Saturday, July 14, 2012

Condition Good To Poor Or How To Lose A Friend Fast

I've told you about the contest running over at The Chronicles of Fuji, always fun and thought provoking.  The latest in the series of contest questions is "What is the worst conditioned card in your collection and the story behind it."  Normally I try to post my answer directly on Fuji's blog, but this one is a little too long to leave there.

Growing up in New York, there were lots of kids and lots of them were sports card collectors.  Mostly Baseball card collectors, but some, like me, who collected all sports.  For us heavy hitters, collecting vintage was a must.  And to add an extra layer to that, simply going to a show and purchasing the cards you needed was frowned down upon. Real collectors traded to get their cards.  This proved to be a challenge for cards that were not current year..

I had a thing, and still do, for early 70's cards.  They were slightly vintage and more obtainable through trade than cards from the 60's or earlier.  At the time I was working on completing my 1974 Topps Baseball set, a friend and fellow collector was working on the same set.  This made things a little competitive as there were not many mutual friends that had cards from '74 to trade.

One of the things that differentiated the set was a series of Hank Aaron cards.  Aaron had finished the 1973 season with 713 Home Runs, one shy of tying Babe Ruth's record.   It was clear that as long as Aaron actually played the next year, he would become the All-Time Home Run King.  So Topps reserved the first six cards in the set for Aaron.  Cards 2 through 6 were given the name Hank Aaron Special and featured a retrospect of all of his cards, 1954 to 1973, along with facts and information about his career on the back.

Card number one was reserved for Aaron's actual card for that year, a card that neither myself or my friend had in our collections.

One day I had just gotten home from school and ran into an older kid from my building as he was getting out of the elevator .  I knew him pretty well because he was the neighborhood stoopball legend and he taught me how to play the game.  The guy could do magical things with a Spaldeen.  He was struggling, getting off the elevator with several trash bags.  I offered to help.

As we took the bags out to the street, he told me his family was moving out of the city and his mother was making him toss a bunch of stuff out so they didn't have so many boxes to move.  He asked me if I had been playing stoopball and I told him not really.  Spalding had stopped making Hi Bounce Pinkys and it had been a while since you could find any at Woolworth's.  It wasn't the same game when you played it with a tennis ball.

He told me, "that ain't right" and then we made me an offer.  If I helped him with the rest of his room, he would give me his Spaldeens.  When I got to his room, I noticed a box of battered Spaldeens that were more grey than pink.  I started to think maybe this wasn't worth it.

When we finished up, he gave me the box of used balls.  Then he went into his closet and pulled out two more boxes. The first one was just a shoe box but I instantly recognized the second one.  It was a case of pristine, unopened Spaldeens.  I asked him if he was sure about this and he said "there ain't no stoops in Jersey."

Then he said "you collect Baseball cards, right?"  I nodded yes.  Then he handed me the shoebox. "There ain't a lot of them, but what I got is good."  I thanked him and ran upstairs to start sorting through the cards.

Most were current Mets and Yankees, but neither team was playing great baseball at the time.  Towards the bottom of the box there were some late 70's Yankees which was good.  Then just behind a 1976 Oscar Gamble Traded card was a 1974 Hank Aaron, card #1 and it was in really good shape.

The next day my friend who was also looking for Aaron #1 came over to my apartment.  I showed him the box and the Hank Aaron card.  He held it in disbelief and asked me what I had to trade to get it.  I told him "nothing, he just gave it to me."

Then the most bizarre thing happened.  Out of nowhere, he flew into a rage and started crumpling the card like it was an old newspaper.  I tried to stop him, but he turned away from me, screaming "he just GAVE it to you?!?" I wrestled him to the ground, but it was too late.  The card was destroyed.  Still, to this day, I can't fully understand why he did what he did.  Needless to say, our friendship was over.

So here it is, the worst conditioned card in my collection.
I held on to that card, I'm not really sure why.  I could have replaced it by now, I'm not really sure why I haven't.  Of course, I've outgrown the "must trade rule" and have bought plenty of cards for my collection.  But when it comes to the 1974 Topps Hank Aaron number one I can't seem to just go out and buy one.  Perhaps that will change now that I've shared this story.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Reminder List Of Upper Deck Redemption Cards That Are About To Expire

Near or at the top on the list of collector complaints is dealing with those pesky redemptions, a necessary step that card companies regret having to take, as we all have heard repeatedly.  Redemptions might be disappointing when they are live, but not nearly as disappointing if you pull a recently expired one from an older box that you’ve either held on to or just purchased.

Card companies have taking big steps towards making the whole system better.  But in the end, it is up to us, as consumers, to be aware of what we are purchasing, caveat emptor.  But without redemption expiration dates written on the outside of sealed boxes, how is a collector to know?

Upper Deck is bringing back an older program, “Last Call”, which reminds collectors which products include redemptions that are set to expire over the next six months. 

Knowledge is power, so here are the Upper Deck products that are in that six-month window.

2009-10 NHL OPC Premier – Redemptions expire 7/14/12
There is still a Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky & Steve Yzerman Premier Signings Triple Gold card #/5 waiting to get into the hands of a collector.  But hurry, it expires by the end of the week.

2010-11 NHL Artifacts Rookie Redemptions – Cards are set to expire 9/7/12
Lots of rookies left.

2009-10 NHL The Cup – Redemptions expire 9/15/12
Several Wayne Gretzky & Mario Lemieux Dual Signature Patches #/35 have gone unclaimed.

2010-11 Ultimate Collection Basketball – Redemptions expire 9/20/12
Still out there are a Julius Erving, Magic Johnson & Michael Jordan Ultimate Triple Signatures #/25,  a Michael Jordan & Larry Bird Rivalries Duals, a Michael Jordan & Bill Russell Rivalries Duals and a Michael Jordan & Julius Erving Rivalries Duals.

2010-11 NHL Artifacts – Redemptions expire 9/28/12
Collectors can pull one of the few remaning Mark Messier autograph cards.

2010-11 NHL UD Series One – Redemptions expire 10/19/12
Look for a Sidney Crosby’s 20th Anniversary autograph card #/90.

2010-11 NHL Black Diamond – Redemptions expire 11/9/12
Mark Messier autographs are still available in this product.

2010-11 NHL SP Game Used – Redemptions expire 12/21/12
There are unclaimed P.K. Subban Lettermarks autograph cards #/50.

You may have noticed all except one product was Hockey related, the one exception being 2010-11 Ultimate Collection Basketball, which was produced using college uniforms. The reason for this is Upper Deck no longer has licenses with the NBA.  In addition, they no longer have licenses for the MLB and the NFL. 

So here is fair warning directly from Upper Deck;

“ALL MLB, NFL and NBA Upper Deck products have expired offers in them. Since Upper Deck no longer has a license with these leagues, we cannot honor ANY of these expired offers from these products. When purchasing these older products you are buying them as is, without any type of warranty service so if there are issues with damage, collation, insert ratios or expired offers, we will unfortunately be unable to assist.”

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I Want You To Open My Box Of 2012 Press Pass RedLine NASCAR Racing Cards

The last virtual box break we did went well so here is another shot at opening some high end cards.  Not everyone will have the chance to open a box (or should I say tin?) of 2012 Press Pass RedLine NASCAR Racing Cards so I'm giving you the opportunity to open mine... virtually.

To do this box break, click on the box which will open it.  This time I’ve left the celo wrapping on.  (You can’t expect me to do all the work for you every time.)

Press Pass RedLine contains 2 – 10 card packs, so this virtual break shouldn’t take that long to complete.

Continue to click on the images to get through the entire break.

Monday, July 9, 2012

2012 Topps Tier One Baseball Cards Box Break Recap and Review

Last year Topps brought collectors Tier One Baseball for the first time. (See our review using this link) It was a 7 card offering with each box containing 3 base cards, 1 color base parallel, 1 Relic card and 2 Autograph cards.  This year Topps has dropped all the base cards, leaving just the 3 hits. With current pricing ranging from about $135 and $150 a box, this year Tier One takes a jump in our review categories from Premium to Ultra Premium cards.

Not everyone gets the chance to open one of these types of boxes so we gave you the opportunity to open our box of Tier One... virtually.  If you didn’t get a chance to do this virtual box break, use this link to get to it before you continue this review.  

If you look at our post “How we review and classify cards,” by definition, collectors who go for an Ultra Premium box of cards should understand “these are "High Risk, High Reward" cards” and “not every box will be a winner.”  After viewing a healthy amount of case breaks, the biggest hits of Tier One seem to be falling about 1 every 6 boxes, with one large case hit per 12 boxes, a nice ratio for ultra premium cards.

Sure, the 1/1 Yu Darvish Gold Ink Autograph went for $10,000 on eBay, Ken Griffey Jr’s went for $5,000 and with a strong checklist of star player autographs like Koufax, Aaron and Mays you would think the Autos would be the hot ticket items, but what is selling in the aftermarket for crazy amounts of money are the Bat Knobs.  You can’t find one of any player going for less than $400.  Roberto Clemente’s went for just north of $3,000. 

In contrast, some of the other autos can be picked up in the after market for a few dollars and that is how the ‘high risk, high reward’ equation comes into play.  So when you bust, you can bust big, at least from a monetary value standpoint.  Still, this is well within reason for an Ultra Premium product.

Each box of Tier One Baseball contains 3 cards, two autographs and one relic card.  Every fourth box contains an extra relic hit for a total of 4 cards.

As a change to our normal format, we will show you the cards from our box after the full review to maintain the surprise for those doing the virtual box break.

Overall Look
There are some nice design elements here that seem like a cross between Triple Threads and Tribute. The use of open space for the autographs works very well and feels familiar.  I appreciate that Topps took the time to do a proper write up on the back of these cards.  But, hands down, the Clear Reprint Rookie Card Autographs and Bat Knob Cards are the best of the bunch.

Quality and Variety of Players
As I said earlier, this is a strong checklist and the ratios are pretty similar between the rookies, young players and proven stars.

Thrill Seeking Fulfillment and Experience
In some ways this is like an amusement thrill ride where you wind up waiting close to an hour for a 90 second ride.  For some, it is worth the wait and an experience to remember.  For others, not so much. But make no mistake, there is much anticipation before the break, exactly what you want out of an Ultra Premium box.

Buyers Remorse or Speculator's Delight
With a full understanding of this product and the fact that even the Crowd Pleaser and On The Rise level hits are still desirable, at least from a player level if not a monetary one, collectors should be satisfied.  Unless, of course, you are “one and done” and pull a rough box. That can be brutal but is part of the game.   That is why, for those with deeper pockets, this is definitely a product to open by the sealed full 12 box case to pread the risk.  That will guarantee a Top Tier Auto and a chance a Bat Knob, all of which could do better than the cost of the case.

Here are the cards from our box.
 CC Sabathia Dual Game Used Relic #/50, Gordon Beckham On The rise Auto Redemption

 Boog Powell Crowd Pleasers Auto #/399

4 1/2 out of 5

2012 Topps Tier One Baseball is short break but one with huge upside potential.  

Review box provided by Topps

Our Preview Of 2012 Topps Allen And Ginter

Hard to believe but 2012 Topps Allen & Ginter will be the 7th release of this homage the old tobacco brand from 1870's.  As usual, Topps uses Ginter to provide some latitude and levity, to go out on a limb and try some unusual stuff that goes beyond baseball, which is probably why Ginter does well year after year. 

This year the base set comes in at 300 cards, with an additional 50 SPs.  There are 350 base mini parallels with an additional 50 minis found exclusively inside Rip Cards, bringing the total to 400.
The inserts are what really separates Ginter from the rest.  Besides the Baseball insert, What’s In A Name, this year collectors will be going after Worlds Greatest Military Leaders, Mans Best Friend, Giants of the Deep, Culinary Curiosities, People of The Bible, World’s Tallest Buildings, Historical Turning Points and Musical Masters, which feature classical composers such as Mozart and Beethoven.
Specialty cards include the return of the rip card, framed silk cards, Original Artists’ Sketches and replacing last year’s Flora of the World, which allowed you to plant the card and grow a plant, is Colony In A Card that contains Artemia Salina, saltwater brine shrimp, Topps’ version of Sea Monkeys.
All of the standard hits, autographs & relics, are framed mini cards with a great looking black border.  Harder to find hits will be cut autos that include signatures of Dick Clark, Ernest Borgnine and Desmond Tutu, and 1/1 DNA relic cards of Charles Dickens, JFK and Napoleon.
Ginter will be released in Retail and Hobby versions.  Hobby boxes of Ginter 24 – 8 card packs with a guarantee of at least 3 hits that can be any combination of relics, autos, rip cards, book cards, etc.  Exclusive to hobby boxes will be plenty of Cabinet cards, box toppers and, if Tier One is any indication, the monster hits, 1/1 Ginter Book Cards, some that include 2 bat knobs in one book.

The hobby release date is July 11th and retail packs are already on the shelves in some areas.