I’ve never been a Jason Giambi fan. I didn’t like him during his original stint with the A’s, I liked him even less when he signed with the Yankees, and I absolutely despised him when I found out that he was a steroid user. But when I read about his rookie card in this post on Bad Wax recently, I immediately wanted to own the card. I went straight to eBay and I was able to buy a PSA 10 graded copy of the card for only $8. So, you might be asking yourself, why would I want to own Jason Giambi’s rookie card so badly? In this case, the picture speaks louder than any words possibly could:
Yes, folks, that is what Jason Giambi looked like in 1991! Before he became a disgusting steroid monster, he was the scrawny 20-year old kid that you see on this card. If you look closely enough, you can see the remnants of teenage acne on his face. He looks like someone whose ass even I would be able to kick! Heck, Steve Urkel might be able to take him in a fight. I can’t stop myself from laughing when I look at this card and think about what Giambi turned himself into…
The back of the card reveals that Giambi was 6’2″ and weighed 195 pounds. According to ESPN, he’s now 6’3″ and 240 pounds. It’s amazing what a steady diet of steroids and HGH can do for a body. It’s also interesting that he was a third baseman for Long Beach State at the time, which was the same position that Evan Longoria would occupy 15 years later. Giambi was in his sophomore year in 1991, and while he hit .407 that year, he only hit 3 home runs with 54 RBI. One year later, he was the second round pick of the A’s and the rest is history…
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I recently purchased a rack pack of 1984 Donruss baseball cards. I finally got around to opening it on video today. It was quite a thrill since 1984 Donruss is arguably the best looking set of the 1980s, and it’s unquestionably the top set of the first half of the decade. It was also apparently produced in smaller quantities than 1984 Topps and 1984 Fleer, so you don’t see much of it around today, and it’s extremely rare to find unopened packs of it. Before I bought this rack pack, I didn’t own any 1984 Donruss cards besides my Don Mattingly rookie.
Check out my rack pack break:
- 45 cards including 2 Diamond Kings, 2 Rated Rookies, 1 Hall of Famer, and 1 checklist
- 3 Duke Snider puzzle pieces
Opening the rack pack makes me appreciate 1984 Donruss even more. The card design is simply outstanding, especially considering its time period. It is much, much better than anything that Donruss produced until at least 1992 (not including 1990 Leaf). In addition, the Diamond King design from 1984 is the best of all-time, in my opinion, and it was the first year of Rated Rookies. Of course, the Don Mattingly rookie card is iconic, and the set also includes rookies of Darryl Strawberry, Joe Carter, and Tony Fernandez.
I’d love to be able to collect an entire set of 1984 Donruss, but it’s tough to find rack packs for as cheap as the one that I bought (it was $10). Unopened boxes sell for over $200. Maybe if I continue to be unimpressed with the 2009 products, I’ll go for it. After all, 1984 was the first year that I ever opened a pack of baseball cards (1984 Topps) so it’s a special year for me, and it was 25 years ago now.
I’m no stranger to PSA graded cards. I own a bunch of them, and the vast majority of them are vintage cards made before 1980, along with some major rookie cards from the 1980s and early 1990s. I’ve acquired a few graded Don Mattingly cards in the past, but only because I couldn’t find ungraded copies of those cards. I broke them out of their slabs so that I could store them with my other Don Mattingly cards (which you can see here). The only exception so far was a PSA 9 copy of Don Mattingly’s 1993 Topps Finest refractor. I kept that one in the PSA slab because it is the most valuable Don Mattingly card from his playing days, and it’s even more valuable when it’s graded.
Anyway, I recently won an eBay auction for one of the 9 Mattingly cards from his playing career that I needed. It was the “Members Only” parallel of the “Virtual Reality” parallel from 1995 Topps Stadium Club. Yes, a parallel of a parallel. But anyway, it is a PSA graded card. Specifically, it’s a “Gem Mint” PSA 10 card. Here it is:
Now, under normal circumstances, it would be any easy decision for me to crack open the slab and remove the card, so that I could put it in a penny sleeve and top loader just like all of my other Don Mattingly cards. But this is different for me because it’s a PSA 10 – a perfect specimen. I own very few PSA 10 cards. On the other hand, it’s a rare card, and having a graded copy doesn’t increase its value much. I’m really on the fence about what to do. What do you think – should I set this one free from the slab or not?
In June 2008, Gellman from Sports Cards Uncensored wrote a very entertaining post in which he coined the term “Joe Collector”. The term immediately caught fire and soon it was being used in card blogs all over the internet. Gellman eventually had to retire it because it was frequently being misused to characterize certain types of collectors contrary to its original intentions. But even months later, I still see people refer to “Joe Collector” in blog posts almost daily, and it’s clear that the term’s original meaning has been completely forgotten. Most commonly, people are using the term to refer to high end collectors in general, which is really inaccurate. So I am writing today to remind everyone of the actual meaning of “Joe Collector”. Here it is, from the SCU glossary:
These guys are those certain collectors that post all their maildays on message boards, use “Mojo” in really annoying ways (see also Mojo), live for making a profit on cards, and have no problem fighting you tooth and nail on any sensible point about the hobby. They are generally so UNINFORMED that they fight to remain in their ignorance. They price all their cards using Beckett instead of current market value, and they thrive on the glory that they supposedly get for everything. They use an abundance of exclamation points in anything they post and they love to make sure people know that they have a very high opinion of themselves.
There you have it. To all of the card bloggers out there, please remember the actual definition of “Joe Collector” before using it in future blog posts. That will make my experience in reading your blog much, much happier. Thank you. I’ll step down from my soapbox now…
So right after I say that I’m going to hold back on blog posts for a few days, a topic comes up that I just couldn’t stay away from. Such is life…
Anyway, I want to preface this by saying that I could care less about basketball. I rarely watch it, and I’m not even sure that I could name 10 players who are active in the NBA right now. I used to change the channel whenever basketball highlights would come on Sports Center. Now, I just watch the MLB network, so I’m able to avoid basketball entirely, and I love it. I enjoy ignoring both the NBA and college basketball. As you know, I went to Penn State, a school where pretending that basketball doesn’t exist is a popular pastime after football season ends. I’ve never even given the slightest consideration to buying a basketball card.
But it was with sadness today that I learned that the basketball card hobby is dead, or at least it is scheduled to die after the current season ends. As I’m sure you’ve read by now on other blogs, the NBA has decided to cut ties with both Topps and Upper Deck, and grant an exclusive license to produce basketball cards to Panini. Yes, Panini. The same Panini that produced the baseball sticker books in the late 1980s and early 1990s that you thought went out of business 15 years ago. When I read this news on Wax Heaven earlier today, I instinctively checked my calendar to see if it was April Fool’s Day. It wasn’t. And I’m still not entirely convinced that this isn’t the 2009 version of the Kazuo Uzuki gimmick, and that on April 1, NBA and card company executives won’t be laughing that we all fell for the joke.
So we’re talking about Panini. Let’s flash back to the summer of 1988. I was 8 years old, almost 9. I loved Panini stickers, and I’d beg my mom to buy packs of them for me every time we were at the grocery store. Don Mattingly was on the cover of that year’s Panini sticker book, and I remember how excited I would be when I’d fill all of the stickers on each team’s page. I did the same thing in 1989. And then I turned 10, and I lost interest. I decided that collecting stickers was for “little kids” and I only collected real cards from that point on. Years later, I discovered that Panini had stayed in business at least until 1996, because they made a Don Mattingly sticker that year. And since I’m on a lifelong quest to collect everything that can even be remotely construed as a Don Mattingly “card”, I own all of the Don Mattingly Panini stickers that have ever been produced. All along, I just assumed that at some point before the millennium, Panini had completely closed down and gone out of business. And then I read today’s news…
It might seem like an exaggeration to say that the basketball card hobby is dead, but I don’t think so. I might not be a basketball card collector, but I’ve met plenty of people who are. I feel really, really bad for them. I imagine how I would feel if it had been MLB who signed this deal with Panini instead of the NBA. Just the thought of it makes me almost nauseous. If MLB ever does something like this, I can guarantee you that it would be the end of my days as a collector. Sure, I might occasionally try to add cards to my graded vintage card collection, but I would never even look at a new pack of cards again. The baseball card hobby would be destroyed, just like the basketball card hobby is being destroyed now.
Sure, Topps and Upper Deck have a lot of faults and imperfections. It’s easy for collectors to find things about their products that they don’t like. These are the companies that have given us products like Topps Co-Signers and Upper Deck X. Topps produced the manufactured letter patches with the sticker autographs for football. Upper Deck thinks that we want to pull autographed cards of bass players from long-forgotten 1980s hair bands in packs of Spectrum. Heck, just last week we devoted an entire Blog Bat Around to all of our ideas about how to improve the card companies’ products.
But for all of their faults, Topps, Upper Deck, and Donruss-Playoff too, are all legitimate and well-respected card companies. We like just as many things as we dislike about them. Topps Heritage is a brilliantly produced set, Upper Deck’s photography for their flagship set is stunning, and nobody can put value into a high-end product like Donruss. I could write pages about all of the great things about these companies. If they weren’t producing any sets that we liked, we wouldn’t be collecting. I don’t think I’m out of line in saying that Topps, Upper Deck, and Donruss-Playoff define what the hobby is. They produce cards that collectors want to collect and own. They all have unique brands, some that we like and some that we dislike, but collectors have a certain comfort level with these companies. And when we see some of the utter crap that companies on the fringe, like Tristar and Razor, have been producing, it only reinforces our comfort with the Big Three. I’m not saying that a new company will never come along that can compete with them, but it’s going to have to be a company that really has its proverbial shit together, and is capable of producing high quality card products – a company like Upper Deck in 1989, as opposed to Razor in 2008.
Could Panini be that company? Why would anyone think so? This is a company that produces stickers, and from what I’ve learned today, they apparently make low quality soccer cards in Europe. They currently have no presence in the United States. I’ll grant you that yes, it is hypothetically possible that there are people working for Panini that have great ideas for producing basketball cards. It’s possible that they could put out some really nice sets that collectors will love. But it’s not likely. And basketball card collectors will suffer because of it. If the NBA wanted to give Panini a license in addition to Topps, Upper Deck, or both, then I’d be all for it. But to put all of the NBA’s eggs in the Panini basket is just an incredibly dumb move.
Think about it; between now and the end of the 2012-13 season, collectors won’t have any alternative to Panini if they want to collect a licensed NBA basketball card product. When Panini produces worthless low quality crap, which is what their past history strongly indicates that they will do, what’s going to happen? Nobody is going to buy it. The basketball card market is already weaker than the baseball card and football card markets. Now it’s going to be completely killed. Another point to make is that a huge segment of the current basketball card collector base is high-end collectors. Products like Exquisite do really well in basketball. Even if Panini is able to pull off making half-way decent base cards, how are they possibly going to be able to match Upper Deck’s high end products? That is simply an impossibility.
You can say that it doesn’t really matter to the NBA, that a low percentage of its fans were collectors anyway. And that might be true. But why would the NBA ruin a hobby that even a small percentage of its fans love? Why wouldn’t they do all that they could to help that hobby thrive, to entice more people into the card collecting hobby, so that more cards could be sold, and the NBA could make even more money from its licensing? Why wouldn’t they want to turn collectors into more passionate fans when they pull a great LeBron James card from a pack of Upper Deck? It just doesn’t make any sense to me.
This is very depressing news for the entire sports card hobby. Let’s all hope, cross our fingers, and pray if you’re a religious type, that the NFL, NHL, and most of all, MLB will not even consider screwing collectors, like the NBA did today, by rejecting legitimate card companies in favor of a sub-standard sticker company, or even worse, a company named after a toiletry item that makes poker cards…
I just want to let everyone know that I’ll be taking a few days off from writing blog posts. The main reason is that I’ve agreed to a ton of trades in the last few weeks with other bloggers and readers, and I am seriously behind in fulfilling my end of many of those trades. I’m hoping that I can get caught up this week. I’ll be back by the end of the week. I have a ton of stuff to write about, just not enough time. If time grew on trees, I’d plant a forest full of it. It amazes me that anyone with kids finds the time to blog. It’s tough enough balancing my time between spending time with my wife, work, and collecting and blogging. Our “family plan” is that my wife will get pregnant about a year from now. When that day comes, it’ll definitely be the death of this blog…
OK, that was quite a tangent that I just flew off on … but anyway, I do have some great stuff that I’ll be blogging about soon. See ya later this week.
With three recent additions, my Evan Longoria collection is up to 84 different cards, with 21 autographs. Here are the new ones:
These are the elusive Evan Longoria “base” cards from Stadium Club. I’ve finally figured out exactly how Topps screwed with the Stadium Club base cards. Out of the 150 cards in the set, two-thirds (100) of the cards are easily attainable. The other 50, every card with a number that’s divisible by 3 (including Evan Longoria – #108), are short printed. This is Topps’ special way of giving the middle finger to set builders. But it gets even weirder. There are two versions of each of the short prints, each with a different photo, and each one is numbered to 999. But there is also a parallel of both versions of each short print, the “First Day Issue”, which is easily attainable (one per retail pack). Somebody decided that it was a “good” idea to make the base cards harder to find than the parallels.
Anyway, set builders have two choices. They can collect the “First Day Issue” parallels of all of the “divisible by 3” cards, or they can head to eBay and fork over more than they should have to for the base cards. Then they have to decide if they want to collect only one of the variations of each card, or both. Imagine that anyone is crazy enough to want to collect both variations of all of the base cards, and think about the fact that there can be no more than 999 complete sets of 2008 Stadium Club in the world. It’s like Topps gathered their employees into a conference room and brainstormed about ways to piss off collectors. “They want us to bring Stadium Club back, do they? We’ll teach them … let’s make them regret it!”
I won’t even get into the ridiculous price of the hobby packs and the worthless autographs…
Anyway, speaking of products that disappointed collectors in 2008, I also got this Sweet Spot autograph:
Now, I really like this particular card. It’s a nice on-card autograph and the card’s surface has the same nice ball stitching texture of 2006 Ovation. Oh, and Longoria is pictured fielding. It’s not as cool as the 2007 Sweet Beginnings autographs with the mini-helmet embedded in the card, though. Upper Deck also loaded the product with base cards and jacked up the price for 2008. At least it looks like they might have fixed the fading problem with the on-ball autographs, although it might only seem that way because the product just came out and the autographs haven’t started to fade yet.
I really do like these cards; they’re great additions to my Evan Longoria collection. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add my commentary about the failings of Stadium Club and Sweet Spot in 2008. Hopefully both will be fixed in 2009. And yes, Sweet Spot is coming back in 2009 after all. You can hear it from the Upper Deck horse’s mouth in last week’s Superfractor.com podcast.
It was great to see so much participation in the third Blog Bat Around, which was the first one that wasn’t hosted by Sports Cards Uncensored. In all, we had 28 different contributions, which is just a tick below the number of participants in the first two. It was a great experience to read the opinions of so many different collectors. The group that participated includes set builders, player collectors, team collectors, and high-end box breakers – a great cross-section of the general collecting populace. We are some of the card companies’ best customers, and we all care enough about the hobby to have our own blogs about it, and write about the direction that we’d like to see the card companies take.
Now, the card companies obviously can’t give us everything that we want. After all, they are first and foremost trying to make the biggest profit possible. But it would serve them well to read the entries from this Blog Bat Around to understand what some of their most passionate customers are looking for. If they give collectors what they want, they’re going to sell more cards, and turn bigger profits.
In addition to my Blog Bat Around entry, here are the others:
Card Junkie – Jeff would like to see Topps go back to basics with a 792-card set of cards made out of cardboard and no gimmicks. And he’d like to see Upper Deck bring back Fleer. I definitely agree!
The Easy Life – Steve has a lot of good ideas, including getting rid of pointless sets, improving Stadium Club, and only inserting hits that people might actually want.
The Nennth Inning – Bailey has many ideas for reducing the number of sets that are produced, and he identifies four types of sets that each company should make: Base set, Rookies, Retro/artistic, and High end.
Card Buzz – Laurens provides a list of 10 great suggestions for the card companies along with opinions on some 2008 sets. I loved the line “Topps and Upper Deck need to put out more product that isn’t going to insult the collector”.
Dinged Corners – Patricia and Lucy loved 2008 Allen & Ginter, Topps Opening Day, and Upper Deck USA Baseball. But they could live without game-used relic cards and sticker autographs.
1972 Topps Baseball – This is a new blog from a guy who started collecting back in 1972. He’d like to see the Topps flagship set go back to how it was in the 1970s and 1980s. I have a feeling that Topps could bring a lot of former collectors back to the hobby if they did that.
Sports Cards Uncensored – The innovator of the Blog Bat Around, Gellman, discusses his thoughts on both baseball and football card products, with comments about many different products that he would like to see killed off in 2009.
Paul’s Random Stuff – Paul was disappointed by most of the 2008 sets, but he did enjoy a few of them. The card companies could make him happier by improving their lower end sets.
Sports.Cards.Life – psad21’s blog is relatively new, but it’s very informative. He collects mostly football cards, with some baseball too. He had some rough experiences with some box breaks that really demonstrate what the card companies can do better!
bdj610’s Topps Baseball Card Blog – JayBee collects only Topps cards. He’d like to see the number of products decrease, with more attention paid to the quality of the base brands for set builders.
Crackin Wax – Topher makes his case for the card companies reducing the number of sets that they produce, simplify the sets that they keep around, with fewer gimmicks, inserts, subsets, and short prints.
Need Mo Morneau – dkwilson makes some great points about the lack of value in today’s high-end products, particularly due to the single-color jersey pieces in the cards.
Nachos Grande – Chris proposes having Topps and Upper Deck each release one set per month, and he writes about his choices. That’s a good idea, and we can all debate his choices of what products stick around and which ones are axed.
Free Andy LaRoche – After successfully lobbying for the Dodgers to free Andy LaRoche (he’s now a Pirate), this blogger turns his attention to reducing short prints to make it easier to build sets in this tough economy.
Night Owl Cards – Night Owl uses the example of the classic 1976 Kurt Bevacqua bubble gum card as an example of the fun that is missing from many card sets today. He’d like to see more well-designed and well thought-out base sets with fewer short prints.
Voice Of The Collector – Rob (a.k.a. “Guido”) makes some excellent points about how the current rules that the MLB and MLBPA imposed on the card companies are having a negative effect on the products that are produced. He argues that the “middle class” of collectors (between the low-end and high-end) are being left behind.
White Sox Cards – Steve writes an open letter to the card companies and stresses “quality over quantity” which is a great summation of what I think we all want to see. He goes into detail about the quality that he’d like to see, and he closes with the suggestion that the card companies read the blogs to see what their customers want. I couldn’t agree more with that!
1988 Score – Ben is just starting to get reacquainted with today’s hobby after many years away. He’s a set builder who isn’t looking for hits, and he’d like to see more sets that are geared towards set builders.
Blue Heaven – Ernest has an interesting perspective as someone who has not collected new cards in recent years. He’d be more likely to buy new cards if there were fewer sets, less parallels, and more vintage brands.
Padrographs – Rod is hoping to see a greater variety of players featured on cards, with fewer sets being produced. He also likes non-glossy cards that are easier for players to sign.
Chuck’s Used Cards – Chuck uses some vintage Star Wars cards to introduce his post, and proposes that the number of sets per year be drastically reduced, to return the hobby to the way it was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Grand Cards – This new blogger has one of my favorite lines in all of the posts: “the sets that buyers don’t think twice about are the same sets that the manufacturers didn’t think twice about during the design process.” He discusses how the card companies should make sets that specifically appeal to certain types of collectors, along with some other great suggestions, including having starter packs and booster packs for baseball cards.
Garvey Cey Russell Lopes – GCRL is a big fan of retro sets, and he’d like to see cards made of players the year after they retire, and a set of cards featuring the card design from the year they were born. A “1985 Topps” Evan Longoria would be sweet!
Mark’s Ephemera – Mark just recently got back into the hobby and started a blog. He has many ideas including good looking, simple base sets with fewer variations. And he has a very interesting idea about bringing back small box sets (like Fleer had in the late 1980s) to commemorate events and groups of players.
Goose Joak – Dave took a lot of the common suggestions from other Blog Bat Around entries and took it to the next level by designing his own card set! Check out his post to see it for yourself.
Dropped Third Strike – Pete enjoys the collectibility of Allen & Ginter and Masterpieces, and appreciates good photography on cards. He doesn’t need autographs and relics, especially of less desirable players, in every product.
And the last entry is from The Sports Card File. Steve Judd emailed me to submit his five-part “Where is the Baseball Card Market going?” series of posts for the Blog Bat Around. As you likely already know, Steve is an industry insider, who has worked for both Topps and Upper Deck in the past. His posts give collectors an extremely informative look inside some of the decisions that the card companies are making. His insight is a perfect addition to this Blog Bat Around topic. So if you haven’t already, check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5 of Steve’s series of posts!
Thanks to everyone who contributed! I’ll pass the torch to someone else for the 4th Blog Bat Around. There have been a few volunteers, and I’m consulting with Gellman about who will host the next one.
Check out the half-page ad that Rocco Baldelli purchased in today’s St. Petersburg Times. It definitely validates my sadness over the Rays losing him. Congratulations Boston, you’re getting the classiest player in Major League Baseball!
I really like the concept of group breaks. For a lot less than what you would pay for a whole box or case, you can buy a slot in a group break and get all of the cards for one team. There’s a chance that you can get a really good hit for a really low cost. And there’s a chance that you can get absolutely nothing, which is what always happens to me. I’ve participated in three group breaks so far, and check out my luck:
- First was a 2005 Playoff Absolute Memorabilia baseball group box break on Sports Cards Uncensored back in September. I had the Indians and Nationals in the break, and I got absolutely nothing.
- I recently decided to participate in a 2-box group break of 2007 Playoff National Treasures football on Sports Cards Uncensored. I’m not really a football card collector, but I had seen breaks of this product on YouTube with some amazing results. My teams were the Chiefs and Saints, and again, I got absolutely nothing.
- And of course, there’s the 2008 Upper Deck Heroes baseball group case break from Jawdy’s Basement that I told you about a couple of weeks ago. I wound up getting the Phillies. I watched the results yesterday, and all that I got were a ton of base cards (which I’m donating to Jawdy and his son) and some serial numbered parallel cards. No autographs or game-used cards at all.
As much as I like group breaks, I think that I might have to retire from them. Instead of gambling, I think I’m better off just buying boxes myself where I get to keep all of the cards. What does everyone else think of group breaks? Is your luck better than mine or just as bad?