When I first joined the Hobby Blogging Community almost five years ago, there really weren't many people in the collective pool. The idea of blogging about sports cards was relatively new, and outside of Ben Henry, not too many people knew that there were people writing independently about sports cards.
Back then, Chris Harris was still seething over a squirrel card and the rapid rise of "gimmicks." Dayf was focused more on getting his Chippers than drawing ponies. Curious collectors had their minds blown to find a woman writing about sports cards...and learn that her daughter shared the same passion. A collector in Miami was waxing poetic about his Jose Canseco card collection before taking advantage of the medium and blowing it to massive heights. Some guy was writing about Orioles cards, another about White Sox cards, a third about Reds cards. A certain Owl hadn't begun his night shift at this time. But before I started my site, another one had just begun what would become one of the most popular, and most controversial, Hobby blogging sites around. That would be Sports Card Uncensored.
Long time readers know this, but for those who just joined the community recently, let me describe SCU. Set in a black background, with an avatar of an angry "South Park" character wearing a Vikings jersey, Sports Card Uncensored was the true Anti-Beckett (no offence to VOTC). Gellman didn't like what the Number One Source of the Hobby had become: a publication that was supposed to be the guiding the collector had turned into a mouthpiece for the companies themselves. It was always sunshine and happiness coming out of the pages of the magazine, and any "controversial" topics like counterfeits, and the scammers who make them, were virtually ignored. There had to be some kind of balance. Someone who was not afraid to discuss issues in the Hobby that the established media did not want to touch.
Oh yeah, did I mention that his writing was not for the faint of heart or easily offended? The language he would use could peel paint off an old barn (hence UNCENSORED).
It got to the point where his messages about the established media did get the attention of the Number One Source of the Hobby. Let's just say that the parties involved just didn't get along very well. But whatever transgressions occurred between both sides, one thing became clear: the voices of independent collectors were starting to grow, and would only get louder as technology would improve. The Hobby blogs were starting to take a chunk of the readership away from established Hobby sites and as readership grew, so did the reputations of the bloggers leading the way. Among those leading the charge was our man Gellman.
Regardless of whether or not he brushed people the wrong way with his words, his message was clear: that there were two sides to this Hobby, and the other side isn't all positive. He wrote about how easily cards could be forged and exposed many a scam artist. He discussed how to tell whether a relic card has been altered. He made it a point to spot fakes and educate the collector on how to shop for high end cards without getting scammed. Did that cause people to retaliate against Gellman? Perhaps, but he has shown time and time again that critics and con artists would not slow him down as he continues his crusade to expose the underside of the Hobby. Gellman has had his share of nasty opponents, from the guy that created a Fake Gellman account on Twitter, to some website that was going to be take over as the "Premier Sports Card Industry Blog." All these people did was try to raise the ire of Gellman. Fortunately for his fans, that never happened.
Gellman has also been a strong advocate for the Hobby Blogging Community. He was the man who initiated the first "Blog Bat Around" which united different Hobby bloggers to write about a common theme. It has been a while since the Community last had a good Bat Around. Sigh. He also became an inspiration to aspiring bloggers and never hesitated to throw a piece of advice to newbies.
Over the years, Gellman has toned down the profanity (at least I haven't seen any lately on his posts), his website has changed backgrounds from black to white (easier to read), and although he still doesn't take advertising, he has made connections with the major manufacturers in the Hobby. His contest, celebrating five years in the Blogging Community has prizes contributed by Topps, UD, and even Panini. While he was once a major thorn on their sides, and still wails on them mercilessly when he sees a product he doesn't like, it is because of him that the companies now understand that collectors have a voice and when inspired, will take their opinions to the information superhighway to let whoever is listening know what they think.
Not only has Gellman's site changed, but so has the man himself. Long a diabetic, he has raised money through SCU for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and participated in a number of walks. He even went through surgery to take off the weight he gained because of diabetes. He got married before the end of 2008, and he and his wife became the parents of a baby boy in 2010. He and his family even moved from the comforts of LA (he and his wife are native Minnesotans) to San Antonio, Texas. But all the while, the site's popularity grew, and sometime this year (or was it last), he reached his 1,000,000th hit.
I actually met Gellman at the National the last time it came to Chicago. Reputation aside, you couldn't find a nicer guy to talk to. Genuine, really cares about the collectors and is really happy to see how much blogging about collecting cards has grown since the days he first started. He was there to help with the Freedom Card Board booth, and even took the time to text me to let me know when he was in the area so I could meet him. I don't think I got any pictures with him (otherwise it would have been up by now), but again, his internet persona is 180º from who he is in person. I know in the very beginning of our journeys (I started this humble little blog two months after he did) that we disagreed on a number of topics, but I respected him for standing up for and defending his opinions. I always hoped that the feeling was mutual.
So congratulations Gellman! Thank you for all you've done for the Hobby Blogging Community. You are a great asset to the Community and one of the best resources the Hobby turns to for information with a dose of attitude to boot. Rest assured that when the day comes that your site reaches its sixth month of inactivity, it will be automatically enshrined into the SCBR Hall of Fame.
I just hope that won't be in the very near future.