Friday, August 16, 2013

NSCC Pick-Ups: The Emergence of Cragislist Reseller.

It took me a while to hook-up my old scanner to my dying laptop (the old one, not the new one), but I'm finally ready to show off some of the goodies I got at the NSCC.

The anticipation must be killing you, I know.

EVERY SINGLE CARD you will see in this post was purchased for a dollar or less. Yes, I am a cheapskate. But for those of us who collect cards from the 1990s and early 2000s this is golden time and we have one website to thank for it.

Craigslist has become a dumping ground for ex-collectors looking to get something (anything) for those old cardboard boxes in the attic.  Sure, many Craigslist offerings are of Junk Wax Era cards, but every once and a while you'll come across a listing that might have some good stuff.

And we're not the only ones who have noticed.  There's a new class of dealer that begun to pop up at shows over the last few years, and until somebody else comes up with a better name I'm calling him "Craigslist Reseller."  Craigslist Reseller pours over card lots that potentially MIGHT have decent cards, buys them in bulk, then rents a table at a card show and has collectors (like me) have at it for a low fixed price (usually $1 a card).  Craigslist Reseller usually doesn't bother actually looking at all the cards before buying them, or at best, samples a handful to see what he has.

One Craigslist Reseller whom I overheard said that every once and a while, one of his dollar boxes will yield something like a 89 UD Griffey RC or a low-numbered 90s insert.  And if somebody happens to find such a card in a box full of Juan Gonzalez and Mike Mussina rookie cards?  All the better because he's made a customer for life.

So thank you Craigslist Reseller.  Because of your efforts, 1990s card collectors are happier than a pig in shit.

And on that note, take it away Bixby Snyder.


1991 Stadium Club Charter Member Membership Card (paid $0.25)

To Mr. Jeffrey Batt, wherever you are, thank you.  I thank you for having the foresight of signing up as a Charter Member of Topps' Stadium Club over 22 years ago.

You may remember that two years ago at the NSCC, I bought the 1991 Stadium Club Charter Member set for $10. It had the keychain, the Nolan Ryan ingot, and the 50-card box set, but it was missing one piece: The Charter Membership card.  Missing, until I found Mr. Batt's card two-years later in a quarter box.

What exactly did you get with this card anyway?  10% off NSCC admission?  Buy-one-get-one free at Papa John's?  Airline miles?  Was Karl Malden a closeted card collector and did he "Ever leave home without it?"  I wonder if any famous people were Charter Members, and how much their cards would be worth.

A pair of 2001 Donruss gimmicked "Rookies" (paid $0.25 each)

Another two to cross off the ol' checklist.  At this rate, my 2K1 D'Russ Master Set will be completed sometime in 2132.

A shitload of Frank Thomas and Manny Ramirez 90s inserts (A buck each).

To give you an idea of just how many Frank Thomas inserts I pulled out of ONE DOLLAR BOX, the above photo is a fistful of top-loaders, spread out on my scanner.


Let me repeat: I paid ONE UNITED STATES DOLLAR for each card.

And it wasn't just The Big Hurt, either. The same table had a dollar box of ManRam's.

The ManRam box had a dozen 1994 Leaf Limited Rookies Phenoms (serial-numbered to 5000) and a dozen more 1994 Sportflics 2000 Rookie/Traded "Rookie of the Year" SPs (case hits). There wasn't much variety, compared to the Thomas box, but I did manage to score some decent cards.

By far the best dollar box find I had at that table was this beauty.

That may LOOK like a 1995 Leaf Frank Thomas base card. But if you had a Sega Genesis, you know that this is the 1995 Leaf AKKLAIM Frank Thomas.  Each copy of Frank Thomas Big Hurt Baseball -- the third best Genesis baseball game released in 1995 -- came with one.
  Forty 2001 Upper Deck Pinstripe Exclusive cards (paid $0.25 each).

For the uninitiated, Pinstripe Exclusive is a pair of 56-card sets, one of Joe DiMaggio the other of Mickey Mantle, released in various 2001 Upper Deck baseball Hobby boxes -- the estates of both players were exclusive to Upper Deck that year, hence the name. Selected Hobby boxes had a three-card Pinstripe Exclusives pack inserted as a box loader -- and if I recall correctly, the DiMaggio's were in UD's "higher end" sets (SP Authentic, SPx, Sweet Spot, et al), while the Mantles were in the more mass-produced boxes (i.e. MVP, Series Two flagship, and the like). There were also game jersey, game bat, and cut signature cards also inserted into these packs.

This is a set I've gradually been piecing together over the last dozen years. I picked up over a third of the set for ten bucks. Not bad.

1996 Collector's Choice You Crash the Game Redemption Mickey Tettleton (paid $0.25)

Yeah, I know. It's Mickey Tettleton, big whoop.

Big whoop? Do you know how tough it is to find ANY of the 1996 You Crash the Game Redemption cards?

Oh, you do? Never mind then.

1997 Donruss Elite Turn of the Century Derek Jeter (serial-numbered to 3500 copies; paid $1)

About a couple of weeks before the NSCC, an eBay auction for a mid-90s Donruss Derek Jeter insert, (not unlike this 1997 Donruss Elite Turn of the Century insert) was brought to my attention.  It was the 1997 Donruss Preferred Staremaster and it was professionally graded a Mint "9" by PSA.  It was a nice card that I needed for my set, but had been bid-up to a point that was too expensive for my budget.  (Besides, I don't do graded cards.)

What was outrageous was what the seller threw-in a bonus: Five additional '97 D'Russ Preferred Jeter Staremaster's ALL RIPPED IN HALF.

The justification for ripping-up a card I would have easily paid $20 for (in tact) was to artificially decrease the supply -- the supply of a card that was serial-numbered to only 1500 copies.  What an asshole, I mean who RIPS UP A $20 CARD?

What does this story has to do with the Turn of the Century Jeter insert I found for a buck?  I don't know.  But someone on Twitter (I think it was Gellman of Sports Cards Uncensored) asked why Panini continues to use the "Turn of the Century" name as an insert in their handegg sets, when the Century "turned" 13 years ago.

Maybe it's the legacy of this 16-year old Derek Jeter insert?

1997 Flair Showcase "Row 0" Alex Rodriguez (paid $1)

My, my, how the mighty have fallen. If you know anything about 1997 Flair Showcase, then you know just how TOUGH this card was to pull. Even after a decade-and-a-half, and even after the PED allegations, this SHOULD still be a $25-$30 card.

The day after the NSCC closed, A-Fraud was given his 211-game suspension. I don't know if the dealer was preemptively dumping his A-Fraud's, or if this one just slipped through the cracks, but I was more than happy to take it off his hand for 100 pennies.

A pair of 1999 Upper Deck Ovation Tier 3 ReMarkAble Moments inserts (paid $1 each)

Speaking of 1990s Hobby superstars whose inserts have been devalued by PEDs ...

These may look like a pair of (pardon the pun) unremarkable Mark McGwire inserts from 1999 Upper Deck Ovation, and on the surface they are.  But these are cards M13 and M15 in the set.  Why is that important?

The first five cards in the 15-card ReMarkAble set were seeded into packs at the rate of 1:9.  The next five at 1:25.  For the last five cards (M11-M15), the ratio was 1:99, or, one in every five boxes.

Yeah, it's Mark McGwire; but it's also a pretty damn tough late-90s insert, and I got two of them for only $2.

1998 Donruss Crusade (green) Abraham Nunez (given to me for free by Chris Thomas)

Don't you just love it when someone buys a rare insert on eBay only to discover that he already has it? And then they just give it to you for nothing?

... and finally.

2012 Upper Deck MLS Quad Materials Sebastien Le Toux and three other stiffs.

Is that not an AWESOME card of Sebastien Le Toux or what?

I heard the other guy on the left ain't too shabby either. The two on the right? Pure shite.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

NSCC Box Break: 2012 Upper Deck MLS Soccer

Call me old fashioned, but when I evaluate the pros and cons of a product, and whether or not I want to spend any hard currency in acquiring it, the number of BIG MOJO HITZ!!!1! in a box is (usually) ninth or tenth on my priorities list. In most cases, my criteria involves (in descending order): Card design; collectability; size of the base set; and the number and design of the inserts. (BTW, That second point, the ability of a product to be reasonably collected, is why I've stopped collecting the current monopoly licensee's baseball insert-bloated and gimcrack-laden products.) I purchased this Hobby box of 2012 Upper Deck MLS Soccer from Dave & Adam's NSCC table for $50 and am only now, a week-and-a-half later, getting around to ripping it. In terms of my criteria, it's a well designed product that's both collectible and collectable. The base set is a bit small at 200 cards and other than the hits, there are no other inserts in the set. This is both GOOD (no parallels!) and BAD (nothing else to chase after). Yes, this box DOES come with four jersey cards and an autograph in every box. But, like I said, I didn't buy it for the hits. With that said, that doesn't mean I can't appreciate a decent hit now and then, right?
So yeah, I only pulled one of the top five cards in my life out of this box. No big deal.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Box Break: 2003 Donruss Elite

Yeah, yeah. I know, I know.  It's been a while since I've done one of these things.  Sue me.

Anyway, I picked up a box of 2003 Donruss Elite at the NSCC for $55.  Here's what I got.

SPOILER ALERT: This would have been an awesome box, had I ripped it in 2003.  In 2013, not so much.

Well, yeah.  That box sucked.  But for $55, this was exponentially better that the two Hobby boxes of 2012 Topps Series One I could have bought for the same money.

20 packs per box, five cards per pack.

Base Set: 96 of 200 short set: 95 of 180 Gimmicked Rookies (serial-numbered to 1750): 1 of 20 (J. Gobble) 1 Gold Status (serial-numbered to 24): V. Guerrero. 2 All-Time Career Best (1:9): D. Murphy, R. Clemens 1 Career Bests (varies): V. Guerrero (/417) 1 Career Bests Materials (serial-numbered to 500): A-Fraud 1 Throwback Threads (serial-numbered to 250): A-Fraud

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

2013 NSCC: Y U NO HAPPIE? And An Observation on "Added Value"

Last week the 34th National Sports Collectors Convention convened in the "Village" of Rosemont, Illinois, and I spent three days checking out the scene.  Over the next few weeks I'll be posting some of my best pick-ups, but I want to start with something I noticed at the NSCC.

There are a whole lot of unhappy people in The Hobby.  While walking the convention floor, I could not believe the number stone faces.  They weren't angry or anything like that (well, most of the time), but they sure as heck didn't look like they were having any fun.

Isn't that what having a hobby (any hobby, not just The Hobby) is all about?  Having a good time?  The great Jefferson Burdick called card collecting, "A magic carpet that takes you away from work-a-day cares to havens of relaxing quietude where you can relive the pleasures and adventures of a past day -- brought to life in vivid picture and prose.”  I'm sure if ol' Jeff were around to see this year's NSCC, he'd probably revise that statement.

I think I know the reason why.  Now, I don't want to go off on a rant, but it seems to me that the cause of this Hobby Melancholy is the systemic belief of many that The Hobby is immune to the laws of basic economics.  I see it all the time.

You see it on eBay with sellers posting cards with ridiculous minimum and/or BIN prices.

You see it in the collector who tries to nickel-and-dime dealers into selling their cards for well below fair market value.

You see it in the mega case-breakers who feel as if they have a Constitutional right to a 33% ROI on EVERY. SINGLE. PRODUCT. they rip -- even on dogshit products like Tribute WBC and Gypsy Queen -- then bitch and complain when they don't.

And you see it in the manufacturers who constantly feel the need to "add value" to their products; to hell with the consequences.

"Added value," the two most over-used and misunderstood words in The Hobby today.  Two little words used by manufacturers to justify anything and everything.  (If you don't believe me, listen the next time a card company flunky makes an appearance on Cardboard Connection Radio.)  But do these "added value" additions really add value?

Let's take a product like Topps flagship baseball as an example.  (You can also use some of Topps' other low-end brands like Heritage, TANG, and Bowman, as well.) Look at how Topps Baseball was structured, say, ten years ago and compare it to this year's edition.  Over the years, (and perhaps not coincidentally, accelerating around the time Michael Eisner and Madison Dearborn bought the company) the Topps Flagship has been steadily adding new "value added" features: More inserts.  Larger insert sets.  More Parallels.  A guaranteed "hit" in every box.  Manu-Relics.  And of course, my favorite, gimmicks.  About the only things I can think of off the top of my head that Topps has actually subtracted from flagship have been Ticket to Toppstown and Topps Attax. (BUT THOSE WERE FOR "THE CHILDREN," DAMMIT!!!)  All of these additions have made Topps Baseball into what is today: A bloated, uncollectible mess of a product that's no longer fun.

I guess that's the reason for all the glum faces in Rosemont.

But what about the "value?"  Surely, all those gimmicks, all those low-numbered parallels, and all those high-end "hits" must be valuable cards.  And yes, individually, if you're lucky enough to pull one from a pack, you have received a genuinely valuable card.  But is the "value" of that card "added?"


Gimmicks, hits, low-numbered parallels, et al, DO NOT add value to the product as a whole.  They get their value by cannibalizing it from the rest of the product.

Don't believe me?  Well, you should have seen all the current and recent-year inserts that were clogging up the quarter boxes at the NSCC.  The standard Big Mojo Hit has been relegated to the $1 and $2 bins.  Complete sets?  Have you checked eBay lately?

The lesson is, you can not do what Topps has done to flagship (and Heritage, TANG, Bowman, et al) over the last few years.  You CAN NOT guarantee a minimum of $3 worth of cards in EVERY $2 pack.  Try as they might, but it's just not possible.

Either A) the market price of those packs has to rise, or B) the cards inside become devalued.  And in the case of 2012 and 2013 Topps Baseball, an option C) is happening.  The cards are devalued and the price of wax has dropped to Junk Wax status because the products are so awful.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Aw, fuck it. Who wants pie?