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Archive for August, 2008

A response! And my response back.

Posted by houstoncollector on August 4, 2008

So, I wake up this morning, and have an email from Press Pass.  Granted, the only major problem in the hobby with Press Pass football product is that it simply does not hold value in the market once Donruss Classics hits the streets.  However, it’s great that they took the time to respond.  Here’s their response, followed by my response to them.

Dear Mr. Ballew, 

Thank you for your e-mail. I'm sorry that you have had several bad
experiences with trading cards and that you find our products
unsatisfactory. I would love to address some of the points that you
brought up in your e-mail.

The reason that we have autograph and memorabilia redemptions is because
we have a deadline of when we need the autograph and memorabilia cards
sent back into our office. If we go to the pack out stage and still
haven't received those cards from the players then we have to do
redemption cards or we have to cut those players from the product. And
we feel that when it comes to players like Michael Beasley, Brett Farve
or Tony Stewart the consumers would be more dissatisfied not having them
in the product than dealing with delayed gratification. We typically try
to get all redemption cards out within a timely fashion. If you have had
a problem with receiving your redemption card late I would really
appreciate to know which ones you had a problem with. 

I agree with you that sticker autos are not as good as hard autos.
However there is a very good reason for sticker autos. It is to help us
ensure that those autograph cards also have most current pictures. It
also gives us more flexibility when designing cards. It is our goal to
create the best cards possible and sometimes to achieve that it means
having a sticker auto instead of a hard auto.  

Our design team takes pride in trying to find the most updated and best
quality picture possible for every card.

When it comes to our football and basketball products we try very hard
to select the highest quality pictures from those players' college days.
So yes, the pictures aren't the most current picture of them but they
are the best picture that we have possible for them. 

I understand what you are saying about guaranteed autographs and
memorabilia cards not being worth anything when the cards that you are
pulling are of "no-name talents" (as you called them) or a solid white
piece of material. First let me address the less than sought after
signatures. Not every box can contain a top-driver or top-player
autograph. Please also consider that one of the amazing things about
sports is that you never know when a player who was written off ends up
being a legend. As for memorabilia cards please understand that we wish
that we could have every memorabilia card include a multi-color piece of
fabric. But when we are given a jersey to work with that is 98% white it
just isn't possible to do that. 

There is a difference between hobby and retail because there is a
difference in the customers. Retail boxes are not as expensive as hobby
boxes and therefore do not include as many hits. I'm sorry that you can
only find cards online, in hobby stores, in Wal-Mart or in Target. I
believe that the reason that trading cards are no longer sold at your
local convenience stores is because of the internet and stores like
Wal-mart and Target. None of those were as prominent when you were
younger and have really taken the market to another level. 

I'm sorry that you find it hard to build sets because of all the
variation cards. However while you feel that they "water down" our
product we feel that they enhance them. 

We are very actively reading all the blogs and not just the ones posted
by Beckett. The Customer Service and Production staff prides themselves
on being knowledgeable about how the consumer reacts to our products. 

If you have any specific comments about our company and our products I
would love to hear them. Please feel free to e-mail me again. I hope you
know that your e-mail hasn't fallen on deaf ears and that we have taken
everything that you have said to heart. 

Once again thank you for your e-mail. 

Sincerely,

******* Ranson

Customer Service 

Press Pass, Inc

Dear Ms. Ranson,

I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my email.

To be honest with you?  Press Pass is one of the companies I’m least dissatisfied with.  Granted, the only thing I get from you guys are your three football products, but most of the issues I have with collecting is /primarily/ with Upper Deck, Topps and Donruss.

While I understand /why/ redemptions are required, the problem is that you get some athletes who decide that doing their autographs simply are not worth their time, even though they’ve signed contracts saying that they would provide the autographs.  I’m not certain how many of the people Press Pass offers have had this issue, but I know from talking with others that they’ve run into cases where redemption cards from some manufacturers have taken two to three years before the manufacturer finally decides that the athlete isn’t going to sign.  The question that has always come up from the collectors is this:  Why aren’t these guys being sued for breach of contract?  Even if one athlete is sued for not providing the signatures as agreed-upon, it might wake the rest up to the fact that (presumably) these /are/ legal and binding contracts, and should be treated as such.  And you’re right.  I’d rather have the big names in the product than not, and I feel that many collectors will agree there.

As far as sticker autographs vs. on-card autos, again, this is more of a problem with other manufacturers, as I know from experience that the majority, if not all of the autographs in Press Pass, Press Pass SE and Press Pass Legends football are on-card.  I’ve pulled the autos, and you guys do do a good job with the players on them, including the red-ink variations and the little variations the players throw in for fun.

The picture issue, of course, is also more of an issue with the other manufacturers, as Press Pass tends to do more collegiate product.  This is more towards the fact that a player can be traded to a new team or be signed by a new team through free agency in, let’s say, November of this year, and a product released in March or April of /next/ year will still have a picture of the player in the older team.  Or in one instance pointed at on the internet, where a 2007 baseball card had a picture of the player on the card…..from the 2005 World Series.  In fact, from the same game his 2006 card was from.  Or the case where the same picture was used for about ten different sets for one player.  Again, this is less of a problem with Press Pass, obviously.

As far as quality of autographs, again, this is less a problem with Press Pass.  However, let me illustrate the problem that I have with it that /might/ apply to your products.  Let’s say that a Press Pass football product is slotted 50 autographed players, and we have a fair idea where players are going to be drafted (but not definite, as this is obviously before the NFL Draft), if only 10 of those 50 are the upper tier of the upcoming draft, then most of the autographs are not going to be sought out.  I’m not saying that 40 or all 50 of those players should be the top of the top, since that simply isn’t possible.   However, the number should skew higher, in my mind.

I even think that if this means that fewer autographs are in a box, that it would be okay, as people would much rather pull, let’s say, a Darren McFadden or Adrian Peterson autograph than that of an offensive tackle from Notre Dame who ends up not even being drafted.  Again, I’m not sure how much of a problem is this is with Press Pass, as I haven’t looked to see who was on the autograph list for 2008.

On the subject of memorabilia cards, here’s more of the problem.  If you release a normal game-used card of a player, let’s say that there are 1000-5000 cards of a guy.  Then I expect that most of them will be from the jersey pants, and be standard white.  That, I don’t have as much of a problem with.

However, when the card is numbered to 99?  50?  25?  10?  The more scarce the parallel is, the more color that card should have.  And believe me, we have seen cards numbered as low as 10 if not 5, with simple white swatches.  That, of course, is completely unacceptable.

I understand /why/ there is a difference between hobby and retail.  The problem comes when the difference between the ratio and the price is skewed.  It’s one thing if you’re buying a hobby pack at $20 and a retail version at $3.  I don’t expect the ratios to be anywhere /near/ the same there.

However, when you’re looking at a hobby pack being $5 (with, say, 20 packs a box and 4 ‘hits’ a box) compared to $3 in retail (with no box, due to more companies using blister packs, and an average of one ‘hit’ per 24, 48, or MORE packs), then it makes the retail product less valuable in the eyes of the collector.  Now, some companies have done things to make the retail versions more interesting, such as Topps Chrome having X-fractors available only in retail, certain sets having inserts available only in retail stores, including Press Pass SE with the Wal-Mart and Target special cards.  We just need some more sanity in it.  The move with many product’s blaster boxes having a guaranteed game-used or autograph is definitely a step in the right direction.  After all, if you’re buying a hobby box of a product for $80 with 4 hits, there’s no reason that a $20 blaster can’t have one.

Building sets being problems due to variations and short-prints is, again, more of a problem with other manufacturers, because as far as I can remember (and I’m using Press Pass Football and Press Pass SE Football as my guide here), there are only 3 or 4 parallel levels in your sets, and very few short prints.  This makes the sets easily buildable.  That’s different from a set that has, let’s say, 10 different parallel levels and where 1/3 of the set is short-printed.  Or, as many of your competitors do with their football sets, short-print the rookies, and have 1/3 of the set /be/ those rookies.

Granted, I do believe that different ‘levels’ of product should have fewer or more short prints.  Basic sets and the higher end shouldn’t have short-prints simply because the base set is typically aimed at all levels of collector, whereas the higher-end is aimed at essentially people playing collecting lotto.  Granted, this is more of an opinion than anything else.

Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to this letter.  It is highly appreciated,

Thank you,
Jason Ballew

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Posted in Sports Cards | 2 Comments »

I quit.

Posted by houstoncollector on August 1, 2008

This is a letter I’m in the middle of writing to the card companies.  This is also probably the last post I’ll make for a good while.

To whom it may concern at each of the named companies.

I quit.

It’s as simple as that, really.  I hereby quit collecting.  I hereby quit buying your product.  I hereby quit caring that you’re destroying the industry with the sheer amount of crap that you’re dropping into retail and hobby stores.

To be honest, you’re killing us with what you’re doing to the hobby, between overpriced product that only people with a lot of money can really afford (Topps Triple Threads, Upper Deck Exquisite, Playoff National Treasures, and any other product where a ‘pack’ is nearly $100), an overabundance of ‘relic’ cards, generally single white swatches, which are almost always nearly worthless to anyone other than player collectors, products that no one really wants and that are crappy to begin with (Upper Deck NFL Draft Edition, Topps Rookie Progression, Topps Moments & Milestones, Upper Deck MLB Documentary), ‘guaranteed’ autographs of people hardly anyone cards about, and the sheer amount of crap that Beckett has pulled /with your willing help/.

Seriously.  What’s the point of guaranteeing four hits a box, when we already know that three if not four of them will be nearly worthless?  What’s the point of dozens of parallels which do nothing but water the set down?  What’s the point of using pictures of players from two or three years ago, instead of keeping updated?  For Donruss and Press Pass, what’s the point of having us mail in redemptions?  What’s the point of sticker autographs, which usually look crappy?
What’s the point of offering retail versions of products that are completely gimped (Donruss, SA-GE and Press Pass, I’m looking at you here, and I’m waiting to see if Upper Deck screws up their base football, or if they follow the trend set by their baseball product)?  What’s the point of offering product that people can’t possibly build the sets without buying huge amounts of cards that they don’t really want?

I mean, we all know you’re making money.  That’s not the problem.  The problem is, you’re pissing all over your loyal customer base in the process, and all but killing any chance at building a customer base from future generations.  I miss the magic when I was growing up, when I could go and buy a pack of cards, and it was about the /cards/ and the players, not some crappy piece of white cloth that may or may not have been worn by a player at some point or another (Rookie Premiere crap, anyone?), or some autograph of some guy who won’t ever make an impact for a team, much less on the national scene?

Where’s the oddball sets?  Where’s the food inserts?  Where’s the stuff you can get at convenience stores?  Why is it the only place I can find cards anymore is at a hobby shop, over the internet, or at Wal-Mart, Target or K-Mart?  Seriously, the only baseball sets this year that were any good were base Topps and Upper Deck, and /maybe/ Topps Chrome.  Football?  Eh.  Nothing’s even remotely interested me, and I’d love to be surprised.  Topps Moments & Milestones?  Crap.  Allen & Ginter?  Love those collation problems.  Upper Deck NFL Draft and Football Heroes?  They made me throw up in my mouth.

Listen to the collecting bloggers out there.  Listen to the people on message boards NOT owned by Beckett (The Bench and Sports Cards Forum are both good ones).  Look at Ebay and see how low the prices are in general over a few months’ time.  Look at the fact that Topps no longer guarantees the value of a box of Bowman like they did 10 years ago.

Look at the fact that I’m writing this letter.

Please.  Please give me a reason to collect again.  Because right now?  With gas nearly $4 a gallon?  I can’t see a reason to buy your crappy little pieces of cardboard.  And I used to love collecting.

Sincerely,

Jason Ballew
An Ex-Houston Collector.

Note:  As soon as I can find a contact email for Topps and Donruss, I’ll send the email.  If anyone has one, please let me know.

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