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Reflections Upon The State of the Hobby, Beckett, Dr. Wax, Et al

Posted by houstoncollector on April 4, 2008

Lately, there’s been a bit of a …. well, I’ll be nice and call it a bit of a confusing mess about the state of the hobby.  A lot of it ties into the seeming disparity between what is promoted as being in a product via various video box breaks from Topps and Beckett and others, and what is actually showing up on store shelves and in collector’s hands.

First, there was this box break from the folks at Cards Infinity, which … let’s just say that they weren’t too thrilled with it, although they pulled an Andre Johnson that I’d adore.  This was followed by a video which was made in response not only to this, but also to a recent break on Beckett.com, where a case of the same product (2007 UD Exquisite Football, in this case) was broken, with some hits that, were I to pull any of them, would likely run screaming out of the room, and leave me giddy for hours.  Granted, I’ve only ever pulled 1 1/1 in my life, so there’s that.  That video was followed by the one from Beckett, with some pretty wicked commentary, and then again by one featuring a call to Upper Deck themselves about this.  The blogosphere has been touching on the topic for the past week or two, and Wednesday, Dr. Wax got into the act, complete with guests from The Brill Report, Beckett, and others, and after watching this, I wanted to give my own observations.

1)  Sticker autos.  While I understand the reasoning behind these, it’s looking like more and more the stickers are the standard way of putting autographs on cards.  I’m holding a stack of autographed cards in my hand right now, and out of eight autographed cards, six of them are stickered, one is on-card, and the other one is on white cardstock inside the card itself.  And these are probably somewhat acceptable for the lower to middle value products.  But when you get to any product where the purchase price of a pack is over, say, $20 (basically anything from Leaf Limited / Topps Sterling / Bowman Sterling and up) there should be no stickered autos.  Especially not in UD Black, Exquisite, National Treasures and so on.  This is completely unacceptable.

2)  Quality of autographs.  This isn’t so much talking about the autographs themselves, but who is autographed.  Rookies are always a good autograph for collectors, even if they’re a no-name right now, they might break out later.  I don’t have a problem with that.  Same goes for stars and HOF members.  These men deserve to have autograph cards of them.  But a second-string wide receiver?  A backup catcher?  A middle reliever?  Unless it’s a rookie card, they shouldn’t be doing autographs.  The only people collecting them are team collectors or player collectors, and let’s be honest, we’re a small subset of collectors.  If I’m buying a pack of cards, and especially if that pack runs me $50 or more, I should not be pulling an autograph of a scrub.  If I’m buying a box of Bowman Chrome baseball, the autograph in the box should not be of someone who was drafted five years ago and is still in the minor leagues at the AA level.   This, again, is completely unacceptable.

3)  Game-used cards.  Ten years ago, these were the best thing out there.  Finding a swatch from a guy you love was enough to keep you happy for ages.  Now?  They’re crap cards.  Part of this is because there are so many of these cards.  Another part of the reason is because the huge majority of the cards are single-color swatches, predominately white.  While this might be fine in a base set, or a lower-middle end set, at no time should these be used on a serial-numbered card.  If you can’t at least give us a splash of color, why are you limiting it?  What’s so special about it?  Likewise patch cards where the patch is a swatch of white with a bit of stitching, or perhaps white with a bare edge of black or another color.  These are not patches.  These are cop-outs, and they are not acceptable.  I should not pull a card numbered to 50 where it’s a freaking white swatch.  I most definitely should not pull this out of a high-end product, and I’m looking at all the card companies on this one.

4)  It’s all about the hits.  Okay, this one is my personal pet peeve.  When I was growing up, and yeah, I’m talking about the 80s here, it was all about finding the rookies and the stars, and completing the sets.  Sure, there were a few errors, and maybe some of the rookies might have been short prints, and speculation was running rampant.  But it wasn’t like it is now.  Today, if a box doesn’t guarantee at least 2-3 AU/GU in it, it’s considered crap.  How do the companies make these products?  Lots of the above:  single-colored swatches and sticker autographs of players many people don’t care about.  This has devalued the market for just about everything, and is why you find memorabilia cards of hall of famers valued at next to nothing.  On one hand, this is good because a collector can go on Ebay or Naxcom and buy just about anything they want, but on the other hand, it’s not good because that same collector has to get so many more things in order to have a collection that’s even remotely ‘complete’.  And let’s not even start on the overuse of parallels.  This actually affects trading, also, as many collectors / traders immediately only wish to trade for these items, and consider a base card next to worthless.  Personally, if you’ve got $50 worth of cards I want, I’ll gladly trade you $50 worth of AU/GU, but try getting someone to do that the other way around for the most part, and you get laughed at.

5)  Too many products.  Let’s be serious here.  For baseball, we have over twenty products coming out this year, spread between two manufacturers, with prices ranging from 99 cents up to $500.  Of those products, the majority of them will be between $3 and $10, with boxes running on average around $50-100.   Set collectors have it pretty bad, unless they limit themselves to one set (or two, one for each manufacturer).  Player and team collectors?  That’s a lot of wax to buy, or to trade for.  We’re forgetting that the hobby was originally aimed at the children (in the 50s through the 80s) to the point where we only aim one set per manufacturer at them.   And then, of course, there’s hobby vs. retail, and the differences between them, including fewer hits, items which are only in hobby packs (or only in retail packs) and hobby-only PRODUCTS and what it all adds up to is splintering of the hobby.

Personally, I would love to spend time in a hobby shop and get all of my cards from there.  Unfortunately, the hobby shop is a dying breed, and many of them aren’t nearly as fun as they used to be.  For example, I’ve only got one shop within driving distance (40 miles) from me, and they’re always overpriced by at least 10%.  I would love to buy packs online, but then you have to handle shipping rates, which makes it uneconomical.  I could buy packs on Ebay, but so many of the people there are pack-searchers, which is only good if I just want base cards (and while I complain about it being only about the hit, I like getting the hits just as much as anyone else, I just don’t solely collect them), and then there’s shipping on top of that.

6)  The Companies are Lazy.  We all know this one is true.  The error cards, the crap mirror inserts that very few people collect (Generation Now, HR History, Flight to 420) or can actually collect (Yankee Stadium Legacy).  On top of that, you’ve got cards of players who have switched teams prior to the season with bad airbrush jobs, when they bother to airbrush them at all, such as the pack of 2008 Topps Opening Day with a Miguel Tejada card….showing him with the Orioles.  What, they couldn’t even airbrush the photograph in the nearly six months since he signed with the Astros?  Similar things happened in 2007, when David Carr was cut by the Texans in February.  When the sets started coming out in June and July, many of them showed him on the Texans, even though by then he was already well-entrenched (for a short time) with the Panthers.  And then there’re the gimmicks.  Alex Gordon in 2006.  Derek Jeter, Joba, Poley Walnuts and the like in 2007.  Guiliani, the April Fool’s Joke, the Presidential cards and Hilary in 2008.  This is getting way out of hand, and it’s not really fun anymore.

In closing, I just want to say to Topps, Playoff/Donruss, Upper Deck, Press Pass and SA-GE…please, please…make the hobby fun again, and make it about collecting, not just ‘what can I get from this box’.

Keep On Collecting.

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2 Responses to “Reflections Upon The State of the Hobby, Beckett, Dr. Wax, Et al”

  1. whitesoxcards said

    All valid points which I totally agree on!

  2. Mario A. said

    Excellent commentary!

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