To all of my readers, I’m sorry for the lack of updates recently. I’ve been back from vacation for more than a week, but so far my only new post has been a solicitation to get people to join one of my fantasy baseball leagues. It’s true that I’ve been busy at home and at work, but the biggest reason for my lack of updates recently has been a decline in my interest in the baseball card hobby. I wish that I could point to a specific reason for this, but really it’s a combination of things.
For one, the release calendar for 2009 is filled with baseball card products that I could care less about. The only sets that I really care about at this point are Topps Heritage and Allen & Ginter, and I’m less enthused about even those products than I was last year. Over the last month or so, all that I’ve really cared about is adding to my Evan Longoria collection. I’m pretty sure that I’m done buying any boxes or packs of cards for the year, with the exception of Allen & Ginter.
Another factor is that my collection is literally a mess right now. Because I’ve spent so much time blogging, buying new cards, and making trades, I’ve spent virtually no time organizing my cards in the last several months. So I’m not very interested in making the mess worse right now. I need to spend a lot of time organizing the cards that I have, and probably getting rid of many cards that I don’t really want. I’ve started to realize the wisdom of collecting quality and not quantity.
So for the foreseeable future, I’ll only be adding Evan Longoria cards, and some cards of other Rays, to my collection. I’ve also decided to take down the “Trade Corner” page from my blog. I don’t want to make any more trades. I’ve lost most of my interest in building sets, and when people send me Rays cards, it seems like 90% of the time, it’s cards that I already have. Also, I simply don’t have the time anymore to put together packages of cards to send out to people. There are about 20 people out there who know this very well because they’ve been waiting a long time to receive cards from me. I do apologize to everyone who has been waiting to either receive cards from me or to receive responses to emails about card trades. If you’ve already sent cards to me and you’re waiting to receive something back, or if you’ve already sent me email to propose a trade, I will still send the cards that I owe you. I don’t want to screw anyone over. But in the interest of maintaining my sanity, I don’t want to make any new card trades at this point in time.
As the new baseball season starts, I think that you’ll start to see some significant changes to the blog. Expect to see less content about baseball cards, and more posts about the actual baseball season and fantasy baseball. I am very excited about the new season, and I’d much rather write about the actual games than about cards right now. When I do write about cards, it’ll be mostly about Longoria cards that I’ve added to my collection or other Rays.
I’d like to thank everyone out there who reads this blog, especially the people who have kept coming back over the last month even though there’s been very little new content. I hope that you’ll keep reading the blog in the future, even if I don’t write about cards as much as I have in the past. I think that it’s important for any blogger to write about the things that they’re most interested in and passionate about, and that’s what I intend to do…
Hey all – I returned from my trip to Florida over the weekend. I’ll have a post up about my experiences at spring training very soon. I had a great time, and I wish that I was still on vacation. In other news, the Fielder’s Choice Blogger Fantasy Baseball League had its draft last night. I’ll write a post about that too – and in the mean time, you can check out all of the team rosters here.
But the reason for this post is that I need some help. I have another ESPN fantasy baseball league with a draft set for 9:15 PM EDT tomorrow, March 31. The league includes a bunch of my friends who aren’t card bloggers. However, a few people backed out of the league and we only have 6 of the 10 slots filled. If you’re interested in playing fantasy baseball and you’re available for the live draft tomorrow night, please contact me as soon as possible so that I can invite you and we can fill up the league!
The league is set up the same as the blogger league. Here are the details:
- It’s a traditional 5×5 scoring league, meaning that the statistical categories will be: Batting Average, Home Runs, RBI, Runs, Stolen Bases, Wins, Strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, and Saves.
- The format is head-to-head, meaning that every week, each team will play directly against another team and they’ll get a win or loss in each of the statistical categories.
- There are 10 teams in the league.
- The player universe is all of MLB (not just A.L. or N.L.)
- Each team will have a 25-man roster (C,1B,2B,SS,3B,CI,MI,OF,OF,OF,OF,OF,UTIL, 9 pitchers, 3 bench slots, and 2 DL slots).
Vacation time is finally here! That’s great news for me, but bad news for my readers. It’s unlikely that I’ll be able to post anything new until at least March 28, when I return home. Here are my plans:
- My wife and I are leaving Friday morning 3/20 to drive from our home in Apex, North Carolina to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Arrive in Fort Lauderdale Friday night.
- Attend the Tampa Bay Rays vs. Baltimore Orioles spring training game on Saturday 3/21 in Fort Lauderdale. I’m planning to meet two of my favorite bloggers at the game: Brian from 30-year old Cardboard and the legendary Mario from Wax Heaven!
- We might go to the Florida Panthers hockey game on Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets. If we go, that will mean that I’ll have been to every arena in the NHL’s Southeast division. I’ve been to the RBC Center in Raleigh many times. The others are the Verizon Center in Washington, Philips Arena in Atlanta, and the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. Of course, I’ll be rooting hard for the Blue Jackets to win in order to help Carolina’s playoff chances.
- Saturday night, we’re driving across the state to Port Charlotte, the Rays new spring training home. We’ll be attending the Rays vs. Yankees game on Sunday. I’ll get to meet one of my readers and his son at the game, and they’re both fellow Rays fans.
- We’re driving Sunday night from Port Charlotte to Orlando, and checking in at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.
- We’ll be at Disney until Friday 3/27. We’ll be celebrating my wife’s 28th birthday on Thursday 3/26.
It’s been a hectic week trying to get things done before the trip. I was hoping that I’d find some time to mail out some card packages to people that I’m working on trades with, but I never did find that time. So unfortunately, I won’t be able to send anything out until I return. I definitely appreciate the patience of everyone who is waiting on something from me (and the list is getting pretty long).
Of course, I will be back in time for the Fielder’s Choice blogger fantasy baseball league draft on Sunday 3/29.
The only bad thing about the trip is that Evan Longoria was just added to the United States roster for the World Baseball Classic, replacing the injured David Wright and Chipper Jones at third base. That means that I won’t get to watch him play in the two games that I’m going to see. But despite that, it’s going to be a great time and I can’t wait to get down to sunny Florida!
When I get back, I should have some good pictures and stories to share about the games.
As you’ve probably noticed, my posting has been sparse since the beginning of March. I’ve been very busy at work and at home recently, with very little time left over to devote to collecting, let alone blogging. This will probably continue at least until the beginning of April. My schedule is pretty packed for the next week and a half, and then my wife and I will be on vacation in Florida from March 20 – 28.
In case you’re waiting for it, I’m still working on my follow-up post on 2009 Topps Heritage. It should be ready soon; I just need to find some time to scan some of the cards. One thing that I can tell you is that I was extremely lucky with my two boxes in that I got ZERO doubles! Yes, I managed to get 382 different cards. I got enough base cards that I don’t think I’ll need to buy any more hobby boxes or packs. I’ll just buy the cards that I still need on eBay or Sportlots.
Of course, any time that I take a break from blogging, huge events start to happen. Here’s my take on a few of them:
- It’s absolutely inexcusable that Razor and Upper Deck have allowed fake “cut” signatures to find their way into their products. I’m sure that everyone has read about this by now, but if you haven’t, the details are here. I give Brian Gray of Razor credit for trying to rectify the situation after the fact, but I think that some irreparable damage has been done to the hobby. I know that I’m not alone in saying that I’m much less likely to buy any cut signature card now, but my confidence is shaken in other types of cards too. For example, I doubt that any significant verification is done on the “game used” pieces of memorabilia that are inserted into cards. I think that it’s less likely that non-cut certified autographs are fake, but in many cases, the card companies are simply mailing stickers to athletes, who sign them and mail them back. I do believe that the vast majority of athletes are legitimately signing the stickers (and cards) if only because they don’t want to see their reputations damaged if they’re caught mailing back fake autographs to the card companies. But the potential does exist that there are some fake certified autographs out there. If any evidence of that is ever discovered, get ready to watch the entire card industry implode.
- So apparently Panini is buying Donruss-Playoff (details here). This has the potential to be a very good thing for collectors. First, it keeps Donruss in business. The company was obviously having financial troubles, but Panini seems to have plenty of cash, so that problem is solved. I think it’s logical that Panini would use the Donruss name for their U.S.-based card business, and keep many of the existing Donruss, Leaf, and Playoff brand names around. Let’s face it, football and baseball card collectors are much more likely to buy cards with the Donruss name on them than Panini. Hopefully they’ll keep many of the creative people from the company too. But this is really great news for basketball card collectors. After it was announced that Panini had obtained an exclusive license to produce NBA cards, many collectors assumed that the cards that would be produced would be a joke. But now, the cards are likely to have the Donruss brand name on them, be designed by the Donruss creative team, and be produced at the Donruss facilities. I don’t really see any negatives about this deal at this point. Now, it’s going to be very interesting to see what happens to Upper Deck, which is also for sale, and has apparently completely given up trying to make quality baseball card products.
- If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I’m a Buffalo Bills football fan. Even though my blog is focused on baseball and cards, my private conversations with friends and family in recent months have been dominated by talk of my disgust for how the team is being run. They have a completely incompetent head coach (Dick Jauron) and coaching staff who are coming back again in 2009, their biggest star player (Marshawn Lynch) is unable to obey the law and stay out of trouble, and they consistently make horrible decisions about what players to let go and what players to sign. It seemed obvious that a 10th straight non-playoff season was on the horizon…
And then they signed Terrell Owens this past weekend. I was completely shocked and blown away by this. My first reaction was disbelief, and then I quickly decided that I hated the signing. After all, T.O. is a complete jackass, a horrible teammate, and he’s been a cancer in the locker room of every team that he played for. I mean, if Jerry Jones didn’t want him in Dallas anymore, that really says something. The signing also demonstrated the impulsive decision-making in the Bills front office and their complete lack of long-term planning. But amazingly, the more that I thought about it, the more that I started to like the signing. First, it’s a one-year deal. If it doesn’t work out, the Bills can cleanly cut ties with T.O. after the season. Also, he’s going to have to keep his tantrums to a minimum and perform on the field at a high level if he wants any other team to want to sign him next year. But most importantly, T.O. is unquestionably an elite receiver, and he’s going to make the Bills offense a lot better. One of their major problems has been that opposing defenses have been able to double-cover Lee Evans, preventing him from getting open and making plays. Now, the Bills will have two top receivers, Evans and Owens. That’s going to cause problems for defenders, and it should allow both of them to make more big plays. And if the passing game is much improved, then teams won’t be able to load up on the line of scrimmage to stop the run, so Lynch and Fred Jackson should be more productive too. Finally, one of the things that I hated about 2008 was how apathetic it appeared that the coaches and many of the players were. They just didn’t have much competitive fire. Say what you will about T.O., but he wants to win more than anyone, and he’s not afraid to speak his mind if others around him don’t have the same commitment to winning.
Strangely enough, the signing of T.O. has made me a lot more excited about the 2009 football season. If nothing else, he’s going to make the team much more exciting to watch, either because of his performance on the field, or his antics off the field. The Bills weren’t going to do anything in 2009 without T.O. and now that he’s on the team, they have somewhat of a chance. If the Dolphins and Falcons could improve so much between 2007 and 2008, anything is possible with the 2009 Bills.
It looks like this wasn’t such a “quick” update after all. I might only have a few more posts for the rest of the month, but I hope that you’ll stick around and keep reading Fielder’s Choice when I’m able to write more!
So I’ve had a link to Sportlots on my sidebar ever since I started this blog, and I’ve also mentioned it to a few people through email or Google Talk conversations. But I wanted to write a post about it for two reasons. First, it is a great place to buy cards, particularly if you’re looking for a few more singles to complete a set. I’ve found that eBay is a great place to buy hobby boxes, autograph cards, and relic cards, but Sportlots makes it much easier to buy regular singles that I need. I’ve been able to complete a few sets from buying cards on Sportlots, and I’ve also been able to find some cheap Rays cards to add to my collection. In addition, the shipping rates are usually much lower than what I normally pay on eBay, and I’ve never had problems with any sellers. The second reason is that I just found out that they have an affiiliate program, through which I can get 4% of all orders from people that I refer to Sportlots. Since I already have a link to Sportlots, and I really do consider it to be one of the best places to buy cards on the internet, I might as well take advantage of this.
So if you’ve never used Sportlots before, I encourage you to check it out and buy something. And if you’d like to help me out a little, you can go to Sportlots through this link, or through this graphic:
No, this post isn’t about this kind of card shark:
It’s about the book Card Sharks: How Upper Deck Turned A Child’s Hobby Into A High-Stakes, Billion Dollar Business by Pete Williams, which was published in 1995. I read about this book on the internet sometime last year (I can’t remember where) and then purchased a copy on eBay in the early summer, and eagerly read it whenever I had time throughout the summer. I’ve been planning to write a post about it for about six months, but I never got around to it before today. Recently, Marie from A Cardboard Problem offered to swap her copy of The Card for my copy of Card Sharks, and I decided that I would finally write my post before mailing the book to her.
I cannot recommend Card Sharks highly enough for any collector. It is definitely a must-read. The book did a great job of informing me about the history of the card collecting hobby, and it also taught me to be very cynical about the people who are running the card companies.
Although the book’s subtitle might lead you to believe that it is only about Upper Deck, the first four chapters cover the entire history of the hobby prior to Upper Deck’s formation. It was incredibly interesting to read about the advent of tobacco cards, which were started in Durham, North Carolina, very near where I now live. The book also covers the beginning of Topps, its competition with Bowman in the 1950s, and its eventual acquistion of Bowman. This led to Topps’ monopoly on the card industry, and its efforts to prevent Fleer from producing baseball cards. It was very eye-opening to learn about all that Fleer had to go through for more than 20 years in its battle with Topps over the right to produce cards. The book also details the explosion of the card industry after Fleer and Donruss finally started making baseball cards in 1981. At the same time, the hobby itself began to grow into what we are familiar with today.
It’s hard to imagine how different the hobby was in the 1970s, but the book describes how the major collectors of that time would place classified ads in newspapers and travel to towns all over the country to buy old cards from people who had no idea of their value. It’s amazing to think about how astonishing it was in 1980 when three 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle cards sold for $3,000 each at an auction in Philadelphia, an event that led to a dramatic increase in the value of older cards. The book also talks about the beginning of The National, and the beginning of the Beckett price guide, back when the Beckett name still had integrity and relevance within the hobby.
After the first four chapters, the next 18 are about the rise of the Upper Deck company. It all started at a card shop called The Upper Deck that was near the Angels stadium in Anaheim, California. The shop’s owner, Bill Hemrick, had been fooled into buying a large quantity of counterfeit 1984 Donruss Don Mattingly rookie cards. He met an executive from a graphics company, Paul Sumner, and the two of them started to plan a new card company that would use hologram technology to prevent counterfeiting. Along the way, they needed to recruit several investors, and one of them, Richard McWilliam, eventually wrested control of the company from them. McWilliam was calling the shots by the time the first 1989 Upper Deck cards rolled off the presses in 1989.
The book goes into great detail about the many challenges that Upper Deck faced in starting up, including getting licenses from MLB and the players association, and just how close they came on several occasions to seeing everything blow up in their face. It’s actually pretty miraculous that they were able to overcome all of their obstacles and produce a set as iconic as 1989 Upper Deck has become.
Of course, Upper Deck was a major success and completely revolutionized the hobby. As the company began to grow, we learn about the greediness of Richard McWilliam and his complete lack of ethics. It’s almost hard to keep up with the names of all of the Upper Deck executives who were hired and fired in the early years of the company. But there were two reprehensible acts that McWilliam spearheaded that really made me cynical about Upper Deck and the entire card industry. I’m not sure how well known these things are, but I have a feeling that many of today’s collectors do not know about them. If you plan to read Card Sharks, what I’m about to write about might be a spoiler, so you might want to stop reading. But whether you read it here or in the book, I promise that you’ll never look at Richard McWilliam’s facsimile signature on the back of your Upper Deck autograph and relic cards the same way…
The first reprehensible act was related to the Dale Murphy reverse negative error card from 1989 Upper Deck. The error was corrected during the printing of the cards, and Upper Deck announced that only about 20,000 of the error cards were printed. This was in the days of massive overproduction, and a print run of 20,000 was considered amazingly low. The card’s value soared on the secondary market, and by September 1989, its Beckett book value reached $100 (when Beckett’s book value was an actual reflection of the market value). Even though Upper Deck was making a ton of money from sales of its incredibly popular first baseball card set, McWilliam became angry that he was not benefitting from the high secondary market value of the Murphy card. In the summer of 1989, he ordered the Murphy error cards to be reprinted, and 13,500 of them were produced. McWilliam and other executives then secretly sold the reprinted cards to dealers. This increased the supply of the cards, and not surprisingly, the value quickly began to drop. Essentially, people who invested in the card after being told that there were only 20,000 copies were screwed, while McWilliam’s wallet was fattened.
This apparently happened many times over the next few years when the secondary market value of a particular card was high. Needless to say, this was incredibly unethical. While the serial numbering of valuable cards would seem to prevent this sort of thing from happening today, it’s not hard to imagine Richard McWilliam concocting other types of schemes that we don’t even know about yet…
It got even worse with the sad story of Upper Deck French hockey cards. When Upper Deck first produced hockey cards for the 1990-91 season, they also made French language cards to sell in Canada. The French cards sold very poorly. When Upper Deck began planning its high-number series for hockey in the spring of 1991, they decided to produce only 620 cases of the French cards due to the low demand. However, when they leaked out that they only produced 620 cases, the demand for the cards shot through the roof. To give you an idea of how small of a supply 620 cases were, Upper Deck had produced 162,876 cases of baseball cards in 1990. The cases began selling for over $10,000 on the secondary market.
When Upper Deck saw that cases of the French hockey cards were selling for $10,000, McWilliam ordered a reprinting of the cards with 960 more cases being produced. Given the secondary market value, these new cases were worth $9.6 million. The cases were distributed to Upper Deck executives and board members, and many of them sold the cases, thus increasing the supply that was on the market, and bringing the value of the cards down dramatically. People who had bought the cases for $10,000, and even collectors who bought boxes, packs, or singles of the cards when their market value was significantly higher than the English cards, were royally screwed.
The only bad thing about Card Sharks is that it’s 14 years old. I’d love to read a follow up book, with inside information on everything that has happened in the hobby since 1995. That includes the introduction of relic cards, the increased prominence of autograph cards, the demise of the original Donruss-Leaf company, Pinnacle, Pacific, and Fleer, and even everything that went on behind the scenes when Upper Deck almost purchased Topps in 2007. It would also be very interesting to read about the decline of Beckett and hobby shops along with the rise of eBay and other web sites in the 21st century. And of course, there have probably been many other unethical schemes that are just as bad as what Upper Deck did with the Dale Murphy reverse negative card and the French hockey cards. Where is Pete Williams when we need him, or for that matter, where is any serious journalist covering the sports card hobby? Maybe the blogs really are the true industry watchdog today.
Hopefully I’ve helped to pique your interest in reading Card Sharks. It really was an outstanding book that was very well-written, and it provided a wealth of information about the history of the hobby and Upper Deck’s early years. I really believe that every collector should read it. Now it’s your turn, Marie…
Check out this amazing oil painting of Evan Longoria, entitled “Unleashed” from artist Justyn Farano:
It was on display at Florida Governor Charlie Crist’s Baseball Dinner at Tropicana Field last night. The painting was personally autographed by Longoria with “08 ROY”. This would look absolutely amazing in my living room, but my wife would never go for it. The artist’s web page has more details about the painting, but it says “Call for Pricing”. I think it’s safe to assume that it’s well out of my price range.
The same artist also has done paintings of many other athletes, including several members of the Boston Red Sox, and you can check them out here. I think that they all look great. These paintings definitely blows Topps sketch cards out of the water, don’t they?
And speaking of sketch cards – the “sketches” on most of the cards that I’ve seen look horrible. I’ve seen better artistic quality in some high school art classes…
So I am tentatively planning to be in Cleveland between July 29 – August 2 this year. One of my wife’s best friends lives up there, and there’s a lot to do in the Cleveland area. There’s Lake Erie, the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Cedar Point – an amusement park that has the best roller coasters that I’ve ever been on, Jacobs Progressive Field – where the Indians will be hosting the Tigers, and of course, the 2009 National Sports Collector’s Convention. I’ve never been to The National, but everything that I’ve ever read about it makes it sound like heaven for sports card collectors.
Are you planning to go to The National? If you are, Rob from Voice of the Collector is working on an idea for the bloggers who are going. Check out his post, and leave a comment there to let him know if you’ll be going. And you can also join the Facebook group for The National that JRJ from Sports Locker has started. You can check out the details here.
I can’t wait – Cleveland Rocks!
When I wrote recently about my bad luck in group breaks, I got a very interesting comment from Dusty of the Need Mo Morneau blog. He suggested that I try a group break that is “by hit” instead of “by team”. That way, everyone in the break gets at least one hit, so you won’t walk away with nothing if there are no hits from your random team. A guaranteed hit from a group break sounds very good to me, especially since the money that I’ve spent on previous group breaks has brought about as much of a return as flushing the money down the toilet would have. Anyway, Dusty wrote a post on his blog today to gauge the interest in a group break “by hit” that he would host. He’s thinking about hosting a group break of a half case of 2007 Sweet Spot and a half case of 2007 Bowman’s Best, two products that are brimming with good hits. You can check out the details here.
I know that I am definitely interested in participating and seeing how this type of group break will go. It sounds much better to me than the traditional “by team” group breaks. I figured that I’d mention it here to see if I could get more people interested to help fill up Dusty’s group break. So leave a comment on his post if you’re interested. Let’s see if a group break that is “by hit” will be the solution to my group break problem!
… is finding things like this: