Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Topps' Latest Descent into Gimmickry

Here we go again....


Don West's Greatest Hits!

Folkkks.... Do yourself a favor, and watch this more than once:

Verifying on another!

(h/t to

Monday, October 22, 2007 Enters the 21st Century

It may have taken them a while, but Beckett finally has a blog. From the looks of it, they're not really blogging about The Hobby, per se. But, as the title suggests, it's just a bunch of Beckett employees, blogging about the comings, goings, and absurdities of working in The Hobby Media.

Oh and one other thing. As any self-respecting Glengarry Glen Ross fan knows, Second Prize is a set of steak knives. "Third Prize is YOU'RE FIRED!"

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Always Be Collecting -- 1992 Fleer Rookie Sensations

Now it's time for a new feature on Stale Gum, a little something I call: Always Be Collecting. Here, I'll take a look at a some of my favorite cards and sets from years gone by. The kind of cards and sets that I feel deserve a second look by The Hobby. So PUT THAT COFFEE DOWN! dig out those dusty ol' commons boxes, and join me on this journey through a cardboard time machine. Come on, will you?


First up is one of the truly great insert sets of the 1990s. In fact, it was this set -- more than the 1990 Upper Deck Reggie Jackson's Baseball Heroes -- that kicked off the "insert mania" that defined collecting throughout the decade. I'm talking, of course, about the 1992 Fleer Rookie Sensations.

So what's the big deal, you ask, about a fifteen-year-old insert set anyway? Especially an insert set that is neither serial-numbered, nor autographed, nor has a piece of something glued to it? And why do I like it so damn much? Plenty.

For those of you either a) too young to remember, or b) part of the "lost generation" of collectors who are now just getting back into The Hobby, this may seem strange to you. But there was a time when pulling a "valuable" card out of a brand new pack was a novelty. But first, let's set the WABAC machine to 1992.

1992 was a year of transition in The Hobby. Upper Deck had taken the card world by storm in '89, and while the established companies were quick to add new products to compete with UD, for the first few years of the decade the "base level" products (a term that was coined during the era), remained stagnant. By '92 it had become obvious that in order for the "base" product to survive in the marketplace, they had to evolve. They had to become like Upper Deck.

And in 1992 Fleer and Donruss did just that. Both companies reconfigured their flagship products, leaving the 50-cent wax pack market to Topps and Score. Both Fleer and Donruss greatly improved the quality of their base sets -- both in design (at least by 1992 standards) and in card stock. But that wasn't all. 1992 was the first year both Fleer and Donruss began to exploit the new market in the limited edition "mini-sets" we now know as inserts. Donruss pulled their popular Diamond Kings out of the base set and made them into an insert -- the result of which being one of the nicest looking card sets of the era. (but that's for another ABC) But it was Fleer that really took the concept to the next level.

'92 Fleer had four such insert sets, each UV-coated and dripping with gold foil. But what made Fleer different, was that three of the four were exclusive to specific pack types. Wax packs (which were now made of a poly-plastic shrink wrap) had a 24-card "All-Stars" set. Rack packs featured the 20-card "Team Leaders." And the 35-card jumbo packs had the Rookie Sensations. The '92 FRS's marked a new point in The Hobby. For the first time, a collector could purchase a brand new pack of baseball cards, and have a realistic chance of pulling a card worth $100.

Ah yes, the '92 Frank Thomas Rookie Sensation. The card that had collectors from Maine to Malibu willingly pay $5 for a pack of baseball cards with a $1.99 price tag printed on the wrapper. And who could blame them? With the Rookie Sensations dropping at the rate of one every fourth pack, you had a 1:80 chance of hitting The Big Hurt. (Compare that to astronomical odds of pulling a Donruss Elite, or an Upper Deck Baseball Heroes autograph.) And even if you didn't get a Thomas, there still were 19 other super prospects.

With Ivan Rodriguez, Jeff Bagwell, Brian McRae, Phil Plantier, Juan Guzman, and Chuck Knoblauch -- all of which were booking for at least $20 Beckett HI through out the Summer of '92 -- the checklist reads like a who's-who of early-90s baseball mega-prospects. Heck, even pulling a common like Scott Leius or Chito Martinez, was like getting your money back.

So let us raise a glass. To the 1992 Fleer Rookie Sensations! By the end of the decade, with the birth of game used cards and the "Rookie" card renaissance, The Hobby seemed to move on from you. And today, the once almighty Frank Thomas from your set can be had for less than a sawbuck, and the whole set for less than what the Phil Plantier once went for. But we recognize your lasting influence on The Hobby with inserts that followed in your wake.

Three cheers for the 1992 Fleer Rookie Sensations!

Oh, and here's something to chew on. Here's a factory case of 1992 Fleer jumbos that I found on eBay. Current bid: $79.00.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

1st Impressions: 2008 Upper Deck Series One

The playoffs aren't yet over, but the sell sheets for next year's Upper Deck are already out.

First off, the base set will be a little bit smaller. While I like the concept of a 1000-card set, it can get a bit ungainly. How the hell are you supposed to store a 1000-card set anyway? Last time I checked, a 1000-card set doesn’t exactly fit into an 800-count set box snugly. But not to worry, the first series of '08 UD will be only 420 cards -- the last twenty being “Rookies” tacked on the tail end as redemptions. Yes, after the fiasco that was last year's rookie card redemption program, UD is doing it again. Why? I still don't know why they did it this year.

And what exactly is the raison d'etre for "redemption rookies" anyway? They completely alienate the set collector -- and Upper Deck still is a "Set Builders" set – and all but destroy the market viability of the second series. For example, how different would the second series of '07 UD baseball have been if Dice-K, Alex Gordon AND Tim Lincecum were all in it? It probably wouldn’t be setting on the shelves collecting dust, that’s for sure. (And I’m also confident in saying that the “sunk costs” to ship these cards to those collectors fortunate enough to find one, won’t be helping out Upper Deck's bottom line either.) Let’s all hope UD will come to its senses and either allow all the redemptions to be fulfilled for the entire 20-card set (like they did this year) or just nix this stupid concept all together.

Among the inserts, the highlight -- at least from what Upper Deck is pushing -- is a 50-card set based on the 1969 O-Pee-Chee set. Just a rhetorical question here: But if Bill Hemrick and Paul Sumner had a crystal ball installed into the storage room of their card shop, and were able to see 20-years into the future; do you think they would have gone ahead with their "Upper Deck Project" if they knew that the company they helped to establish would be making baseball cards in the style of ‘69OPC in 2008? And when the hell did Upper Deck buy out O-Pee-Chee anyway? I must have missed that memo.

Speaking of not coming up with new ideas, some of the game used cards will be done in the style of the 1997, ‘98, and ‘99 gamers. And yes, there will be another Ken Griffey, Jr. gamer based on his 1997 game used card -- although this one will have a swatch from a Reds jersey, and have a patch variation. Yes, it has come to this.

If it sounds like I’m unfairly dumping on ’08 UD, well, I am. I do have to give the boys from Carlsbad their props. They haven’t screwed up everything (yet). For one thing, (with the exception of the rookie redemptions) they’ve kept the base set sacrosanct. The set’s full-bleed design with the player’s name underlined reminds me a bit of the 1995 UD set, without being too obvious. Also, with an MSRP of $5 for a 20-card pack, you're going to get more cards for your money than you did last year (five more in fact), at the same price point. And to top it all off, there's a continuation of the popular "A Piece of History 500 HR" series, with Jim Thome, Frank Thomas, and Manny Ramirez.

Each 16-pack waxbox should yield an autograph, two gamers, eight OPC inserts, and one Rookie Redemption. Street date: "Early February."

Monday, October 15, 2007

What I Got (and Observed) at the Philly/Reading Show: 10/13/07

Site: Greater Reading Expo Center; Reading, PA

After taking a practice GRE exam in the morning, I arrived in Reading around Noon. Stale Gum reader Scott, a teacher at a Philadelphia-area Catholic school, was the sole person to RSVP, and he didn't arrive until around 1:30PM.

Some observations:

  • Although I miss the old Ft. Washington Expo Center, I'm beginning to warm to the new place in Reading. Yeah, it is 55-miles from Center City, but the Greater Reading Expo Center has one trump card over the old Ft. Washington Expo Center AND the Westchester County Center: they've got a liquor license. This may be the only card show in America where you can buy a beer. Awesome.
  • We may have witnessed the last three unopened packs of 2001 Bowman Chrome Baseball left on the planet. I was tempted to plunk down $75 for the packs, and post the results to A Pack A Day, but thought the wiser. Besides, knowing my luck I would have pulled the Albert Pujols redemption.
  • I think I also found the last two unopened waxboxes of 1994 Sportflix Rookie/Traded left on the planet. They were both in a locked display case, and didn't have a price listed -- didn't ask either.
  • Judging by the amount of used baseball books for sale, I've come to the conclusion that every member of the '77 Yankees had their "autobiography" ghostwritten by Peter Golenbock.
  • I was unable to find my latest "white whale," a 1994 Upper Deck Next Generation Alex Rodriguez insert. I great card from an under appreciated set.
  • I had no idea that Frank Howard, the show's autograph guest, once played in Japan. Yep. The "Capital Punisher" played one game for the Seibu Lions, struck out, blew out his back, and never played again.
  • The Fleer Ultra SE experiment has turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. 5-pack boxes were selling in the $44-$50 range -- well below the $100/box MSRP. Allen & Ginter is still hanging in there at just under $100/box.
  • Question: Which waxbox do you think costs more? 1987 Donruss, or 2007 Bowman? The correct answer is 1987 Donruss at $30. Would you believe that the current year's Bowman is now going for less than $30/box? I guess all the autographs and Chrome cards weren’t such a great idea?
  • I'm a total sucker for junkwax, and the table that had the $29 Bowman waxboxes also had some other primo junk. Unfortunately, it wasn't much of anything I was interested in. Examples:
    • '93 Stadium Club series two: $8
    • '93 Fleer series one Jumbos: $10 (If only I could go back in time and NOT buy that '93 Fleer jumbo box.)
    • '94 Leaf series two Jumbos: $12
    • '94 Pinnacle series two Hobby: $15
    • '97 Pinnacle Hobby: $19
    • '97 Score series one Retail: $12

As for what I bought:

One retail waxbox of Upper Deck Goudey. (Paid $50)

If you're still in the market for Goudey, avoid Hobby wax like the plague! Retail is where it's at. The only difference between Hobby and Retail is 1) the Sport King chiptopper, 2) one autograph, and 3) about $35-$40.

(Since I've already posted a Blaster break, and my product review on APAD, I won't be posting the results of this box here.)

A stack of '90s inserts. (Paid $129)

1994 Leaf Gamers Barry Bonds ($5)
1995 Leaf Statistical Standouts Ken Griffey, Jr. ($8)
1995 Leaf Heading for the Hall Ken Griffey, Jr. ($6)
1995 Leaf Gold Leaf Stars Barry Bonds ($8)
1996 Donruss Hit Parade Ken Griffey, Jr. ($3)
1996 Donruss Long Ball Leaders Ken Griffey, Jr. ($6)
1996 Donruss Round Trippers Ken Griffey, Jr. ($5)
1996 Donruss Freeze Frame Ken Griffey, Jr. ($5)
1996 Leaf Limited Pennant Craze Ken Griffey, Jr. ($8)
1996 Leaf Preferred Steel Power Ken Griffey, Jr. ($5)
1996 Summit Positions Edmonds/Griffey, Jr./Damon ($8)
1997 Donruss Armed and Dangerous Barry Bonds ($5)
1997 Donruss Franchise Features Ken Griffey, Jr./Andruw Jones ($5)
1997 Donruss Power Alley Ken Griffey, Jr. ($8)
1997 Donruss Limited Fabric of the Game Ken Griffey, Jr. ($10)
1997 Leaf Preferred Staremaster Ken Griffey, Jr. ($4)
1997 SP SPx Force Jones/Guerrero/Walker/Rolen ($4)
1997 Ultra Fielder's Choice Ken Griffey, Jr. ($6)
1998 Studio Masterstrokes Mark McGwire ($6)
2001 Donruss Longball Leaders Barry Bonds ($6)
2001 Donruss "1999" Diamond Kings Ken Griffey, Jr. ($6)

I've rediscovered the joys of collecting 1990s inserts. Most of the current wave of insert cards aren't really worth collecting, and you just don't find these cards everyday. Give me 1995 Leaf Statistical Standouts over Generation Now any day.

Speaking of the Leaf Stat Standouts, whatever happened to "Material" cards anyway? You know, those cards that had the look and feel of leather, wood, polyester, etc., but weren't actually made of game used material? They were all the rage about a dozen years ago, but by the turn of the Century, the concept fizzled out. I guess having actual pieces of wood and polyester mounted onto a trading card (the gamer) killed that idea off, but I wouldn't mind them being brought back.

As part of my quest to build a master set of the Worst Baseball Card Set of All Time, I also picked up another two 2001 Donruss inserts.

Another reason why I've rediscovered the 1990s insert is price. You can now have these cards for a fraction of what they were going for just a few years ago. This particular dealer had a boatload of Ken Griffey, Jr. and Barry Bonds inserts for 80%-off Beckett HI. I don't know why those particular players, but I could have easily bought another $100 worth of cards from this guy. Unfortunately, I just got my car insurance bill. (DAMN YOU GEICO! DAMN YOU AND YOUR CAVEMEN TO HELL!)

Total Spent on Cards: $179
Admission: $6
Tolls: $3
Hot Dog, French Fries, and a Beer: $10
Grand Total: $198

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Baseball Card "Pants Party" II


With the first Pants Party being such a success (thank you to Paul Browning for being the only person to bother to show up), it's on again: The second ever Stale Gum Baseball Card Pants Party.

Where and When:
The Greater Reading Expo Center, 2525 N. 12th St., Reading, PA (Google maps for directions)
Saturday, October 13
Admission: $7 (free parking!)

More info:

What can be more fun than Reading, Pennsylvania in October?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

1st Impressions: 2007 Donruss Elite Extra Edition

By now you must have heard that Donruss-Playoff will be releasing a "baseball card" set this December. I put the words "baseball" and "card" in quotation marks because 2007 Donruss Elite Extra Edition Baseball is neither licensed by Major League Baseball nor the Players Association. It will be, of all things, a college baseball set.

You'd think Topps or Upper Deck would have come up with a college-themed baseball card set by now. But if necessity is the mother of invention, then I guess getting your MLBPA license yanked is the mother of college baseball cards. (Yeah, I know. Bad analogy, sue me.)

Essentially D-P is taking a page from the EA Sports play book. A couple of years ago, EA had their MLB video game license revoked. They responded by putting out the same baseball video game, but with college teams and players.

The same concept is at work with '07 D3E. The set will feature 25 first-round selections from this year's MLB First Year Player Draft, all in their college (or high school as it were) uniforms. In addition, the base set will also include a handful of first-rounders from this year's NBA draft, as well as various other college athletes, coaches, and celebrities.

Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, that's where the similarities with EA Sports -- whose MVP Baseball holds its own with the fully-licensed competition -- ends. Donruss' fore into college baseball cards seems remarkably similar to the fully-licensed card sets they were putting out before their license was (mercifully) terminated.

I mean, this is Donruss-Playoff we're talking about. Did you actually think that D-P wouldn't screw a good idea like this up? Most of the "rookie cards" (their term, not mine) will be autographed-only and serial-numbered to 999 copies. And yes, there will be an inordinate and unnecessary amount of multi-leveled parallels, inserts, autogamers, and combinations thereof.

So alas, Donruss is back in the baseball card business (sort of). And while I won't be collecting it, it will be interesting to see how the rest of The Hobby reacts to D3E. Will it be treated as just another pre-rookie/minor league issue (i.e. mid-90s Classic), or as a pseudo-legit Draft Pick product like 2001-03 Upper Deck old Prospect Premieres?

MSRP: $5 per five-card pack. Street Date: Dec. 19th.

Monday, October 01, 2007

An Interview with Michael O'Keeffe.

The folks at the webzine (didn't know they still made those things, did ya?) Gelf recently interviewed The Card author Michael O'Keeffe. It's really not anything that you haven't heard before, but it's still a good read nonetheless. And if it helps O'Keeffe sell a few more units, good for him.

Another item of interest for those of you who are in the greater New York area, Gelf is sponsoring a lecture (as part of it's Varsity Letters series) by O'Keeffe this Wednesday night at The Happy Ending Lounge in Manhattan.

(Yes, it's really called "The Happy Ending Lounge." I didn't make that up.)

Normally I'd go to an event like this. But if I did, I'd miss the first Phillies Playoff game in fourteen years. (Not to mention the seasons premiere of South Park and Sarah Silverman.)

Anyway, if anyone's going I'd appreciate a few pictures.