Sick of hearing about Brett Favre? Here’s more…

July 26, 2008 at 2:58 pm | Posted in Topps | 1 Comment

I personally am very sick of hearing about Brett Favre. Does he want to retire? Does he want to play? Poor Brett can’t make up his mind! He’s like a woman trying to decide what she wants to wear for a night out. Yeah, Brett’s showing his feminine side. Sports Center has been unwatchable in the last week or so with the constant segments about Favre. I can’t listen to ESPN radio either, but at least there is the great MLB Home Plate channel on XM where I can avoid the Favre talk. OK, I know I’m off the subject now, but any baseball fan really should subscribe to XM. For $12 a month, you can listen to every MLB game and listen to baseball talk from entertaining experts like Buck Martinez, Bill Ripken, Rob Dibble, and Kevin Kennedy 24/7 on Home Plate.

Anyway, back to Favre. Even though I don’t like hearing about him and I’m not interested in football cards, I found this to be interesting. Apparently the Topps football set is out and there are two gimmick cards of Brett Favre. I know that we all love Topps gimmick cards, don’t we Chris and dayf?

The first one actually looks cool. That’s Vince Lombardi’s face in the background:

The second one looks rather lame. It’s Favre driving a tractor, apparently enjoying “retirement”:

I’m not bothered by the gimmick cards in Topps baseball or even the ones in Topps Heritage, which is a set that I collect a lot more of than regular Topps. So I’m not bothered by these cards either. I figure that each collector is free to decide what they want and don’t want, and if they don’t like the gimmick cards, they don’t need to buy them. Just because they exist doesn’t mean that you need to get them for the set you’re putting together…

Check back in a few hours for the full details about my Allen & Ginter box breaks!

I got a rip card!!!

July 25, 2008 at 11:25 pm | Posted in My Cards, Topps | 9 Comments

I just got back from my Allen & Ginter box busting party, and I’m going to post full details about it later. But for now, I just want to announce that I was lucky enough to pull a one-per-case rip card! I got a Felix Hernandez #80/99:

The other collectors at the party were pressuring me to rip it, but I wasn’t ready to make that decision before checking out how much this card was selling for on eBay. Now that I’m home I see that this very card sold yesterday for $95.99!

Another guy also pulled a rip card and succumbed to the peer pressure to rip it. Inside of it, he found a Delmon Young “exclusive mini parallel”, which is pretty much the worst thing you can get in it. The other possibilities are an “authentic Allen & Ginter red autograph”, a “one-of-one exclusive mini wood parallel” or a “one-of-one Dick Perez sketch card”.

I’m leaning towards selling my rip card on eBay, or if anyone reading this is willing to buy it for $95, let me know and I can sell it to you directly. What do you think I should do? Should I sell it, or take a big risk and rip it? If I rip it, it will be worth a lot less, but what I find inside might be worth a lot more…

Forget Allen & Ginter – I got some Bad Wax!

July 25, 2008 at 1:11 pm | Posted in Blogs, My Cards | 3 Comments

This post is a bit overdue, but better late than never. A few weeks ago, I was intrigued by this post on the Bad Wax blog. Not only did it bring to my attention some great cards to have autographed (see here for some of my results with these cards), but I was promised some “Bad Wax” from Mike (a.k.a. chemgod) for ordering them. I’ll admit that I was very eagerly awaiting the arrival of my Bad Wax just to see what it would contain.

The result? Pure 1980s gold that brought back fond memories of my childhood.

First was a set of 1986 Donruss Highlights cards, featuring all of the great moments from the 1986 season:

My favorite card in the set, two Yankee legends on one card:

Bo Jackson hit the longest homer in what is now Kauffman Stadium as a rookie:

It’s a travesty that this man isn’t enshrined in Cooperstown yet:

I always wondered why Kevin Bass looked like he was about to cry in all of his cards:

Finally, a completed Hank Aaron puzzle card … niiiiice!

Next up was a 1987 Fleer Baseball’s Best Sluggers vs. Pitchers set. I actually remember envying one of my friends for owning this set 20 years ago:

I can’t understand why Sid Bream, of all people, was included in this set with his .253 batting average and limited baseball skills. It looks like he’s entranced in a daydream here:

Here’s a treat for all Rays fans – our announcer Joe Magrane – and check out that ERA!

Jose Canseco seems to have found something mysterious on his bat:

And finally, Rickey Henderson as a Yankee, posing with his eyes closed:

Remember kids, you too can own some Bad Wax like this! All you have to do is check out Bad Wax (one of the most informative blogs out there), buy some autograph cards (which I’d highly recommend anyway), and it’s yours!

Stadium Club is back!!!

July 24, 2008 at 12:51 am | Posted in Topps | 2 Comments

A couple of months ago, an online campaign was started to bring back Topps Stadium Club baseball cards. Stadium Club was the first premium set ever issued by Topps back in 1991. It was known for the great photography on its cards and it remained one of the most popular premium sets throughout the 1990s. Eventually, however, the attention of collectors began to shift towards autographed and game-used cards, and Stadium Club was completely phased out by Topps after 2003. The main reason for the campaign to bring it back was so that Topps could have a set to rival the incredible photography featured in Upper Deck’s flagship set. As I mentioned earlier today, the flagship Upper Deck set (Series 1 and Series 2) is the only Upper Deck set that I’ve liked so far this year, so if Topps can match that set with a revived Stadium Club, then I might be able to forget about Upper Deck completely.

So tonight I unsuspectingly checked my email and found a newsletter from Balenac & Abrams Sports Collectibles, a dealer in Iowa from which I have bought hobby boxes in the past. The email highlighted some upcoming releases, and lo and behold, it mentions 2008 Stadium Club Baseball!

Here are the details from the email (I’m quoting directly from it):

(SRP $25.00) 8bxs/12pks/5crds Orders Due 9/3/08 Release Date 11/3/08

Price: $225 a box

Key Selling Points:

Stadium Club celebrates its return to Major League Baseball in 2008, delivering 12 Autographs and 1 Hobby Exclusive Yankee Stadium Relic Card per box! It also offers 1 Hobby Exclusive Sketch Card and Triple Autographed Card per case! One autographed card per pack!!!

EVERY BOX contains:
12 Autographed Cards; including 6 Rookie Autos!

1 Hobby Exclusive Yankee Relic Card!

12 numbered* Rookie Cards!
12 numbered* Parallel cards!

EVERY 4-BOX CASE contains:

1 Sketch Card!
1 Triple Autographed Card!

Be sure you have thick toploads for the base cards!!

I wasn’t able to find any information on the web about this, but since it’s from a very reputable dealer and the picture of the box looks legit, I think this is the real deal. And I think that Fielder’s Choice is the first blog to report this news.

While it is great to see Stadium Club coming back, it doesn’t look much like the Stadium Club that we remember from the 1990s. $225 per box is pretty steep. But, you do get a whopping 12 autographs per box and 1 per pack, plus a “Yankee Stadium Relic Card” (maybe a piece of the actual stadium?) It actually sounds like a better deal than most of the high-end sets that are out there. Also, since there are only four boxes per case, collectors who buy a box will have a reasonable shot at getting one of the one-per-case cards.

It remains to be seen how many base cards there will be, but apparently they will be thicker than normal cards. And hopefully, the superb photography of past Stadium Club sets will return. We’ll likely find out more as we get closer to the November 3 release date.

I’m pretty excited and I think I’ll buy a box of this. What does everyone else think?

Allen & Ginter is here

July 23, 2008 at 4:35 pm | Posted in Topps | 1 Comment

So today is July 23, and that means that 2008 Topps Allen & Ginter is now available. While many collectors are as excited as little kids on Christmas morning, I’m just happy that it’s out. The truth is that I like Allen & Ginter, but I don’t love it. I love 2007 Goudey and I love 2008 Topps Heritage. Those are my favorite retro sets. Allen & Ginter ranks below those sets for me.

I bought my first hobby box of 2007 Allen & Ginter after I read a ton of rave reviews about it on blogs and message boards. When I opened the box, my expectations for sky high, but feelings about the cards were mixed. First, I’ll admit that I feel weird getting cards of historic figures like Gandhi and Susan B. Anthony in my packs of baseball cards. I feel even weirder when I get cards of buildings like the Eiffel Tower. I know that it’s a tribute to the Allen & Ginter cards from the 1800s that featured more than just baseball players, but it’s hard to get excited about cards like these. I just chuckle when I find them in my packs and wonder who picks all of the non-baseball cards to include. Then there is all of the white space. I agree that the cards have a somewhat artistic quality to them, but when you’re going through a big pile of them, or looking at them in a binder, all of that empty white space can get boring. That’s a big reason why I prefer the more colorful Goudey cards. My third issue with Allen & Ginter is the backs of the cards. Why exactly is it necessary to spell out in words all of the numerical statistics? Actual numbers would be so much easier to read, and I know that the original cards in the 1800s didn’t have any stats at all, so you can’t use that as an excuse.

Despite the flaws that I mentioned, I do like and collect Allen & Ginter. I eventually bought a second hobby box of the 2007 set and bought some singles from other sources, and now I am close to completing a base set. I loved the Roman Emperor inserts and collected a full set of those. It’s one of the few products out there that has a base set that is fun to build. And I’m going to buy at least two hobby boxes of 2008 Allen & Ginter. I’m just not quite as caught up in the hoopla as a lot of other people are.

Anyway, I’m planning to buy my boxes at Cardiacs Sports Cards in Cary, North Carolina. They ordered a few cases and they’re planning a “Case Bustin’ Party” this Friday, July 25, at 6:00 PM. It should be fun to open packs with a group of people, see what hits everyone gets, and maybe trade some doubles. The owners of Cardiacs are going to order food and drinks for everyone too. If anyone reading this is located in the Triangle area of North Carolina, it would be great to see you there. I’m planning on wearing a Scott Kazmir Rays jersey shirt so you’ll know who I am. Just call Cardiacs ahead of time to reserve your boxes. It should be an exciting event.

The ‘Upper Deck’ is a little lower than it used to be

July 23, 2008 at 2:50 pm | Posted in My Cards, Upper Deck | 2 Comments

I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog that the product that drew me back into the baseball card collecting hobby was 2007 Goudey, an outstanding retro set that was produced by Upper Deck. I still vividly remember opening two boxes of Goudey on February 29, 2008 and falling in love again with my childhood hobby. After opening those boxes, I started watching video box breaks on YouTube to help me decide what other products to buy. It was there that I learned about SP Authentic, which included two very awesome “By The Letter” autographs per box. So I bought a couple of SP Authentic boxes, and I was absolutely elated when I pulled a Tim Lincecum “By The Letter” autographed card (although my other hits were Andy LaRoche, Chase Wright, and Joe Smith). I was quickly starting to consider myself an “Upper Deck collector” and I favored Upper Deck over Topps.

When I started looking at the first two 2008 baseball card releases, Topps Series 1 and Upper Deck Series 1, Upper Deck seemed like the clear winner to me. The photography of Upper Deck Series 1 (and subsequently Series 2) is fantastic, and it is a standard that all other cards should try to live up to. I happily started collecting Upper Deck and now I am close to having complete base sets of both Series 1 and Series 2. I’ve bought a grand total of two packs of regular Topps this year.

I also became a big fan of 2007 Upper Deck Masterpieces and took a risk on two tins of 2007 Upper Deck Sweet Spot Classic. I was lucky enough to get an autographed Carl Yastrzemski glove card #/15, which is still my best pull of all time, and a Tony Perez autographed card.

By this point, I definitely favored Upper Deck over Topps, and I couldn’t wait for more 2008 Upper Deck releases to come out…

Sadly, I have been sorely disappointed by the releases that came after Upper Deck Series 1. To recap:

  • Upper Deck First Edition. I really don’t understand the point of First Edition. The cards are exactly the same as the cards in Series 1 except that they are less glossy and less expensive. The only market for this would seem to be kids that can’t afford to buy anything else. It’s completely fine to produce a cheaper set for younger collectors, but why use the exact same card design, photos, and backs as Series 1? Why not produce a set like the old Collector’s Choice and make completely different cards that would have much greater appeal? This set doesn’t make sense to me and I have not bought a single pack of it.
  • Next up was Upper Deck Premier. The only thing that I really need to say about Premier is that one “box” costs more than $200 and it contains only one pack with seven cards. Seriously. I’ve bought autographed cards of Scott Kazmir (#/25) and B.J. Upton (#/45) from this set for about $15 each on eBay, so clearly the cards are not worth the price of the box/pack. Although the design of the cards is pretty nice, I wouldn’t even remotely consider buying a box/pack of this. And I wonder why this set is necessary when Upper Deck already has Black and Exquisite to satisfy the high rollers.
  • Spectrum. I actually thought long and hard about buying a hobby box of Spectrum. It was a new Upper Deck product and the price wasn’t ridiculous. But I couldn’t figure out why there are only 100 base cards, which makes it impossible for set builders to enjoy. Among those 100 base cards are only two Rays, Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton, so why should I bother? In addition, I was not a fan of the “Spectrum of Stars” autographed cards of celebrities, all of whom are far, far away from the A-List. Looking over the checklist of these, the only ones that I would even be remotely interested in (out of 54) are Ace Frehley and Peter Criss (from Kiss) and Henry Winkler (“The Fonz” from Happy Days). The rest would be worthless to me. In my opinion, if you’re going to put celebrity autographs into packs of baseball cards, make them of celebrities who people actually care about! If you can’t do that, then just stick to autographs of baseball players. The final nail in the coffin of Spectrum for me was when I bought a game-used jersey card of B.J. Upton on eBay and when I received it, I saw that a chunk of the surface of the card was flaking off, demonstrating the poor quality of these cards. Here’s the card. The area that is flaking off is hard to see in the scan, but the arrows show you where it is:
  • SPX. I was really looking forward to SPX. After all, Mario from Wax Heaven named 2007 SPX the best release of 2007. But the price tag of over $150 per box made me a little wary, so I checked out some video box breaks. I watched about 5-6 box breaks and didn’t find anyone who actually got enough value for what they paid. The product is filled with hits, but these are comprised mostly of game-used jersey cards that aren’t worth more than a few dollars each and the same mediocre rookie autographs that have infested many other releases this year. I’d estimate that the total value of the cards in a SPX hobby box is closer to $30 or $40 than $150. The base cards may look nice, but once again, there are only 100 of them. These include Scott Kazmir, Carl Crawford, and B.J. Upton of the Rays. All are pictured in their old green Devil Rays uniforms even though SPX came out at the end of May after Upper Deck had ample time to take pictures in the new blue uniforms. The Upton base card is absolutely appalling. It features him in uniform #9, which he hasn’t worn since he was called up to the majors for the first time in 2004. That means that Upper Deck used a photo that was almost four years old:
  • SP Legendary Cuts, a set that has received a lot of attention for including cards that contain pieces of hair from dead Presidents, and for being the focus of a lawsuit from Topps. The lawsuit led to the cards supposedly being yanked from the shelves of hobby stores at one point, but they remained widely available on eBay and even at my local hobby shop. Boxes of Legendary Cuts are relatively affordable at about $100, but let’s face it, the odds are astronomically stacked against you getting a hair cut card or a cut signature card (those are probably being shipped straight to Beckett). So it’s $100 for 48 cards and you’re not even guaranteed an autograph of any sort. Upper Deck has taken down the checklist from its web site, but I’m pretty sure that there were only three Rays included: Kazmir, Crawford, and Upton. So why would I bother buying Legendary Cuts?
  • A Piece of History. As I mentioned in a previous post, there is one very cool card in this set. Other than that, it’s very lackluster. Another set with no point and only 100 base cards, just like Spectrum, SPX, and Legendary Cuts. And as a Rays fan, I’m stuck with the same three players that appear in the other sets: Kazmir, Crawford, and Upton (finally in the new uniforms though). And Evan Longoria isn’t even included in the 50 rookies! It’s bad enough that Upper Deck makes all of these sets with so few base cards to collect and that the base cards are simply filler for the supposedly desirable “hits”. But if they’re going to make these sets, at least they could change up the players. Why not put players like James Shields, Matt Garza, and Akinori Iwamura in one of these sets? And do I even need to mention how boring the card design is? To me, this is the most pointless of all of Upper Deck’s sets this year, and it really sent me over the edge with Upper Deck. Can anyone give me one good reason why anyone would want to buy a box of this set?

So in summary, after I strongly favored Upper Deck over Topps earlier this year, Upper Deck has almost completely turned me off with six pointless releases in a row. Their next release will be 2008 Goudey and it comes out next week. I can tell from the set details on Upper Deck’s web site that it will be significantly better than any of their last six releases. I love 2007 Goudey and I really want to love the 2008 version. However, I don’t really like the decision to make the cards standard sized and include “mini” cards that are the same size as the original Goudey cards. I fear that Upper Deck is trying too hard to turn Goudey into Allen & Ginter when to me, Goudey was a better product than Allen & Ginter in the first place. I am eagerly anticipating buying multiple boxes of Goudey though, and I sincerely hope that it can help turn my perception of Upper Deck around.

While Upper Deck has consistently disappointed me this year, I have become a huge fan of Topps Heritage and Topps Chrome. I am also very fond of 2007 Allen & Ginter and Topps Finest. I liked Bowman. And even though I wasn’t crazy about Co-Signers, it’s still better than what Upper Deck has been producing. I’m getting dangerously close to becoming a “Topps collector”. Let’s see what you can do to fix that, Upper Deck…

Essential reading

July 21, 2008 at 11:58 pm | Posted in Beckett, Blogs | 2 Comments

I really love the sports card blogosphere and I am proud to be a part of it. In addition to my own blog, I love to read many of the other blogs that are out there for some great insight on our hobby. Today was an especially good day in the blogosphere as I uncovered a treasure trove of new posts on other blogs. Two of them made such an impact on me that I want to point them out here.

The first is from Cardboard Mania, which is an outstanding blog that I recently discovered. The writer, Harner, wrote an extremely thought-provoking post entitled Making recycling sense out of the hobby. As you can likely discern from the title, it is about the environmental impact of the sports card hobby. Harner makes some great points about what we can do as collectors to reduce the amount of waste that our collecting generates and also how the card companies can improve their packaging. I believe that this is an essential post for any collector to read, and it is already inspiring me to change my ways by reusing bubble mailers, top loaders, and penny sleeves that I get in the mail.

The second great post is from Sports Cards Uncensored. I’ve expressed my fondness for Sports Card Uncensored before, but I was truly blown away by Gellman’s post today entitled Its A Beckett World, We Just Live In It. If you’ve never read Gellman’s writing, or if you’ve only read a few things from him, I strongly implore you to read this post. It is basically his manifesto against Beckett. He’s made most of the same points before, but in this one post, he summarizes everything about the negative influence that Beckett is having on the hobby. I truly believe that every collector should read it and that every blog should have a permanent link to it. More on that below…

I’d like to add some of my own comments about Beckett to the discussion. I’ll start from the beginning. Beckett was great for the hobby in the 1980s. The publication was started by Dr. James Beckett when public interest in baseball cards started to grow in the late 1970s. In those days, there were very few card dealers in existence and it was difficult for them to communicate about how much money each card and set were selling for. It was pretty much impossible to determine a market value. Dr. Beckett stepped in and began surveying dealers across the country to determine the true market value of cards and sets. He was widely respected for his ethics and integrity, and as a result the Beckett Baseball Card Monthly rightfully became the recognized standard for determining how much cards were worth.

I believe that at some point in the late 1980s or early 1990s, a seismic change occurred in the hobby. It used to be that the market determined the prices that appeared in Beckett. But when every dealer in the country began to rely on Beckett as the bible of card prices, the prices listed in Beckett became what people perceived to be the market value of cards. It was unquestioned and universally accepted by dealers and collectors alike. Rather than bargaining with customers, dealers would simply open the latest issue of Beckett and use the prices within it to determine exactly how much money to charge for cards. For a while, collectors accepted this. No one doubted the integrity of Beckett. But as time went on, and the prices were no longer based on the economic law of supply and demand, eventually the prices in Beckett no longer reflected reality.

This was a big reason why many people left the hobby. In the early 1990s, most people considered the Beckett value of their cards to be an accurate reflection of what they were actually worth. However, they were in for a rude awakening when they actually tried to sell their cards for the Beckett value. No one wanted to pay Beckett value for cards from the 1980s and 1990s and even the values for pre-1980 cards were somewhat inflated. People felt deceived and lost faith that their cards would ever have any real value, and they left the hobby in droves. This may not have been the only factor in the general decline in interest in the sports card hobby, but I believe that it was a very large factor.

And then came the internet. By the turn of the century, many hobby shops were closing, and many people found a new way to buy cards on the web. The auction site eBay soon became the most popular place to buy cards online. The great thing about eBay is that cards only sold for what people were willing to pay for them, or in other words, what they were truly worth. In addition, collectors could search for eBay auctions that had ended in order to see how much money any particular card had been selling for. It was the first time in many years that people could determine the true market value of their cards. And today, the price that a card is selling for on eBay (and other sites like Naxcom and Sportlots) still gives us the best understanding of the true market value of that card.

It seems that Beckett has remained unaffected by this. Many collectors suspect that the prices listed in Beckett today are more likely to be pulled from the anal cavities of Beckett employees than to be the result of careful consideration of how much money people are actually paying for cards. Because of this, in most cases it is best to simply ignore the prices that are listed in Beckett and just check eBay to determine the true value of a card.

I say “in most cases” because there are some cases when the Beckett value is somewhat relevant. I can think of two examples. One example is for graded vintage (pre-1980) cards. The value of these cards is stable compared to newer releases, and it is simple to determine the condition of the card from its grade. I’ve found that these cards usually do sell on eBay for very close to the prices that are listed in Beckett. A second example is with cards that are in low supply and rarely appear on eBay. Only the listings that ended within the last 30 days can be searched on eBay, so in some cases, the only source to check to understand a card’s value may be Beckett. I’ve experienced this when trying to find some rare Don Mattingly inserts and parallel cards from the 1990s. Still, it’s important to take the Beckett value with a grain of salt even in these cases.

It would be bad enough if the inaccurate prices listed in Beckett were the only reason why Beckett is bad for the hobby. But that is not the only reason. While the prices in Beckett could just be the result of laziness, the other problems with Beckett are much more appalling:

  • Beckett’s acceptance of free boxes of cards from the card companies, which they use to create video box breaks. Gellman has done an excellent job of reporting on the ridiculously tough pulls that routinely come out of these boxes. It’s true that the card companies are also to blame for this because it is they who actually send these boxes to Beckett in the hope that collectors will be fooled into thinking that they’re likely to get similar pulls from their own boxes. But how can a company that accepts these gifts from the card companies, and that generates a ton of revenue from ads by the card companies in its magazine, be a trusted and impartial source on the industry? It can’t. And how can the prices that Beckett lists in its guide be unaffected by their sponsors, who want their cards to be listed for high values? They can’t. If Beckett ever wants to restore its integrity, it will need to stop accepting free products from the card companies and stop accepting ads from them. Since Beckett wants to make as much money as it can, this will probably never happen, and Beckett will continue to act without integrity.
  • Beckett’s corrupt grading service, BGS. I have read and heard an incredible number of accounts of Beckett giving inflated grades to cards from customers who send the most cards to be graded. Because of this, many collectors do not trust the grades of cards that have been graded by BGS. In my opinion, PSA is the only reliable and trustworthy grading company. I am proud to say that I don’t own a single BGS graded card, and I would never pay any more for a BGS graded card than I would for an ungraded card. I do own dozens of PSA graded cards and I can honestly say that the grade of every PSA graded card that I have encountered has been accurate.
  • If that’s not bad enough, Beckett actually sells many of the cards that it grades. Yes, you read that correctly. Beckett pretends to be an impartial judge of a card’s condition and authenticity, and then turns around and tries to make a profit from that very same card. If you find this difficult to believe, check out Beckett’s eBay store and see for yourself.
  • I’m not done ranting about BGS just yet. Late last year, a huge controversy erupted when Beckett posted a picture online showing 270 Wayne Gretzky rookie cards that someone had submitted to them for grading strewn carelessly on a table. The picture spoke louder than any words could have ever done to demonstrate the carelessness of Beckett’s graders. The picture and a summary of the controversy can be found in this post on Wax Heaven.
  • Finally, the seemingly innocent fact that Beckett has its own blog is a problem. It’s plain to see that today’s sports card blogosphere is looking out for the best interests of collectors much more than Beckett is. One of the ways that we do this is by pointing out some of the bad things about Beckett itself. I believe that the reason why Beckett created its own blog was to try to drown out the voices of the truly independent bloggers. By linking to other blogs and occasionally featuring columns by writers of other blogs, Beckett drives a lot of traffic to these blogs. Since the bloggers depend on Beckett for steering many readers to them, they are less likely to criticize Beckett when criticism is warranted. So I believe Beckett’s blog is more of an insidious means to prevent criticism of Beckett in the blogosphere than a service that actually helps collectors.

I got on a roll here and this post is much longer than I originally intended. I hope that it’s kept your interest so far. I want to get back to Gellman’s post. I mentioned that every card blog should have a permanent link to it. Well, I’ve done that. Since I started Fielder’s Choice, I’ve had a link to Beckett under “Important hobby links” on the sidebar. Today I changed that link title to “Beckett = Bad for ya” and linked it to Gellman’s post. I hope that this will help in a small way to increase awareness about the reasons why Beckett is bad for collectors. I also removed the link to Beckett’s blog from “Professional blogs” on the sidebar. Although Beckett’s blog never did link to my blog, I don’t want anyone to think that I am in any way supported by Beckett, so I removed the link.

So there you have it. I do believe that Beckett’s problems are correctable, but I don’t know if they have the will to correct them. Until they change their ways, I hope that other blogs will join in raising their voices about why Beckett has not been a good influence on the hobby.

Say it ain’t so, Joe!

July 21, 2008 at 2:33 am | Posted in Autographs, My Cards | 5 Comments

So, I was reading Wax Heaven the other day and I came across this interesting post about Doug Glanville responding to a mailed autograph request fifteen years after it was sent. The post generated a few comments about other people’s experiences with through-the-mail autograph requests, and I decided to chime in with my own experience:

When I was in middle school in the early 90s, I sent cards through the mail to a few of the top athletes of the day. I only got one back out of about five. The one that I got back was from Joe Montana. That card has been a treasured part of my collection ever since then, but I’ve always wondered if he really signed it or if he hired someone to “handle” the huge amount of fan mail that he must have been getting. Maybe I’ll scan it and post it on my blog soon to see what other people think…

Well, here is the 1989 Topps football card that I spoke of:

Needless to say, I was thrilled when I got this card back in the mail. I remember considering myself lucky to have gotten Joe Montana’s autograph before he retired, because after his retirement he would no longer have a team address to receive mail. I was impressed by the crisp blue signature on the card, but I knew that Montana must have received a huge amount of fan mail, and I wondered if he really signed it or if he hired some sort of assistant to sign cards that people sent to him.

Charlie from the Hawk to the Hall blog responded to my comment:

There have actually been industry rumors that about 90% of Montana’s autos are done with an “autopen” machine, along with a lot of other very popular athletes.

I had never heard of an autopen machine, but apparently it is a machine that some athletes and celebrities use to add their “signature” to items. I did some research and came across Zipper’s Fakes, Phonies & Frauds site. It lists some common fake autographs that are often put up for sale. Joe Montana is on the list, and a great sadness filled my soul when I clicked on his name and found a picture of another card with a signature that is exactly the same as the one on my card. Take a look at it and you’ll see that not only is the signature exactly the same (but in a different color ink), it is the same size, at the same angle, and almost the same location on the card.

So I am now convinced that the autograph on my Joe Montana card that I received through the mail about 15 years ago is not actually an autograph, but a fake autograph that was generated by an autopen machine. And it really sickens me. I would have rather gotten no response at all from Montana than to get a fake autograph sent back to me. I took a lot of pride in the card and stored it in a top loader with all of my “best” cards for all of these years. What’s worse is that a lot of people probably have autographs like this and still think that they are real. Even worse, unsuspecting people are probably buying these fake autographs everyday. The marketplace is likely flooded with autopen-generated autographs of many different people.

I think that there should be uproar about athletes using autopen machines from fans and collectors. I can totally understand if an athlete gets so many autograph requests that he doesn’t have the time to fulfill them all. But I cannot understand why they would send back a fake autograph. Don’t they realize that fake autographs will make people more upset than not getting an autograph at all?

My biggest concern, however, is with the sticker autographs that are on many cards today. These are usually signed by the athletes at home and sent back to the card companies, where they are then placed onto “certified autograph” cards. I suppose that it would be difficult for someone to get away with using an autopen on the stickers, since every autograph would look exactly the same. But what’s to stop an athlete from hiring somebody who does a good job of forging their signature? How would the card companies (and collectors) be able to detect this? The implications are scary…

So, thanks a lot Joe Montana. For all of these years, I thought that you were a great guy for signing my card and mailing it back to me. I was wrong. I don’t want to use profanity on this blog, but there are a lot of vulgar words that would describe my feelings about you right now. You’ve shattered my faith in the honesty and ethics of every athlete out there.

Southern League All Star Game

July 18, 2008 at 1:35 am | Posted in Baseball, Minor Leagues | 3 Comments

After the great experience that I had at the Single-A South Atlantic League All Star game in June, I was excited to attend the Double-A Southern League All Star game on Monday night, July 14. The event took place at Five County Stadium in Zebulon, North Carolina, which is the home of the Carolina Mudcats, the Double-A affiliate of the Florida Marlins.

My wife and I had fun, but overall the event was not as great as the South Atlantic League All Star game. Five County Stadium pales in comparison to NewBridge Bank Park in Greensboro, and the Mudcats staff seemed to be far less skilled in putting on a great event than the employees of the Greensboro Grasshoppers. Still, I was able to get some good autographs and see some great prospects play.

I arrived at the stadium a little after 5:00 for the autograph session. This didn’t take place on the field with easy access to the players like the autograph session in Greensboro. Instead, the Mudcats staff made everyone stand in one long line and only about 10 people at a time had access to all of the players. This may have been good for people who wanted an autograph from every single player, but I really only wanted autographs from about 15 players who I considered to be legit prospects. They had the players from the South Division (which included the Montgomery Biscuits, the Rays affiliate) available from 5:00 – 5:30 and the players from the North Division from 5:30 – 6:00. I got in the line at about 5:05, and the wait was so long that I didn’t get to the front until right at 5:30. Once I was allowed in to the area where the players sat, I walked over to Wade Davis (a top prospect for the Rays and one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball) as quickly as I could. I was able to get him to sign a ball for me right before he had to walk away. I also got to congratulate him on his promotion to Triple-A Durham that was effective right after the game. Here’s the ball:

I also got an autograph from Justin Cassel, a White Sox prospect, right before the South Division players left and the North Division players sat down. I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to get more autographs from the South Division players, but I did get autographs from almost the entire North Division roster: Chris Coghlan, Gaby Sanchez, John Raynor, and Chris Mobley (Marlins), Robert Manuel, Eric Eymann, and Ben Jukich (Reds), Nate Spears, Doug Deeds, and Donnie Veal (Cubs), Alcides Escobar, Angel Salome, David Welch, Patrick Ryan, Michael Brantley, and Cole Gillespie (Brewers), and Adam Moore, Ryan Ketchner, Marshall Hubbard, and Mike Wilson (Mariners). I was happy to get Escobar, Coghlan, Moore, and Veal, who are all very good prospects.

David Welch on his 2008 Bowman card:

Alcides Escobar:

Chris Coghlan:

Adam Moore:

If you’re interested in the cards on which I got the above three signatures, and would like to order some, check out this post on Bad Wax. I would highly recommend them.

After the autograph session, there was still an hour to go before the game. In Greensboro, this time was filled by a very exciting home run derby. In Zebulon, it was a game played by kids with physical disabilities. I certainly don’t have anything against kids with disabilities, but that type of event really could have taken place at any game, and it didn’t have the entertainment value of a home run derby.

Right before the All Star game, one of the highlights of the evening was the National Anthem, sung by Katherine Fritsch. Katherine is a nine-year old girl who is something of a local celebrity. She’s been singing the anthem at Carolina Hurricanes hockey games since the start of the 2007-08 season when she was only eight. She has an amazing voice and is one of the most talented singers of any age that I have ever heard. I predict that she will win American Idol in 2015 and become a major star. You heard it here first!

The players lined up during the National Anthem:

The game itself was very good. The pitching was better than what you’d expect in an All Star game. Dodgers pitching prospect James McDonald was particularly impressive to me. The North Division won it 6-1, led by home runs from Chris Coghlan and Doug Deeds. Here are some of the pictures that I took:

Wade Davis of Montgomery (Rays):

Chris Coghlan of Carolina (Marlins), who will replace Dan Uggla at second base once the Marlins trade him in a salary dump. This guy is very good in the field and at the plate:

Alcides Escobar of Huntsville (Brewers), who made some outstanding plays at shortstop and looks like he’ll be a future star:

A distraction from blogging

July 17, 2008 at 1:32 am | Posted in Personal | 1 Comment

Since I started this blog, I haven’t liked to have a day go by without any new posts. I guess I just don’t want people to stop by expecting to read something new and then be disappointed and not want to come back.

I’ve been planning since Monday night to write a post on my night at the Southern League (Double-A) All Star game, but I just haven’t had the time yet. I should be able to do that tomorrow (Thursday). I have a bunch of other posts in the planning stages too. It’s been a busy week here, with work, the Southern League All Star game, watching the Home Run Derby and the Major League All Star game, and something else that’s been pretty fun. My wife and I have been shopping for a new car for her and tonight we found the right one at the right price. We put a deposit down and we’ll be closing the deal on Friday. Check it out, our new 2008 Honda CR-V:

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