Leighton Sheldon always considered himself an avid baseball card collector.
“I remember opening a pack of cards in 1984 and I got a Don Mattingly rookie card,” said Sheldon, a resident of Hoboken. “I was always careful with my cards. I was like 12 or 13 years old, but I knew what I wanted to do. I tried to collect full sets like in 1985 and 1986. That was fun if I got a card that I needed. I would match cards, but I was careful not to do anything to them. I never really had access to the really old cards.”
Sheldon was also a baseball fanatic.
“I played baseball into high school and stuck with it,” Sheldon said. “I really enjoyed baseball statistics.”
Sure enough, the best statistics were on the backs of baseball cards.
Sheldon attended Rutgers University and eventually earned a master’s degree in business. After school, he got a job as a financial analyst for Johnson & Johnson, a job he started while he was still attending Rutgers.
“I was able to balance work and school,” Sheldon said.
Not to mention, his love for card collecting.
“I learned the value of a dollar at a very young age,” Sheldon said. “I had to make sure that $50 went a long way. Everything is negotiable in life. I learned that when I was young. I made a little bit of money in 1989 on a Ken Griffey, Jr. card. That’s when it really got going.”
Sheldon said that he was able to pay his tuition at Rutgers by buying and selling cards.
When Sheldon earned his master’s in 2000, he was all set to pursue a life in financial analysis.
“But I decided not to work for Johnson & Johnson anymore,” Sheldon said.
He took a job at a baseball card mail order company in Old Greenwich, Conn.
“It was a lot of fun,” Sheldon said. “The company did $2 million in sales. I learned a lot from working there.”
Sheldon took a job at the famous auction house, Leland’s in New York, and remained there for four years, eventually becoming in charge of acquisitions.
“I was fortunate,” Sheldon said. “I was always good in networking.”
Sheldon started his own firm, called JustCollect.com, where he focuses on buying and selling memorabilia.
Sheldon deals with all major sports, but he’s also interested in non-sports cards, like the Batman collection of 1966 or Gilligan’s Island (yes, the little buddy and the Skipper had their own cards).
“They’re very rare,” Sheldon said. “I do love sports, but I love cards. There’s a set of Beatles cards I am interested in as well. The market is very strong, but right now, it’s really strong with vintage baseball cards.”
Last week, Sheldon traveled to Cleveland to attend the annual Sports Collectors’ Convention, the world’s largest sports memorabilia and card collector gathering. More than 60 top athletes, including Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and Cal Ripken, Jr. were there.
Also, there were 1,000 vendors in attendance, showing their cards and memorabilia.
Sheldon went there with the idea that he was willing to spend $1 million on some rare Joe Jackson Cracker Jack cards.
“I’d love to tell you that I’m a genius, but I just thought how I could make the trip to Cleveland more exciting,” Sheldon said.
He did not get to spend the million he set aside for the rare cards, but he did make some purchases.
Sheldon also put two items up for sale, the actual bleacher seat where he sat in Yankee Stadium for Game 6 of the 1996 World Series, won by the Yankees.
“I have the ticket stub and the seat,” Sheldon said. “I just put the seat under my coat and left.”
Sheldon also put up a rare original photo of Wilt Chamberlain scoring the 100th point in his game against the Knicks in Hershey, Pa. in the early 1960s. The photo is rare, because there were not many media people in attendance for that historic game and there is no videotape of the game anywhere.
“I enjoy what I do for a living,” Sheldon said. “I didn’t get a chance to be an athlete, because there is no hope for a flat-footed Jewish boy in pro baseball or pro basketball. Rather than being an athlete, at least I’m involved. It’s something that I still enjoy.”
If you want to learn more about Leighton Sheldon and his business, log onto www.justcollect.com. If you have old baseball cards that you’re willing to part with, then Sheldon just might be your option.
Sheldon is also reaching out to the general public as well. In the near future, Sheldon and JustCollect will be holding events in Hoboken and Jersey City for the youngsters of both municipalities. We will keep you posted on those events in the weeks to come…
The two baseball teams from the Jackie Robinson Little League (the 15-and-under team and the 18-and-under squad) as well as the Hoboken Shockers softball team are off to the Major League Baseball RBI World Series in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas this week.
We’ll have more on their exploits in the Lone Star State next week…
EXTRA INNINGS focuses on the best stories that come from local baseball and softball leagues throughout the area, from Little League action through travel leagues.
If you have any noteworthy information to contribute to the EXTRA INNINGS, feel free to contact Jim Hague by phone at (201) 303-5792, by general mail at 1400 Washington St., Hoboken, NJ 07030, or via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com.
The e-mail would be the best way of getting in touch.
Please include a telephone contact name and number, in order to secure further information for a possible story. Also, if you have a picture to be used with the story, that would be a great help….--Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.