Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why the Wal-Mart Black cards are not a gimmick. (I think)

In 1997 Pinnacle Brands released the third edition of their popular Pinnacle Certified Baseball set. The set had been highly anticipated by collectors as it was one of the first sets to exploit the low-numbered parallel concept. At a time when a card serial-numbered to 5000 copies was still considered "scarce," '97 Certified had three different parallel sets limited to under 100 copies: Mirror Red (limited to 90 copies), Mirror Blue (45 copies), and Mirror Gold (serial-numbered to only 30). The '97 Pinnacle Certified Mirror parallels raised the bar (or lowered it, depending on your view) and established the benchmark for scarcity.

But when '97 Certified went live, some collectors noticed something peculiar. They looked like a base card, but it had the "refractor-like" sheen of a Mirror insert. Collectors had accidentally discovered the now-legendary Mirror Black parallels, and as reports of them began to surface on the Beckett Message Boards, many were led to believe that these cards were a "stealth" one-of-one parallel.

Only it wasn't. Pinnacle later admitted that the Mirror Blacks were printed as part of a test run and inserted into packs as a mistake. (They weren't even ones-of-one as at least two Jay Buhner and Juan Gonzalez Mirror Blacks are known to exist.)

Fast forward to 2009 and the news that some base set cards being pulled out of 2009 Topps Wal-Mart Blasters have black-borders. Given Topps' recent history, many collectors have (rightly) called shenanigans. However the Wal-Mart Blacks, just like the Mirror Blacks of 1997, may very well be legitimate error cards.

Why do I believe this? Let me count the ways...

1) The coloring

If Topps was to produce a special edition of their base set, why would they choose the same color as one of their established parallels?

2) The scatter-shot distribution

Some Blasters have yielded nothing but lack base cards. Some have yielded nothing but white-bordered base cards. Now if Topps really, really, did produce a parallel that's exclusive to a particular pack-type, wouldn't it have made sense for them to distribute them a little more evenly? (i.e. one-per-pack)

3) Bad P.R.

With all the goodwill Topps has earned with their 2009 effort, why would they throw it all away with a gimmick like this?

More than likely what happened was redux of the Mirror Blacks -- only on a much larger scale. When the time came to produce the Wal-Mart Blaster packs, Topps (or the sub-contractor who printed the cards) made a mistake. A number of black-bordered cards were accidentally produced, and instead of throwing them away, they decided to pack them out as a Wal-Mart-exclusive "Special Edition." In other words, Topps is trying to make chicken salad out of chicken shit.

But hey, I could be wrong. If Topps really did collude with Wal-Mart to create a "stealth" parallel, and failed to inform anyone until after the fact, many collectors will never, ever, purchase a Wal-Mart Blaster again.


deal said...

I think they just Fouled up and overproduced the black cards, then decided to ship them, un-serialed.

My life with some parts left out! said...

See in the next couple days for a complete run down on this!!!!!

dayf said...

Ripping a box live now.

Topps has already cried wolf too many times and has lost the benefit of the doubt. If they want to get a real web presence and Let us know variations, short prints, sell sheets with stuff that is actually in the final product and actual release dates through a blog or twitter or I don't know, maybe their freaking WEBSITE then they can win that trust back.

Error or not, it doesn't matter, there has been too many shenanigans from that company lately.

Dave said...

I'll never be buying a blaster again, and it has nothing to do with parallels or "gimmicks". It's because they're a rip-off compared to hobby boxes.

sruchris said...

Dave, I disagree with your statement that blasters are a rip off compared to hobby boxes. I feel that I received my money's worth in the majority of blasters I've purchased over the last 7 years. For some sets (e.g. 2007 Ultra) it make more sense to buy blasters.

Dave said...

sruchris - there are rare exceptions - like 2007 Ultra and 2008 Stadium Club - where blasters are a better deal than hobby boxes. But in those cases, it's only because the hobby boxes were ridiculously overpriced. Unless you only want base cards, you're better off buying hobby packs/boxes 99% of the time...

Anonymous said...

I had these same thoughts. I think Topps had a gimmick planned, but they went and f'ed up the whole thing. On a side note, how limited can this thing be if they are going to WalMarts all over the land?

dayf said...