that changed your thoughts at all on grading?

BC: It hasn’t really.  I have had to think more about which cards I want to send in as my “test” batch, but I still think I will send in at least a handful this year to get graded.  I think the price increase was a big result of the pent up demand and with PSA going private.  Those investors want to recover their investment ASAP and start seeing that deal print money as soon as possible, which they will absolutely see soon.  I really just want PSA to open more locations so they don’t have to deal with the CA bottleneck and get more people involved.  Come on PSA!  Open a grading location in Texas and Boston or Raleigh.

HH: If you could add one card to your PC, what would it be and why?

BC: I’d say either a PSA 10 1986 Fleer Jordan rookie or a PSA 10 Bird/Magic/Dr. J card.  Jordan is the GOAT and any 86 Fleer rookie card of his would be a dream card of mine.  And the Bird/Magic/Dr. J card features 3 of the 10 or so best players to ever play the game.  And the Bird/Magic rivalry was something special.

HH: Advice for folks entering the hobby for the first time or after a long time away?

BC: I’d say stick with what you know.  Go back to the cards you loved/wanted as a kid and don’t try to get too wrapped up in hype around modern day rookies.  I think its great to diversify and look at new players and take smart gambles from time to time, but focus on the hobby/collecting aspect over the investing aspect.  

HH: How can others in the hobby get in touch with you? 

BC: It rarely happens but I love when people reach out on my blog (balloutcards.com).  I’m always excited talking to other collectors, especially guys who have the same passion for 80s, 90s, and early 2000s cards and players.  I’m also on Twitter a fair amount so if people like what I’m covering, by all means I’d be happy to connect with other collectors and basketball card enthusiasts.  

HH: Thank you to Ballout Basketball Cards for answering questions for us. Please check out the blog at balloutcards.com, as well as follow @BalloutCards on twitter for fantastic basketball card content.

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