Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Where I was...

NOTE: I posted this on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. I will continue to post this each September 11th.


Here's a story that, outside of immediate friends and family, I've never shared with anyone before. Indulge me for a moment, as it is, somewhat, card related.

After weeks and weeks of endless "phone tag," a date and time had been set. At 1:30 PM that afternoon, Lloyd Pawlak (the guy whose facsimile signature is on the reverse side on all of your Fleer autogamers) and Jim Stefano would be interviewing me for a potential opening with Fleer Trading Cards.

This was the opportunity I've been waiting for my whole life. I mean, me, the ultimate card geek, was about to interview for a card geek's ultimate "dream job." Not only that, but their headquarters were only a short twenty minute ride up I-295!

As the days slowly ticked away, I planned out everything I would do that day right down to the millisecond. First, I was going to get up bright-and-early (well, 6:30 AM anyway), and call my boss with some BS "I'm sick" excuse. Next, I was going to hit the Wawa for my daily cup of joe and a doughnut. Finally, I would pick up my "interview suit" from the dry cleaners.

I was so amped with excitement, that I was able to accomplish all of these items by 8:15 AM. Still, I had five hours to kill until the interview. What to do?

At around 8:30 AM, on a total whim, I decided to "preemptively celebrate" my all-but-assured future sports collectibles career, by treating myself to breakfast. But not just any breakfast, but breakfast at the greatest greasy-spoon in the whole world: the Waffle House in Elkton, Maryland. (Yes, we have Waffle Houses up North now, and from time-to-time, when I need my fix; I make the pilgrimage down I-95 to Elkton.)

I think it was around the time I was on the down slope of the Delaware Memorial Bridge, approaching the $3 toll, when Ba-Ba-Booey interrupted Howard with news that an airplane had just flown into the World Trade Center.

It was all an accident. No big deal, right?

I think it was around the time I was finishing off my waffle and about to tear into a ham-and-cheese omelet plate, that the Waffle House's manager informed his staff, and the half-dozen-or-so customers, that the other WTC tower and The Pentagon had been flown into as well.

It was at that moment it all started to sink in. These were no accidents, or isolated incidents. These weren't just merely acts of "terrorism," whatever that word meant on September 10th. This was an act of war against the United States of America. For the first time in my life, after hearing twenty-seven years worth of stories about Pearl Harbor, I now knew exactly what my grandparents felt on December 7th, 1941.

While I continued to sip on my half-full and quickly becoming half-empty coffee mug, contemplating what was happening a hundred or so miles to the immediate Northeast and Southwest of Elkton, it occurred to me. How the hell was I going to get home? I still had to cross over that bridge. If those bastards -- keep in mind we still didn't know al-Qaida was responsible, or if there were any other "flying bombs" still left in the sky -- targeted the Twin Towers and The Pentagon; then the Delaware Memorial Bridge, the keystone of the Washington-to-New York transportation corridor, might be the next logical target! What was I to do?

After a few moments of contemplation and reflection, I slammed down my coffee mug, left a $20 bill underneath my half-eaten omelet platter, and high-tailed it back to South Jersey as fast as my '91 Mercury Capri could take me. I had to get home before they closed that bridge. Or worse.

I think it was around the time I arrived back home and turned on Channel 6, came the news that a fourth plane had crashed in some place in Pennsylvania none of us had ever heard of before. And then the first of the Twin Towers collapsed. And then the other. The look on Marc Howard's face after seeing the WTC towers vanish in front of all our eyes, is an image that will be burned in my memory forever.

My mother, as well as the rest of the Eastern Time Zone's labor force, was let out of work early, arriving home at around Noon. I immediately gave her the biggest hug a son could possibly have given to his mother. Her immediate concern was that the Air Force might recall me back to active duty and send her oldest son off to war. (I left in '99, but the USAF had until October of '02 to recall me. I never got the call, but if Uncle Sam needed me, He knew where to find me.) I had never seen my mother acting this way before. I can't think of the right word to say it. I wouldn't call it hysterical, but not quite despondent either. But as we embraced, I just kept whispering to her, "It's going to be all right. We're Americans. They're never going to get us here. It's all going to be all right."

At around 1:15 PM -- minutes before I was scheduled to have my dream job interview -- I called Jim Stefano to cancel. I got his voice mail, which leads me to believe that Fleer closed shop early as well. A few days later, I attempted to go to what was being called "Ground Zero" to pay my respects, but got no farther than Jersey City as the Holland and Lincoln tunnels were closed. I rescheduled my Fleer interview for the next week, and wound up not getting my "dream job" after all. But that story is for another time.

Hard to believe that it's been five years, eh? I invite you to share your 9/11 stories in the comments section.

Monday, August 26, 2019

The Stale Gum Podcast: Episode #1

Everyone else is starting a podcast, why not me? Give it a listen, tell me what you like and don't like about it. In this episode, I talk about my recent visit to the East Coast National and review three new products.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Some Thoughts on The State of The Hobby in 2019 and on "The 30-Year Cycle."

There's a video going around that I feel I need to comment on.  I know it's been a while since I've done one of these, so bear with me.

The video in question is a three minute snippet from The Rich Eisen Show, in which some guy calling himself "Gary Vee"is hyping up the investment potential of sports cards.


Truth be told, I've never heard of this guy before, so I had to do some research.  According to his Wikipedia page:
"Gary Vaynerchuk (born Gennady Vaynerchuk; November 14, 1975; Belarusian: Генадзь Вайнярчук, Russian: Геннадий Вайнерчук) is a Belarusian American entrepreneur, author, speaker and internet personality. First known as a wine critic who expanded his family's wine business, Vaynerchuk is best known for his work in digital marketing and social media, leading New York–based companies VaynerMedia, VaynerX and VanerSpeakers."
I guess he's kind of a Big Deal, I mean, "Gennady Vaynerchuk" sounds like a stock villain in a Grand Theft Auto game.  But "Gary Vee," well, only Important People get to give themselves a nickname, and Gary Vee is one of those Important People ... even though I've never heard of him until about 20 minutes ago, and we're roughly the same age.  How many leather-bound books does he own? And does his apartment smells of rich mahogany?

He is right about pop culture going in 30-year cycles, and right now we are in the midst of what I'd like to call The Second Junk Wax Era.

Let me give you an example.  2019 Bowman Baseball is out this week (or as the kids like to say "Streets" this week), and it's the same as it has been the last few years: 150 new Prospects each with a dozen parallels, 20 Chrome Refractors, and another dozen and a half Autographed Chrome Refractors. As usual, there's always that one guy that everyone marks out on and this year, it's an eighteen-year old who hit .351/.418/.587 in the Appalachian League last year.  I'm sure Cooperstown is already preparing his plaque ... right next to Ruben Rivera's, Brien Taylor's, Travis Lee's, and Todd van Poppel's.

Here's the thing with Bowman though.  Year in and year out, with the hundreds of Prospects issued across the three Bowman flagship brands, (Bowman, Bowman Chrome, and Bowman Draft) you can count on one hand the number of players whose cards will ever be worth anything.  If you don't believe me, check out the $1 and 50¢ boxes at your local weekend card show. I guarantee you'll at least one dealer with monster boxes full of Bowman parallels and Bowman Chrome Refractors, many of them low numbered, dating back years that will never, ever, sell at any price.  Just like the scores of Barry Larkin, Will Clark, and Rafael Palmerio rookies that clog-up many of the same $1 and 50¢ boxes.  Who's going to want a Gold Die-Cut Shimmer NukeFractor serial-numbered to 50 of a guy who never made it past Class-A?  How many Randy Johnson rookie cards does one need?


Now I know I'm dating myself here, but I'm old enough to remember the original Junk Wax Era and jabronis like Gary Vee were dime a dozen.  Oh sure, they bought a lot of cards, but they sure as hell didn't collect any them. We tend to think that Junk Wax Era products were "overproduced," and by today's standards, they were.  But somebody bought all those cases of 88 Fleer.  They may not have been trying to find the last few cards to knock-off their 1987 Topps set, but Junk Wax Era products did sell well.

And that's the problem.  Just like in the late-80s/early-90s (30 year ago), The Hobby is currently attracting an element that has no interest in collecting the cards, just accumulating them for speculative purposes.  The card companies know this, which is why many of their products are no longer designed to be collected.  I could write another 850-1500 words on this subject, but I'll save that for another time.

Let me finish with this: In the beginning of the video, Gary Vee casually mentions that he's bought and sold hundreds of Giannis Antetokounmpo RCs over the past year. (Him lecturing a producer about how late-80s/early-90s cards are worthless is pure ironic gold, though.)  Well, what do you think happened back in The Junk Wax Era?

One summer when I was in high school, I had a job at a Hobby shop that did a lot of mail order business. My job consisted of ripping dozens of cases of wax, picking out all the rookies and stars, and selling 25, 50, 100-count lots for "investors."  This was commonplace in the time.  Go read an old Sports Collector's Digest from the era and look at the ads if you don't believe me.  How is that any different than what Gary Vee is doing with Antetokounmpo cards?

(Speaking of which, I have a 100-count lot of 88D Gregg Jefferies RCs I'm sitting on. Any takers?)

Fortunately, around '92-'93, the Junk Wax bubble burst and these halfwits moved on to the Next Big Score: subprime mortgages, Medicare fraud, and social media influencing. 



Other thoughts on my mind:

Going back to the 30-year cycle, we're due for another baseball strike, the kind that cancels a World Series.  And whaddya know, the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in 2021!  With a strike seemingly inevitable, I wouldn't want to be Topps and stuck with an MLB license (and nothing else) when another World Series is cancelled (#ThanksExclusiveLicensing!).  If Topps were still publicly traded, I'd sell short.

Then again, another strike and another cancelled World Series is what The Hobby needs. Clear out the rot. Purge all the gamblers.  Give another company a license to kick-start things (just not Panini).  Make products that appeal to collectors again.  The period from 1993-1999 brought a series a innovative and collectible card sets.  Maybe by 2025 (there's that 30-year cycle again) baseball card collecting will be fun again?

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Friday, August 10, 2018

Stale Gum on the Fat Packs Podcast

At the recently concluded 2018 National Sports Collectors Convention, I appeared on the Beckett Fat Packs (or is it just one word like "Fatpacks"?) podcast.  Joining me, along with host Eric Norton, was my good friend, and a man who I am convinced is my long-lost Kanadian brother, David "Long Fly Ball" Wright.

We give our takes on how the NSCC can take a page from its past by "adding value" to The National experience with seminars, discussions, and social activities.  We also give our state of The Hobby and how legalized sports gambling might affect the nascent group breaking industry.  All with plenty of pro wrestling references thrown-in, for good measure. (Skip ahead to the 32:45 mark for our segment)







I also assisted Eric and Jeff The Pack Geek in ripping open a 1987 Donruss waxbox. Yes, the collation was shitty, but at least we got Bipped.



Monday, November 27, 2017

Blaster Break: 2005 Fleer Showcase

Yeah, I know. It's been a while since I've done one of these. I think I shall do these more often.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

MAILDAY!

You'd be pretty excited too, if you bought a lot of 1998-2000 Stadium Club Triumvirate/3X3's for only $22.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Flea Market $10 Sack o' Joy.

I love flea markets. I especially love the flea market in Laurel, Delaware -- about 20 miles southwest of the Stale Gum Southern Command. The Laurel Junction Flea Market is a socioeconomic experience that, if you're ever in the neighborhood, you need to see for yourself.  Where else can you find: used power tools sold by a one-armed man; bootleg FC Barcelona and Real Madrid jerseys; multiple copies of Jerry Maguire on VHS; all the vaping supplies and glass pipes (for tobacco use only!) you'll ever need, all in one place.

And you'll find baseball cards, too.  Granted, most are of the Junk Wax Era variety -- 50-count team baggies stuffed with 1987 Topps, 1990 Donruss, and 1991 Fleer commons for a dollar -- but on occasion, you might find something decent.  This past Saturday, I think I found something decent.  I found this ... 
 

Stuffed among shelves of second-hand kids clothes, already-been-read romance paperbacks, 90s butt-rock CDs, and accessories for antiquated cellphones, was a Ziploc baggie of cards.  Easily, by a decade and a half, the Adam Dunn 2012 Topps "relic" was the youngest baseball card in this whole flea market.

Of course, I had to buy it.

Here's what I got in my $10 Flea Market Sack 'o Joy.



A second-year common from the Busch Light of grading companies.



A second-year card that used to be worth something. But now, is worth about the same as the Glenallen Hill card above.


In 1993, this was a BIG MJOOJ HIT, and goddamn, 1993 Flair was an awesome set. Hard to believe now, but this was a legit $40 card in 1993.



What caught my eye initially were these jersey cards.  Yeah, they're filler and ain't worth shit.  But one of these is, well, interesting.



Why is there a white pinstripe on this Adam Dunn game jersey card?  Obviously, it's not from a White Sox jersey.  It could be from a Washington Nationals shirt, as Dunn did play for the Nats in 2009-10 when they wore navy alternate jerseys.  Unfortunately, those alternate jerseys were solid and without pinstripes.  If only there was a way for card companies to put something on the card that identifies the relic's provenance -- like a picture of the bat/jersey before it gets carved up -- that would prevent such confusion in the future. "Not from any specific game, even, or season," indeed. 



2009 Topps Ticket to Boredom, errr ..., Stardom was an awful product with some dumb concepts.  Considering this was the era of awful products like Moments & Milestones and dumb concepts like the Barry Bonds/Mickey Mantle/Alex Rodriguez mirror inserts, I think the dumb concept in Ticket to Stardom might have them beat: Ticket Stub Relics.  

I may not look like it, but that thing surrounding the orange frame is a ticket stub from a 2008 Padres game.  The Padres were 32 games under .500 at the time, and lost to the Rockies 9-4, although Kevin Kouzmanoff did go 2-4 with a double and a run scored.  Naturally, this was worth commemorating with a "Relic" card serial-numbered to 110 copies.


 


And finally, a pair of 2013 Topps Blaster-exclusive Manu-Relics.  Nope, these ain't going to be worth shit either.

So for $10, I got exactly zero cards I needed or wanted, and I'm only going to keep the two Manu-Relics.  With that said, this was the best $10 I've spent on cards in quite some time.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

So yeah, Topps just made this totally inapproriate Relic card.


Yeah, yeah, I know. It's been a while. Most of my action has moved over to BaseballCardPedia and Twitter.  If you haven't already, I'd appreciate a follow.

I just wanted to post this card -- and yes, this is a REAL card that sold on eBay for $259 -- to preserve it for all posterity.


Greatest card since the Billy Ripken 89F?  Yeah, I think so.

Greatest Relic fuck-up since the ManRam "corked bat" card? That, too.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Box Break and Review: 2014 Donruss Series 2



My thoughts on 2014 Donruss Series 2 ...

1) The base set violates The First Commandment of Baseball Card Product Development.

(In case your wondering, Our Lord and Savior, Jefferson Burdick, was given these Commandments by God Himself one day while he was out on a stroll on the banks of Lake Onondonga.  It's in The Bible, trust me.)

The First Commandment of Baseball Card Product Development: Thou shalt not short-print thy base cards in a Flagship product.

Between the 30 Diamond Kings (of which there were already 30 in Series One), and 25 Rated Rookies, over a third of the base set is SPed.  And we're not talking one-per-pack SPs either.  You only get ten in a 24-pack Hobby box. Which brings us to point #2

2) The base set is way too small for a product like this.

155 cards (100 if you subtract the SPs) for a flagship product.  I mean, really?   Why even bother with it then?

MEMO to Panini: If you want collectors to keep ripping packs, don't gimmick-up the base set.  MAKE THE BASE SET BIGGER!

3) Haven't we seen these guys before?

As I document in the video, many of the same players who had base cards in Series One, also have base cards in Series 2 -- which kind of defeats the whole purpose of a second series, doesn't it?

Look, I see where Panini's thoughts were.  Series One was such a hit with collectors, it made sense for them to release a second series -- even though they had no plans for S2 originally.  And since there are only so many players who switched teams in the interim, and only so many rookies that got called up, they couldn't just fill out the rest of base set with a bunch of Ham & Eggers.

Hopefully for 2015, Panini will plan out their checklist better and avoid a repeat of this year's repeats.

4) Donruss Elite needs to come back as a standalone product.

In lieu of releasing it as its own distinct product, each pack of S2 has one card from a 100-card Donruss Elite set.  These foil-fronted cards are, hands-down, the highlight of Series 2 and it makes you wonder why Panini didn't release Elite on its own.  Maybe for 2015 we'll get a proper Donruss Elite Baseball.

Speaking of Elite ...

5) Did we really need four different "Elite" inserts?

In addition to the one-per-pack "Elites," there's also "Elite Dominators" and "The Elite Series" ( continuations of the Series One inserts), and "Elite Series."  I get that The Elite Series is the "Donruss" insert and Elite Series is the "Elite" insert, but come on!  They couldn't think of anything different?  And it's not as if there aren't any Donruss Elite inserts from the past collectors wouldn't want to see back again (Title Waves, Primary Colors, Passing the Torch, Back to the Future, et al), am I right?

6) Tracy Hackler is The Man, and you know it.

For one week, I want to be Tracy Hackler.

Or two.

Or ten.

Or 1000.



Don't get me wrong, I like this product.  It's not the "flagship" product I would have preferred -- it's more "Donruss Archives."  But for all it's faults, 2014 Donruss Baseball is still better then anything Topps has made this year.

RATING: 3 Gumsticks (out of 5).