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Mudville: September 21, 2023 6:14 pm PDT

All That Glitters

BY KEVIN CZERWINSKI

There is something so blissfully simple about what Jason Schwartz does to a baseball card.

A pair of scissors, a little bit of glue, some glitter, some colored paper and voila, you have a Heavy J Studios creation. It all sounds a bit like craft time in kindergarten class and Schwartz, 53, knows that. While it seems like his work, which he markets under the moniker of Heavy J [more on that later], wouldn’t attract much attention in the card-art market, nothing could be further from the truth.

Schwartz, who lives in the Chicago suburb of Western Springs with his wife, Jodee, and son, Jaden, has created quite a niche, making and marketing cards that appeal to all collectors. That he does so in such a scaled-down way only seems to bring more attention to what has become an increasingly technical and artistic hobby.

“I would say by no means am I a traditional artist,” Schwartz said. “I am a pandemic artist and I [would] put artist in quotes. My high school summer job was as an assistant ceramics teacher for 5- and 6-year-olds. So, I guess you can say I have professional experience. This is something I picked up during the pandemic. There is not a tremendous amount of skill required. You cut out the card and glue it onto glitter paper.”

Though making his cards may not take a tremendous amount of skill, it has allowed Schwartz to do something special. Schwartz has raised nearly $23,000 for various baseball-related charities through his work, donating everything he makes from each sale to organizations like The Josh Gibson Foundation, The Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum, The Dave Parker Foundation, The Buck Leonard Association, and The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

Schwartz made his first card in early 2020 – a Dave Parker prototype – and an official Wade Boggs card followed. He has made about 800 cards since and has not seen a dime of profit on any of them. In fact, because he continues to buy supplies to make the cards, he has actually lost money.

“I have pocketed zero dollars and zero cents and if I hired an accountant, he might tell me I am $4,000 in the hole,” said Schwartz, whose work has also earned him the moniker “Godfather of Glitter” among collectors. “This has all been 100 percent about charity and it’s been that way from the start. I put a card on Twitter and auctioned it to raise money for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and I got $40. It all went to the museum.

“I got such a high watching people bid on this thing that what I wanted to do during the pandemic was raise $25,000 for people by making these cards. I was losing vision in my right eye and had surgery a few months ago, so I did slow down quite a bit. I could no longer do the intricate cutting and because I couldn’t make the cards with the same level of quality, I was forced into hibernation. My vision is good enough to return to action now and I would still love to hit that $25,000 goal.”

Schwartz’s work has also benefited from the fact that he is an avid card collector. He, like many collectors, has thousands of cards in boxes, most of which aren’t worth much. When Schwartz decided to create some frames and displays for some of his cards during the pandemic, his creative juices began to flow.

He took some scrap paper and some glitter paper, along with a pack of ’81 Fleers, and created a card, mostly for fun. However, others saw it as something special.

“I thought it would be kind of funny to take the scrap paper and use it to make a special border for a Dave Parker card,” he said. “It was kind of a tongue in cheek jab at the chrome and refractor modern-day, fancy borders on cards. I showed it to some of my buddies and they thought it was super cool and asked if they could have one.

“Then one day I was thumbing through a stack of cards and found a Wade Boggs rookie that had a stain on the border. It was a great candidate to make a card, so I made it and it looked cool. I’m having so much fun making these and it’s really because of a happenstance stack of cards that were sitting on leftover scrap paper. I used that paper as a card border and the rest is history.”

His work can be found on Twitter @HeavyJ28 and via his blog.

One group who saw something special in what Schwartz was doing is the Pittsburgh Pirates. They commissioned him earlier this spring to create a five-foot card that is on display at PNC Park. The card, which is a replica of the 1976 card commemorating Rennie Stennett’s seven-hit game on Sept. 16, 1975, took Schwartz a month to create. It is a collage of more than 6,000 pieces of glitter paper.

Schwartz, who grew up in Los Angeles, is hopeful that other teams will see what he’s done for the Pirates and commission him to create pieces for their teams. He’d love to create a 1978 Topps Glen Burke rookie card for the Dodgers, the team he grew up idolizing and of whom he continues to be a big fan.

Card-art specialist Tim Carroll creates exquisite pieces by cutting up cards and recreating larger versions of older cards. His work influenced Schwartz’s Stennett, which he said is part of his XXL Collection.

“I do think there is a market for the Heavy J Studios XXL pieces,” Schwartz said. “He [Carroll] is an absolute legend and in a way, shows me there is a market there. I hope to get to Dodger Stadium. I think having something at PNC helps; it gives me some credibility.”

His XXL work is almost as unique as his nickname – Heavy J – a handle he picked up nearly four decades ago when he was in college.

“I played on a softball team with my buddy, Kevin, and he was teasing me for not having a girlfriend,” Schwartz said. “He said he thought I could do better if I had a cool nickname like a rapper and that it should be Heavy J. So, he started calling me that and all my friends started calling me that. I can’t say the nickname ever got me a date – but I couldn’t get rid of it.”

It’s a wonderfully simple nickname – and by the way, Schwartz really isn’t heavy – and an apt company name for the equally simple process Schwartz uses to create his art.

Covered a Mets-Astros doubleheader in 1987 and never looked back. Spent eight years at MLB.com, more than half of that as the Mets beat writer. Had one beat writer from another newspaper threaten to kill him in an elevator at the winter meetings. The other half was as MiLB.com’s staff historian. Worked three years in Philly at Comcast covering the Phillies’ minor leagues and doing weekly TV spots. Author of the popular blog The Bobblist, which covers everything A to Z in the world of bobbleheads. Really.

Comments
  • Heavy J is one of the most authentic guys you’ll meet in this hobby! A class act!

    July 25, 2023
  • John Coombs

    Go Heavy J! Blessings….

    July 27, 2023
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