In Defence Of… The Relic Card

With the recent release of the ‘game-used’-heavy 2014 Topps Museum, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time mulling over the relative merits of memorabilia cards.

Let’s face it, you can’t avoid them as they’re one of the standard insert sets that you stumble across in pretty much every sports card product that’s released these days. From the heady days of the late 90’s when Upper Deck first cut up ‘game-used’ jerseys of Griffey Jr, Tony Gwynn and Rey Ordonez to seed in random boxes of 1997 UD Baseball, to a year later when they committed the cardinal sin of sawing up a bat used by the Sultan of Swat himself, game-used memorabilia cards have become part of the sports card DNA over the last decade and a bit.

Of course, once upon a time these inserts were crazy hard to find and many of those early cards still fetch high premiums on the secondary market. However today’s game-used inserts (or ‘relic’ card as it’s started calling itself today) are virtually two-a-penny, and can easily be found littering pretty much every box of cards that gets produced. Such a high proliferation of these types of cards on the market has resulted in a laissez-faire attitude amongst collectors, and very few relic cards (apart from the incredibly rare short-printed versions of HOF’ers and superstars) seem to carry any kind of weight in the Hobby.

Naturally memorabilia cards have evolved over the years. Alongside those ‘pioneering’ jersey and bat cards we now have patches, buttons, laundry tags, bat barrels, bat knobs, gloves, and so on, and so on! Companies still seem to be pushing the boat out with regard to how they present these items in card form, but is the concept becoming tired after all this time? Maybe just a little bit stale?? Does anyone really care anymore when they pull a small piece of jersey once belonging to <insert the name of any semi-star you like… I’m going with James Loney only because he was the first to pop into my head> that’s cut up into a centimetre square and embedded in a 2″x3″ piece of card??

I’m guessing the answer is a big fat NO (unless you happen to have a James Loney PC)!

Certain news stories over the last few years have cast further doubt over the lowly relic card as a viable form of collectible memorabilia, as it has emerged that a number of different parties have been accused of passing on fake items to the major card companies as the genuine game-used article. Just Google the name ‘Bradley Wells’ for an example of what I’m talking about!

So where does that leave us now with the relic card?

I’ll be honest and say that I don’t know any collectors out there who exclusively pick up game used cards! Maybe there are the odd one or two who will chase them down to supplement their own PCs, but as a collectible in it’s own right the relic card just doesn’t seem to be near the top of anyone’s list as far as I can tell. In fact I know of a fair number of you out there in the Hobby who positively detest them, and avoid them at all costs!

Now, I guess it’s time to let you into a little secret… Are you sitting comfortably? Cool! Here goes…

… I have a little bit of a soft spot for game used memorabilia cards!

BOOM!! There we go… and it’s out there!!

I gave up many moons ago thinking that game used cards were a ‘link’ to the player depicted on the card. I dismissed the notion of ‘game used’ as being the overriding factor behind these cards existing in the first place and learned to start accepting them as a regular old insert, just like any other. Once I did this I felt like I’d made my peace with relic cards and became much more appreciative of them. After all, just look at what Topps has done with this year’s Museum Collection and you’ll see some absolutely stunning looking cards!! The same can be said year-in year-out with Triple Threads! I won’t bring Tier 1 to the table as I think it’s one of the most unnecessary sets of cards out there… Damn I loathe that product!!!

I’ve even gone down the route of considering collecting game-used relics of players in Cardinals uniforms but, as with most of my grand collecting schemes, the idea was aborted early on as I moved on to another fad!

So that’s what they are to me now – a quirky insert set. Certainly not my favourite in the pantheon of baseball card heaven, but certainly not the derided and under-appreciated card that they appear to be to many of my collecting brethren!

Let’s spend a few moments to have a think about the ‘lowly’ relic card then, eh? Is it really that bad? Can it be redeemed in the eyes of even the most vehement anti-relic collector?? Personally I think we should all give the game-used memorabilia cards another crack of the whip – another chance! Given the general feeling towards these types of cards there are often some real bargains to find on eBay and such like.

So the question is now – how do you all feel about relic and other game-used memorabilia cards? Do you collect them yourself? Maybe just a few of your favourite team or player? Maybe you even have a secret love for them just like I admitted to above? Or do you avoid them like the plague?? Worst baseball card idea ever? And if you really, really hate them – why do you hate them?

Feel free to leave your comments below! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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7 thoughts on “In Defence Of… The Relic Card

  1. Like Andy, I also kind of like relic cards. As he says, as long as you’re not under the impression that the relic is directly related to the player on the card then you can enjoy them for what they are. I particularly like Topps heritage Clubhouse Collection and go for the Tigers cards from that subset each year. In 2012, I tried to complete the Tigers team set of Topps Golden Moments relics. This proved to be fairly toughas there were 11 different standard relics and 5 “sparkly” x/99 variations. I managed to nail them all though and I’ve got to admit they look fantastic in the binder!

  2. I don’t particularly chase down relic cards myself, I force myself to do some “internal checking” before I buy one.
    That said, there are some amazing ones out there, and I wish I had the financial security to just not care if I pull one.
    I believe that if more “plain relics” were S/N, people might be slightly more accepting of them.

  3. I didn’t think I was a relic collector until I put the relics I had together and realised how many I had. Maybe I am relic collector after all. The Heritage relics tend to be very nice, simple clean designs,some others from the past have been awful. While pulling a bat card or jersey is great, (do you touch the actual bat and fabric -I tend to.) its the manufactured relics that annoy me, they seem pointless.
    Glen is right too, if you have a few relics together they look pretty good in the binder.

  4. Great post.

    I still enjoy collecting relic cards. In the overall scheme of things, they’ve dipped behind vintage. But almost everything has taken a back seat to vintage (except for my obsession with on-card autographs of hall of famers). The great thing about collecting memorabilia cards in this era is that they’re much more affordable than five years ago. And even though I question their authenticity, they still are attractive in my mind.

  5. I was just googling stuff and I came across this. I do have to say, this is a good article. First and foremost. I have to say that even though most of the relic cards are kind of hokey and boring. Look at it from a new collectors stand point. Someone new to the hobby pulls their first “hit”. It’s magical. It’s what feeds the industry. Most of us maybe a little cynical after years of most of the same trite boring hit. Eh piece of bat, oh another piece of Jersey. Us all searching for the million dollar card. I for one enjoy the thrill of just getting lost in baseball card land just to escape the insanity of real life. Live long the “hits”

  6. It is foolish to blindly accept the word of strangers as unquestionable truth, especially those who want to take your money. This is a major problem for anyone collecting sports cards today if it is anything more than a hobby. As intentionally vague and misleading the fine print on any given relic/memorabilia card is these days, on most boxes and packs you will find an intentionally specific statement where the manufacturer of the card does not guarantee any future value of the merchandise within. Its as if they know the guarantees and/or disclaimers about the relic on the card itself might be challenged so the companies went ahead and put an “Ass Covered” sign on the wrapper. I still LOVE finding and owning relic cards. I’ve often thought about how much faith I really have or don’t have in Topps or Panini when they tell me that the plain white scraps of material in the card I’m holding was actually once a part of a player’s jersey or if it was really used to wipe a butt after practice. Truth is, I don’t much care. By finding it in a random pack I haven’t paid a premium. If I buy it on the secondary market for a small fortune and its fake then I didn’t do enough homework before paying my bill. This doesn’t mean I condone the use of anything but the advertised materials in products. I’m just saying buyer beware. There should exist somewhere physical proof to show the exact relics that go into every card is what is being used. I’m not a fan of shredding and splintering legendary bats and uniforms. This stuff is rare. And once its chopped up and shared with so many people owning a tiny bit on a card its gone forever. FOREVER. But for anyone buying and selling high dollar relic cards it shouldn’t be approached any differently than if you were buying the entire relic by itself. To do anything less, as I said at the beginning, would be foolish.

  7. I personally love GU jersey cards, particularly,#’d ones, as they are one of the few ways to acquire truly limited edition cards today. They are sometimes downright beautiful, as well, especially, 3-colors and others of that ilk. In fact, I just bought a pair through E-Bay of Sammy Watkins (/75 and /90, respectively), one of pro football’s best young talents, at present, and am very happy with them. However, one thing that I find very disconcerting is the disclaimer appearing on these cards (and on others, increasingly) that reads, “The relic contained in this card is not from any specific game, event, or season.” Does this mean that the contained relic bears no relation to the portrayed player, or even that player’s team? I certainly hope not, as it would, in my opinion, greatly devalue the card’s worth as an authentic piece of memorabilia associated with that player. I am cynical enough to believe some card companies, which have shown a propensity for greed in the past, may be up to their old shennanigans of screwing their customers for the almighty buck. Anyway, if anyone out there can enlighten me on just what the disclaimers on those so-designated cards actually mean, please let me know.

    John

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