Bob is a longtime member of the Florida sports media, having served as a reporter and copy editor for more than 30 years. His true sports passion, however, is the history of the various games, exhibited by his in-depth book reviews and hobby of collecting cards and other sports memorabilia. He blogs for TBO.com on both subjects, transferring his work for the Tampa Tribune to the realm of cyberspace.
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Great Scot: Collecting from UK can be fun, challenging
Posted Mar 27, 2013 by Bob D'Angelo
Updated Mar 27, 2013 at 11:34 PM
Glenn Codere sits in his card collecting room, surrounded by binders and boxes filled with baseball cards, books about baseball, his CDs and “a reasonable collection” of single malt Scotch whisky. It’s cozy-looking and seems like a typical room a collector in the United States might set aside to indulge his or her passion.
But it isn’t typical. Codere is talking to me — via Skype — from Glasgow, Scotland.
Great Britain is an island when compared to the United States, or even continental Europe. Codere is an island unto himself as a collector in the United Kingdom.
“There has never been a trading card culture here,” he said. “It’s something that never took off.”
Codere, 52, speaks with a slight Scottish burr, which is interesting since he was born in Detroit. But his mother is a native Scot, and he moved with her to Scotland in September 1973.
His collecting tastes run to the vintage side. Codere enjoys building baseball, football and hockey sets from the 1950s through the 1970s. Late last month, he added a tough 1967 Topps high-number baseball card (card No. 580, Rocky Colavito) to drop his wantlist in that set to nine cards. He also collects books, magazines, photographs and memorabilia of the Detroit pro teams of his youth — Tigers, Lions and Red Wings — and of Scottish born baseball player Bobby Thomson, who he met in 2003 when “the Staten Island Scot” was inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall Of Fame
Being a collector thousands of miles from the United States offers some distinct challenges.
“The biggest difference is having to do all of my buying online. I don’t get the opportunity to go to card shows here,” Codere said. “At the National it was such a joy to go to tables and look.”
Codere relies on online auctions and trades with similar-minded collectors, but getting the cards to Scotland can be expensive.
“It’s pretty tricky,” he said. “The biggest obstacles are shipping, duty taxes and excise taxes.”
Glenn showed me a 300-count box of cards he bought from Internet dealer Solomon Cramer in 1998 for $25. Shipping was $14.
That was 15 years ago. Recent increases in postage in the United States have complicated matters. Any merchandise worth more than £15 sterling (that’s $22.69 according to today’s exchange rate) is subject to duty and excise taxes. That doesn’t include shipping, which can cost up to an additional £8 ($12.10).
Codere loves to win single-card auctions and trade for needs off his wantlist. But again, costs can be prohibitive, though. To save on expenses, Codere enlisted the help of Wisconsin card collector Bill Ashton, whom he met through Old Baseball Cards, an online trading group (www.oldbaseball.com). Ashton takes delivery of Codere’s auction winnings, holds onto them until he has a large amount, and then ships it internationally in a flat-rate box that the U.S. Postal Service provides (“if it fits, it ships”).
When he’s not collecting cards or getting packages, Codere heads to the job he has held for 31 years at Health Protection Scotland. He maintains the national register of HIV-infected persons and AIDS cases in Scotland, and provides a statistical information service for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections to health service professionals, the government and researchers.
Codere enjoys Scotland now, but as a 13-year-old, moving overseas involved some difficult transitions. He had played for the Central West Little League champion Broncos in 1972 in Westland, Mich., and had been a big Detroit Tigers fan “from the moment I could toddle.”
But when he moved to Armadale, Scotland, Codere may have felt like he’d moved to another planet.
“It was terrible,” he said. “I was all cut off. There was no Internet, and there were three channels on TV. None of them showed American sports.
“If you were lucky, the newspaper might run scores.”
Things did get better, and Codere even found himself playing shortstop and pitcher as an adult in Edinburgh. He played in a league for 10 years, and he had an eclectic mix of teammates.
“It was a terrific mix of Scots, Americans, Canadians and Europeans,” he said. “We had a Dutch pitcher and the catcher played American Legion ball in the States.”
Curveballs proved to be Glenn’s undoing.
“As soon as they introduced the curveball in Scotland, that was the end of me,” he said.
Baseball is better known in Great Britain today, thanks to the multiple sources of information now available.
“The media and Internet have really brought games like baseball to an international audience. And there are people out here now who can talk very knowledgably about them.”
And, there are some stirrings that card collecting might eventually catch on in the UK. Codere said he belonged to a mailing list with about 20 other collectors in Great Britain, and he subscribes to “The Wax Fantastic,” a blog by Andy Bates that targets collectors in the UK (http://thewaxfantastic.wordpress.com).
But Codere does miss buying packs of cards. Folks in Scotland don’t saunter down to a Wal-Mart or Target, looking for cards.
The reaction of Glenn’s neighbors and friends to his card collecting hobby range from indifference to amusement.
When he raises the subject, “they look at me and ask, ‘what are baseball cards?’ ” he said. “They either ignore it and go on to the next subject, or they ask what it is.
“To a certain extent they humor me. The person who humors me the most is my wife.”
Glenn married Maureen in 1998. He recalls taking her to the United States and going to the National, the annual baseball card extravaganza that is a mecca for card collectors.
“On the first day she was raking through boxes of cards, looking at my wantlists,” he said. “I knew she was a keeper.”
He still misses big card shows and buying cards he can open immediately.
“I still get a thrill in opening packs,” he said. “Whenever I have family coming from the States, I tell them to buy me a pack or a box.”
Codere said he bought five boxes of 2013 Topps Heritage — Heritage is the one “new” product he buys on a consistent basis — and had them shipped to his cousin’s house in Denver. His cousin will be traveling to Scotland in July with his family and will deliver the cards.
“I’ve got itchy fingers waiting for them,” he said.
When he gets them, Codere will sit back, enjoy ripping open packs — and might even sample some Scotch malt whisky while doing it.
“A pack of cards with a miniature whisky in it? Now, that would be a winner,” he said.