Interview with Ivan Lovegren
By: Shane Salmonson
I met Ivan late at night in an Atlantic City hotel room. Wait, that sounds weird. Let’s backtrack a little bit. I was lucky enough to attend the 2016 National Sports Collector Convention in Atlantic City, NJ. I only had one day to spend there, but had my priorities set. My top priority was to meet as many people that I had communicated with on Twitter as I could. I was invited to meet up with a bunch of people in Nick’s (a former interview subject) hotel room. We ended up hanging out and talking about cards until the early morning hours. Ivan was late to the party, but made his appearance after his host duties were over with for the night. Not only is Ivan the star of the YouTube series The Breaks, but he also co-hosts the weekly live hobby show GoGTSLive, and works as a host on the main stage at the National.
BU: When were you first introduced to the hobby?
IL: I got my first pack of cards when I was three or four years old, on a trip to Chicago with my dad. I pulled an Andre Dawson All-Star from the Cubs and I was immediately hooked.
BU: What do you currently collect?
IL: Currently I collect mainly unique inserts of Cubs players. I’d like to open more boxes and chase more high-end stuff, being a new dad of two boys means making the tough choices, like not hanging out in card shops that much right now.
BU: Where did the idea for “The Breaks” YouTube series come from?
IL: I had done a few other web series with friends (see “Hike Time” on YouTube for one reference), and we always ran into the same problem of not knowing how to get people to actually watch our show. At the same time, I had just joined twitter and started collecting again, and really enjoyed the community and finding something in common with so many people outside of LA, not to mention half the stories are true – I’ve made pretty much every collecting mistake possible. I actually suggested it on my personal twitter and a filmmaker I knew (Dave Denholm) reached out and said “hey that sounds fun, let’s meet.”
BU: Any plans to continue that series at some point?
IL: I would LOVE to, at the same time I still have obligations to send out from the first one (my wife would LOVE me to get these t-shirts out of our closet – I’m still trying to chase down some of the actors for their autographed cards). If we do make a second season, we will definitely do all the pre-production and shoot the episodes together instead of over the span of 18 months we did previously. I want it to be efficient and satisfactory to those who have given so much support over the years.
BU: How would you explain the GoGTSLive hobby web show to someone who hasn’t checked it out yet?
IL: GoGTSLive is a news show about what is happening in the hobby. We get hobby insiders on the show who answer questions and give insights you can’t always get from a company blog or social media. We also get product sent to us from the manufacturers to preview for our audience and we give away all the hits to our viewers!
BU: Let’s switch gears from online to in-person. I have only been able to attend The National Sports Collectors Convention one time. Why should every collector make it a point to attend this convention at least once?
IL: For myself, when I was a little kid even though lots of people “collected cards” back then, none seemed to care as much as me. I always felt a little strange and nerdy because I cared so much about cards, sets, inserts, knowing checklists, while my friends would just throw their cards loosely into a shoebox. When I found the collecting community on Twitter, for the first time I didn’t feel so strange. Attending a National in person made it all come home. I met people who cared MORE about cards, who knew everything, who had everything, and who still showed up every year to find that oddball item or just see their friends in person. I’ve attended four years in a row now and it feels like a family reunion every time.
BU: How did you land the gig as one of the Main Stage hosts at The National?
IL: That was all to the credit of GoGTSLive producer Joe Fallon & David Gelfman of Ripping Wax who sponsors the Case Break Pavilion. We had just launched the show, which is sponsored by GTS Distribution, and Rob Bertrand who hosts the show with me had hosted the Main Stage previously, so I think the first time we were just “one less thing to worry about getting done.” That said, we didn’t take it for granted, and we took note of the good & the bad, and made sure to incorporate our experience to make this year’s Main Stage even more dynamic and fun, and hopefully we will be able to implement even more of our ideas if we get invited back for 2018!
Holds 1 card. 3-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 1/4″. Display cards vertically or horizontally.
BU: What is your opinion of the current hobby landscape?
IL: I think it has never been a better time to be a collector. Sports are rife with hot young stars, technology is allowing us to get next-day autograph cards from major events, and every controversy we see only proves that modern scrutiny demands excellence from our manufacturers. I think after the breaker boom we are now seeing refinement – items like Leaf Best of Basketball where vintage collectors can “chase” hits, Vintage Breaks opening packs of 79 O-Pee-Chee Hockey and 55 Bowman Baseball, and advanced authentication techniques like the Legit App from Emmitt Smith.
BU: What would you say is the best part of the current hobby?
IL: The fact that thru social media we can communicate across boundaries. When I was a kid and I’d get a new Beckett, it seemed like the ads in the back were the closest I ever got to hearing from other collectors. The odd card show comes to town and most of the dealers (even back then) are old guys who don’t care about talking to a 9 year old kid about 93 Topps Gold cards. Now, whatever you collect, you can find someone to share it with.
BU: Any negatives that you hope will see some change soon?
IL: The negatives I see and hope will change are two I think most collectors can agree upon – more manufacturer transparency & less blatant money grabs. I think we are moving in the right direction with manufacturer transparency. Topps has done a great job whittling down the number of redemptions in the past few years, Panini has made a strong effort to have more on-card autos after seeming to be the sticker kings for years, Upper Deck has worked hard to rebuild their image since the McWilliam era. At the same time, we still see issues with patches, authentication, even collation and damaged pack-outs that I know collectors would like to see happen less frequently. As far as blatant money grabs, I am reminded of how the Star Wars Trading Card app went from essentially 1989 to 1997 in a span of six months. What was once a fun engaging experience THAT I ACTUALLY SPENT MONEY ON became a lightspeed race that demanded I spend money in order to just keep up, and became quickly no fun. I went from spending $10 a week in the app to not having opened it in the past year, and I think that principle applies to a lot of card products each year. Put side-by-side we can barely tell the difference between National Treasures, Flawless, and Immaculate base cards, yet now we get them in pro and collegiate versions. I’d rather see some specific solid definition among products and those products done well before we start adding sets titled things like “Illustrious”, “Sparkla”, “Gem Mint”… I wouldn’t be surprised if the next hot sparkly set we get sold is a brand simply called “Fatuitous.”
BU: Anything else you’d like to share?
IL: China. Don’t lose sight of how China has changed most markets in America, especially entertainment markets. There are more English speakers in China today than in America, and that means both opportunity and challenge. Two of the shops I frequent in LA cannot keep high-end basketball in stock, because of how popular it is among the young rich from China that are here for school. I’ve been in a shop when a guy too young to drink came in and bought a case of Flawless, and then cursed out the shop owner because he didn’t hit a logoman and proceeded to leave the store without his cards because none of them were logoman hits. This is a market I am hoping we can bridge even further in the next few years and figure out more ways to interact on an international level as a community.
Acrylic. Holds a 100pt. thick card. 1 screw. Recessed card area. 2-7/8 x 4 x 1/4″. Holds a card up to 2-1/2 x 3-1/2″.