Seth Nagdeman is CEO of Create Auction LLC. and utilizes the Create Auction software to run his own online auction for vintage baseball cards. In the following interview, we talked about his passion for 19th century baseball cards.
ephemera: How did you become interested in 19th century baseball cards? Did you begin consciously, knowing what you would collect, or did you just one day discover what you were doing?
Nadgeman: My interest in collecting 19th century sports collectibles originated with the Mayo football series. Since the early 1980’s I was collecting 20th century sports collectibles. Then in February of 1999 I came across a group of cards that caught my attention. There were 30 high grade Mayo football cards available for sale. These cards were over 100 years old and in Near Mint to Mint condition. I was amazed that what started out at just over $15,000 for the collection ended up going upwards of $50,000. I learned that 19th century material is so scarce that those few collectors involved will pay what they have to in order to acquire material. I was intrigued, and this opened my eyes to what was to become my next level of collecting.
Timeless hours of research were spent uncovering the dealers, collectors and various resources surrounding this marketplace. I hired a programmer and developed an online system that I could use in order to efficiently track the material as it became available. Then after discussions with fellow collectors, I was encouraged to form an organization called 19thCenturyOnly to help create a greater appreciation for the niche of 19th century sports collectibles. In October of 2000, I made my personal online portal to 19th century sports collectibles available to the public. Members of 19thCenturyOnly included all known collectors, dealers, publications and auction houses that deal with the marketplace. This total is currently in excess of 1,000 individuals and entities. Material from the 19th century is currently collected by this very limited group. I made this portal available so interest will spread to new 19th century collectors and bring knowledge and strength to the market. The problem I saw, is that with so few collectors, there may be only one or two people interested in a specific item which is in turn then reflected in a lower market value. Once a collectors needs are met, the market becomes thin and the price drops as a result. Because knowledge is not widespread about this material, it is often grossly undervalued in the market. For those that realize this, they are in on the ground floor of an exciting new hobby and investment possibility.
Logically you would think that good examples of early cards would realize the highest prices. It is my belief that current prices of early sports collectibles still remain at a bargain level. This can be determined by taking a closer look at what I call the "collectible formula": scarcity + desirability + demand = the price level. Scarcity- the items couldn't be any scarcer, in most cases there are but few or sometimes only one example that exists; desirability- I believe these items are desirable pieces of history, illustrative of the early beginnings of baseball, photography, lithography and tobacco premiums. Demand, however, has not fully been fully developed yet. This weak link in the formula has resulted from the lack of widespread information about these items. There are few individuals throughout the country that seek this material or even know about it.
The 19th century group served as a facilitator to create more widespread knowledge and interest in 19thCenturyOnly material. The greater the interest, the more interesting the market becomes. The site was developed to be a gateway to 19thCenturyOnly resources on the Web. Then in November of 2002, utilizing our proprietary www.createauction.com software, 19thCenturyOnly opened its first online auction for vintage sports collectibles at www.19thCenturyOnly.com. Since that time we have run 15 successful major auctions. I am constantly on the lookout for interesting early sports collectibles to sell in our auction. If you have items of interest, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d like to represent your collectibles for sale at auction to our extensive database of targeted vintage sports collectors. For the auction we accept 19th century and 20th century items.
ephemera: What are your favorite items in the collection? Do you have a crowning jewel or show stopper in your collection? If so, what is it? And, for collector interested in learning more, what resources do you recommend.
Nadgeman: My favorite set is the 1910 E104 Nadja Caramel set.
1. The Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards by Don Fluckinger
3. The Sports Collectors Digest by Krause Publications
ephemera: Thanks, Seth. I have a lot of readers interested in baseball cards, and I know they'll find your comments helpful and interesting.
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