The 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen Baseball Review Hub

Earlier in March I set up the first in an ongoing series of ‘Review Hubs’ where I was attempting to bring together as many product reviews in a single place for each new Baseball card release!

It’s designed to make life easier for anyone who wants to check out new product reviews without the hassle of trawling all over the internet – a thankless task at the best of times!

The inaugural Review Hub was dedicated to 2013 Topps Heritage, and now’s time to get the latest up and running with 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen!

Retails is already available in the US and Hobby will be hitting the streets in a few days time!

Here’s the links to the reviews with more added as and when they materialise. Remember if you see any yourself please send me the link!

Crackin’ Wax

Beckett Media

30-Year Old Cardboard

bdj610’s Topps Baseball Card Blog

Sports Card Collectors

The Pack Gambler

Sports Card Magazine

Dime Boxes

The Underdog Card Collector


The Cards Infinity Video Break (starring Chris Justice)

As before, let me know if you come across a dead link and I’ll remove it!


A New Collecting Era Dawns (For Me, Anyway)

It’s been a bit quiet on the blog over the last few days, but this has afforded me some time to reassess my collecting habits and to work out where I push on from here from a card collection point of view.

I’ve considered a whole range of ideas from team sets throughout the course of the year to master sets of a particular product; from inserts sets (game-used, autos) to specific player collections.

I wanted to make it specific to my team, the St Louis Cardinals, and an idea struck me last night while conversing on Twitter with my buddy James over in Alabama. Mr James Ruffin (@jamesmruffin) is an avid Cards fan and collector of some years, and I’m blessed to know a like-minded soul out there over the Atlantic who shares my interests and goals!

Anyway, James had popped into his LCS looking for this beauty –

but also chanced upon this gorgeous specimen –

Sigh – Too many lovely cards out there!! 😦

And then it hit me! Certified autographed cards of Cardinals players!!

Why not?!? I’ve been put off the idea before because of the high value of some of the players involved, but for every expensive Stan Musial, Bob Gibson and Albert Pujols autograph card there’s a less expensive Jason Motte, Jon Jay or Ray Lankford as an alternative.

That’s it!! I’m pumped!!!

And it’s something I can build at my own pace and in my own time, as budget dictates. Of course it’s a finite collection but it will be a fulfilling and fun one to build as well!

I’ve set myself a few ground rules which are as follows –

  1. No prospect cards (at least not yet). As there are quite a few of these each year I just wanted to concentrate on rostered players. So basically anything from their rookie card (if autographed) onwards. I will most likely revisit this rule further down the line
  2. The player depicted on the card has to be wearing his Cardinals uniform. I’ll happily get my hands on a Scott Rolen autograph – but not in a Phillies uniform, or anything after he left the Cards!
  3. Only one card of each available player. Again I’ll probably revisit this at a later date but doing this will make me focus more specifically on what cards I chase

And we’ll see how it goes from there!

My special thanks to James for sowing the seeds of this idea!! Right now I’m off to eBay!!

2013 Panini USA Baseball Champions Preview

It’s preview time again, but on this occasion there’s a bit of a difference!

When I first returned to the Hobby and collecting after a long period of absence, all the way back in those ‘dark days’ of 2011, I was only aware of Topps Baseball products.

Because of Topps’ exclusive contract with MLB, to me Topps WERE Baseball cards!! Accept no substitutes, and all that!! ‘Unofficial’ (read non-licensed) card sets were something I used to steer clear of as they seemed somehow – wrong!

Recent product releases from Panini have caused me to reassess that stance, and with the re-emergence of Upper Deck as another player in the Baseball card market things are looking more and more interesting over the coming months/years for Baseball card collectors.

So, in order to for me to properly serve my esteemed readership I think it’s about time I started to tell you about some of the other Baseball card releases that will be appearing in the near future! And we’ll start right now with Panini’s 2013 USA Baseball!!

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never really been the biggest fan of past USA Baseball releases as I’ve never really been that invested in them!

Most of the time they featured young players who I’d never heard of sporting their Team USA uniforms – not really the sort of set that pushes the relevant buttons for a UK-based Baseball card collector! However since I’ve been following the prospect market a lot more closely over the last few months, a lot of the names on the checklist are more familiar to me!

And not just that!!!

Panini have also had the foresight to populate the set with USA Baseball’s former alumni, giving us collectors the chance to get hold of some of Baseball’s current and recently retired stars featured in their Team USA uniforms as well!

The fact that some of these players are either in the Hall of Fame already, or will be Cooperstown-bound in the not too distant future, really piques my interest in the set and makes the product really stand out from previous USA Baseball releases! I envisage that this mixture of past and present will be a strong attributing factor in 2013 USA Baseball’s overall success!

With a nice design and some great looking relics, 2013 USA Baseball looks as if it could be onto a winner! Throw in awesome autographs of some of Baseball’s finest players of the last few decades and things just get better!!!

Oh, did I mention that each Hobby box also contains 3 autographed cards and two Game-Used relics? No??


Click here to see what the product has to offer and look for Panini 2013 USA Baseball to hit the streets at the end of May!

eBay’s Global Postage Program and What We’ve Learnt So Far

I’ve been meaning to put something like this together for some time but other stuff, usually much more exciting, was always getting in the way!

Since it was introduced last September, subsequently aborted and then relaunched to very little fanfare, eBay’s Global Postage Program (GPP) seems to have limped out of the starting blocks under a cloud of suspicion and ambivalence from those groups of people that it was allegedly set up to benefit.

I won’t lie – I’ve been a big fan of it since I first heard about it a few months ago. It’s arrival on the scene coincided with my attempts to find a more cost efficient way of bringing boxes of Baseball cards over from the US into the UK without the worry of all the excessive charges that constantly seem to impede this ‘simple’ process!!

Since digging a bit deeper, leaning on my own experiences as a buyer and those of Sean (from Pittsburgh Sports) as a seller, I’ve managed to get a better handle on how the whole process works and who really benefits from it!

Intrigued? Then read on!!!

Please note – This article is written exclusively from the perspective of a buyer from the UK. Different countries have very different import duty thresholds, such as Australia which has a threshold of $1,000 AUD before import duty is imposed (thanks Santo!), and I don’t have anywhere near enough information to look at things from that point of view! So it’s easier for me to stick to what I know to illustrate the examples I’ve provided.

It is also based specifically upon the purchase of Baseball cards and boxes! The GPP is available to all eBay sellers in the US irrespective of where they sell from (although there are certain restrictions on some eBay selling categories) but I don’t have any experience dealing with the purchase of other types of goods through the GPP.

You all know the story by now!

Purchasing items from the US for international buyers can be an expensive business! In the UK there’s always the threat of the dreaded import tax, and the accompanying courier ‘handling’ charge to deliver the item to your doorstep, often resulting in that ‘bargain’ item that you’ve snared on eBay almost doubling in price before you even get your hands on it! Add in the recent USPS price increases and the whole process ends up being a costly joke!

With the introduction of eBay’s Global Postage Program I genuinely thought that the future potentially looked a lot brighter.

Since starting this blog in September 2012 I’ve written several posts on this topic. I’ve listed them all below in chronological order so feel free to peruse then at your leisure!

The Light at the End of the Tunnel for International Postage?

eBay’s Global Postage Programme – An Update

eBay’s Global Postage Programme – Another Update

eBay’s Global Postage Programme – How It Worked For Me

eBay’s Global Postage Programme – I Spy a Potential Problem (With Updates)

eBay’s Global Postage Program – A Seller’s Perspective

It’s important to bear in mind at this stage that import tax is not always a given when buying items in the UK from abroad. In fact it’s pretty random as to what gets stopped and what doesn’t. I tend to live by the rule that the bigger the item the more chance it has of being stopped and taxed! Not the most scientific of methods, I’ll grant you, but in the past I’ve had more boxes of cards hit with extra charges than I have high-value, single cards in small envelopes! That said, I did hear from someone the other day who had been charged import tax on a small package from COMC so there’s always exceptions to the rule.

See – I told you it was a bit random!

There are two important distinctions to make when looking at what charges we incur in the UK –

Import Tax – This applies to any purchase made over the threshold of £15 (approx $23.00 USD), not inclusive of shipping and handling charges. The rate of tax charged depends upon the type of item being imported, although custom fees can be charged to cover the expense of performing any required examinations, verification and or testing of the imported goods. The total amount of tax charged is calculated on the value of the goods, plus the international shipping costs and insurance, plus any import duty due

Courier Handling Fee – This is a fee applied by the courier responsible for the delivery of the item you have purchased and covers any ‘admin’ costs they may incur on items that are taxed on entry into the UK. The courier could be the Royal Mail or Parcel Force, or one of the specific courier companies such as DHL or FedEx

It IS possible to work out how much import tax you could be liable for if your item gets stopped at Customs, but the courier fee is a more arbitrary affair and can often be higher than the amount of tax you have to pay in the first place

With me so far? Good!

With the GPP the process is simplified to a certain extent as you pay for any import tax during the ebay checkout process, the seller sends the item to a domestic holding facility (currently in Kentucky) and the item is then forwarded on to a similar location in the UK. From there it’s sent out in the mail through the same channels as any other item of post in the UK!

So, who benefits from this process?

The Buyers

For collectors in the UK you know exectly what you’re paying at the time of purchase and shipping costs should be cheaper as the item purchased is first being sent to a location within the US. The GPP also sidesteps the arbitrary ‘admin’ charge imposed by the courier companies and the buyer only pays the import tax – nothing extra! The unfortunate side effect of this is that you HAVE to pay the import tax – there’s no opportunity to roll the dice and take your chances that your item won’t get stopped at Customs and therefore won’t incur any charges at all!

The Sellers

ebay sellers don’t have the worry of dealing with international shipping and the possibility of items going missing in the post! You simply send to a single domestic location so any shipping charges could potentially be reduced as well. Once out of the seller’s hands it’s the responsibility of eBay’s partner Pitney Bowes to ensure the safe delivery of the item to its overseas location!

Of course, that’s how eBay wants it to read on paper and that’s how eBay sells it! The truth of the matter is a little more complicated than that, as I’ve since found out!!

eBay has stated that it wants us to avoid paying any ‘hidden charges’ by knowing what we’re paying up front, but if you look closely enough at the listings which contain the GPP as a shipping option you’ll see there are a few ‘hidden charges’ that eBay has added of their own!

Take a look at the listing below for a box of 2012 Topps Series 1 Baseball from Pittsburgh Sports –

If you read my post yesterday which looks at the GPP from a seller’s perspective you’ll know that Pittsburgh Sports has free shipping to domestic US locations. Yet the listing here shows that there is a shipping charge due of $12.61. eBay tells us that this is made up of


  • U.S. shipping fee: the amount (if any) charged by your Seller to ship the GSP Item to the U.S. Shipping Center
  • International shipping fee: a variable fee covering shipment of your order by the third party shipping carrier selected by Pitney Bowes from the U.S. Shipping Center to the delivery address designated by you, including applicable miscellaneous third party charges and fees
  • Fuel surcharges: any and all fuel surcharges charged to Pitney Bowes by its service providers, to the extent not included within the international shipping fee
  • Transaction fee: a variable fee covering selling, general, and administrative expenses, software development, operations, software licenses, hardware, and hosting by Pitney Bowes
  • Parcel processing service fee: a variable fee covering services by the third party parcel processing service providers
  • Distribution center management fee: a variable fee covering management by Pitney Bowes of the third party parcel processing service providers and related software systems
  • Loss management fee: a variable fee covering the expenses to Pitney Bowes of insuring the risks to it of lost or damaged items
  • Transportation risk premium fee and variances: a variable fee covering operational expenses associated with short-term loss recovery and the management of any variances between the quoted Shipping amount and actual costs
  • Referral fee: a variable fee paid by Pitney Bowes to eBay Inc. for referring you to the Programme

Just take that in for a while!

Yeah, that’s exactly what I was thinking!!

This is an eBay charge and nothing to do with the seller. The sellers aren’t even aware that this charge is imposed as they don’t see it as part of their listing process!

Now take a look at the listings below, both for the same item, one from the eBay UK site and one from the eBay US site!

You’ll notice here that there is a higher shipping charge this time on the UK site. This is the sum of the amount that the seller charges for domestic shipping and the rate that eBay imposes (in the same way they did with the box of 2012 Topps above).

If you also look at the above two screenshots you’ll see that eBay also adds on an import charge, even though the current bid amount is still far below the threshold before any import tax would be applicable under UK Customs laws. eBay tells us that this is for –

  • Commodity taxes: any and all sales, goods and services, and value added taxes or other amounts assessed or levied by any government authority in connection with the importation of goods into the applicable country of importation, including, but not limited to, duties, tariffs or excise taxes, but excluding income taxes, that are required to be paid in respect thereof upon importation to any governmental or regulatory authority in the country of importation, as well as third party brokerage fees (such as advancement and disbursement charges and any and all additional handling or filings fees due to third party customs brokers) and penalties (but excluding any customs duties, taxes, surcharges, fines, penalties, or other charges which may be imposed on you by customs or tax officials after a GSP Item has successfully cleared customs and been delivered to, or made available for pickup at, the delivery address specified by you)
  • Classification fee: a variable fee associated with the assignment of a Harmonized System (“HS”) classification code to each commodity. An HS classification code is a numerical code used as the basis for the calculation of applicable customs duties and is usually required by your local customs authorities for importation declaration. If the GSP Item that you purchase is not subject to Import charges, this fee will be included within the Shipping amount quoted to you
  • Export compliance fee: a fee covering export compliance screening, verification that export licenses are not required, and the assignment of an Export Control Classification Number (ECCN). If the GSP Item that you purchase is not subject to Import charges, this fee will be included within the Shipping amount quoted to you
  • Importation risk premium fee and variances: a variable fee covering operational expenses associated with short-term loss recovery and the management of any variances between the quoted Import charges and actual costs

Obviously the higher the amount the higher this import charge will be (see the import charge attached to the 2012 Topps listing for an example of this)!

Now these charges may well be genuine and justifiable aspects to the whole GPP process (at least in eBay’s eyes), but it’s difficult to see them as anything other than extra charges that eBay has arbitrarily imposed on buyers!

So this basically means that before we even get started bidding on an item listed under the GPP, eBay has already imposed a minimum combined charge of $16.98 to the listing. Mmmmmmmm!

Scenario 1

Let’s take the second example a little bit further, and say I managed to successfully bid on this item and win it at the current price then I’ll end up paying $0.99 for the item and an extra $19.96 in shipping/import charges under the GPP. That’s £20.95 in total! Now imagine if that was a single card and you start to see the absurdity in all of this! If you read my Q&A with Sean at Pittsburgh Sports he makes the point of saying that it’s much cheaper to send single cards via USPS and this evidence certainly backs that up!

Scenario 2

Returning to the first example, if I was to purchase the 2012 Topps box under the GPP then it would cost me $67.94 or £44.83 which, although still expensive, is a much more reasonable option under the GPP, and without the worry of the extra charges.

If anyone in the US is reading this please don’t laugh when I say this amount is ‘reasonable’. With the higher prices that we’ve had to pay for years in the UK it’s just something we’ve come to accept!

However, there is one factor that could make the GPP an appealing option for larger packages and that’s down to the recent increases in the USPS International shipping rates as of the end of January 2013.

Scenario 3

Look at this again without the GPP – based upon the weight of the Topps box at 1.6lbs (0.75kg), to send this from the US to the UK under current USPS rates would be $34.39 for Priority Mail International which I believe offers some form of tracking and insurance (this amount was taken from the ‘Dave & Adam’s Card World’ listing for the same box). This is obviously a significant difference from the cost of the GPP listing! Then if you figure in the possibility of import tax and the handling charge you could be adding on an extra $18.00+ USD on top of that, making a total box price of in excess of $90.00!

And that’s relying on the sellers charging the correct postage rate. I’ve seen some boxes of this type being sold with international shipping set at around $60.00.

Scenario 3 makes the GPP listing a much more viable and cost-effective option! But I guess it all depends on whether you want to take the risk or not! And let’s face facts, no-one likes to pay any extra tax if they can avoid it!!


So, what have we learnt from the GPP some 6 months in?

Firstly, there still doesn’t appear to be a massive buy-in from US sellers at the moment. This could be because of a lack of awareness or perhaps because they’ve made a conscious decision not to opt in and have the GPP as part of their listings!

I’ve read rumours that the GPP will eventually become the norm for US sellers who wish to sell to international customers. I don’t know where we stand with this at the moment, or if there’s any truth in it, but if it does come in as eBay ‘law’ then I believe it will permanently change the way in which international buyers trade with US sellers on eBay! And not for the better!!

Secondly, the singles card market for international buyers under the GPP is dead! The new USPS rates have pushed the cost of sending a small packet from the US to the UK to absurd levels, and believe it or not the GPP takes that level of absurdity even higher with their mandatory minimum fees for shipping and import charges! It makes no economical sense to even entertain the idea of buying a single card from a US seller who has it listed under the GPP. This isn’t the seller’s fault as they don’t see those extra charges that we see as part of the listing!

If anything we’re likely to see a huge shift away from purchasing singles off eBay and a move to alternative sites such as COMC and Collector Revolution.

Thirdly, I still firmly believe that their is a place for purchasing larger items under the GPP, such as boxes of cards, multiple boxes or even cases, and I’ll continue to actively seek out eBay sellers who offer these types of items in this way. I find it incredibly re-assuring that the rate of postage I’ll be paying will be a lot smaller due to the item of interested being shipped to a domestic location. And alongside this the idea of paying any import tax upfront gives me more control over what I buy as opposed to waiting for an item to be delivered to me in the UK, only to find all manner of charges attached to it from UK Customs and courier services.


And who really benefits from the GPP at the end of the day?

Well I don’t necessarily think that buyers do because of the extra charges that eBay adds on to the GPP listing, making it virtually impossible to purchase smaller cost items from US sellers. Purchasing larger items could work as the GPP does help bypass the ridiculously high USPS international shipping rates, but that’s the only benefit I can see as it stands!

Sellers do benefit from piece of mind in that they don’t have the concern of dealing with international shipping head-on, along with the customary headache that comes along whenever an item goes ‘missing’ in the post! Shipping to a domestic location means they can be much more flexible with their shipping costs and they are secure in the knowledge that they have honoured their side of the sale be getting any item they have sold to the collection centre in the US.

But lets face it, the true winner from the introduction of the GPP is eBay themselves! The introduction of the minimum charges against each GPP listing acts as yet another ‘stealth’ charge against the buyer in a similar way to how recent changes in the listing/final sales fees have affected sellers!

I don’t feel that eBay has done enough to convince international buyers that the GPP is a viable option when trading with US sellers. Better advertising would help raise awareness, and changes to the way that smaller value items are handled could go some way to addressing this, but so far I feel that the GPP is performing far below its potential.

How eBay views the current status of the GPP is anyone’s guess. For all we know it’s working exactly as they anticipated and they couldn’t be happier.

For international sports card collectors the GPP provides another frustrating example of how purchasing items from the US has been rendered, once again, unnecessarily awkward and restrictive! It’s been obvious for the last few years to international buyers that the number of US sellers who are prepared to ship overseas has dropped off at a drastic rate! Given how eBay is constantly changing the rules that affect how people sell (along with a little help from USPS in the shipping rates department), I can’t say that I really blame them.

eBay really needs to introduce a scheme that makes the prospect of trading internationally much more appealing to US-based sellers and international buyers. If the GPP was intended to be a move in that direction then I’d say that they’ve so far fallen way short of the mark!


Wow!! That was a big one! Lots to be said, and if you stuck with me this far then you have my thanks!!

Your thoughts and comments, as always, are greatly appreciated, particularly anything from you US-based sellers out there!

Take care!


The Bowman Cometh

If anyone has been keeping up with Topps’ @BowmanScout account on Twitter then you’d have seen a few images starting to appear over the last few days of some of the prospect and rookie cards that will end up carrying player autographs!

Now, as we all know, autographed prospects/rookies are a big deal and are insanely popular amongst collectors, always shifting for ridiculously high prices on the secondary market!

I really wish I had the money to pursue prospect cards and build up a decent collection, but sadly I’m not in a position to do that. So I’ll just look on and watch others have all the fun 🙂

It’s a well known fact that this years draft class isn’t anticipated to be one of the strongest in recent years, but 2013 Bowman should still carry some popular cards, including some great autographed rookie cards!

Check out the images below – which look as if they’ll be the red refractor versions – of Astros 18-yr old third baseman Rio Ruiz and up-and-coming Pirates catcher Wyatt Mathisen –

However the following two have me a little more excited as this years Bowman release looks as if it will also have autographed Chrome rookie cards of two of my favourite young Orioles stars –

Absolutely beautiful!!

With other names like Jurickson Profar, Mike Olt and Shelby Miller all having rookie cards spread across the whole range of this years Topps Baseball products there is a good possibility that this years Bowman and Bowman Chrome will have some of the strongest autographed rookie cards in ages!!

I’ll be doing my damnedest to get the Bundy and Machado into my collection, heaven help me if Topps add any more big names to the list!

2013 Bowman Baseball hits the streets in May! Click here for further details on what surprises are in store!


Since I originally posted this Topps have released more images of these autographed prospects and rookies, so here they are for your enjoyment –

Loving the Mike Olt!!!

— sigh —

Looks as if I’m going to have to start saving my pennies!!

eBay’s Global Postage Program – A Seller’s Perspective

It’s been a fair while since I wrote anything about the GPP and I didn’t want anyone to think that it had gone away. I’ve been conscious for some time that everything I’d written up to this point had been from the perspective of the non-US buyer, and I’ve gone into some detail (and several posts) around my thoughts and experiences on this relatively new service from eBay US!

However I’ve been eager to see how things work from a seller’s point of view, so I recently contacted Pittsburgh Sports to see if they could be of some assistance.

I’ve had several boxes of Baseball cards from Pittsburgh Sports since the GPP came into play and have been really happy with the way the GPP process has worked along with the service that they have provided!!

So I contacted them by email and fired off a few questions in their general direction about their experiences and thoughts, as an eBay retailer, on the GPP and how it fits into their business.

Firstly I’d like to thank Sean Bennett at Pittsburgh Sports for all his help, time and patience with this. Sean has highlighted that with a simple and friendly level of customer service the whole experience of buying and selling on eBay can be rewarding for all concerned, and when done right, will keep buyers coming back for more.

If anyone is interested in picking up some reasonably priced boxes of any type of sports card then you could do yourself a favour and visit Pittsburgh Sports’ eBay Store and have a look around. You never know you may spot yourself a real bargain!!

So, without further ado, here’s a breakdown of the questions I sent to Sean along with his responses!

Disclaimer – If any of you have come along expecting another Frost/Nixon interview then you’d be best served looking elsewhere. I don’t think there’s any chance that I’ll quitting my day job any time sooner and pursuing a career in investigative journalism, lets put it that way 🙂

Me: Have you previously shipped internationally and did you have any issues before the GPP was set up?

Sean: Yes, customers would consistently be shocked by the amount of duties and taxes owed. GPP seems to take the guesswork out of the equation

Me: How did you find out about the GPP?

Sean: Our ebay account rep recommended that we sign up to simplify international shipping

Me: Have you sent much overseas through the GPP?

Sean: Yes

Me: Do you have a rough approximation as to your ratio of domestic to international business and have you seen an increase in international purchases since the GPP came into play?

Sean: It’s 95/5 percent and yes, about a 1 percent difference so far

Me: Have you sent any low cost items?

Sean: Yes, low and high end items

Me: Have you sold many single, low cost items through the GPP? e.g. a single card for around $5-8?

Sean: Zero, shipping on those cards is cheaper to go regular USPS

Me: How does the process work, from your point of view as an eBay seller, in terms of working out shipping costs? How are shipping costs set?

Sean: We offer free shipping to the US so since we have to ship to and eBay international shipping center in the us our shipping costs remain the same.

Me: See the image which contains a screenshot of what international buyers see on your listing. I’ve highlighted a couple of areas and wondered if you had any control over these amounts? I suspect that you don’t since you offer free domestic postage. It could well be that these are the shipping charges that eBay applies to any GPP listings (same for the import duty amount). At a guess you’re probably not even aware that these go on, I just wondered if you were alerted to this at any part in the listing process?

Sean: We have zero control. It is interesting to view

Me: What would you say to other seller’s thinking about opting in?

Sean: Its a great option

Me: How does the GPP work for you and fit into your business?

Sean: It has helped us grow internationally and you will see more companies going that route moving forward

Me: Is the added security of shipping to a domestic address, handing over the responsibility of shipping internationally to Pitney Bowes, something that appeals?

Sean: Yes. Any way to increase international business I’m a fan of

Me: What would you say is the best thing about the GPP?

Sean: No extra paperwork

Thanks to Sean for his input with this! And I’m sure you’ll agree I doubt very much we’ll be seeing a Pulitzer heading my way at any point in the near future.

There are a couple of Sean’s comments that I found quite interesting and I’ll be addressing these in my next post (either tomorrow or the day after) when I’ll start bringing my thoughts together to form a bigger picture of what I’ve learned about the GPP so far, and what it all means for international buyers!

If you are a US seller or an international buyer, who uses eBay on a regular basis, and you had more questions about this whole process for Sean then let me know and I’ll send them his way!

Thanks, as always, for your time!

In Appreciation Of… Clayton Kershaw

Back in October last year I started writing a series of regular posts that were designed to take a look at some of those undervalued or under-appreciated players that I felt didn’t get the Hobby love they deserved.

It’s been a little too long since my last foray into this area so I decided to pick it up again, starting with one of the most exciting pitchers in the Hobby today – Dodgers ace, Clayton Kershaw!

I imagine that Kershaw has a pretty huge following in LA, but I don’t get the impression this stretches to the rest of the Hobby. That said, you often see his cards fetching some tidy sums over on eBay so who knows? I could well be making the wrong call on this one!

Clayton Kershaw was drafted 7th overall in the 1st round of the 2006 draft! A Dodger throughout his career so far he worked his way up through the LA farm system, making his MLB debut in 2008, when he spent a whole year as the youngest player in the majors!

Despite putting up incredible numbers in High School and in the Minor Leagues, Kershaw finished his rookie season with a 5-5 record, with a 4.26 ERA in 22 games (21 starts). He continued to work on, and improve, his craft over the next two seasons, something which paid off in 2011 when he won the pitching Triple Crown, compiling a 21-5 record with a 2.28 ERA, a 0.97 WHIP and 248 Ks. He won his first Cy Young that season and has already started drawing comparisons to another Dodgers southpaw you might have heard of – Sandy Koufax.

As of this writing Kershaw is 24 years of age! The sky’s the limit and I’m almost tempted to ditch my Cardinals and become a Dodgers fan, just to follow this guy!!

Only almost…

Outside of Baseball, Kershaw, along with his wife and childhood sweetheart Ellen, is actively involved in volunteer work. Together they launched ‘Kershaw’s Challenge’ and wrote the book Arise in order to help raise money to build an orphanage in Zambia. In 2012, he was honoured with the ‘Roberto Clemente Award’, the highest humanitarian honour bestowed by Major League Baseball!

I guess I could always start up a Clayton Kershaw PC. I’ll have to ask the Night Owl his advice as he’s got over 260 different Kershaw cards in his own collection!!

Given all that he’s achieved on and off the field in his short career so far, isn’t it time to start giving this young pitcher some Hobby appreciation?

I think so!

Panini Signs Stephen Strasburg To An Exclusive Deal

OK – Who saw this one coming??

Whether this was common knowledge in the industry ahead of last weekends Las Vegas Retailer Summit or not, I don’t know. But hot on the heels of Topps’ announcement that they’ve extended their exclusive deal with MLB, Panini America goes and drops this one on us!!

Panini have managed to sign Nationals pitching phenomenon Stephen Strasburg to an exclusive multi-year autograph agreement! His first autograph cards under this new deal will appear in the April release of the MLBPA-licensed 2012 Panini Prizm Baseball product and will feature Strasburg in his USA Baseball uniform.

Now this is quite a coup for Panini!!

Throughout 2010 Topps marketed several of their card products on the back of Strasburg, in a similar way to what they did with Bryce Harper last year, and it appeared that Strasburg and Topps were synonymous with one another! Almost.

This exclusive deal goes a small way to shifting the status quo and more importantly, to me at least, reinforces the fact that Panini appears to have a bold strategy moving forward with its Baseball card releases, despite not having an MLB licensing agreement in place! Strasburg is Panini’s first exclusive athlete to sign under their agreement with the MLBPA and I can’t imagine he will be their last!

So, with Panini driving forward with their Baseball card releases and Upper Deck once again entering the arena with their new MLBPA deal, things are looking pretty exciting at the moment (at least in the short term) for Baseball card collectors.

And while it’s unlikely that either Panini or Upper Deck will go all the way in terms of challenging Topps’ authority in the Baseball card Hobby, it’s good to know that there will be alternative products out there for collectors to choose from!

As long as we get some solid card designs in good, quality products I doubt there will be many people complaining!

Hold on!! What am I saying?!?! Of course people are going to complain – and moan – and bitch – isn’t that what the internet was invented for? 🙂

Either way, it will be a while before we start seeing cards like this again!

Review: 2012 Panini National Treasures

OK, for starters I DID try and do a video for this, but gave up the ghost after four different attempts to gauge lighting, sound and distance.

Whoever knew these videos would be so bloody difficult to put together?? I even had a picture of Christopher Walken up on the iPad in the background, in an attempt to channel my inner Chris Justice – but to no avail!!

So, I took a few pictures of the ‘opening’ instead. It doesn’t quite generate the same excitement that a video does but at least you don’t have to put up with listening to my voice droning on 🙂

So here goes with the opening of the box –

As you can see it’s a lot like peeling back the layers of an onion!

The tin that the mini-box comes in is nice and solid although you can see a little internal damage on the internal inlay (top-left) which looks as if it was done during the packaging process as there’s no external damage to the tin.

This isn’t a big deal and doesn’t detract from the overall experience!

You can see from the final image that the mini-box is also sealed, which is a nice touch!


Well, with all that opening stuff out of the way it’s now time to look at the cards themselves, in the order they were seeded in the box, starting with –

Card No. 137 – Josh Hamilton ‘Base’ (Jersey) #’d 42/99

First off, these are nice cards made from a good, solid cardstock with a nice glossy finish. I’ve said this before but the all-white background coupled with a fair-sized, mono-chrome image of the player make these base cards absolutely glorious to behold!! My hat goes off to the guys at Panini for coming up with such a striking card design!!

I tell you, these are thick cards and will take a fair amount of bending to inflict any kind of damage on them (not that you’d ever want to, of course)!


Card No. 15 – Willie Kamm ‘All Decade’ (Bat) #’d 22/99

There are several ballplayers in this product that are getting their first ever memorabilia cards, and Willie Kamm of the Chicago White Sox is one of them!

The ‘All Decade’ subset is one of my favourites in the whole set so I was very please to get hold of this little beauty! Made from the same cardstock as the rest of the base cards I just love the design on the front of this card, especially the pencil thin border that frames all of the detail within!!

Very nice indeed!!


Card No. 43 – Miguel Cabrera ‘Treasure Materials’ (Jersey) #’d 88/99

Another jersey card, this time from the ‘Treasure Materials’ set, and featuring none other than 2012’s Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera!

Not a lot to say about this one really. The ‘Treasure Materials’ set features all images of current players, courtesy of Panini’s license with the MLBPA, and isn’t one of my favourite in the set. Not because it’s a poor design, far from it, its just that I tend to gravitate towards the cards of the older ballplayers and HOF’ers!

That said, it’s a nice card of one of today’s greatest sluggers, so it’s not all bad!!


Card No. 18 – Bob Feller ‘Triple Crown Winners’ (Jersey) #’d 81/99

So from one Triple Crown winner to another with this awesome jersey card of Indians Hall of Famer, Bob Feller!

I like the ‘Triple Crown Winners’ set as it features a whole variety of old and new players, pitchers and hitters alike, all brought together under the same design as you see above! The simple use of blues and greys on the white card really accentuates the overall look of the card, and this is another set that I’d like to get more cards of.

Very happy with this one, and the fact that it’s a card of Bob Feller!


Card No. 214 – Tyler Pastornicky ‘Rated Rookies’ (Jersey/Auto) #’d 71/99

Not a player I’m familiar with but I do like the design, with a huge jersey swatch and an on-card autograph of the Braves 2012 Opening Day shortstop. This design is definitely my favourite of the ‘Rated Rookie’ cards and the jersey swatch is huge!!

Although it’s classed as a ‘rookie’ I’m still a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to a players first card and always look to Topps’ Bowman cards for my rookies and prospects. Call me old fashioned, but it’s just me!!

Still, these cards may well be overlooked by collectors and they make an interesting alternative for rookie and prospect collectors who are looking for early player cards to add to their PCs


Card No. 94 – Matt Harvey ‘Treasure Signature Materials’ (Jersey/Auto) #’d 40/99

Now I like this!!

The ‘Treasure Signature Materials’ set is not one I’d paid a lot of attention to before, but I like what I see. Made up of 100 cards and featuring a mixture of HOF’ers, retired players, current players and rookies, this is a really sharp looking cards. Even better that it features one of the Mets top young pitchers in Matt Harvey!

The autograph is of the sticker variety but this is something that doesn’t particularly bother me as it does some collectors. What does stand out with this card is that the signature is nice and clean, and the whole card has a nice structure to it! Again, another set that I’d like to add to my own collection!


Card No. 32 – Harry Heilmann ‘Greatness’ (Bat) #’d 10/99

Another old-time ballplayer finds its way into my collection in the form of Harry ‘Slug’ Heilmann. Another awesome set featuring several of the older Baseball greats, this card has a much simpler design than some of the others in National Treasures!

Nonetheless, I’m still very happy with this one. Heilmann himself was one of the best right-handed hitters to ever play the game, hitting over .300 in 12 seasons and finishing his career with a .342 lifetime batting average.


And last, but not least –

Card No. 73 – Mike Schmidt ‘Legends Cuts Jumbo Nickname’ (Cut Signature Book) #’d/5

Sorry guys, but it’s a redemption!! Certainly not a bad one from the looks of things, but a redemption all the same 😦

This is a Mike Schmidt ‘Legends Cuts Jumbo Nickname’ Book card, and I’ve had a look at the checklist for this and found out that it’s limited to just five copies!! Now that’s more like it!!!

I can’t tell you any more about it than that, I’m afraid!!

I guess that will have to be another post for another day!


And that’s all folks!!

Shame about the redemption but I’m looking forward to getting my hands on that Mike Schmidt book card whenever it arrives!!

I was slightly disappointed I didn’t pull either a Cardinals player or one of those Button inserts (don’t know why but I would have just loved one of those), but the Mike Schmidt Legends Cuts Jumbo Nickname Book card will go a ways in making up for that!

Would I consider that I’d made my money back on the box? I doubt it!

Does it matter that I didn’t make my money back on the box? Not in the slightest!!

I got this box for the experience of opening a high-end product, not to necessarily look for the big hits! I loved Panini Treasures before I got hold of the box and I love it just as much now! So I’d like to say a big ‘Thank You’ to everyone at Panini for all the hard work that’s gone into this product, and in making it such a great pleasure to open!

What would I have done if I’d pulled a big $$$ hit? Who knows?!?! If it wasn’t a player I was interested in, like Harper or Trout, I would have probably put it on eBay and ended up getting more National Treasures cards with whatever I would have made from the sale!

In summary –

Best Card – It has to be the Mike Schmidt Book, but as it’s a redemption I’ll also put forward the Matt Harvey card. I’ve been pleasantly surprised how much I like that card ‘in the flesh’! Great design with a nice, clear autograph!

Worst Card – I don’t really have one, but if pushed I’d probably say the Miguel Cabrera ‘Treasure Materials’ jersey as it’s not one of my favourite designs from the set

Overall Box Rating – 7/10 – Apart from the Schmidt #’d/5, I was surprised I didn’t get any other cards that were serially numbered less than 99. That’s not me being greedy, it’s just based upon observations I’ve made from all the other box breakvideos I’ve seen online

Overall Product Rating – 10/10 – No question one of the best Baseball releases in ages

I’d be interested to hear all your thoughts!!

Once Upon A Time…

I’m going to share a story with you. Please bear with me as it will lead somewhere card related!

Just over a decade ago I started working for the UK side of Capital One, the credit card and loan company. As it was a new job I signed up for all the usual benefits and insurances, including a private health care plan, which after 12 months I cancelled as it was costing me extra money each month that would have been better placed in my pocket, especially as my first daughter was due in October of 2001.

Fast-forward to 2006 and I leave Capital One to work for a small IT company (about 25 employees at the time) that provides fundraising software for charities and the Not-For-Profit sector, a job that I love and which I still do today!

Last November our company was purchased by a larger software company (around 400 employees in various offices dotted around the UK) which specialises in financial software! This isn’t going to be a massive change in terms of the job I do but the buy-out triggered a mix up with my Tax Code that is given out by the Inland Revenue (the IRS to our cousins over in the US).

So back in January I contacted the Inland Revenue and explained the situation and they corrected the details over the phone. They advised me what my proper code was due to the private health plan I was paying for as an employment benefit.


So, basically, it turns out that I was still being taxed on the private health care plan that I stopped paying for back in 2001. This prompts me to write to the Inland Revenue to review my case and three weeks ago I receive a cheque in the post for monies that I had been incorrectly been charged tax on!

As this wasn’t something I was expecting to receive I decided to buy myself a box of cards as a treat (I had to promise to get the wife something nice as well, just to sweeten the deal) and two days ago, Monday 18th March, said box of cards arrived!

I had to do it!!

This is probably the first, and only, time that I’ll ever spend such a large amount of money on a box of cards like this, but as I’ve been so impressed with Panini’s National Treasures from what I’ve seen so far, I just couldn’t resist!!!

As I said, this was on Monday. It’s now late at night on Tuesday and I still haven’t opened it. I’ve got to admit I’m a bit nervous about the prospect!

But I have a day off work tomorrow so I’ll go at it then! I might even do a video of what I find inside, although I tend to get all tongue-tied when I talk on camera so heaven only knows how something like that will turn out 🙂

I’ll post the details of the contents in due course, so stick around if you want to see what’s hidden within this little box of delights!

Wish me luck!

UPDATED I’ve posted the review for your viewing pleasure! Click on the link below to see what I pulled!!

Review: 2012 Panini National Treasures