Not long ago collecting baseball cards was synonymous with the Junk Wax Era defined by the 80’s and 90’s. Fast forward to today and cardboard pictures are selling for six figures, with The Hobby being as booming as ever. After hanging up his cleats, former Twins hurler Phil Hughes has dove head on into the fray.
I’ve written about baseball cards in this space previously. There was a post for beginners made back at the beginning of August that you can find here. Expanding upon that a bit, collecting has become so much more than walking into a retailer and picking up a pack. Because of the expansion created through a booming level of interest, we’ve now got a whole new vehicle driving collecting and it takes place entirely online.
With breakers opening product and sending out cards to those that purchase spots, YouTube has exploded with content creators doing pack openings to show off what they get. That’s where former Twins pitcher Phil Hughes comes in. A longtime collector on his own, he created Phil’s Pulls, and has also partnered with breakers to expand both his reach and love for The Hobby. I caught up with him recently to ask some questions about baseball cards, and what is driving this for him.
Twins Daily: Start at the beginning of the player and card lifecycle. What's it like seeing yourself on a baseball card. How does the contract process work, and how much does your hand hurt after signing that many autographs?
Phil Hughes: I thought having cards of myself was the coolest thing and really got me back into collecting around 2004. The card companies typically pay a flat rate to every player to use their likeness on the cards, then the autos are negotiable. Typically $2-$3 for prospects. I used to break it up into about 500 at a time or my hand would start to cramp pretty bad.
TD: Were baseball, or sports cards in general, something you always gravitated towards or did your desire to collect them ramp up when you became a subject?
PH: I mentioned before that I got back into cards around 2004 but I was always into them as a kid. I remember opening packs of 1992 Topps and writing my name on the backs so kids at school knew who they belonged to.
TD: How is the hobby viewed around the league? Is it seen as a way to connect with fans, something guys really get into (a la Josh Donaldson and Brad Ziegler), or just all part of the career path?
PH: Cards aren't really too popular amongst players and you never hear much about it. That's part of why I wanted to make videos. Collecting cards is fun and all but I wanted to bring a different kind of content to the hobby and connect with other collectors that I normally wouldn't.
TD: When looking back on what came out while you were playing, what are some of your favorite cards or products depicting either yourself or some of your teammates? Anything that got extra attention for maybe being a funny image or really cool offering?
PH: I've always been a big fan of Bowman Chrome. I think they do a fantastic job with that set every year both in design and format. I always find the photoshopped cards interesting. I believe my first Twins card from Topps was actually a photo of me playing for the Yankees.
TD: The hobby has seemed to experience a significant amount of growth in recent years. Has that sparked your interest in box breaks on YouTube, or is it more about your own personal affection towards collecting? What is the goal of your channel and opening products?
PH: I really think this hobby is in for a pretty sustained resurgence. So many people that collected growing up are at the age of having kids that they want to share a hobby with. I was blown away when I got back into it how big online group breaks had become. I watched a few and most felt so impersonal. I got the idea to try and make videos. The cards I open are mine, but I felt like people might enjoy a different perspective and some stories to go along with it. The only goal I have with my channel is to keep making videos people want to see. I don't care about revenue or growth. Just getting better and staying consistent with the uploads.
TD: Obviously you're developing a nice following through your new endeavor and it's cool to see someone that has tangible connections to the players depicted talk through things. What's in it for you though. What are you building a personal collection of and what are your favorite aspects of what is offered today?
PH: I put almost all of what I open either personally or for videos up for sale. I have a pretty small personal collection. I like to chase high end stuff, big rookies and on card autos are a must. Plus, it keeps my collection small which my wife is pretty happy about.
TD: There's probably instances where every hobby or market goes stale. What do you see as the biggest setback for collectors today, and what are you most excited about what it comes to cards?
PH: So many of the big products these days are so expensive. That's part of why I feature them in my videos. Gives people a chance to see a box or case opened so they can know what to expect before they commit a bunch of money. I love that the companies seem to be listening to their consumers. Adjusting to what people like.
TD: Finally, and without worrying about price, what is the one vintage card and one modern card you are all in on adding to your collection?
PH: I know in sports card collecting this wouldn't be considered vintage but it is in Pokemon so I'm going with it. 1st edition base set Shadowless Charizard PSA 10. For new I'm going to say the Tatis Jr. Superfractor out of Topps Chrome Sapphire.
Phil continues to be one of the most enjoyable follows on Twitter (@PJHughes45) and his channel continues to see rampant growth. He did his first partnered box break last month with Midwest Box Breaks, and now will be busting open a case of the $30,000 Topps Transcendent in the coming weeks.
Give him a follow, and feel free to ask him any card related question each time he poses the question, “You up?”