Waxing Cynical

There’s a well known and often used quote from Oscar Wilde that goes as follows –

“What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”

This was one of the first quotes that I ever read as a (much) younger man that actually got me thinking about what the author was trying to convey to the reader.

The notion of ‘price’ and ‘value’ are intrinsic to the universe of collectibles, and never more so than in the world of baseball card collecting. You see, ‘price’ and ‘value’ can mean very different things to a lot of different people. For some there is a clear distinction between the two ideas; some will see a slight overlap, while for others they are virtually interchangeable.

I’ve written a fair few pieces since I started this blog concerned with why we collect baseball cards and what means to be a collector. I’m fascinated by the ‘philosophy’ of collecting – what drives us to collect in the first place and what our collecting goals actually are, and one of the most interesting things about the Hobby over the last couple of decades is how there’s been a shift in emphasis in how we perceive the ‘value’ of the baseball cards that we all love!

Last week I read this really fascinating article by Rich Klein over at Sports Collectors Daily regarding our expectations around what we find when opening a box of baseball cards. Please give it a read by clicking on the link below and I’ll see you when you get back…

Rich’s Ramblings: Do Consumer’s Have a Right to Expect Secondary Market Value?

All done? Great stuff! So what did you think about some of the ideas that Rich plays around with there?

Personally I think he hits the nail on the head! As collectors we’ve become a group where the prospect of scoring that big ‘hit’ from a box of cards has become paramount. I wonder how many collectors out there bust open boxes wax and don’t even see the cards for what they are, instead they scour through each pack in eager anticipation of the treasures that lie within, with each card they come across automatically being given a $ value based upon past experience and anticipated secondary market value?

It reminds me of an old episode of 30 Rock called ‘Apollo, Apollo’ where we get to see the world through each character’s eyes. Tracy sees everyone as himself, Kenneth sees everyone as Muppets, while Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy sees everything with a price tag attached to it highlighting its monetary value.

Is this what collectors are becoming? Or maybe this is what they’ve already become? Sure we shell out a fair amount of money for a box of baseball cards in the first place, but if your main expectation is to get a solid return on your purchase then surely you’re opening that box for all the wrong reasons?!? I know that all collectors don’t fit this model but I get the impression that it is becoming more and more commonplace for collectors to behave this way.

Media such as Twitter doesn’t necessarily help as you will often see collectors showing off their ‘hits’ for everyone else to see, like some kind of badge of honour. In itself there’s nothing wrong with this and it’s great to share in other collector’s success stories. However no-one ever gets to see the ‘smaller’ cards as no-one is ever interested in that sort of thing. Personally I’d much rather see images of several cards of lesser stars that are going straight into someones lovingly built PC, as opposed to a single big hit like a BGS slabbed orange refractor autograph of the latest top prospect!

In fact I often feel that prospect collectors are among the worst culprits for this sort of thing. And before you say it, NO I don’t hate prospect collectors in the slightest. I’ve met some truly wonderful prospect collectors out there in Hobby-land, through either my ramblings on Twitter or through this very blog itself. Chasing prospects just isn’t a type of collecting that’s for me, however I feel lends itself perfectly to the point I’m trying to make!

I appreciate that we all have different ways of collecting, but whenever I see those high value prospect cards in their PSA, SGC or BGS slabs I can’t help but think of them as commodities rather than valued collectible pieces, and I often wonder if that’s how their owners view them as well. The simple fact that these cards are graded often speaks volumes as to how these cards are perceived by collectors. Lets face facts, the higher the grade the greater a cards potential value.

For me the true ‘value’ of a baseball card comes from the collector having a ‘connection’ to their card or their collection. Whether that connection is grounded in some sort of emotional context (the love of a team, the love of a specific player), or simply because the collector has an appreciation of a card itself (such as the its overall aesthetic, or perhaps its historical significance to the game or the Hobby), I can’t help but feel that a card or collection should mean something that goes beyond the perceived monetary value.

Has the hobby embraced the view that unless you somehow get a return on the initial cost of your box then the box itself and its contents are in some way judged to be a failure? For the Hobby to thrive collectors surely have to look beyond the notion of flipping their hits to make money. We’re all guilty of wanting the big ‘hit’ from our Hobby boxes and often I’m no better than anyone else in this respect, but it’s important to remember that there are probably somewhere between 200-300 other cards in a Hobby box that aren’t ‘hits’, and these cards are worthy of your love and attention just as much as the ‘hits’ are!

Of course I could well be totally off-base with this, but the more high-end products I see entering the market (the upcoming Topps Supreme or Topps Dynasty anyone?) the more desperate I feel. These types of products provide the perfect outlet for flipping cards for profit, propagating the notion of the ‘collector-as-a-dealer’ (or EADS as described by Rich in his article), for anyone who can afford to buy these often ridiculously priced products in the first place.

Have collectors become the type of cynics that Oscar Wilde wrote about all those years ago, knowing the ‘price’ of what they collect but failing to see any ‘value’ other than what it might be worth on the secondary market? Maybe one day soon we’ll see another shift in the Hobby, a shift away from this ‘collecting for profit’ mentality that seems to have emerged slowly over the last several years? Or maybe I’ve got it all wrong to begin with? Perhaps this type of  ‘collector’ is the norm now and the Hobby will grow and evolve around them.

Maybe it’s just me that’s being a little bit cynical?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue and any personal experiences you might want to share. My door’s always open and thanks for taking the time to read this!

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2014 Topps Series 2 Baseball Preview

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s Topps Archives preview comes our second visit of the year to Topps’ flagship product with Series 2 Baseball!

I always see Series 2 as the weaker of the three flagship releases, with just a smattering of new rookies and everything else coming across as a re-hash/extension of what we found in Series 1. And to be honest that’s pretty much what we’re getting here… However there are a couple of factors that may well make Series 2 an even hotter commodity than it’s Series 1 counterpart. Here’s a link to the sell-sheet for further details…

2014 Topps Series 2 Baseball Sell Sheet

Now, where was I? Oh yes… Those two factors that I mentioned are none other than the crazy-hot rookie cards of Masahiro Tanaka and Jose Abreu!! Now if they aren’t enough of a draw I don’t know what will be?

When I first saw the first previews for Series 1 I have to admit that I wasn’t overly impressed. 2013 Topps flagship pressed all the right buttons for me, from the inserts all the way down to the all-important design of the base cards. 2014 Baseball didn’t have anywhere the same impact for me, although when I finally got my hands on a few of the cards I had to admit that my initial thoughts might have been on somewhat hasty side.

To be honest the design of the base card wasn’t as bad as I first feared although I was still a bit non-plussed by the inserts on offer.

So with Series 2 less than two weeks away from hitting the shelves you pretty much know what to expect! Pretty much the same as before… just with added Tanaka!!

2014 Topps Archives Baseball Preview

OK, I know I’m woefully behind on my product previews… Humblest of apologies!! My attention to the blog over the last few months has been somewhat lax but I hope to get that rectified over the coming weeks. However as I’m behind on my previews I’ll do my best to play catch up from now which is why you’ll probably see a glut of them appear over the next few days or so.

And to kick us off here’s the first – 2014 Topps Archives!

Now this is a bit of a non-preview really as the product itself was actually released Stateside yesterday and cards are already starting to pop up all over eBay.

Still, if you want an idea of what’s in the set then take a look at the promo details in the link below

2014 Topps Archives Baseball Sell Sheet

Now in its third year I have to confess I have a soft spot for Topps Archives. It’s one of those retro products that doesn’t feel as if it takes itself too seriously. There’s a small(ish) checklist of 200 base cards along with 50 SPs, a plethora of different inserts and a huge checklist of on-card autographs of numerous players from the 70’s and 80’s who you wouldn’t ordinarily see gracing the auto checklists in the majority of Topps’ other baseball card releases!

One of my concerns this year is the further increase in number of SPs that set-builders will have to chase. 2012 had 40 and last years product saw the number rise to 45, but 50 seems a tad excessive to me, coupled with the fact that there are several key rookie cards in amongst the SPs, including the sure-to be scorching hot debut cards of Jose Abreu and Masahiro Tanaka!! That’s sure to piss a few people off!

This year’s base card designs are made up as follows –

1973 Topps # 1-50
1986 Topps # 51-100
1989 Topps #101-150
1980 Topps #151-200

Big fan of the ’86 style cards myself, but I know that everyone will have their own favourites, those particular designs that will trigger some long-buried memory from their card-collecting youth! And that, in a nut-shell, is why this particular product works as well as it does!

And all this before I’ve even mentioned this year’s special autograph inserts!! 2012 had the oddly conceived, oversized boxtopper autographs of two actors from the original Karate Kid, including Martin “Sweep the leg” Kove; last year we were underwhelmed by 80’s Heavy Metal stars; and this year Topps gives us the rather awesome prospect of several stars from Major League!! They’ll be pretty limited so expect to be paying top dollar to get your hands on one!!

In all honesty, as with the majority of their baseball output so far this year, Topps hasn’t done a great deal to re-invent the wheel with 2014 Topps Archives. As is usually the case they’ve added more ‘value’ to the product which only server to further complicate the collecting process. But as I’ve got such a soft spot for Archives I’m prepared to let that slide on this occasion 🙂

Random!

I’ve been away from the blog for a while so thanks to anyone out there who’s been sticking around.

I just wanted to take a break from my self-imposed exile to share a little anecdote based around a recent adventure on eBay.

You see for the last couple of weeks I’ve had my eye on this piece of cardboard awesomeness…

hubbell

For anyone who recognises the player – kudos!! For anyone who doesn’t then this particular card is from the 1939 Play Ball set and features New York Giants screwballer and Hall of Famer, Carl Owen Hubbell.

Hubbell was one of the most dominant pitchers of the 1930’s and played his entire career with the Giants from 1928 to 1943. He even remained on their payroll long after their move from New York to San Francisco, all the way up until his death in 1988.

Among his numerous accolades he was perhaps best remembered for an incredible pitching feat in the 1934 All-Star game where he struck out five of the AL’s greatest hitters –  Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin – in succession!!

The above card was listed on eBay for $32.50 BIN with pretty cheap postage to the UK. I didn’t have the funds in PayPal at the time so I decided to keep my eye on it. A few days later a few items did eventually sell and my PayPal coffers swelled. I went back to the Hubbell but still didn’t pull the trigger. I think it was because there was another Play Ball card from the same set that I had my eye on that was stopping me fully committing myself to the purchase.

So I kept it there, checking every few days! I loved the card… Really loved it! The wear and tear is perfectly acceptable. The rounded corners and slightly frayed edges are part of the inherent charm of this type of card, and in no way were holding up my decision to ‘Buy-It-Now’ it!! But I kept holding off… and holding off… and holding off…

And then two days ago I promptly went and dropped $34.88 on this…

appel

WTF?!?!?!

Even now, less than 48 hours later, I’m still having trouble working out my thought process behind this one.

There’s nothing wrong with the Appel auto… Far from it! Around $35 is pretty much what this card is fetching at the moment so I can’t even say I snagged myself a bargain. It’s a nice looking card with a sharp sig, so no complaints there!

The thing is I’ve never had Mark Appel on my radar from a collecting point of view. I’ve done no research into what his cards were shifting for when I arrived at my decision to bid on the card 2 minutes before the auction ended. I didn’t know if I was paying over the odds or not. I just saw it and felt I had to bid on it! I didn’t think for one minute I’d win… But I did! And now I’m the proud owner of a (yet to be received) 2014 Bowman Mark Appel Prospect Autograph!

The stoooopid thing is I’m not even sure that it’s a card I even want! I wasn’t sure at the time, and I’m not sure now! Some crazy notion crossed my mind that I needed that particular card and the damage was done! Pretty much all of my eBay purchases are usually thought through with a great deal of care and I’ve never done anything like it this before.

So I’m throwing this one over to you guys! Has anyone else out there made a purchase based on pure impulse? A purchase with simply no thought or prior-planning? Even though it’s an odd experience for me I’m sure that there are others out there in collecting-land who have done something like this!

I’m intrigued! Is it something you’ve later regretted?? Or is it something that has turned out to be overwhelmingly positive?

And please let me know what I need to do to stop it happening again 🙂

Panini America Offers Stunning First Pics of 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ Prizm Autos

Feast your eyes on these beauties!!!

WOW!!

Now, I know that sticker autos aren’t everyone’s cuppa but even without the autos it looks as if Panini have put together a truly stunning set of cards with these 2014 World Cup Prizm! The Prizms themselves are one parallel set well worth chasing… Pulling an auto would just be the cherry on top!

Well done Panini!!

The Knight's Lance

Cristiano Ronaldo Prizm Blog

To suggest that the images you’re about to see represent one of the most anticipated viewings in FIFA World Cup™ collectibles history is by no means overstating things. Sitting here less than one week away from the U.S. release of Panini America’s 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ Prizm trading card set, the global anticipation for this bona fide blockbuster seems tangibly electric. And you’re about to get your first look at one of the chief reasons why: The set’s simply sublime autographed cards.

Yesterday, we brought you images of the 50 global soccer legends signing their autographs for the set. Today, we’re bringing you something equally as striking: The first images anywhere of the finished product.

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