Thursday, May 21, 2009

Jumping The Shark and Its Relation To The Industry

Since 1996 its been all memorabilia all the time, sometimes to the point of annoyance. However, with some of today's relic cards, there are many more reasons that they are as relevant as ever. Over the last few weeks, the NFL Rookie Premiere has taken center stage due to what happens at the event, which has lead many to say that the jersey card has jumped the shark. I want to look at both sides of the argument.

First, I can remember back to the late nineties when people would go diving for those thick packs, enough that a decoy system had to be instituted. It was like a whole new hobby had sprung, and of course, the manufacturers were loving it. However, there are large differences between those cards and the cards you have today, mainly in the quality of the production and the possibilities of what can be inserted. This has led to major developments, many of which I would not collect without.

The Patch Card

Since 1996, the focus has shifted from having a swatch period, to having the best possible swatch you can. This means that the crazier the patch, the crazier the value of the card. Because the technology to create the cards has evolved, so has the card itself. The good thing about this is that the manufacturers have seen what is valuable and seen what we like, and created products to make sure we get those things. Exquisite, National Treasures, and other products of the sort have more crazy patches than you could shake a stick at, even going so far as inserting ENTIRE letters into a card. That is awesome, no doubt, and is great for player collectors who want a little more than a quarter sized jersey piece.

Without a doubt, the league logo is at the top of the ladder for desired patches, and some people pay the price of a car to have the card of their favorite player. This was not a possibility in 1996, but all of the companies have incorporated it into the reservoir in the years since. Most now consider it to be the pinnacle of a player's year of cards, even going so far as buying cards that don’t have player pictures on them. Yet, the logos only go so far, so the manufacturers have also included the team chest stamp as a substitute, which I think is 10 times cooler than the league logo. I will say that its now gotten to the point where patches are becoming as common as the jersey card, but for most people, having a ridiculous patch is just as cool as ever. I am one of those people.

Now, with every success comes the drawback, as patches definitely have created their share. The monster known as the manufactured patch, or as I call it, the manupatch, has become as much of a standard as anything due to the success of the patch card. Most of the time I couldn’t care less, as the cards will also contain an auto, but when you have Topps Lettermen, it all goes out the window. This set, the highest treason of modern cards and one fugly set, has actually resorted to sticker autos ON TOP of fucking manuletters. I almost barfed on my keyboard when I saw the result.

Also, we have a number of people who like to replace the 1 color swatches with logo patches or team logo patches, and it has led to a general feeling of suspicion with every cool patch. Most of the time these people are so fucking stupid that its actually funny, which balances it out, but the question is still there in the back of our minds.

The Auto Relic Card

I love the auto relic cards, they are my bread and butter. Why buy the tiny swatch when you can have the auto to match? Add in the above, where patches are getting larger and crazier, and I am like a pig in shit. As an auto collector above a card collector, you can imagine why this part of the industry is so important to me, and many others like me. Most old school collectors criticize the move towards high end, but I am definitely in support of creating the most mind blowing cards you can - no matter the budget. I wouldn’t be around anymore without the auto relic, or the auto for that matter, and most people are following suit with that. You can yell and scream all you want about the way the industry is heading, but having a signed card from your player with a piece of his game in there will ALWAYS make you happy to have it.

Draw backs are a plenty, as it has become more expensive to produce the cards than to buy them off eBay. Players want exorbitant prices for their signatures, and it has led to a lot of problems with production. This has led to deeper and deeper checklists, and more problems for people like me who hate pulling Jerome Simpson as our box hit. Because people wont buy without this element, manufacturers are forced to comply to meet those expectations.

Personally, of all the elements, the auto cards and the auto relic cards need to stay to keep as many people as you can. It’s the other parts that most of us could probably live without.

The Event Used Relic Card

If anything is a testament to the direction of the hobby, its this type of card. Players who havent worn jerseys in a game put the jerseys on to give the companies the ability to fulfill everything above. I have come to terms with this type of card, and after this past weekend, I can see that players feel similarly to the way we feel. Add in a public that is craving rookie relics, and possibly one or two jerseys per year TOTAL for the players that actually make it on the field, and you can see where the problem lies. You wont see me buying singles of cards like this without autos on them, but I am not going to poo-poo them as long as the hobby is what it is.

Yet, we cant help but feel a little cheated that these types of cards are being produced, especially with the fucking stupid ass "event used football" cards. I think that if I could do without non-game worn cards, I would, so I just stay away. As Gregg said, we have the power of choice, and we should use it.

The Single Color Swatch Card

This is the bread and butter of just about every product out there. Buy a few jerseys and use them for 3000-4000 swatches, most of which are just the plain color part of the shirt. If anything could go, it would be these, but Im not sure how many people would consider a product to be worth it without 3-4 hits per box. Of course, there are those players who played so long ago, that the rules are a little different, thus leading to a jumbled existence of what is a good pull and what is not.

However, as long as products like Topps Triple Suck and Topps Suckling dress up the swatches with awful diecut windows, there will be people to buy products and cards that make use of them. Its almost like a drug you cant get off of, sadly. If anything has jumped the shark, its this, but still the wonderful people at Topps have made this a staple of every high end product they do. There are also those cards you get as a high end box hit in Exquisite that are the one color demon, but at least you still get other hits right?

Overall, much to the chagrin of most nostalgic collectors, these cards are never going to die. They have become the rule rather than the exception. I know I am probably going to get a condescending comment from Mario on this post, but I don’t think I want to be a part of an industry that doesn’t provide me with some sort of connection to a player. We could go back to 4 all base products a year, but where is the fun in that? It would be boring. Its gotten to the point now where its not just a collecting hobby anymore, and not many people are willing to admit that. It’s an auto hound hobby, a game used collector's hobby, it’s a hobby based on rarity not quantity. Most people say things are worse now than they ever have been, I think there are many more reasons to stick around thanks to many of the reasons I discussed in this post. There will always be people saying that jersey cards ruined everything, but I am one of the people who say that they wouldn’t be here without them.


  1. I am 22 now and only started "seriously collecting" cards about 2 years ago. But it was a single patch card that brought me into the hobby. I would definatly say I was very lost to everything the hobby had to offer when I would just go to target once or twice a year and pick up some packs ;had never heard of pack searching, didnt know there was a differance between "hobby" and "retail". Anways...but one target outing I bought a playoff prestige retail box and to my surprise I pulled a Julius Jones jersey patch/ I had no idea such cards even existed, and though I now know it is a crumby card it still sits at the top of my collection...I was hooked from then on, got online and learned as much as I could and located a local hobbyshop about 20 miles away from where I live and havent stopped since.

  2. Well articulated post and I concur in many many respects. In 1998 my friend asked me when the last time I was in a baseball card shop and I said, "When I sold my childhood collection to a dealer to travel with the Dead (1993-4)." He then proceeded to show me a card of Roger Clemens with a piece of his jersey on it and I flipped. The jersey card is what got me back in the Hobby, the auto what kept me in the Hobby, and multi colored patches, or multi-material/equipment and autos are what keeps me in the hobby. Player content, design are important to but there was a reason I cashed in when I did. 90 Topps, 91 UD. Need I say more.