What do you think of when you read the words “The One that Got Away”? For many people, those words conjure up images of someone of opposite sex from way back when, with whom you wanted to get serious back in the day but it just wasn’t in the cards and didn’t end up in a serious relationship with that person.
As a personal finance maven – or “maven in-development” more accurately – I thought it would be interesting to look at this from a money point of view. Let’s have some fun with this, and reflect on some crazy little money opportunities that could have been – but weren’t. Nothing too serious, like career opportunities, promotions, real estate market issues, etc. I’m thinking along the lines of the following examples:
- A fantastic car that you were eyeing on the lot when younger, for which you were saving money, only to have it sold for a song right when you were ready to buy
- That purse you wanted, which you heard was on sale at a ridiculously low price, and you rushed to the shop only to find them sold out.
- The time you saw someone buy an antique at a garage or estate sale, at a fraction of the actual market value, which you could have had if you only got there a few minutes earlier.
- The time you could have written an essay and submitted it for a $200 scholarship award, but didn’t make the time – only to find out that they chose a winner out of just 3 recipients.
You get the idea. Something that could have been, but due to timing, bad luck, or your own decisions, you missed out on an something that would have been one of those little financial victories that would have provided the joy of getting a great deal or something for next to nothing. One of those great deals you can look back on with pride. If I’ve lost you here, then maybe I’m a bit too frugal for you, in that I am glorifying deals as if they were athletic exploits 🙂 Otherwise, go on!
For me, when I think of “The One that Got Away”, I think of my lot of 200 Barry Bonds rookie baseball cards from back in the 1987.
As a 39 year old, I have no interest in these things now, though I have kept them all these years as something to pass on to my kids. The last ones I purchased were probably 20 years ago. That said, back in the mid-1980’s, these were all the rage with many boys – and men – at the time. What was interesting is that these cards, which were available to be purchased in retail stores for $0.50 or so per pack, became “investment” commodities that went up or down in value based on a player’s performance. The most valuable were the rookie cards; if a current player was an all-star, his individual card could be worth a few dollars. If he looked like he could be a potential future Hall of Fame player, his card could shoot upwards of $50. I remember Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco cards being in that range, soon after they were issued.
Anyway, I chose 4 or 5 players young who I decided to invest in, and do it in bulk. That is, I bought 200+ rookie cards of each guy, and paid between $0.03 to $0.17 cents per card depending on the guy, and thought I would “invest” in the possibility of success. The idea for me was that as a die-hard baseball fan, I would pick the prospects who I thought had the potential to succeed down the line. It was sort of like investing in penny stocks or startups with high growth potential.
Lo and behold, one of the guys I invested in was Barry Bonds. I always thought he had the potential to be good; that said, I never realized that he could eventually be the all-time home run leader, albeit one mired in controversy.
I paid $0.17 per card for 200 cards – about $34. Not small change for a 16-year old kid then. If you recall the $50 per card value I noted earlier for guys who looked like potential Hall of Famers, this would mean that Bonds cards – if the overall market would hold – would be at $10,000 at those prices. The thing is, given that Bonds ended up breaking home run records, his cards could have skyrocketed to greater heights – $200, maybe $300 per card wouldn’t have been unrealistic. This could have been a nice chunk of change!
Alas, the baseball card “investment” market collapsed within a few years and values plummeted. There was really no supply and demand tradeoff that supported the crazy values of these so-called investment collectibles to begin with. As supply of newer cards increased by the year, and interest in other sports increased relative to baseball, the values fell off and never recovered. Looking on EBay today, these cards of mine could possibly fetch $1 each – if I was lucky. And that’s before shipping costs!
Well, that’s my “The One that Got Away” story. It’s just baseball cards, and I was just a kid, but man oh man….that would have been cool to see that work out. If nothing else, just for the fun of knowing that I called it right, and picked up a true bargain!
What about you? Anything jump out at you as The One that Got Away?
This article was included in the Carnival of Money Stories at Personal Finance Journey.