I got an email today from Paul and Brian, readers who had seen my posts on Ufjumper and started working with the FBI and eBay to get him banned from the site and possibly arrested. Ever since Operation bullpen, the FBI has taken an interest in the selling of fraudulent items in sports memorabilia, and it looks like their work, and the work of other readers who have also emailed me, has come to fruition.
Per his email, Ufjumper7 has been kicked off eBay for the time being, and although it may not be permanent, its a start. There is already a neg on his account that states he is selling fakes, and that will deter some but not all buyers in his items if he gets back on. As of now, however, it looks like there is one less faker on eBay, and it is the readers of sites like this one, and the messageboard users who have made that happen. Maybe we are not as powerless as we once thought.
GREAT WORK everyone!
Saturday, July 31, 2010
I got an email today from Paul and Brian, readers who had seen my posts on Ufjumper and started working with the FBI and eBay to get him banned from the site and possibly arrested. Ever since Operation bullpen, the FBI has taken an interest in the selling of fraudulent items in sports memorabilia, and it looks like their work, and the work of other readers who have also emailed me, has come to fruition.
Friday, July 30, 2010
Here is the results of the randomizer for the upcoming break. Trading and selling allowed until noon central on tuesday. Please trade in the comments here.
James R (PAID) - saints, niners, broncos
Chris C(PAID) - colts, eagles, steelers, patriots
Jeremy K (PAID) - redskins, bengals
Andrew A (PAID) - cowboys, giants, ravens, cardinals
John S. (PAID) - raiders, browns
Lucy D (PAID) - Packers, chiefs, bears, rams
Frank L. (PAID) - Vikings, Bills
Wheeler (PAID) - chargers, texans, falcons, dolphins
Rafael G (PAID) - Bucs, Jets, lions, Jags
Ryan T. (PAID) - Titans, seahawks
Bobby P- Panthers (Bought from James R)
PROBLEM: I cant get the video to process through Youtube, twitvid or blogger. Its in .mov format and is done by the program "screen record." Does anyone know how to do this? I can email the video to any of the participants if they want it, maybe it will work for you.
The existence of loaded boxes in the industry is not in question, and it never has been. Yet, after some rousing discussion on Twitter yesterday, things got a little bit more interesting in regards to whether or not we know the full story about them. I know I have always wanted an admission of guilt regarding the free boxes that are sent to Beckett and many of the blogs, but I have always just been told that the luck of the draw is the luck of the draw. Personally, I have had private conversations with people still employed in the industry confirming that loaded boxes are regularly sent out, but that Beckett is the only ones stupid enough to video tape and show them. So, the question becomes, do they know what they are getting ahead of time?
Before I answer that, I need to examine a few things that were brought to the forefront by Beckett yesterday in an arrogant post on their site. Obviously the employees are tired of having to deal with the constant backlash regarding their breaks, and they wanted us to rethink our position. For most of the people that have been to a few rodeos, it was a slap in the face to have Beckett post that the cards they pull on a regular basis do not deserve our ire and wrath. They wanted us to believe that because so many 1/1s are created every year, its not out of the question to believe that they would pull as many as they have. However, the 1/1s they pull are only part of the argument, and that’s where I don’t think they wanted to reveal the whole truth. If you go back and tally up ALL the amazing cards they have pulled, its absolutely crazy to believe that its luck. I mean, really go back. Yesterday alone they pulled close to $3000 worth of cards from two boxes of tribute and a few boxes of National Treasures basketball. In reality, they and their advertisers just want you to believe that you have the same chance they do at having those types of days. Of course we do, of course we do.
This leads us back to the original discussion on the loaded boxes themselves. If they exist, which is all but confirmed by everyone in the industry, does Beckett know what they are opening before they open it? This is where there is some debate, and I am on one side of things, and many in the industry are on the other. Steven Judd said some very interesting things on Twitter yesterday regarding this exact question, and its up to you whether or not you want to believe him. He has held just about every job in the industry, and it has made him enough friends and enemies for him to be warranted in saying what he said.
His first Tweet said, "So Beckett got a loaded box, big deal. I "packed" quite a few of them over the years. Get over it. It's part of the business. Geez....." From this statement, the discussion starts to materialize. He continues, "When the Beckett boards were more dominant. I would make a special "case" (I'd give the packout vendor a specific list of auto/mem hits to put in each box), have it sent to a buddy of mine a week prior to the release date, have him break the scan and scan all of the auto/mem cards and then post a box-by-box break on the Beckett boards around midnight on the night before the release date in order to get people excited about the product.I like to call it guerilla marketing." Right, so the loaded boxes are pretty common, no news there, this time its just from someone who worked in the industry. This is where it gets to my questions, as Judd seems to think otherwise that Beckett doesn’t know what they are getting.
"Just to be clear, Beckett or the folks who work there have nothing to do with the "loaded" boxes they receive. It's the PDT/marketing people at the card companies that plot and scheme to jerrymander the box/boxes." Notice he doesn’t say that they don’t know what they are getting ahead of time, just that they arent involved in the scheme. See, im not sure if all of you know, but Beckett has its hands in just about every company that is out there. Certain reps from Beckett and Panini are actually such close friends that they participate in each other's weddings. Hell, even the new brand manager for Panini Hockey is a former Beckett employee. Same with a number of other people at all three major companies. Beckett has people in their staff that worked in the industry too, so they are not free from the reverse of this instance. Basically, everyone in the industry knows everyone VERY well. Now, considering how close all of these people are, do you really think that no one sends emails back and forth explaining what needs to be done with the video breaks? Cmon. I don’t think anyone is that naïve. It’s the same reason why the people talk about certain cards before they are actually pulled in the break.
The companies have a responsibility to generate as much hype around their products as they possibly can, and this is the best way to do it. People say that pulling these types of cards would do nothing for a product, but obviously that isnt true, or Beckett wouldn’t continually get boxes. Are the companies wrong for creating this type of situation? Of course they are, its manipulative and unethical. But, its also expected. The companies have been rewarding their best customers and best friends for years. If you spend $100,000 a year on wax with a company, its understood that you are taken care of. When I worked at a shop one summer during high school, I witnessed it first hand. This industry is built on that kind of deception, and no one wants to believe its happening, because we want to think that we actually have a shot at pulling something when we buy a box.
The bottom line is this. Beckett general news reporting and their breaks do not present a realistic view of anything regarding the hobby, and it is the reason why they feel the need to try and justify everything they do. If they presented a realistic view of what is actually going on, people would accept it without question. However, people would also realize how crooked and terrible the industry can be at times, and that is where things would cause problems. Beckett caters to a certain type of reader, the reader with blinders on. The one that just wants the hobby to be a hobby, regardless of what goes on behind closed doors. They don’t research fakes, they don’t care about the negative things people say on message boards and blogs, they just want to be spoon fed the news and then buy their boxes free of concern. I am not like that, and many of the people who read this site are not like that. However, more and more people are becoming like me every day, and that is where Beckett and the companies are going to have major issues one day. It finally caught up with Upper Deck earlier this year, and I have a feeling its only a matter of time before it starts to surface in other places.
If Beckett wants to continue breaking boxes with an arrogant attitude that we are the bad guys for questioning the authenticity of their breaks, they are not going to stop hearing the guffaws from the crowd each time they pull something huge. As the FCC starts to crack down on the free product that media outlets receive, they may also need to adjust things before the government regulations catch up with them. Sure, there are a lot of 1/1s these days, but it is still ridiculously tough to pull them, especially if a normal collector broke as few boxes as Beckett does each year. I think its time that collectors stop kidding themselves, and its also time that both the companies and Beckett own up to the presentation of the products they get. Its not fair, especially when the uninformed part of the hobby that still reads their magazine, thinks that the hobby world that Beckett presents is the real world and not some ridiculous fantasy land.
I get that there is no way any of this goes further than this page, but it was worth the discussion among the few people that read this site.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
I just got an interesting email in my box from Zach, a guy who unfortunately purchased the extremely fake Pujols Topps patch (confirmed fake by Topps) from Ufjumper a week or two ago. After getting emails from a number of eBay users talking about the fakes that this douche sells on a normal basis, he started doing some research and found the original card that was faked - #4/20. He also found this site and wanted me to let you all know about his experience.
Topps released info on a new set for 2010 this year, and all I can think about is how it is same shit different day. I have always said that the golden rule of Topps is that all mid to high end products should be ignored, because in most cases, Topps shows that they are incapable of designing a product that actually looks good. Although they believe they can trick the type of collectors who don’t value design to buy a product like this, especially through the inclusion of terrible looking booklet cards, Im not as easily fooled.
The most frustrating thing about Topps products in general, is that the design team always feels the need to border the components of the hits. All stickers have huge thick borders rather than seemlessly fitting into the overall layout, and from what we are seeing here, the borders have become so thick on some of the cards that they are starting to cover up the players themselves. Its completely terrible and draws away from a set that may actually be passable if Topps actually took hints from Upper Deck and Panini about how to use a sticker auto.
Right now, the prospects of the coming year's success are dwindling, and when every set that Topps puts out starts to look the same, I start to wonder who is asleep at the wheel.
Classics may have been a disappointment so far, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to take advantage of it. I want to offer a group break of 2 boxes of Classics that you all can get into for less than the cost of three packs.
Here is the way this is going to go down. $13.50 buys you one slot of two random teams in the break. For those two teams, which will be assigned via random.com, you will receive all cards from the two boxes. If you get the Broncos and the Eagles, you will get every card for the Broncos or Eagles that we pull, even if it’s a 1/1 Tim Tebow autograph. If nothing comes from those two teams, thems the breaks. There are four hits per box with two autos on average, so you will have a pretty good chance of getting something. Dual, triple, and quad cards will be randomly assigned to the teams involved.
EDIT: I typed the wrong amount out in the post originally, if you have already paid, I will refund your 1.00 extra.
As the host, I will NOT be participating, but I will be videotaping both the random team assignment and the break itself for those who participate. It will be viewable on this site as soon as it is up on Youtube. The break will happen next Tuesday, 8/3/2010 and if it is not filled, we will have to figure something out. Usually cheap breaks fill quickly so do not hesitate.
Here is what you need to do to sign up. Send your payment to firstname.lastname@example.org via paypal, your spot will not be confirmed until payment is received. YOU MUST LIVE IN THE USA TO PARTICIPATE. There is no maximum on the number of slots you can purchase. Pricing breakdown includes cost of the boxes, shipping supplies, card supplies and postage to ship.
Thanks and good luck!
1. John S. (PAID)
2. Ryan T. (PAID)
3. Frank L. (PAID)
4. Chris C(PAID)
5. Chris C(PAID)
6. Lucy D (PAID)
7. Lucy D (PAID)
8. Andrew A (PAID)
9. Andrew A (PAID)
10. James R (PAID)
11. James R (PAID)
12. Rafael G (PAID)
13. Rafael G (PAID)
14. Wheeler (PAID)
15. Wheeler (PAID)
16. Jeremy K (PAID)
Here is the product info page from Blowout.com.
Topps Tribute has lived up to my under-billing and then some. Outside of the fact that the cards look as terrible, if not more terrible than last year, the box breaks have been some of the worst this side of Topps Paradigm we have ever seen. For the amount of money collectors are paying for these boxes the cards that are being pulled are complete junk. There was even a case break on blowout where one person pulled FIVE Duke Snider autographs. Not one, not two, but FIVE. Of course, Beckett's two box break was a COMPLETELY different story. Par for the course, right?
First, a little history. A lot of you probably have started reading this blog after the first few months back in early 2008, understandably. But, back at that time, Beckett was breaking boxes almost daily, and they were never without an eyepopping hit or two, especially when it came to high end products. Even before the infamous Exquisite ass ream, they had a number of products that were so obviously loaded on purpose that it was tough to ignore. I mean, go back and watch their break of 2007 National Treasures. It wasn’t even subtle. The box they had that contained both a 1/1 ridiculous patch auto of Brady Quinn (who was a top rookie at the time) and two other awesome cards didn’t even come with the normal advertising info that comes in every single box. No checklist, no kodak thing, nothing. It was just the box and the pack. That's only the beginning. They had one of the craziest cases of Topps Sterling I have ever seen, and they made it seem like it was all just their luck. Right, just like my scrub auto pull from Classics is worth high book.
Then the 2007 Exquisite break rolled around and everyone FINALLY caught on to their obvious deception, mainly in partnering with the companies to get boxes sent to them that contained cards that made the products seem better. Go back and watch, tally all the pulls, count the number of boxes they break, and then tell me its all LUCK. In fact, Upper Deck faced such a terrible reputation over that break, that they did not resume regular publicized box breaks with Beckett until the 2009 football season. Sure says a lot about what is going on with what Tracy Hackler refers to as the readers favorite part of what Beckett does. Cmon.
Fast forward to yesterday. Tribute is falling flat on its face, especially in the realm of customer satisfaction. Beckett posts a video of two boxes of the product supplied by Topps. In those two boxes, they pull one of the most coveted non-1/1 cards in the entire product, a bat of the most collected player in hobby history, a 1/1 of the best player in baseball, and another auto of a popular player. Two boxes. That’s it. Funny how that works. In fact, if you go back and tally the price of all the pulls of a lifetime Beckett has had, the total equals close to twenty thousand dollars. And they only have broken one or two boxes of every product. Some kind of luck.
In fact, if you go back and look over the cases that have been broken on all the message boards, there isnt a lot of evidence that collectors are pulling that kind of hauls out of entire cases, let alone two boxes. The main point here is whatever cards they pull are being taken out of the hands of collectors that actually pay for the products. I have said a hundred times before that it would not be hard to solicit collector breaks of the product and post those instead of their own boxes supplied by the company reps. They are purchased from real stores with real money, and considering that the collector's reactions to the product will be more genuine, more realism will also be presented.
Yeah, I know, Beckett's arrogance and their commitment to providing the most unrealistic view of the hobby possible will prevent this from ever happening. That is really too bad, especially for the schmucks that still believe every piece of info they put out.
Don’t get me wrong, Topps is just as much to blame, as the companies are. However, Topps has a bottom line to uphold and they are not the media source that is responsible for reporting on the product. It would be like Rolling Stone getting an album with three extra tracks on it and reviewing that instead of what the normal customer could buy on iTunes. The company will take whatever steps it can to pad its profits, and its up to the outlets to refuse the deception. We all know that Beckett is more than happy to trade morality for a few extra views on their video, so Im not surprised.
Its just absolutely terrible that people are still putting stock in their breaks.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
The term white whale, prior to its bastardization in Triple Threads, meant a card that you had a card out there in the sea of collectors that was virtually impossible to find. To this day, people still chase white whales all over the hobby, and for many of us, they are truly a quest fit for Ahab. In most cases, those whales were usually 1/1s that you didn’t know had been pulled, or a rare card that infrequently hit ebay at an affordable price.
For someone like me, there werent many of these cards that I had on my list. I can think of two specifically, and after last night, both of them were on the captured list. The first one took me forever to find, and I mean absolutely forever. I think I posted at least three times about the 2005 Artifacts Joe Mauer Patch Auto /10 before I pretty much gave up looking, even going so far as setting up multiple daily ebay spam mailers with new auctions. I was searching for about 3 years before it finally popped up on ebay in the middle of last year, and I knew that I absolutely needed to buy it before it was lost again forever. A user on FCB collects the set, and luckily I knew he already had this one, so my competition was going to be easier because of that fact. On the other hand, this card was the coveted number 7 of 10, Mauer's jersey number, and I knew there would be more people wanting it just for that fact. Even though I couldn’t care less what number in the run it was, other Mauer collectors would definitely have it on their list because of that.
There was a problem though, and it was one I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with. The card was located in Taiwan, and most card collectors know that cards from overseas are always a risk, especially expensive ones like the Mauer. I put the thought out of my mind and concetrated on the win. As the final seconds ticked down, I entered a ridiculous snipe. You know, the type of max bid that could really get me in trouble if it actually was put to the test. It won me the card at a much higher price than I wanted to spend, but I still had the card on its way to California, and that was all that mattered to me at the time. This was also before Mauer's MVP run, so prices were considerably cheaper due to it being the off season. I still spent more than I had spent on a Mauer card in over 3 years, yet it wasn’t something that would break my bank. I waited for around three weeks with no delivery, but the card eventually showed up without problem. It is still on my shelf today, and is no doubt my favorite and only current on card Mauer signature. The patch on it is way above average, and to have the hard signed card, great player picture and nice patch is what makes it the centerpiece of my collection. I would sell my Chrome Rookie Auto before I sell this card.
The second card was one that I had been looking for on and off for the better part of three years, but it definitely was not as rare as the Mauer and not worth as much. The reason I wanted it was more for filling a hole in my Vikings collection than it was collecting the individual player, something that hindered my need to search for it daily. The card I am talking about is a 2003 Leaf Certified Fabric of the Game Cris Carter Patch Auto /80, one that I wanted for some very specific reasons. First and foremost was the auto that adorned this series of cards. Carter is notorious for signing like a chump, and this card was one of the only ones I saw that featured his full auto. Second was that this set looked better than any of the other donruss cards that he signed, so naturally, it was the one I wanted. I first saw it on blowout two years ago when someone posted their complete set of these type of cards, and I knew it was the Carter auto I wanted. Because autos and patches were VERY rare in the 2003 set, and because this set had an extensive checklist, they rarely came up for sale.
As if the cardboard gods were taunting me again, the seller of the card had VERY low feedback and even had a few negs on his profile in the last six months. That was a bad sign, but I figured the forty bucks was worth the risk. Well, things really didn’t turn out the way I expected, and my 75 dollar bid was swallowed up pretty quickly into the final 24 hours of the auction. I ended up having to spend 90 bucks to get the card, and I am now forced to play the waiting game and see how this card turns out. I could tell this guy was not an eBay veteran, as the picture in the auction was mirrored and flipped, as well as being quite blurry. He does live in Minnesota and was selling a ton of Carter cards, so I don’t think he is in the market to keep his collection. Ill be sure to let you guys know as soon as I get the card in my hands. Otherwise, I will definitely not hesitate to flip a shit like normal.
In the end, when it comes to White Whales, you need to make a sacrifice in order to cross them off your list. With the Mauer it was overseas shipping and high prices, and with the Carter, its definitely the seller's profile that I will need to put out of my mind. If these cards were easy to get, they wouldn’t be my whales, so its obvious that certain measures would no doubt be necessary.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Classics is live, and from what we see in a case break on blowout, there are going to be some pretty disappointing results for this product if things hold true for the rest of the cases out there. Although there is a reported two autos per box and two jersey cards per box, the presence of veteran player autos and worthwhile rookies is looking small. That is definitely the bad news that no one wants to hear, but there is more bad news that comes along with it.
First, the floating swatches are back. Some of these cards are so obvious in the backwards design that I am left wondering if Panini just forgot to add the sticker to the card. See, because Panini has the same formula for every one of these sets, the parallels make no sense along the way. Instead of starting with the blank base card and moving forward, they start with the auto jersey and take things away until they get to the base card. What happens is that you are left with weird looking cards that have swatches in weird places. The obvious solutions would be to avoid the jersey cards all together and add another band of autos to the checklist, but we know that Panini is still all about keeping the simple jersey around for posterity's sake. Another solution would be to start with a good looking base card and add the jersey, then add the auto to avoid the look like they are floating. I know it takes some elbow grease, and that isnt something the Panini design team may be used to using, but it needs to be done.
Lastly, they really needed to re-evaluate the autos in this set, as the stickers are not looking like they show up against the background and player. These cards are 150 million times better than last year, but they still make me want to jump face first onto a pile of forks when it comes to the overall presentation. It really makes me angry that they are so lackadazical when designing their cards, as it is blatantly obvious that these cards were made without any creativity or effort. Again, still MUCH MUCH better than last year, but it leaves massive amounts of potential on the table.
Overall, I am pretty disappointed with what I have seen, hopefully things get better as more of the product is opened.
UPDATE: Topps has confirmed via Twitter that these cards are the player issue cards issued by the company to the players for trading amongst themselves at the premiere. They are *most likely* real autographs, but it is still in your best interest to think twice before purchasing.
A very unique situation was just brought to my attention on blowout regarding a crop of the 2009 Topps Rookie Premiere autos. It seems as though there is a number of cards on eBay that are posing as real, but are most likely not real. Topps has become infamous for letting the blank cards make it out the back door and into the hands of people that shouldn’t have them, which only makes this situation that much more likely. This year, the cards will be serially numbered to avoid problems, but im sure the scammers will find a way around that as well.
Here is the deal. Take a look at this card, and then take a look at this card. Can you spot the difference just by taking a quick glance? I couldn’t. Then someone called to my attention that the cards are missing some pretty essential language above the autograph. Now you see what I am talking about. From what it seems, a very skilled forger has gotten ahold of the cards, signed them, and sold them, but did not have the ability or the know how to add the most important language on the card. Yes, these do not say "TOPPS CERTIFIED AUTOGRAPH ISSUE." Now, this could just be the way these were produced, and some of them may have been created by a third party and signed by the actual player, but they don’t seem to be real Topps cards.
The weirdest part has to be that Moreno that is certified by PSA. Not graded, but certified authentic. PSA has a terrible track record, sure, but they get it right a good portion of the time. Im wondering what is actually going on.
Here are a few more:
Mark Sanchez 2
This is a pretty interesting development, ill have to do some more research and asking around, and then ill have more on what these cards actually are. I am so freaking glad that this is happening all over again.
Each year around this time, the National rolls around and the industry gears up for its biggest weekend on the calendar. Manufacturers break out the big guns to be there, wanting to show off new products and new innovations, and collectors turn out in droves to see what is coming down the pipeline. There is also the biggest card show in the nation, with thousands of dealers setting up to sell everything from action figures to rare vintage cards. The national is the San Diego Comic-con of Sports Cards, and even the national media starts to pay attention when it goes down.
Last year at this time, my life was still normal. I was at work, watching the National unfold from my computer, wishing I could ditch my conference to be in attendence with the rest of the collecting world. I made a commitment to myself that I was going to be there the next time it came around, at least if everything continued as it had been with SCU. Well, SCU has definitely continued, but my life was turned absolutely on its ear in the matter of a few short months. We found out my wife was pregnant about a month after last year's show ended, I had surgery, and we moved to San Antonio in one of the craziest periods of my life I have ever experienced. Now, with my priorities changed, I will again be watching the events from behind my computer screen.
This time, its different, as the money needed to go would take away from other essential things that I need to do for my family. First, Noah is still not sleeping through the night, and to leave him for a weekend with my wife would be torturous for her already sleep deprived existence. He requires constant attention (as most babies his age do), and that is not fair to my wife to shoulder that kind of burden for me to attend a card show. Secondly, the money I would need to attend would prevent us from taking Noah home to Minnesota to see his grandparents, aunts and uncles for Thanksgiving, and that is never something I would give up, even for the biggest card show in the history of the planet. Family comes first to me, and although I personally regret not being able to be there, its something that needs to be done. Next year, who knows.
As for the show itself, there is going to be loads of hobby wide participation from the usual suspects and some new attendees. Rob from VOTC will be there again, with or without his infamous shirt, the gals from A Cardboard Problem will also be in attendence, Chris from Stale Gum has already started his prep, and Freedom Card Board will be having live video so that everybody, everywhere can see everything going on. There will also be a number of other bloggers from the area making the trip, and I am confident that they will do a wonderful job providing the coverage that I am unable to provide. Be sure to check them out.
The main thing is that Im not sure if the National Card Show is even a place for me at this point. The last time I went to a card show, I spent most of the time arguing with clueless dealers about the obvious fake autos and patches they were selling. Due to my crusader personality, its hard for me to let them take advantage of people, even if its just for a few bucks. With thousands of dealers there, including the king of the asshats, Kevin Burge, Im sure there would be problems with me walking the floor. Because I am a complete and utter wuss when it comes to physical confrontation, I don’t think that would be a very good situation to throw myself into a situation like that.
Don’t get me wrong, I would LOVE to be a part of the conversation there, especially getting to meet all the bloggers and readers that I converse with every day. This site has become such a huge part of my life, that I would jump at the opportunity to put faces to the names. That type of experience is the reason that collectors need to go to this show, if not only for the community aspect of the whole thing. Its definitely not the best place to buy cards and boxes that they could easily find on eBay for lower prices, unless you collect cards that eBay doesn’t lend itself very well to, but there will be more collectors in one place than during any other time this year. It’s a crazy time at the national, and the experience of going is always more about the people you meet rather than the cards that you buy in most cases.
Listen, I get it. Maybe this post is more about me providing a cathartic experience to calm my remorse of not being able to go, and Im sure there will be lots of hate stalkers out there who will try to let me know how glad they are about it, but right now, all the normal people will definitely identify with what is going on in my life. I hope everyone has a blast, and I know I will have some scouts in the crowd looking for a few things I need to pick up.
Because of the obvious lack of coverage that will be eminating from this site, if you are a reader, and would like to contribute a detailed post of your experiences at the national, I am offering this space as your canvas. Email me at the contact link above with your proposal, and if it fits the content of this site, I will be happy to post it for the readers here to see. Hopefully the experiences of like minded collectors will be informative for those planning a trip to the show next year.
Good luck to those who are going, ill be watching with a bittersweet smile on my face. In the future, I hope there will be an opportunity for all of us to get together, hopefully at a National show in the coming years. Stay tuned to SCU for all the second hand news you can stomach from the floor, as I will not hesitate to report on it from here in San Antonio.
Oh, I almost forgot. If someone happens to come across one of the giveaways that feature any of the Minnesota Vikings, im all ears as expected.
Monday, July 26, 2010
I think that if you read my previous post about suggestions for moving forward in the industry, Absolute is the one set that infringes on just about every single one of those rules. Aside from the fact that the product hasn’t changed design-wise at all in the last however many years, Panini never seems to get how poorly the product holds up against others in the same price range. What used to be a fun product with innovative cards has become stale, overpriced, and poorly designed to say the least. I would even go so far as saying that this is the one product that Panini needs to axe or revamp, because right now, it’s a dinosaur compared to what it could be.
Now, I will say that this year's offering looks better than last year's horrid excuse, but it still has not veered from that same old design that never offers anything worth collecting in my opinion. This product will again be riddled with damage evident foilboard on EVERY card, sticker autos across the product, subsets that are paralleled to hell in the typical panini way, and cards that are so weirdly conceived that I don’t even know where to look. When you hearken back to 2005 and see how cool and popular Absolute Baseball was, this is a vanquished shell of that former greatness. Really too bad.
Here are the preview cards:
I love this part of the year, both for cards and for sports. Training camps are about to open, Baseball season is starting to heat up, and Football cards are finally entering into the meat of the season. Because I am such a huge football fan, I start to get revved up for everything that comes with the start of a new year. New players, new targets, and usually much more news and interesting tidbits to write about. The difference is that this year, at least on the card front, lots has changed, and Im pretty sure its not for the better.
For the first time in close to 20 years, Upper Deck will not be producing licensed football cards. Because they usually produce the best looking cards in football, period, its going to be a long card season having to put up with the monotony spawned by Panini's long line of clones, or Topps' terrible high end offerings. Although I have seen bright spots in Panini's line with some parts of Elite and Classics, they still don’t even hold a candle to what was taken away from the market when Upper Deck was forced into using their NCAA license. I said before that licensed Veteran on card autos went from multiple sets in multiple products to NOTHING this year, and its starting to look like that is going to really hurt my propencity to buy cards this year. I am not an NCAA fan, and I will not be buying any of Upper Deck's products due to that fact, so when I start to look at what is coming, boredom sets in.
Don’t get me wrong, I am very excited for Topps Chrome and their Flagship product this year, but those are two sets in a calendar of 30 plus. I recently continued my tradition of buying a few boxes of Classics, but I am only doing that because there is nothing else available. I wonder how much longer I can sustain my own interest in a industry that will support and produce some of the most BORING sets in recent memory. I mean, has anyone ever sat down and really looked over the calendar? It’s a complete snooze fest this year without the normal blockbuster products that Upper Deck brings to the table. Sure, SPA will most likely look great as it always does, but the wow factor escapes me because they cant produce cards showing NFL logos or uniforms. SPX looks great for the first time in a few years, yet I am left out in the cold because I don’t care which college Sam Bradford went to now that he puts on a Rams uniform for a living.
At least in the past, when Panini would put out set after set that looks exactly like the one before it, I could stand it because I always knew there was something better coming. I don’t have that luxury anymore. I am seriously debating whether or not to purchase a case of Topps Chrome and just open it slowly throughout the year. Its really the only bright spot on the entire calendar for me, and its not even scheduled until october. That’s a long time to wait, especially when you consider that there isnt anything in between to garner interest among the people like me.
With that, I want to list out a few things that Panini and Topps should consider now that there is a big hole left by Upper Deck's departure from the licensed game:
1. Enough With the Foil
I get it, there are a lot of collectors that gravitate towards shiny things like a baby to keys on a keychain. Does that mean that it has to go in every product? I think I counted once or twice that Upper Deck used foilboard last year and it was in subsets NOT THE WHOLE PRODUCT. They did fine, so that means that having good sales numbers is not contingent on the use of that horrid crap. Its amateurish, and looks like it is used to hide terrible design work. In most cases the designs are terrible, so maybe that says something.
2. Start Phasing out Stickers In Boxes That Cost More Than $75
Upper Deck made a name for themselves with more than 8 products last year that featured some sort of on card signatures. Most of those products featured an on card element from veteran and HOF players, usually with great success among collectors. Both Panini and Topps, despite the ridiculous price tags on some of their products, did not find a way to produce even one. Im not asking for the farm overnight, but they have to start somewhere. I would forgive some of the other egregious errors if they at least made an effort. So far, they have shown nothing but laziness.
3. Evaluate Content In Relation to Pricing
Panini is known for giving you 3 crap jerseys and a crap auto for 100 bucks. It’s the backbone of Prestige, Elite, Gridiron Gear, Classics, and just about every other product they sell. Topps isnt much better with their high end products, as Triple Threads gives you two shitty hits for a whopping 180 dollars. I don’t even know where to start on that. If they want to move to a different level of sales, they need to figure out ways to lower cost and raise content. Although that seems mutually exclusive, there are ways to do it as evidenced by a number of products from last year's calendar. I think a lot of people out there would be happy to give up their jersey cards if it were replaced with a patch card, or another auto, but even patch cards are becoming commonplace now.
4. Make High End Products Look High End
The reason Exquisite was Exquisite was because of the way it looked. Every card was hard signed. Every card was ornately designed. Every card had an element that differentiated itself from other Upper Deck products during the year. Last year there was not a single jersey card without an auto on it. It was either a patch or nothing. National Treasures is completely stickers with few exceptions on the rookie front, and the rest looked like an over priced version of Donruss Threads. Complete poop. Triple Threads is even worse in that department because of how terrible the cards look. A lot could be solved with a little bit of reimagining when it comes to the way the high end products are produced.
5. Less is More
Panini has become famous for using weird lines and oddly placed elements on a card front. Topps has become famous for trying to stuff 89 relic windows onto a card front. Why? Topps low end products are wildly successful because Topps never tries to do more than is needed. SPA was the best looking product because Upper Deck wasn’t afraid to use negative space to their advantage. You know that addage "KISS - Keep it simple stupid"? That most definitely applies here. There is nothing prettier than a field shot and a border. No need for a photoshop bonanza. Just give me the player and the field, and let the rest speak for itself. This is overkill. This is worse. This is makes my head hurt. This is more of what we need.
6. Parallels have no place in a mid to high end product
You know why Chrome can use parallels? Because for 50 bucks a box, its catering to a different audience. When you start getting up into the products like Limited and Platinum, there is not a need for 123 parallels of one card. Panini has a formula, and that formula makes me want to take a human life. You have the normal card, the numbered normal card with 10 parallels, the normal card with a jersey, the normal card with a patch, the normal card with an auto, the normal card with an auto and a jersey, the numbered card with a patch, and then ten parallels of that card. Is any of that necessary? Not at all. If the product cost nothing, then fine, parallel the shit out of it. But if that product is National Treasures then there is a MAJOR problem. Did someone see that any given player in Triple Threads can have have up to 3,500 cards? That is parallel hell. How about developing unique content instead of just stuffing parallel after parallel into the set? Interesting idea, no?
7. Use Player Pictures To Your Advantage
Cards look better when the subject of the card is the focus, not the jersey pieces. Panini has gotten MUCH better at this, but Topps is a complete EPIC FAIL. To the Topps design team, its more important to have 73 different relic pieces than it is to have a player picture bigger than a pinky nail. We collect cards for the players on them, relics are the add ons. Not the other way around. I actually avoid buying cards with crappy pictures, even if they feature everything else I am looking for. The picture can make or break a card, and its time for the companies to start considering that.
8. Re-evaluate Where Scrub Autos Fit In to the Industry
I get it. The best players charge out the ass for signatures. Even the rookies charge a ridiculous cost per card. That’s a given. But, when I pay a bunch of money for a box, and the box hit is an undrafted free agent, I swear off buying more of that product unless there is something else in the box to make up for it. The problem is that when the cost of obtaining autographs is rising at rapid rates, the need for cheap autos is essential. However, then you consider #3 on this list, you are taking even more out of the products than just star autos. Not every box can be a winner, but every box needs SOMETHING. Put the sweet patch cards in the boxes with the scrubs. Redo seeding in the products that feature scrub autos as box hits. If there is a scrub in the box, give it value SOME other way. That’s where the 1/1 parallels need to go. Panini has actually done a better job of seeding the boxes with the crap autos, but there is still a lot of untapped potential that could be used.
9. Offer a Loyalty Program That EVERYONE Can Participate In
I have no idea why this wasn’t done before, and I am not talking about the diamond club for UD where only the whales get the preferential treatment. Im talking about getting something in the works that rewards people who buy the cards that the companies want them to buy. If the companies showed appreciation to the customers on every level, it would give us another reason not to go to ebay for singles. For example, for every X number of packs or boxes, give me a shot at an exclusive unreleased card. Offer lotteries for good prizes. There is so much here and it is completely unexplored.
10. Find a Way For The Best Common Box Hit To Be Worth More Than the Price of a Box
If I can go on eBay and buy the best card in the set for less than the cost of a box, something is wrong. A lot of this is a result of the numbering on the card, the strength of the rookie class, or even the looks of the cards, so its time to make the best rookie hit worth enough for people to consider spending money on the unopened product. 1/1s only go so far in a product.
11. Speaking of 1/1s, Make Them Important Again
Triple Threads features over 4,000 1/1s in the product. Many of them being crap parallels or printing plates. That doesn’t give me any reason to want them. Upper Deck was notorioous for making most of their 1/1s worth the time of the collectors who bought their products. Especially high end. If companies want to create the chase element, learn from rule #6 and take the one of one in a brand new direction. If it says 1/1 on the card, it needs to bring something than no other card brings in the set.
12. Enough With The Lame Subset Names
In most Panini products, all of the autos are coming from the subsets in the set. But when the subsets have terrible names as well as terrible designs (like they usually do), the whole product suffers. It is paramount to create a theme for the set and build on it, not just throw words together and hope they make sense. Why do you even need a name? Cant you just throw different player pics with different designs on it and let us sort it out?
13. Hire Some Consultants
Products are conceived months, sometimes years in advance, which gives ample time to consult with people before heading to production. As I have said before, I can think of no less than 500 people who would do it for free, myself included. I honestly think that I could easily offer some valuable advice before something like this hits the production line.
That’s all I can think of right now, but im sure there is a lot more that the blog community can offer.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Today is my birthday, and its the one day every year that I can buy a few things for me without feeling guilty about the money. Im sure all of you have similar feelings when your birthday rolls around, and this year I wanted to make it worth my while. Because there was nothing that I desperately needed, I tried to go outside the box a little bit.
First, my biggest target was to get a Favre auto of him in a Vikings uniform that could fill the hole in my Vikings collection. After searching now for about 4 weeks, I dont think there is going to be one I can afford at this point. Because the number of Vikings fans have exploded in recent years, I have to compete with five million people whenever one is posted. I have a few Packers ones that I would settle for, but I still feel kind of dirty buying one. But when you see prices like this for his Vikings stuff, your fandom and rival buying ethics start to take a back seat. So, that one was off the list.
My second target hearkens back to another collection that I have, Comic Books. I really wanted to get a crap copy of the first Hal Jordan in Showcase #22, and have been looking for years, but price was always a limiting factor. With the movie coming out, prices have only spiked even more, leading me to cross another item off my list of targets.
I also wanted to get one of the new Twins road jerseys, and luckily for me, the hong-kongthentic jerseys are still pretty cheap on eBay. I managed to get a Mauer for 50 bucks, and though it isnt AUTHENTIC, its "authentic" enough for me. My wife got a Morneau one for her birthday, and we were able to get some amazing family pictures that may or may not be worthy of awkward family photos due to our team allegiance.
Lastly, I wanted to get a 2001 Morneau Bowman auto once I found out that it existed. The cards usually sell pretty high, but I was luckily able to find one at a good price for me to purchase. This card kind of served a dual purpose, though, and that I am not ashamed to admit. Because I really wanted it for my Twins collection and I knew my wife would LOVE it if I got it and gave it to her, things could not have been more perfect. She was indeed incredibly happy to add it to "her" Morneau collection, something that has been steadily growing over the year.
All of those things though were peanuts compared to what I really NEEDED for my birthday. Since my surgery, I have lost close to 100 pounds. I am closing in on a very normal weight, and unfortunately, my wedding band no longer fit me. I could not have it sized for a reasonable price, so I needed to get a new one. Thanks to some clever haggling by my wife, I was presented with one last week that fits me again. Its much nicer than the one I had before, and I am ecstatic to be able to wear one again.
All in all, I would say its a pretty good haul this year.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Its rare that my wife and I get to see a movie anymore, and therefore we really have to pick and choose with greater efficiency to avoid the dogs. Being that Christopher Nolan is my favorite director, and Leonardo DiCaprio is my wife's favorite actor (naitch), we had to see Inception as close to the release date as possible. I had heard great things about the movie, and I was ridiculously exicted to see it, especially considering that Nolan finally had both the budget and creative control to work a masterpiece. Without giving away any of the movie, I want to relate it to the way that creativity means the difference between boredom and excitement.
See, I love movies like this, mainly because they break the mold of the typical hollywood experience. It’s the same reason I loved the Matrix as much as I did. It was revolutionary. Like many of the mold breaking movies before it, creativity is the main why the Matrix did what it did. No one had ever made a movie like the Matrix, and just like with certain aspects of the hobby, its originality was eventually watered down and used over and over again until it was commonplace. Hell, even the sequels had major problems living up to the billing of the original. Inception is another one of those mold breaker movies in my mind because of how the narrative was presented, as well as the ways the movie was shot and produced. Nolan has garnered a reputation of being a visionary director, and it showed with every frame in the movie. It got to a point that when I walked out into the lobby after the movie, I couldn’t help but feel that I had just witnessed an epiphany. Like someone had just smashed my brain with a sledgehammer, and put it back together in a completely different way than it had previously been assembled.
I think we have had similar creative experiences in the hobby too. Before the early 1990s, autographed cards were almost unheard of. When the first product was released with readily inserted autographs, im sure it was the same type of experience like I had last night. Same thing in 1996 with the creation of the game used jersey card. However, like with the Matrix, that originality has been watered down to the point where those cards make no difference any more. In fact, its been so long since we have had a breakthrough of that fashion, that I actually believe we are regressing to a point of parody. Each set looks the same, each card features the same aspects, and there is rarely a surprise when we open a box any more. I think the advent of the retro set filled that hole in a semi-partial way, but not in a way that was sufficient enough to drive us to a different level in the industry. Same with the manufactured patch card, regardless of its controversial existence.
The question remains, though. Is there even a capability to use creativity in a way that breeds sales through innovation in this industry? Im going to say probably not, as I think its gotten to a point where there may not be another level to ascend to. However, that doesn’t mean we have to settle for the monotony that is slowly creeping in through every nook and cranny of our hobby. I thought that Upper Deck was the absolute best at producing sets that pushed the envelope each and every year, and yet they are left operating without a license in three of the four major sports. Funny how that works. Then on the flip side of that coin, Panini is licensed in three of the four sports, and they are getting worse rather than better in terms of creating some of the most cookie cutter products on the planet. As for Topps, they may heading in the right direction with their low end products, but they are barreling down thee complete opposite way with their high end. Based on where each company is, I am not sure if there is even anyone willing to risk taking a chance with innovation because of how they have established themselves within their certain brands. Its sad, really. We just cant catch a break.
Sadly, im not saying that I can offer any type of solution, either. Just like how a food critic rarely has the know how to get into the kitchen and create the dishes they critique, I leave the card creation up to the professionals. I have some ideas, but right now, that is all they are, ideas. Nothing more. Yet, when I see that companies are moving backwards with each release instead of forward, it makes me want to get my hands dirty and learn how create rather than wait for the creators.
When it comes down to it, I am bored as hell right now and I am losing more and more interest daily. I also have a feeling I that I am not the only one out there with this feeling. I am sincerely hoping that there is someone working for one of the companies that is going to be the Christopher Nolan of the card industry. Someone with the vision that is needed to reinvent how we collect. So I ask, who is going to create the product that redefines our collecting consciousness much like what the jersey card and the auto card did almost 15 years ago? It actually may never happen again, but I sincerely hope they don’t give up trying.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
The first Strasburg Auto/Jersey from Tribute is up on EBay, and boy do they want a lot of money for it. Granted, they are probably going to get a ton, but still. Ill be interested to see how much these redemptions go for considering that the Ginter ones broke 3 K.
Its been a while since I have posted on the ridiculous fake rookie premiere autos that are out there, and I feel like it may have faded from the consciousness of the people who arent smart enough to recognize fakes when they see them. If you are going to buy a rookie premiere auto from 2007, 2008 or even 2009, in most cases, it isnt worth your time. Especially for the 2007, asshats like Kevin Burge have secured hundreds of blank cards out the back door from Topps, or by some other means, and have sold them as real with terrible fake autos.
Because there are so many fakes out there, they actually out number the real ones by 100:1 for some of the bigger targets. Since I have started covering these cards, Topps has vowed to serially number this year's RPA's for their base sets, something that should all but eliminate the fakes, and again make it safe to buy. Funny enough, there have been multiple instances of Beckett and PSA grading the cards as real, leading to major conflicting issues from the people who know they are fake and the uniformed buyers who purchase them. Its gotten so bad, that I have even gotten in verbal arguments with dealers at card shows because they are THAT sure that they didn’t get had by some guy who bought it off eBay.
So, for the millionth time, here are what the fake ones look like, as well as what a real one looks like for each. Since Adrian Peterson and the 2007's is a prime target, im going to focus a lot on those. Also, red ink duals and quads are also a big target for these idiots because they bring extra money. If you see a red ink these days, its probably fake. Yes its that bad.
Here are the fakes, if you see any that look like this, they arent real. None of them.
Here are some real ones, very, very tough to find. They also sell for A LOT of money, so that’s a good way to determine the fakes from the reals.
Compare them side by side if you dont think I know what the fuck I am talking about.
The one on the left is real, check out the "28" and the slant of the signature. Look at the streak in his pen, and the start and stop points for the line across the "A" in "adrian." The one on the right is the final incarnation of the fakes and the most advanced. Almost indisinguishable unless you know what to look for.
All in all, I guarantee you the real ones speak for themselves. Also, the real ones were signed ALL AT ONCE at the 2007 rookie premiere, so they will look pretty much IDENTICAL. If you have one that doesnt look anything like these real ones, its fake.
If you have a question, send me an email, and I can let you know my opinion. Otherwise click here to see all the posts I have done on this subject.