Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Paying Topps to advertise for them

Topps has been blowing out apparel on their website and the other day and I picked up 4 shirts for $40 shipped.

Classic umbrella logo.

I actually got the light orange version of this but it seems to have since sold out.

I got the navy version of this, but again, that one seems to be sold out now.
This one isn't really a "Topps shirt" but a Padres shirt. Doing my part to bring back brown. Looks like I got one of the last ones; sold out now.
I already had one Topps shirt, but I like these better, I think. Looking forward to them showing up in the next few days. As you may know, Topps is based in New York. Hopefully the shirts get shipped out before the massive blizzard cripples the East Coast, as is predicted. (Update: turns out it wasn't so bad for NY?) I also bought a couple items from Topps on eBay later the same day, which I'm excited to talk about in a future post. It's now a race to see whether the apparel division or eBay sales department has the superior order fulfillment team.

Normally I'd wait till the goods were in-hand before posting about them, but #1, I figured I'd give a heads up to anyone wanting to get in on the cheap Topps apparel action, and #2, things will be extra busy for me over the next couple weeks (filling in for someone at work), so I'm trying to get a few quick posts drafted up in the queue to ration out.

Owning this many Topps shirts is probably a bit much, but hey, the price was right. And I like letting people know I collect, without having to actually say it. I still need to get a Rated Rookie shirt someday to prove I'm not a Topps fanboy.

Any of you guys out there wear card-related stuff?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The future of sticker autos

[This is just here for the first line of the song.]

Everybody hates stickergraphs, right? It's such a cop-out when a card manufacturer offers "autographed cards" in their product that are more precisely "cards that have an autographed sticker placed upon them." The person who signed it never touched the card nor even laid eyes on it. Stickers tend to be smaller than typical signatures require, resulting in scrunchiness, or incomplete autographs that couldn't be contained within the sticker boundaries.

Stickers have benefits for the company, sure. It's probably a lot cheaper and easier to have a guy sign a few sheets of little stickers than it is to have them sign a few hundred cards. The companies can "stock up" on auto'd stickers and ration them out as needed. If a guy changes teams before the sticker gets placed, they can hold off and not be stuck with an outdated card.

But the majority of the time, stickers simply look ugly, as if a piece of scotch tape was stuck onto a card. Ask a collector and I bet 10 out of 10 will tell you they much prefer on-card autograph cards. Some do their best to avoid stickergraphs all together. Others tend to stay away, but make a reluctant exception from time to time, often because sticker autos usually cost less than on-card equivalents (like me when I bought a Mike Trout sticker auto a few months ago).

But as more and more collectors are turning up their noses at sticker autos, card manufactures are looking for alternatives. One of the best ideas so far has been autographed pieces of clear acetate.

A signed piece of plastic like this gives the card maker a lot of flexibility, much like a sticker. I'm sure it's not as cheap and easy as slapping on a sticker, but the consensus of collectors is that, while still not as desirable as a real on-card autograph, these acetate autos can be pretty cool when done right, and a definite step above a sticker.

Let's take a look at a couple such cards I picked up recently.


Odrisamer Despaigne ("o-dree-sa-mehr des-pawn-yay") pitched some impressive games for the Padres last season. Topps has pretty much ignored him, but Panini got him into a couple of their late 2014 releases. This is a pretty sweet card with a little piece of patch and a cool "see-thru window" autograph, #'d 3/25.


Just when I think I've bought my last Gavin Escobar card, another neat one at a decent price catches my eye. This one is even #'d 12/25 (yes, it's the 25th of the month and I've snuck a Christmas Card into my post as I like to do). Topps had Gavin sign a thin square piece of plastic and built it into a card with it placed over a photo. Similar concept to a sticker, but a lot better looking finished product.

While I still prefer on-card autographs, I do appreciate when card companies make an effort to do something beyond an ugly, boring sticker.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Joy of a completed set: 2001 Topps Archives Reserve

I've been picking up cards from 2001 Archives Reserve here and there over the past several months, and just knocked out my last remaining needs with a recent COMC order. Let's take a look at the entire set, 1 thru 100, comprised of refractor reprints of notable Topps cards from yesteryear (mostly rookie cards).

(Ernie Banks is not featured in the set, otherwise I'd have him front and center as a tribute. RIP, Mr. Cub.)




Sorry this one's particularly blurry.




As I've mentioned before, what really appeals to me about this little set-- in addition to the purdy rainbowed shininess-- are the backs.. bright and clear as possible. So nice!, especially when juxtaposed with the main ("non-Reserve") 2001 Archives set, with its dark, hard-to-read backs. Can you guess which is which below?


Happy to put this set to bed. But of course this is only the base set. There are also autos and relics, but I don't have interest in chasing those (or should I say, interest in spending a lot for them). Maybe someday, though.

There's also a 20-card insert set called 2001 Topps Future Archives Reserve featuring refractor (or just Chrome but not refractor?) rookie card reprints of active-at-the-time players like Jeter and Bonds. Seem a little pricey to me. Again, maybe I'll chase those down someday, but not a priority. Despite the Archives Reserve logo, these aren't technically part of the same product. They were issued 5 per factory set of 2001 Topps flagship "Limited Edition"/Tiffany hobby factory sets. The regular factory set included 5 Topps Future Archives cards, but not the "Reserve" versions. It's all kind of confusing. There were apparently 3905 Limited sets produced. So one of you mathematicians out there will have to tell me how many of each Future Archives Reserve card was produced if 5 cards from the 20-card insert set were included with each factory set.

Hang on.. since drafting the above paragraph, I found an auction for 3 of these Future Archives Reserve cards together for 99¢ shipped, and couldn't pass that deal up. They arrived yesterday:


I can confirm these are not refractors, rather basically just Chrome-like parallels. That's a little disappointing. But still, if anybody has any of the other 17 cards from this insert set available, I'd love to work out a trade. It'd just be a nice little supplemental set to make my complete 2001 Archives Reserve set extra complete. Same for any relics and autos.. just in case down the line I ever want to go after a "master set" of the thing.

Anyways, I've got a few needs remaining from the follow-up sister set, 2002 Archives Reserve. That'll probably be the next set I finish, sometime in the not-too-distant future. I'm not a big set collector, generally speaking, but manageable 100-card sets like Reserve and Retired are more up my alley.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Concern over counterfeit and custom cards on the market

I've mentioned before about how I find the rising ease of producing unauthorized cards unsettling. It's gotta be the #1 threat to the hobby going forward. Back in the day, an entrepreneuring asshole with access to a specialized printing press could spend a few weeks creating a Jordan rookie or '52 Mantle that was passable to the casual eye. But now, with advancement in printers and computer programs like Photoshop, anybody willing to shell out a couple hundred buck for a nice home printer can do the same in a few minutes.

Even added touches such as foil, refractor shine, and holograms are possible for the amateur card-creator if he is willing to spend the time and money to work it out. It's all just trial and error with various types of paper and tints and whatnot until an acceptable card is created.

All this "home brewing" cards is fine when it's for your own personal use. But when such cards start ending up on the secondary market, that's bad news for everyone.

This is where the difference is heightened between custom "cards that never were" and counterfeit copies of real cards. The day will come when two identical 1/1 Mike Trout superfractors are on eBay at the same time with it being anybody's guess as to which one is authentic.

But the crime is not exonerated when a seller comes right out and tells you it's not a real card.

The blog WHEN TOPPS HAD (BASE)BALLS! is run by Giovanni Balistreri. Don't be fooled by the juvenile name; his is an incredible blog focusing on 1970s baseball. Gio uses his background in graphic design and vast knowledge of the game to create a plethora of custom "cards that should have been" and "fixes" of cards from the decade that Topps botched with bad airbrushing, boring photos, or whatnot. Many of his customs are so awesome that you'll ache at the fact they weren't released by Topps some 40 years ago.

Recently, Gio was browsing eBay and noticed a hard copy of one of his own creations for sale. Turns out this seller has made hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars over the past year or so by selling prints of other people's custom cards. The cards typically sell for around $5, but can sometimes go for over $40 if two or more misguided collectors have a bidding war over a card.

Here's a 1961 Topps Ted Williams:


The seller comes right out and admits it's a fake card in the description: "THIS IS NOT A REAL TOPPS CARD. IT IS WHAT A TED WILLIAMS CARD WOULD HAVE LOOKED LIKE IN THE 1961 TOPPS SET. CARD HAS A BLANK BACK."

Here's another one:


Geez! It would almost be forgivable if the guy was selling copies of his own creations, but the fact that the seller is using other people's cards without their knowledge is pretty dicked.

But I don't want to just pick on this guy. I'm sure he's not the only one out there selling cards like this.

For instance, I stumbled upon this other guy a couple weeks ago while searching for cards of Reggie Jackson in an Orioles uniform:



He seems to exclusively sell custom cards for around $20-25 each, with 33 such auctions running at the moment. I'm not sure if those cards are his own, or he snagged the pictures online and just printed them out on nice paper. Again, the seller clearly states in the description that this isn't a true vintage card, but does that make it ok?

As far as other notable physical customs out there... (Not saying there's anything wrong with what these guys are doing. For the record, if I had a nice printer or a buddy at a printshop, you bet your ass I'd be producing cards myself, too!)

Baseball card custom pioneer Bob Lemke has been known to sell limited copies of cards he's whipped up.

Munnatawket Custom Cards are pretty popular customs, aping the design of 2008 Allen & Ginter minis to help market a small baseball bat manufacturer operated by the guy who makes the cards.

Punk Rock Paint has released a couple sets of oldtimers.

The guy at the blog 6,000,000 Cards and Counting also profits off his customs. Now, this guy here scares the shit out of me, to be honest. Just look at this fake cut signature he made recently:


Wow. A dual cut auto of Babe Ruth and Josh Gibson that looks and feels real and can be bought for just $13. And that's just one of many authentic-looking customs he's produced over the past couple years. He's made Jose Canseco (his favorite player) faux-auto refractors in the style of 2013 Topps that could pass for the real thing were it not for a disclaimer in small print on the back stating it was signed by his printer. His work really is amazing. But if he or someone like him "turned to the darkside" and started being dishonest about his fake cards and/or started making straight perfect-copy counterfeits of real cards (which I'm sure would be no challenge for him), the entire hobby could get a swift stompdown in the ass. I can see it now: The high-end "investment" spectrum of the hobby will crumble, and it'll eventually trickle down to the dimeboxers who collect for the love of the cards. Card companies will fold and collecting will go from "cards you collect" to "cards you make or have made for you". The collectors still remaining will be the few who simply don't care if the piece of cardboard in their hand was made by a legit card company or some guy in his home office.

I hope my apocalyptic prophecy for the hobby is proven wrong, but I'm convinced this is a "when" not "if" scenario. People have been talking about the impending death of the hobby for a long time. It's weathered the overproduction / '94 strike fallout, and the rise of eBay that effectively removed much of the "scarcity" that drove the hobby, forcing companies to resort to dozens of pointless low-numbered parallels to give pack-rippers hope to pull something they couldn't just grab online for a buck. Pack searching is an unfortunate part of the hobby that surely hurts retail sales, but ultimately isn't a huge threat to the general health of card collecting. Digital cards like Topps Bunt have gotten some traction, but don't seem like they'll be phasing out physical cards anytime in the near future.

But when the day comes that anyone can print up any card they want imaginary or not, the hobby landscape will shift dramatically, and it's not that far away. Just thinking about it makes me want to start selling off my collection, at least the big-money cards. I'll make sure to get high-quality scans of them first so I can print my own copies a little ways down the road when that becomes the norm.

So what can be done? Well, if an eBay auction for an inauthentic card catches your ire, you can click the "Report item" link near the upper far-right of the description and use the drop down menu to alert eBay to the counterfeit/unauthorized card. If enough people report an item, eBay might pull the auction and/or issue a warning to the seller, possibly suspending his account for repeated infractions eventually.

But to really make an impact in curbing counterfeit/custom card sales, card companies will need to step up (Topps in particular, since they pretty much have the monopoly on mainstream vintage cards).

Topps has gone after other card manufacturers before, such as when Upper Deck tried to sneak out sets after losing their MLB license. But going after "the little guy" isn't something I've heard of them doing. If they really wanted, they could probably go after card blogs like mine simply for posting scans of their cards. When you think about it, it's not much different than posting an mp3 or movie online. But card blogs don't make money (a few may get a little kickback in exchange for advertising, but I'm sure it's not much) nor do they hurt card sales (more like free advertising for new cards on the market and stirring interest in the hobby), and there'd be a lot of backlash from the collecting community.

However, with the rise of sellers making thousands of dollars on fake, counterfeit, unlicensed cards, the big card manufacturers need to start addressing this as a serious threat. I'm not sure if they've currently got any taskforces dealing with the problem, but they definitely should. I kid about how in the future, mega hit cards will have a tracking microchip in them to help identify an authentic card, but I'm only half-joking about that. The day is coming when you'll buy a certified autograph on the secondary market, then login to Toppanini's website to enter a code on the back of the card to check the GPS coordinates of that particular card in their system to make sure it matches up with your house. How else will you be able to tell somebody with a nice printer didn't just crank it out themselves?


So there's my conspiracy-theorist ramblings troubling little exposé on counterfeits and hard-copy customs endangering the hobby. I hope it spurs some thought and discussion. Please share any thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

dedicating this weekly roundup

First off, congrats to Marcus over at all the way to the backstop and his wife for welcoming their 3rd child into the world yesterday. Allow me to "dedicate" this scan to newborn Maxwell Coleman:


Yes, it's a beautiful vintage 1956 Topps card of his middle-namesake, Jerry Coleman. Last time I saw a vintage Coleman pop up on Listia, I was tight on credits and could only watch it sail by. Luckily these days my virtual account is relatively bountiful, so I was able to pony up 7050 credits on this excellent addition to my PC of the Colonel. Actually, there don't seem to be a whole lot of mainstream playing-days cards left of his that I need, so I might be able to finish off his flagship Topps and Bowman runs sometime in the foreseeable future. Nice.

This scan is dedicated to The Card Papoy
Sticking with vintage, but changing sports, here's a sweet 81-82 Topps Julius Erving. I'm not a big non-baseball collector, but love occasionally picking up all-time greats such as Dr. J here. There's a bit a wax residue on the front that the seller neglected to mention, but it's fine. Set me back 1499 credits.

This scan is dedicated to Daniel Wilson
I've again struck gold(schmidt)! Sorry for the pun. My Paul Goldschmidt collection keeps expanding every week. That A&G is an SP. One of these came with a Marty Akins college football card I don't need, but was a cool bonus from the seller regardless.

I'll dedicate this one to Robert at $30 a Week Habit and Mark Hoyle. You guys gotta share the dedication, sorry.
Here are a couple more fixtures to my Listia recaps, Roberto Alomar and David Ortiz. The two of these Latin American greats are racing to see who gets off my wantlist first. (Once I accumulate 100 different cards of a player, I stop actively collecting him.. that's my plan for 2015 anyways.) And the end is in sight for both of them. The Robbie card is from 1995 Stadium Club, while Big Papi shares this 2012 Heritage card with Will Middlebrooks.. who I think might be a Padre now, if I'm not mistaken. So if he has a good season, I'll probably start collecting him too.

This one goes out to ARPSmith. --Well, the card stays with me, but I dedicate the scan to him.
Rod Beck is another bargain-bin favorite of mine. (Is that his hair, or is he standing in front of a dead bush?) Back when Wallet Card was getting started, at least a couple participants noted that these Studio faux credit cards would be perfect choices for the game. But perhaps a little too "on the nose," and I don't think anybody ultimately ended up picking one of these for their wallet card. This card, from 1995 Studio, has pointy corners, rather than the rounded corners most of these types of inserts seem to have.
This card came in an auction along with a Matt Williams insert I don't need. (The trouble with collecting a select few Giants is I end up with plenty of Giants that I don't want.)

So those are the Listia wins that showed up since last time. Now onto the webtraffic.

A young Gerbil tops this week's recap (1/14) 38 views. Man, I hate to bitch about clicks, but just 38 views for a post boasting a vintage rookie card of a big name? Oh well. Let's hope today's recap post can comeback with a decent turnout, otherwise I should probably think about nixing the concept.

A couple lots from Sportlots [HT throughout] (1/15) 63 views. This was a fun post with "hidden text" sprinkled within it. Got off to a slow start, but eventually blew past the 50-view target.

Tom Fordham went to my high school (Guys from Granite) (1/17) 35 views. The least-viewed post in quite a long time [*sob, sniff*]. But yeah, I get that Tom Fordham isn't exactly a sexy name. Thank goodness for Matthew Scott, the only person to comment on the last two Guys from Granite posts, for keeping my streak without a comment-less post alive. But now we're into the top 3, which are interesting "known" guys, so I'm hopeful the ratings for this series will rebound as we head toward the finale next month.

more silly animated gifs of baseball cards! (1/19) 90 views. There we go! I had to bring my A-game to help stir up some support for "blog of the year" award voting currently underway. Animated gifs of cards are always fun to whip up and usually get a good reception. The first 3 gifs were made the prior evening. Then that night I had the idea for the airplane one and whipped it up before work the next morning. I'm glad I did, because it cracks me up and seems to be most peoples' favorite too. Anyways, if you haven't voted yet, don't forget to exercise your democratic right and do so both here (A Cardboard Problem) and here (2 x 3 Heroes).

Alright, that's it for today. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, January 19, 2015

more silly animated gifs of baseball cards!

[It's been a while since I've made silly animated gifs of baseball cards. Let's go after the low hanging fruit that is the airborne players of the 1993 Score Select draft pick subset.]

I just got cable TV for the first time since 2008. It was a screaming deal of only a couple bucks more per month than we were already paying for internet, so why not. Plus HBO is included, so I'm excited about watching Game of Thrones without resorting to questionably-legal means or waiting months for the DVDs to come out.
And of course, I'll be watching a lot more live sports.

So yesterday, after plenty of struggling to get the cable box set up and dealing with Comcast's customer support, we finally got it working just in time to catch the comeback touchdown drive by the Seahawks at the end of the 4th quarter en route to their incredible overtime win over the Packers. Talk about good timing!
I was all like...






I'd be lying if I said I was a diehard Seahawks fan, but as a current resident of the Pacific Northwest, they're my defacto local NFL team. So if my hometown Chargers are out of it, I guess I root for Seattle.








Then I learned I was among the 10 nominees for Blog of the Year at the awards being administered over at A Cardboard Problem. And I was all like...













Very nice and humbling to get some recognition among the nearly 300 active card blogs out there. So big thanks to everyone behind that. While I'm sure I won't be much competition for all-time favorites such as Night Owl, Dimebox Nick, and Fuji, it's an honor to get my blog mentioned in a Top 10 with those guys.

And just saying, but the awards are called the 2014 Bip Awards. And as far as I know, mine is the only blog nominated that devoted an entire contest to Bip Roberts in 2014, so I think that should give me an advantage. Just sayin'.








I think I was also nominated for "2nd best card blog of the year" at 2 x 3 Heroes, though as of press time, he hasn't announced the official poll. But again, very cool to be shown some blogosphere love.
And I was like...












Jeff's poll intends to remove Night Owl from eligibility since he always wins. So maybe at least those ballot results could be a bit closer.








And then I realized I have to work on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and I was all like...

























Thanks for reading! Don't forget to go vote here.
UPDATE: the poll at 2x3 Heroes is up now too, so also go vote there.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Tom Fordham went to my high school (Guys from Granite)

There have been 7 graduates from my high school to play in the major leagues (Granite Hills High School in El Cajon, California representing!) I've managed to obtain at least a couple cards from them all. I'm tipping my cap to each of them in this recurring Guys From Granite series. We're counting them down in ascending order by career games played, working our way to the most successful GHHS Eagle. This is part 4 of 7.

Tom Fordham



Tom Fordham has the distinction of being the only graduate from Granite to ever pitch in the major leagues. Like many GHHS grads (myself included), Tom spent "13th grade" at Grossmont College, a local community college, which I've previously talked about more in recent posts about Chris Jones and Mike Jacobs. Drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 11th round of the 1993 amateur draft, Tom worked his way up through the minors (highlighted by going 15-3 with a 2.70 ERA in 1995) and cracked the majors in 1997, pitching in 7 games near the season's end. His debut was a start against another rookie, Toronto's Chris Carpenter. It would be Carpenter's first win ever, in a career that included a Cy Young Award and 2 World Championships. Tom Fordham's path, of course, would not be quite as filled with glory.

But hey, he did go on to pitch 29 more games for the White Sox in 1998. Tom was back in AAA the following year, without much success. After a couple decent years on the Brewers AAA club, he missed all of 2002 with an injury. He tried to mount a comeback in 2003 with the Pirates organization, but was out of baseball after that. His lifetime MLB record is 1-3 with a 6.61 ERA in 36 games, 6 of them starts.

Looks like he's still living in El Cajon, doing well with a couple kids of his own now.
(via Facebook)
Tom graduated the year before I got to Granite, so I just missed being schoolmates with the guy. I wasn't familiar with him till I started looking into baseball players that went to my school, but it's pretty cool he pitched in three dozen big league games.

Cards

There are several Tom Fordham cards out there-- 34 according to Beckett-- highlighted by a few from Bowman and Upper Deck. Here's what I got:



o 1993 Sarasota White Sox Fleer/ProCards #1362 Tom Fordham
o 1994 Hickory Crawdads Classic #10 Tom Fordham
o 1994 Hickory Crawdads Fleer/ProCards #2171 Tom Fordham
o 1994 South Atlantic League All-Stars Fleer/ProCards #SAL21 Tom Fordham
x 1995 Best #13 Tom Fordham
x 1995 Bowman's Best #B79 Tom Fordham
o 1995 Bowman's Best Refractors #B79 Tom Fordham
o 1995 Prince William Cannons Team Issue #18 Tom Fordham
x 1995 SP Top Prospects #37 Tom Fordham
x 1996 Best Autographs #20 Tom Fordham [auto]
o 1996 Birmingham Barons Best #13 Tom Fordham
x 1996 Bowman #292 Tom Fordham
x 1996 Bowman Foil #292 Tom Fordham
x 1996 Excel #32 Tom Fordham
x 1997 Best Autographs Autograph Series #13 Tom Fordham [auto]
o 1997 Best Autographs Prospect Series #R5 Tom Fordham [auto]
x 1997 Bowman #117 Tom Fordham
x 1997 Bowman International #117 Tom Fordham
o 1997 Bowman Certified Black Ink Autographs #CA26 Tom Fordham [auto]
x 1997 Bowman Certified Blue Ink Autographs #CA26 Tom Fordham [auto]
o 1997 Bowman Certified Gold Ink Autographs #CA26 Tom Fordham [auto]
x 1998 Collector's Choice #114 Tom Fordham
o 1998 Pacific Omega Rising Stars #14 Mike Caruso/Jeff Abbott/Tom Fordham
o 1998 Pacific Omega Rising Stars Tier 4 #14 Caruso/Abbott/Fordham [#'d /25]
x 1998 Pacific Online #169 Tom Fordham
o 1998 Pacific Online Red #169 Tom Fordham
o 1998 Pacific Online Web Cards #169 Tom Fordham
o 1998 Pacific Online Winners #169 Tom Fordham
o 1998 Prince William Cannons Anniversary Set Multi-Ad #12 Tom Fordham
x 1998 Upper Deck #288 Tom Fordham
o 1999 Charlotte Knights Blueline #8 Tom Fordham
o 2000 Indianapolis Indians Q-Cards/Blueline #13 Tom Fordham
o 2001 Indianapolis Indians Choice #9 Tom Fordham
o 2003 Altoona Curve Update Grandstand #5 Tom Fordham

If you have any cards of this guy I need, feel free to get in touch with me about a trade. Thanks!

Autograph

Fordham had several certified autograph cards put out, three of which I've gotten (above).

Next up on the countdown is the only Granite Hills Eagle to ever win a World Series. Stay tuned.

Guys From Granite countdown
8. Preface (minor leaguers)
7. Mike Reinbach
6. John Barnes
5. Chris Jones
4. Tom Fordham
3. (coming soon)
2. (coming soon)
1. (coming soon)