Friday, July 30, 2010

More Discussion on Loaded Boxes

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 na├»ve. 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.

9 comments:

  1. Amen to that...its not just these breaks though, but also the cards that go out the backdoor (most of them are relatively low number parallels).

    I also wouldn't exactly call the National Treasures b-ball break all that special, but that's more because Panini can't do basketball correctly.

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  2. I don't even know what to think of the whole thing...

    On one hand, I don't purchase much wax. Maybe four or five boxes a year, and packs on occasion. Even with this small amount of wax, I managed to pull four 1/1s in about a four month time period last year!! It was crazy, and they were from an individual pack of Sweet Spot from my LCS, 2008 Topps Update from my LCS, and a box of Razor Letterman and 09 Topps Update from Blowout. So it's not like there's NOTHING good to be pulled by the 'regular' hobbyists.

    On the other hand, it really sucks that the cards that grace sell sheets were basically manufactured to be 'pulled' by Beckett, with no intention of them ever getting into collectors' hands.

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  3. I don't care that this happens. It is an unfortunate practice of the manufacturers involved in our hobby and there is really nothing we can do about it.

    I do, however, take exception to Chris Olds trying to defend himself/Beckett as the innocents in the whole thing. He comes off as disengenous, snarky, angry, and down right stand-offish. If Beckett has done no wrong, why put up a fight collectors/readers/bloggers that will clearly only rouse the ire of the masses? Innocense defends itself. Only the guilty back peddle and go on the defensive.

    If you ask me, this is only a motive to keep Beckett in the minds of collectors, keep people reading the blog and coming back, and keep their little existence relevant when they are an antiquated player in a game that has clearly passed them by.

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  4. Olds argument that there are 7quadrillion 1/1's is lame. How many Pujols 1/1's are there?

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  5. I think this actually is a criminal act to be honest. I think there's cause for a fraud investigation because they are fraudulently misrepresenting your chances of pulling similar cards. Someone should contact a crusading DA

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  6. Bravo - the most intelligent article I have read from a blog.

    What you are basically describing what has happen on Wall Street (former Regulators working for investment companies and vice versa)

    I don't think Beckett knows (exactly) what they are getting but they probabaly know they are getting something pretty good

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  7. This is so disheartening. I try not to be cynical but corruption seems to know no boundaries.
    If the other card companies don't learn from Upper Deck's mistakes, the industry will either implode within the next 5 years or products will become so expensive only the rich people already getting the hits will be the only ones buying the product.
    I think most of us are willing to shell out extra bucks here and there for a high quality product, but when the packs are already stacked against you from the start people will eventually get sick of being burned and walk away.

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  8. I break WAY more boxes a year than beckett does, mostly football but I try to bust a box or so of each product that comes out just because I live to far from Vegas to gamble properly and I have NEVER had anything resembling a streak like they have continually. Sure I have pulled a 1/1 or 2, who hasnt. Its just the brazen continuity of hits in these breaks that irritates me. Id respect the whole thing more if the companies just sent Beckett the cards and had them use them to promo the product. Why bother the sham of opening the packs.

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  9. Hobbyists are taking the red pill far more often these days.

    What's surprising is how retarded hobby marketing has become. I also mean that in the literal sense of the word, meaning stunted expected growth and change when those opportunities are commonly available.

    Would it really be such a disaster that Beckett would end up with a lame box break once in a while?

    It would be very easy to present it with these points:
    - Guess what? An honest box break! Beckett's and the card maker's credibility increase (gasp!).
    - You saw the sell sheet. You know what the hot pulls are going to be. Guess what? They're actually out there in the wild, and not sandbagged into promo boxes!

    If I recall, I actually liked the Tristar Obak box break, and the hits were pretty average for that. It's not like Tristar didn't end up selling all of their Obak cases because the Beckett box break didn't have the mostest epix puhl evar.

    I don't think that Beckett realizes to what extent they have harmed their brand name in recent years with complicit shenanigans in box breaks and the grading service.

    What's disappointing is they could be so much more of a positive force in the hobby again, rather than trying to prop up a collective hallucination that it's still 1993.

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