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Diamond 9 Sports: The Appeal of “The Hobby”

Diamond+9+Sports+Cards+%28located+in+Placentia%29+has+free+Sports+and+Trading+Card+Game+Collectible+Shows+every+Wednesday+and+Saturday.
Anjeli Webb
Diamond 9 Sports Cards (located in Placentia) has free Sports and Trading Card Game Collectible Shows every Wednesday and Saturday.

HISTORY

Collecting and trading sports cards have been a fundamental hobby for generations, starting with baseball cards in the 1860s. Baseball itself only came to fruition in the mid-19th century, becoming especially popular in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War and the Great Depression as a form of escape from societal turmoil.

The cards as we know them started to be produced by companies like Peck and Snyder (a sporting goods store established in 1866) to advertise their business amongst baseball fanatics. Over 150 years later, the pastime has expanded to include other sports like football and soccer and even cartoon and video game characters.

Yorba Linda High School is a hotspot for die-hard sports fans, being near the Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Lakers, and Los Angeles Clippers among other professional teams. Therefore, it is no wonder that Mustangs are avid sports card collectors.

Gavin Smith (9) displays his graded card storage box, a handy tool for diehard collectors. (Anjeli Webb)

Gavin Smith (9) who is on the Frosh Football and Lacrosse Teams, frequents Diamond 9 Sports Cards with his younger brother Greyson. Almost every Saturday since December 2021, he has bought, sold, and traded baseball and football cards after being introduced to the hobby by his father and grandmother. He says that his “favorite part about collecting cards is the grind and hustle and the ability to make new relationships with people.”

Collecting is a pastime that enables young people to learn about basic business principles in a relatively low-cost and low-risk environment. It also lets buyers and sellers interact with many different types of people that they normally might not meet in daily life.

As a result, collecting is an inclusive hobby that anyone of any age can be involved in to expand their business knowledge and interpersonal relationships, and have fun while doing so.

My favorite part about collecting cards is the grind and hustle and the ability to make new relationships with people.

— Gavin Smith (9)

THE STORE

Although the store was established in 2021, Diamond 9 Sports Cards started as a traveling vendor. Owner Robert V. would frequent events at community centers and hotels and found so much success that he decided to open a brick-and-mortar card store that doubled as an event space. Known by regulars as “Rob” or the “really nice guy at the front counter,” he has built a reputation of being welcoming and helpful despite being in an industry that might be more competitive than others.

Diamond 9 founder and owner Robert V. is extremely helpful and considerate and fosters a welcoming environment for all types of collectors. (Anjeli Webb)

Rob (whose favorite baseball team is the Angels) started collecting and trading when he was in fifth grade and selling in 1997 through internet message boards. After COVID-19, he decided to open a physical store. His favorite aspect of being an owner of Diamond 9 is “meeting new customers with rare cards” as well as “hearing stories about how [customers’] parents threw cards out that would be worth a lot today.” Even through challenges like surprisingly common break-in and theft attempts, he still keeps a positive attitude and works tirelessly to ensure the integrity of his products, and safety of his customers and staff.

At Diamond 9, those under 18 can arrange to rent a table for 50% off—a generous opportunity that Rob provides to offer youth the chance to develop ethical business skills. He explains that it teaches kids how to determine “when to say yes or no” and learn life lessons. The store also acts as a free event space for school groups and other organizations, just another testament to how dedicated Diamond 9 is to serving its community.

There is a wide assortment of collectibles, ranging from sports-themed to cartoon-themed. (Anjeli Webb)

Diamond 9 boasts a wide variety of events ranging from Disney Lorcana Tournaments to high-profile MLB Athlete signings.

Recently, they (in tandem with the OC Dugout) hosted Los Angeles Angels Rookie Baseball Catcher #14 Logan O’Hoppe for his first-ever autograph signing. The event was a huge success, having completely sold-out autographs and photo ops beforehand!

In addition to the O’Hoppe signing, Diamond 9 brought Angels Rookie Pitcher #44 Ben Joyce and two players from the 2002 World Series—Troy Percival and Adam Kennedy for meet-and-greet. The latter was Percival’s first public event in around two decades.

THE PEOPLE

The exhibitors at the Wednesday and Saturday shows have extremely diverse backgrounds but are all united by their adoration for “the hobby.”

At the entrance of the store, you can find Jeremy Lee (a classically trained piano teacher), who had a chance encounter with nostalgic sports cards. When he was touring San Francisco’s Pier 51 early in his childhood, he happened to stop by a store that had an NBA Hoops Basketball card pack and ended up finding the most exclusive and sought-after card. Decades later, he says that the professional friends that he has made over the years as a result of that fateful day feel almost like a family to him. Lee explains how “everyone is down-to-earth, and the hobby is welcoming and inclusive to people regardless of age or budget.” He is known for his impressive piano performances at the store every now and then.

I love how everyone [at Diamond 9] is down-to-earth, and that the hobby is welcoming and inclusive to people regardless of age or budget.

— Jeremy Lee (Vendor)

Vendor Hiro Nakamoto started collecting baseball and football cards in 1975 and selling them in 1987. He specializes in acquiring and selling high-quality Japanese-interest items like special-edition artwork Shohei Ohtani cards and iconic Ichiro Suzuki cards. Nakamoto is bilingual which helps him cater to his target market, as well as form friendships with his customers and fellow exhibitors.

Craig Hashimoto (whose table is right next to Nakamoto’s) has his own impressive set of cards but is also famous for his yearly holiday setups and decorations. Every Halloween, he creates a haunted maze of sorts in the back of the store to the great delight of young collectors. Whether it’s the maze filled with clever illusions and spooky surprises in the fall or making appearances as Santa Claus during the winter, he contributes greatly to the sense of community at Diamond 9.

Nevertheless, not everyone with a table is a vendor. “The Slab Dr.” has over 33 years of experience with card preparation and evaluation. This means that he can ensure that cards are in their best shape possible before collectors submit them to be authenticated and graded. When he was 12, he was unhappy with the condition that some otherwise excellent cards were in—some that were in wax packs degraded in value over time due to the wax adhering to the cards—so he decided to do something about it. He developed an eye for detail and what it takes for a card to be a PSA 10 or another equivalent grade. With every “surgery” he completes, the Slab Dr. aims to get rid of “unsightly scratches, scruffs, gunk, and more.” He has an impressive work ethic and passion for the job, leading to an unbeatable online turnaround time of around 24-48 hours and a record of turning possible PSA 6s into PSA 10s. His motto is “buy what you like” because he believes that the fun of card collecting should not be diminished by the inability to have perfect cards.

Even considering the exciting events at places like Diamond 9 and the constantly evolving supply of cards and other memorabilia, the appeal of collectibles has less to do with their monetary value or opportunity for bragging rights. Instead, it’s about the joy of having a shared passion with others. (Although having a good collection is pretty neat too!)

Diamond 9 Sports (d9sportscards.com)

What do you love most about collecting?

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About the Contributor
Anjeli Webb, Editor-In-Chief
Anjeli Webb is a senior at Yorba Linda High School. While she is constantly pouring her heart and soul into writing, she also frequently enjoys well-written novels or groundbreaking news pieces. Anjeli values unbiased truth and freedom of speech and never fails to express it. This is her third year of writing for The Wrangler, and she is now an Editor-in-Chief. She is on the debate team, is the President of YLHS’ Turning Point USA chapter, is on the Superintendent’s High School Advisory Council, is a member of CSF and NHS, and is a player on the inaugural Varsity Flag Football team. Off-campus, she is a Junior Ambassador for the Yorba Linda Chamber of Commerce. Anjeli plans to continue journalism and change the world through language.

Comments (3)

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  • D

    Diamond 9 SportsDec 12, 2023 at 4:46 PM The Wrangler Pick

    Thank you, Anjeli! We appreciate you highlighting us in your news site.

    Reply
  • R

    Rie HachihamaDec 5, 2023 at 10:33 AM

    Thank you for this enjoyable and enlightening article!
    I now think of sports card collecting as a more serious hobby than I used to! Kudos to Diamond 9 for such a welcoming and learning environment!

    Reply
  • S

    Sports card OtakuDec 3, 2023 at 5:42 PM

    Very good article Ms Webb.. I have been a long time collector and not so successful sports card person. However without question the hobby has brought me countless hours of fun. Thank you for also capturing the other aspect of this hobby which is people!

    Reply