Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
As much as I absolutely love what Upper Deck does in terms of design and production, they continue to surprise me with the way they approach their business dealings. Yesterday TMZ reported that HOFer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is suing Upper Deck in an amount GREATER than 1 million dollars in regards to the use of his name, picture and autograph in one of their latest releases. According to the always 100% factual TMZ report, UD had received advanced knowledge that this would happen, and went ahead with it despite Kareem's objections.
Considering that Upper Deck is already in a HEAP of trouble with just about all of the league offices in some way, to run with this in the way they did is incredibly terrible business sense. Although I am sure there is another side to the story regarding autograph contracts and likeness contracts that dictate the use of players in a product, it is definitely NOT good news for Upper Deck.
The bottom line is that Upper Deck has a lot of stuff on their plate already, and they will need to stop things like this from happening if they want to continue business as usual. As it stands right now, their product lines remain in jeopardy until there is a proven record that an NCAA exclusive and NHL license can sustain them, and if lawsuits continue to pile up, it wont matter if they have success.
Its pretty obvious that something needs to change, and hopefully situations like this don’t continue to happen. More on this as it becomes available.
Monday, August 30, 2010
We all love free shit. Its part of human nature. If you bought any Topps Football over the last few days, you know all about the Gridiron Giveaway, the sister program to its immensely successful baseball counterpart. If you havent heard about it, things are pretty simple. Redemption codes are inserted into most of the Topps Flagship products, both retail and hobby, for collectors to input online at ToppsGridiron.com. When the code is entered, you are assigned a topps card that is now yours, spanning over 50 years of stuff. While most cards are dogs from the late 80s and early 90s, there are some vintage cards definitely worth your time. There are also mentions of memorabilia being given away, and considering this is all an add on to the already awesome set, its pretty nice that we have this chance.
Today on Twitter, Jeff from I Am Joe Collector made an awesome suggestion of adding exclusive rookies and autos to the program, and I sincerely hope that Topps takes heed and gets it done. Going even further than that, this is a wonderful opportunity to get people to buy as much of the product as possible, a la Baseball and the Strasburg 661 card that went for $300+ upon release. Although I would never buy codes to chase the exclusives or the autos, I definitely think there are thousands of collectors who would. Add in Chrome paralllels of the SP Variations for Topps Football and you have a hit like no other. Because Chrome will most likely have their own variations, it gives Topps a unique opportunity to create them. When you could also do autographs and exclusives of the rookies per Jeff's tweet, this program could be epic. The problem has to stem from the time and money needed to do that, mainly because the Gridiron Giveaway is a ridiculously cheap program to begin with.
Personally, I think the program needs more legs to succeed like it did in baseball, mainly because so many of the baseball collectors go for low end over high end. Football is a much different animal, and you need a lot of extra stuff to bring around collectors like me who could give a shit about base cards from 1988. This is the ticket, no doubt.
If you havent heard about Strasburg, you have probably been marooned in the Swiss Alps with no internet or have been held against your will in a bunker somewhere. Im not going to discuss the merits of his injury, but I do want to touch on how this lesson factors into the buying habits of the general collecting public. See, the hype machine has become a ridiculous tornado of cash surrounding a few different people in the hobby over the last few years, and so far, none of them have lived up to the billing. Starting with Reggie Bush, moving to Joba Chamberlain, and ending with Strasburg, its funny how things have worked out. Now, with Tim Tebow beginning to make an enormous hobby impact in Football, I am wondering if people will ever learn.
Lets travel back in time to 2006, speed up to 88 mph and we are off. The Texans have the first in the NFL draft pick after a pretty terrible 2005 campaign, and Reggie Bush, the franchise back of the future is sitting there for them to build their team. He has had a monster career at USC and many of the scouts are saying he could be the next Barry Sanders. No matter that he has little size to carry the ball with that frequency, and his field awareness is oft criticized, the fans don’t care. They want Reggie. In a shocking twist, the Texans pass, and go with Mario Williams, leaving Bush to fall right into the lap of the Saints. His cards start selling at crazy astronomical prices, and his Exquisite patch auto climbs above $2,000 selling on eBay when the product is released. His draft counterparts Vince Young and Matt Leinart start to ride on his coattails even, with their cards selling for crazy money as well. Now, lets jump back in the Delorian and see what's up. Bush has done little to nothing since his rookie season, and was actually in danger of being cut before this season. The Saints did win their first title, but it had NOTHING to do with the talents of Reggie Bush. In fact, if not for Adrian Peterson's fumble-itis, his fumble on a punt return in the first half of the NFC championship may have stopped them short altogether. His cards still generate more than the normal run of the mill back, but they are never going to be back where they were in 2006.
Similarly, Joba Chamberlain had copius amounts of hype surrounding his arrival in the Yankees' farm system. His cards were selling for amounts that would make a Sox fan cry, and many people thought he was going to be the next Roger Clemens. When the 2007 Bowman products hit shelves, people clamored to get a hold of his autographed rookie. So much so that his 2007 Chrome superfractor sold for close to $10,000. I was literally in shock that someone would pay that much for a guy destined to be a middle reliever or a middle of the rotation starter, but none-the-less, people were freaking out. It had a lot to do with where he was playing, and I always said that if his name was Jerry and he played in Pittsburgh, no one would care about his future. In 2010, he has settled into a setup role with the Yankees, but is no where near where he was back in 2007. He has already had a few shots as a starter with the team, only to be put back into the bullpen when success was limited. Cards that were selling above $300 in 2007 are now under 50 bucks, and there is even a fabled BGS 10 on eBay with no bids at under $150.
These players were far down the page in a long list of failed top prospects, but Strasburg is on a level all his own. Although his career is far from over, its probable that he is not going to get to the spot he was expected to be come the middle of his run. Fireballers like Strasburg have a propensity to burn out, even to the point where teams are starting to go in a different direction if they have the option. However, that is not even half of the craziness surrounding his upcoming surgery. The main batch of crazy here was the prices people were paying for his cards, despite the fact that a best case scenario in Tim Lincecum was valued far below the investment they were making. Even if Stras had come to be what Lincecum is now, the prices were ten stories above the value ceiling. That didn’t stop people from paying thousands for his stuff, and now I am the one who is among the many saying "I told you so." Even worse, those bowman autos that were once climbing above $600 dollars are now unable to sell at even half of that price.
Not stopping there, I can now say that buying Strasburg stuff far exceeds the terrible investment anyone ever spent on guys like Bush and Chamberlain, mainly because the investment people had made had no chance of ever panning out. If you were a fan, that’s fine, spend what you want, but that’s not the way many collectors approached Strasburg "prospecting." Even at the price tag he was selling for, people were lining up to pay top dollar just in case he became the next "better than" Tim Lincecum. Instead, they ended up with a season and a half, plus rust shaking time of sitting on cards that will probably never make it back to where they paid.
Like Strasburg, Tebow is creating a hype storm in football that rivals a lot of what guys like Matt Leinart brought in 2006. Despite a lack of an NFL level skill set, and a team with that has barely any weapons at all, people are paying huge prices for cards that don’t even feature game worn swatches. Tebow has managed two TDs in the pre-season, more than any of the other QBs drafted this year, but both were "well, but" touchdowns that have a line after the initial explanation. The first TD happened during garbage time against the third stringers, and the second TD was a three yard pass against the scrubs, only after a long run from another player. These "successes" also don’t take into consideration that his terrible throwing motion, arm and accuracy led to an interception by a player who probably will only play special teams, among other problems. If he had these types of problems against the backups, what happens when guys like Darrelle Revis have a shot at his throws on a curl route to Eddie Royal?
Many people don’t understand why I hate on Tebow as much as I do, and I will say that some of it comes from the hype machine itself. I cheer against the sand that is kicked up around guys that have potential but nothing to show for it yet, and it’s the same reason I never buy into their cards. I almost always root against the hype machine, mainly because so much of the hype stands against normal reasoning. If the hype machine actually put out what we put in, maybe my tune would change, but for right now, the results are pretty much a landslide in the opposite direction. Because America is such a please me now society, no one is willing to wait on buying cards of a guy who is being helped by his hype. Even though prices will almost surely decline rapidly once production levels out to normal expectations, no one cares. Card collectors NEVER learn their lesson, and I have a feeling that they wont stop creating hobby titans like Strasburg and company.
Does this mean that we need to adjust the way WE collect? No, it just means that we have to be more careful when the hype machine comes knocking at our door. Let the others live and die by their dollars spent on unproven "pre-superstars," and instead take the bird in hand every time. Remember, its not "prospecting" when you are buying high and selling low.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Stopped by Sports Cards Plus here in San Antonio to pick up my pre-ordered box, and I must say that I got pretty lucky with the results of my break. Not the GREATEST players, but still pretty nice to pull a 1/1 or 1/4 depending on how you look at it.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Now that Topps is out, I think its time to go over a few observations I have had, especially in regards to the rarity of a few different cards. Topps notoriously sells well the first few weeks when all the set collectors bounce off the walls trying to complete a master set, but after that it’s a crap shoot. One part of the product's slate that always sells well is the rare cards, and I think I have gained some insight with all the research I have done lately.
First, the crown jewel of every Topps Football release is the Rookie Premiere autos. This year we have a complete picture of the print runs thanks to the awesome addition of serial numbering, and I think it also gives us a clue to a few other things as well. In terms of the rarity, its pretty obvious that these cards are VERY rare. In a product with as many cards as this set has, a hard signed card numbered to 90 is going to be extremely valuable. More so than I think people expect. These cards not only hold their value through the entire card year, but there are more than a handful of collectors that chase them. That means for guys like Tebow, Bradford and Bryant, there is going to be a lot of competition. A Tebow Red Ink /10 is currently up for a TON of money, and to tell you the truth, it may actually be more correct in terms of current value than anyone would believe. In all reality, these cards are the first investment banks of 2010, and I have already started to acquire the ones I want as a result of the manufactured scarcity of this year's product.
The numbering of this year's RPAs are also a tell tale sign of the sheer number of fakes that are out there for previous years. There is a VERY good chance that previous year's versions are available in COMPARABLE quantities, which means that there are definitely not 800 Peterson red inks from 2007. Although people in the know have balked at the fakes for the last year or two, many people still refuse to believe that they are fake. Hopefully this will slap some sense into their stupid heads.
As for the Rookie Red Zone signatures, they are even more rare than the RPAs, despite having higher numbering. What people don’t understand is that the 100 signed versions of these cards are available over the entire calendar of Topps products, so there is probably only 10-15 per player in this product. One forum member broke 10 cases of jumbos and only pulled 1 of these cards, and I think its safe to say that these are as big of a pull AT THIS POINT in the season as the Red Inks. Once the entire calendar is out, they will be more common, but that shouldn’t effect the value due to the way they are spread out for 2010.
There is also a short print variation of every rookie in the 2010 Premiere Class, and many of them are much better versions of the cards for players who got shafted on their pic. They are seeded at 1 per case right now, so the cost for the top guys should end up being about 20-30 bucks and the lesser guys at about 10-15. I love the idea of having these variations, and I think that many of the rookies will also have similar cards in Chrome, so we definitely have that to look forward to. Unlike last year, there doesn’t seem to be veteran variations yet, but it may still be too early to tell.
Lastly, the sketches (both artist and player) are interesting and cool additions to this product. The artist versions that have surfaced so far are incredibly well done, and they should bring very big numbers on eBay. As for the player done sketches, most of them are terrible, but that is why they are players and not artists. I think it was a good idea in concept, but I would have liked the signature on the front instead of the back, and maybe have just asked for a very cool inscription instead of a sketch. That’s my opinion, at least.
I didn’t get a chance to bust any yesterday because of lack of stock at the store I visit, but hopefully that will change coming up. Ill have a report on my luck when I get a chance to rip into some boxes.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
When I first started to get into football cards, I could never understand why anyone would buy regular Topps when Chrome was SOOOOO much better. Well, Topps took this type of feeling to heart when they started to build on their flagship set, and this year is one of the most ridiculous Topps sets ever to be produced. Like with 2010 Allen and Ginter baseball, Topps incorporated well thought out high end concepts into their most popular product, and I must say, from what I have seen, its a touchdown and a two point conversion.
The first thing about this set that I need to comment on is the Rookie Premiere autos. For the last two years, this site has been at the forefront of battling the fakes that always show up with each of these sets, and this year, I can go on vacation. Topps, in partial response to the criticsm of people like me, has serially numbered ON THE FRONT OF THE CARD, each and every Rookie Premiere auto. The normal blue autos are numbered to 90, and the reds are numbered to 10. This is such an epic win for my interest in these cards, and I will not hesitate to congratulate Topps on a job well done. The hobby thanks you for taking a stand the RIGHT way.
Second, I commented a few days ago that a lot of the top rookies had TERRIBLE pictures for their Topps cards. After searching on eBay today, I saw that some of the rookies included in that group have some VERY cool variation cards. Clausen has a throwing one, Spiller has a catching one, and Bradford and Tebow also have theirs. Im hoping these cards have Chrome variations because they are a great addition to this set. Its really too bad that the close ups werent the variations, because the rarer ones are definitely 10000000% better.
Moving on to some of the other autographs in this product, I love the ones centered around the 75th NFL Draft. Rather than bordering the stickers like Topps loves to do, they have really done a great job hiding them in the design. For a low end set like this product, the autos are tremendous and should get a lot of money on the secondary market. I even have a slight draw to the Gridiron Lineage dual autos, even though the cards are done in typical Topps fashion. The difference between these cards and ones like in Topps Unique last year is that the borders actually work, and none of the players are covered up. The concept of the set features some good combos of players too, so the low numbered autos should get some nice coin if pulled.
I think another amazing addition to this set is the sketch cards that are randomly inserted, as these types of cards have become incredibly popular for good reason. This Montana sketch that showed up on ebay is so cool, that I may chase others if they look as good as this one does. How cool would it be to get a card like this autographed by the player at a show? I think it would make one of the coolest pieces ever.
Whether or not a box break lives up to everything that it can, the singles listed so far definitely live up to the billing and then some. Even venturing outside of the singles, into the addition of the Gridiron Giveaway, even more is put into this product. Like the Million Card giveaway in baseball, Football has a sister project, and the codes are inserted similarly to Topps baseball. Because football has down years, but nothing like 1987-1992 in baseball, the cards are probably going to be a little bit better in terms of what you can get. There wont be big pulls like the incredibly valuable vintage commons available in baseball, but there definitely will be some very nice cards that collectors can look forward to.
Lastly, Ill be heading to my local shop later today to break some of this product, hopefully with great results. I have had a pretty shitty week so far, and I am counting on a worthwhile and fun break to kick the blues away. Maybe ill get lucky, despite the fact that my wax prowess lately has shrunk to that of kitten. My want list is located here on Blowout, if you have any of the cards I need, count me among the buyers. Email me at the contact link up above, or PM me over there.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Topps is live on eBay, even though many of the cards are base offerings from the retail version of the product. However, this Sam Bradford auto/jersey just showed up on ebay, and it looks to be of the hobby variety. So far, I think that the "Peak Performance" autos look pretty good for a low end subset, and I will definitely appreciate them much more than the "Career Best" ones for rookies that have yet to play an NFL snap.
On a related note, the Bradford seems to evidence something that Panini has failed on with just about every try. With this card, it looks like Topps started with the base card, added the auto, then added the swatch while continuously adjusting the design to incoporate them. It may not be perfect, but its better than the ridiculous cards that represent the alternative. Panini, on the other hand, starts with the jersey auto parallel and just subtracts each piece until they have a base card. The result is a hideous floating swatch card like this or this, where it looks like someone forgot to apply the sticker.
Once the first Red Zone and Rookie Premiere auto shows up, ill post them below, should be sometime later today. Keep checking back.
This season is very important for a lot of reasons, some more than others. One of the most important implications of the 2010 year is the labor negotiations that are looming over the games like a dark cloud. 2010 is the last year of play that can happen under the current NFL collective bargaining agreement, and 2011 may be headed for a lockout due to how far apart the sides are on a new one. For me, a year without football would be horrible, and you can bet that it wouldn’t be good for the NFL either. But, the question I want to pose is whether or not football cards can survive a whole year without people watching the game on TV.
Back in 1994, Baseball faced a similar predicament when play stopped due to a players strike. The 1994 post season and world series were cancelled, and MLB bore most of the problems due to the lack of games. Until Sosa and McGwire reignited the nation's love interest in baseball in 1998, it was bleak for MLB. It took practically four years for the fans to return to the game, and from 1995-1998, it was almost taboo to have faith in baseball again. During the work stoppage and the years after, the card companies definitely felt the hurt as well. Because there was such a drastic drop in the respect level towards baseball in general, many people stopped buying cards. The industry obviously survived, but those were different times.
Prior to 1994 I bought more cards than the other kids on my block combined. I loved buying and ripping open the packs, as well as going to card shows with my dad. When the strike hit in 1994, it was like I gave up overnight. I couldn’t understand why a player would value the money over a game like Baseball. I eventually moved into listening to music, playing video games, being a teenager, and doing the normal things that teenagers do. I actually didn’t get back into cards until Pujols' rookie season, almost 6 years later. From what I have gathered from numerous people I have talked to, it was the same for them. Our view of a work strike was a deal breaker, and I think that if it were to happen in the NFL, cards would be in BIG trouble this time around.
In 2004-05, the NHL had to cancel their entire season due to a lockout. It was so detrimental to the league that there were talks of the teams disbanding. Hockey lost national broadcasting deals, fans, and tons of money, mostly due to the expected reactions of the fans. Because the different entities thought this lockout would mirror the effects of the MLB strike 10 years earlier, they were very quick to jump overboard instead of weathering the storm. Hockey is back on TV now, but the effects of the lockout still linger in some areas of the game. Hockey cards made it through the lockout as well, but again, it’s a different situation. I think that because of the fact that Hockey was not a major sport for either Upper Deck or the other manufacturers at the time, it wasn’t a finishing blow to the line. The nation was also doing much better than they are currently, and when people have money to spend, hobbies based on disposable income flourish.
If there is not an agreement between the NFL owners and the NFLPA, it could be so detrimental to many parts of our hobby, that the card companies may not be able to stomach another work stoppage. Card sales have declined dramatically enough that a year without the rookies playing games, may have all sorts of problems for the products that thrive on them performing well. Although I wouldn’t give up on my collection this time because of the sheer investment I have made in the pieces I love, I would definitely halt a good portion of my spending until the games resumed. Because the companies were already vastly affected by the massive recession, to throw a lockout on top of it could force the companies into other markets permanently.
Hell, they may not even be able to or want to produce football cards with the two sides in a drag 'em out brawl. Why spend the money on putting out a product that wont sell because of America's hatred of both sides being as greedy as they are? Its also another year off the career of some of the aging titans of the league, and a year off the prime time of the younger players too. With the average lifespan of an NFL superstar creeping under 10 years, it may cause a lot of issues in the long run for investors to have one of those years scratched out.
The bottom line is that a lockout is like the atomic bomb. It should never be used, and if it is used for some reason, total destruction usually ensues. Hopefully the two sides understand that maybe the game is more important than their petty bullshit surrounding rookie pay structure and the like.