Impulse Buy Of The Year

When it comes to deciding on what cards I’m going to pick up I usually take a pretty methodical approach, doing plenty of research and due diligence, carefully scouring eBay to pick up the best deal from an international buyers perspective!

You know what I’m saying! Getting the right card for your PC is a big deal – not something to take lightly! Being an impulse buyer doesn’t really figure into it…

Until a week ago last Saturday!

I was out shopping with the wife, taking a sneaky look at the eBay app on my One X, when I spotted this little beauty on $21 with less than three minutes to go –

Hoot_Auto

What am I gonna do?!?!?!?!

$21 is stupidly cheap!! It’s almost criminal to let it go for THAT much! So (spur of the moment, you understand) I waited until about 30 seconds to go and put in a bid for $25. I figured that if I didn’t get it then it simply wasn’t meant to be!!

I got it for $22.50!!! Ker-ching!!!

The 1999 Upper Deck Century Legends ‘Epic Signatures’ is one of my favourite autographed sets of all time!! 30 cards featuring a range of retired and active (as of 1999) players, including Yogi Berra, Mike Schmidt, Greg Maddux, Ken Griffey Jr, and loads more!! And as you can see the design is awesome!! Portrait images of the player take up either the right-hand or left-hand side of the card while the rest is a nice, open space for the on-card auto!

That’s right Baseball card fans – an ON-CARD auto!! Crazy times back in the late-90’s!!

The auto arrived today! I was over moon but I did have a couple of questions –

  1. Don’t you think that Bob Gibson has one of the nicest and most readable autographs in Baseball, especially amongst the Cooperstown crowd? Honestly, Hoot’s auto has remained a model of consistency for years, and even his most recent autographed releases haven’t changed that much
  2. Why the hell are Bob Gibson autographs so damn cheap to pick up? Come on!!! We’re talking about a first-ballot Hall of Famer and one of the most dominant pitchers¬†(if not THE MOST dominant) of the post-war and modern era. We’re talking about the guy who struck out a record 17 Tigers in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series, a record that still stands to this day. And we’re talking about a guy whose ERA of 1.12 in the 1968 season is the lowest of the ‘Live Ball Era’!!! I could go on!

Don’t get me wrong! I’m not moaning about the low cost as it means I can pick them up for cheaper, but it just feels like they should be going for more!!

Anyway, very happy with this one. Let’s hope that it’s my last impulse buy of the year though!! I doubt my PayPal account can take the strain of many more.

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And The Cardinals Autos Just Keep On Comin’

It’s been a few weeks since I was last able to add to my Cardinals collection of certified autographs, but two more turned up in post last week courtesy of eBay!

So without further ado I give you –

2009 Upper Deck (Series 2)

Mike Parisi

Sorry Mike, but I had to Google you as well ūüôā

I got this card off a seller in the UK, and although Mr Parisi might not have any value to anyone other than a Cardinals collector, and autograph collector, or a member of the immediate Parisi famili family, at its ridiculously low price I couldn’t really pass it up!

Mike Parisi was drafted by the Cards in the 9th round of the 2004 draft, and made his debut on May 5th 2008. He pitched in a total of 12 games for the Cardinals in 2008, with two starts. His ERA was 8.22 and he had 13 strikeouts and 15 walks. In November of 2008 he was demoted back down to AAA.

After passing through the Cubs’ farm system his contract was purchased by the Dodgers in 2011 and he went on to start for the Albuquerque Isotopes in the 2012 season, before ending up on the DL from May 2012 onwards!

It remains to be seen whether he gets another shot at ‘The Show’ at some point in the future!

2001 SP Authentic

J.D. Drew

J.D. Drew certainly needs less of an introduction than Mike Parisi. This auto comes from SP Authentic’s ‘Chirography’ series, and although there are cheaper Drew auto options on the market this one is my favourite. I just LOVE the simple and minimalistic design of these cards!

Drafted by the Phillies with the #2 pick in the 1997 Draft, Drew (at the advice of agent Scott Boras) refused to sign for anything less than $10 million. The Phillies refused to pay such a large amount for an unproven player so Drew ended up playing in the independent Northern League for the 1997 season. He re-entered the 1998 Draft where he was then drafted at #5 by the Cardinals!

After playing 26 games at AAA Memphis Drew was recalled to the Majors and made his MLB-debut on September 8th 1998, the night that Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris’ single season home run record!

Unfortunately Drew’s career with the Cardinals was blighted by injury and he had a stint on the DL each season between 1998 and 2003. Eventually the Cards decided that enough was enough and Drew was traded, along with catcher Eli Marrero, to the Braves for Jason Marquis, reliever Ray King and a young starter by the name of Adam Wainwright.

The fact that we got Wainwright out of that trade means that I won’t be losing any sleep over that trade, despite the fact that it happened almost 10 years ago!

Drew went on to have success with the Braves, Dodgers and the Red Sox before retiring from professional Baseball in 2011!

*

So there we are then. Two more certified Cardinals autographs takes my collection total to 15!!

Who knows what’s up next? (That was rhetorical, by the way)

The Evolution of Baseball Cards

I love Twitter. I never expected to, but I have to admit that Twitter has been instrumental in helping me get this blog off the ground and out to a worldwide audience. Seriously, I’ve had readers from as far afield as Aruba, Azerbaijan, Tanzania, and even Guam!!

I’ll say that again – “even Guam”!!!

Awesome!

Obviously I have to take all things with the proverbial ‘pinch of salt’. For all I know people might have stumbled across ‘The Wax Fantastic’ thinking it was some sort of fetish blog themed around acts of sexual deviancy involving candles (I’ve not checked yet but I’m sure there are some – BurnBabyBurn.com, BlistersErotica.net – that sort of thing)! But for the most part I like to think that most people turn up on a semi-regular basis for a slice of irreverent and tongue-in-cheek Baseball card related fun!

Hold on, where was I? Talk about going off on a tangent!!

Ahh yes, ‘Twitter’!

One of the best things I find about Twitter is that it’s a great resource for information! Depending on who you follow (and assuming that who you do follow is linked to the Hobby in some way) you can pick up some real gems of randomness that might not ordinarily cross your path.

Take the image below for instance!

This was found by the guys at Sports Card Collectors buried away on the website American Collectors Insurance, and is a lovely little graphic that gives us a brief history of the Hobby we all know and love!

Evolution Of Baseball Cards

How cool is that?

I’ll keep my eye out for little titbits like this and post about them every now and then. I’m constantly amazed by the wealth of articles and information that’s out there about Baseball cards, stuff I never had a clue about and would probably never know about if not for the great community on Twitter!

After all, life isn’t just about the latest card set to hit the streets, is it? Looking into the past of our great Hobby can be just as much fun as looking forward to the future! The significance of the history of Baseball card collecting shouldn’t be underestimated or played down! What has come before has helped shape (for better or worse) where we are now, and that’s something that should resonate with collectors all over the world!

Even those in Guam! ūüôā

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!! ūüė¶

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!!

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? ūüôā

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

MLB Extends Topps’ Exclusive Baseball Card License to 2020

Earlier this evening news broke from the Sports Card Industry Summit in Las Vegas that Topps ‘ exclusive licensing agreement with Major League Baseball had been renewed until 2020.

In a prepared statement¬†Howard Smith, MLB Senior VP¬†Licensing, said –

‚ÄúSince making Topps our exclusive baseball card licensee, they have continually validated that decision by bringing clarity¬†to the marketplace and reinvigorating the hobby, especially among young people.¬†Generations of baseball fans have grown more attached to the game through collecting baseball cards,¬†and Topps is continually coming up with new and creative ways to reach the next generation.‚ÄĚ

So there you go!!

As the news steadily breaks over the internet and message boards/forums buzz with opinions of all shapes and sizes, I’ve been pondering myself as to what this might mean for the short-term and long-term status of our Hobby!

And truth be told, I haven’t really come up with anything ground-breaking yet!

I have to confess that my initial feelings were of immense disappointment. Not because it means that Topps will be the sole provider of licensed Baseball cards for the next several years, but because other companies weren’t given a fair crack of the whip.

Panini have produced two of the best Baseball card sets of the last 12 months in Cooperstown Collection and National Treasures, so it makes me incredibly sad to consider that¬†they won’t be getting a chance to produce cards under an official MLB license! The potential excitement at seeing a new creative team let loose on MLB licensed cards has now been diluted down to a series of ‘what-if’ scenarios!

Further news has since broken from the Upper Deck camp that they have reached an agreement with the MLBPA to produce Baseball card products. You can read all about this deal here through Beckett Media. Interesting stuff!!

So where does this leave us now with Topps?? Bear in mind that we were already three years into an exclusive deal, which has now been extended by a further seven years! SEVEN YEARS!!! That’s an incredible amount of time.¬†I’m curious as to how much Topps had to pay out to secure a deal for that length of time, and exactly how much extra Topps had to pay to secure their exclusivity!

Earlier, on Twitter, I spoke with Chris Olds of Beckett Media who confirmed that the seven years is around double the standard term for this type of deal, and his thoughts were that it was more than likely for longer-term planning and stability!

Update

This stance has since been confirmed by Mark Sapir at Topps , and you can read more about this over at Cardboard Connection. What’s interesting is that Sapir points out that Topps has so far failed to entice more kids back to collecting, as they originally set out to to back in 2010 when the exclusive licence first started, but if this is one of their ongoing business strategies then this could be great news for the Hobby and the future!¬†

End of Update

I’m not going to use this as a springboard for having a go at Topps. If you want to question someone, how about we start pointing our collective Hobby fingers at MLB and try to fathom their motives in all this. Everything Topps has done is for their own benefit as a business! As a company there are a lot of things that they do well, along with an awful lot of things that they don’t do so well.

They continue to release a whole bunch of great looking card sets (although they try a little too hard sometimes with cramming in more and more content each year), but they have well documented problems with their customer service and their redemption program!

This deal could signal a crossroads for modern Baseball cards! Topps has the potential to either lift the Hobby to greater heights, or to maintain the status quo over the next few years, giving collectors a lengthy period to mull over how things might have been if there had been other players in the market!

Whatever happens from now on, whether you love the idea or hate it, officially licensed Baseball cards are once again the property of Topps, to do with what they will!

Personally I think there’s room for at least one more licensed manufacturer, no matter who it might be! Shame we won’t be getting the chance to see what someone else can bring to the table!

“Hey, do you remember that time Upper Deck cut up that Babe Ruth bat?”

1999!!

Wow!! Seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it?

I mean, we’re talking last century here!!

Recently I’ve been thinking about some of those old sets from the 90’s that used to fuel my collecting fire, and this naturally lead me to revisiting some of the great inserts sets from around that era!

In a time when the combining of Baseball cards and Game-Used¬†memorabilia was virtually unheard of, Upper Deck were first to lead the charge when they placed ¬†pieces of player’s uniforms into Baseball cards as part of its 1997 Game Jersey insert set, featuring just three stars – Ken Griffey Jr, Tony Gwynn and Rey Ordonez. Seeded at a rate of 1:800 packs this was a TOUGH pull at the time, especially when compared to the 1:24 odds you get in boxes today!

However Upper Deck was to push the boat out even further a year later when they created their first Game-Used Bat card set, A Piece of History: 500 Club, which it went on to seed across the whole range of its 1999 Upper Deck Baseball releases!

This set became infamous at the time, and well within reason, as it featured a small piece of bat, mounted on a Baseball card, used by none other than George Herman Ruth Jr himself…

1999 Upper Deck Babe Ruth Piece of History - 500 Home Run Club
1999 Upper Deck Babe Ruth Piece of History – 500 Home Run Club

I distinctly remember the furore that this caused at the time as collectors and historians were up in arms that Upper Deck had the audacity to deface what amounted to a national treasure, and to use it as some sort of tawdry Baseball card promotion!

The topic of cutting up game-used items from yesteryear continues to be a hotly contested topic, with many believing that such treasures should be left alone for the benefit of future generations of fans.

Andrew Harner of Cardboard Mania wrote this great piece a few years ago, Why these cards are bad for the hobby, which examines this very issue and its potential legacy. It’s only a short piece and Andrew makes some excellent points – so go give it a read!

The reality behind this particular card was that the bat piece came from a cracked Louisville Slugger used by Ruth in the late 20’s and was picked up by Upper Deck at an auction in 1998 for just over $23,000. Upper Deck never made any excuse for the fact that it was purchased with the single intent of it being cut up and mounted onto trading cards, despite the huge amount of ‘negative’ publicity from the sports media at the time for having the¬†gall to destroy such a priceless (albeit damaged) relic.

The ‘500 Home Run Club’ insert set was a huge success for Upper Deck in 1999! The initial set consisted of 15 cards representing the 15 players who had all hit over 500 long balls across their careers, with more being added over the next few years with players such as Griffey Jr, Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez reaching the milestone as well!

I’ve had polarised feelings about Game-Used cards over the years. Initially I couldn’t stand them. They felt cheap and worthless… the size of the jersey or bat piece was¬†minuscule¬†and amounted to nothing of any worth. Within a couple of years I did a complete about turn and fully embraced the Game-Used card as an essential, if not a bit gimmicky, part of the sports card experience. After a few years in the card collecting wilderness I returned with indifference towards these types of card. For me now, they are what they are – an additional insert set that adds variety to the sports card product as a whole.

The size of the Game-Used piece is still usually too small to have any relevance as a ‘true’ piece of sports memorabilia, and it certainly doesn’t make me feel any ‘closer’ to the player who used it! But as a nicely produced insert set that compliments the master set then it has its place – and I’m fine with that.

Give me an on-card autograph though any day of the week!!

Despite all this I still can’t help but see the ‘Piece of History: 500 HR Club’ as being one of the most important insert sets ever made and, arguably, one of the very best!

A simple classic design with muted sepia tones really add an ‘aged’ feel to the cards and this, coupled with the fantastic range of players on offer, really places this insert set head and shoulders above others of the same ilk.

Too see the full range of cards in this set click here to visit the PSA website which shows images of all the cards in their registry that have been submitted for grading.