Sunday, December 21, 2008

The problem with sketch cards (Part 2)

This is spin-off of my earlier post from October 5th.

So what's in a name?

In the case of Topps' Indiana Jones Masterpieces, not a lot. The draw, no pun intended, is the tiring inclusion of sketch cards. But what more did we expect? People would feel cheated without them. And I know George Lucas and his crew probably aren't letting props or costumes loose for cards.

There are some great sketch cards, but it would be no fun to show those off, now would it? Instead, I wanted to get four or five bad sketches and show them off. All images courtesy of eBay, and unfortunately it only took me a few minutes to locate them.

1) Indiana Jones silhouette - basically just a blob of ink. I'm assuming it is supposed to be Indy himself, but based on the sizable "lump" on the back it could be Joseph Merrick wearing a Castro Hat, with a hint of Abraham Lincoln's chin thrown in.

2) Sankara Stone from Temple of Doom - I think. It could be the top of a beetle from Raiders for all I know. The point is, it's an oval with three amorphous shapes. No shading, nothing. Really a poor excuse for Masterpieces.

3) I call this one "Test Tube With Squiggles". I think it's from Temple of Doom as well. It's pretty lousy. At least it has some color. Maybe sellers will get a premium for this one.

4) The Grail - this one isn't good enough to be the cup of a carpenter, much less THE carpenter (or even someone from The Carpenters). It has a nice symmetry to it, but c'mon, a Masterpiece? Far from it. No shading, nothing. I realize it's just a cup, but even a cup wants to be something more than this.

5) I was on the fence about this one. It has a certain style to it that looks intentionally sloppy, and I'm all for that. It has a sort of kinetic motion that reminds me of Pigpen's "filth cloud" on Charlie Brown. However, the German pugilist in the sketch has no legs, and his right arm looks like something from a video game that would shoot poison darts or something. An "A" for effort, a "D" for execution.

It is worth noting that Topps did try something a little different by including press plates in Masterpieces. Some collectors like them, but coming from a hockey background where there was a huge glut of them, I see plates as little more than a novelty. Some sellers have crazy BINs, so needless to say, those plates aren't moving right now.

Topps also had fold out "panoramic" sketch cards as well. When I get a chance I'll see how long it takes to find four of five questionable sketches of those, too. I got quite disgusted by the above, so I haven't been looking for Indy sketches much these days.

Also, I will admit that the base set for Masterpieces is quite beautiful. But should that really be a bragging point? Shouldn't base sets be nice anyway? I'll just wait and pick up a base set for $2 pretty soon and leave it at that.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

More hockey housekeeping

I did some more cleaning in my office. Say goodbye to the following sets:

1991-92 Stadium Club
1995-96 Pinnacle
1996-97 Donruss
1996-97 Pinnacle Mint Die-Cut and Bronze
1997-98 Pacific
1997-98 Pacific Dynagon Ice Best Kept Secrets
1997-98 Pacific Omega
1997-98 Pacific Revolution
1997-98 Pinnacle Mint Die-Cut and Bronze
1997-98 UD
1998-99 Pacific
1998-99 Pacific
1998-99 Pacific Aurora
1998-99 Pacific Dynagon Ice
1998-99 Pacific Omega
1998-99 Topps Gold Label
1998-99 UD3 (several 1-60 sets)
1999-00 BAP Memorabilia
1999-00 Pacific
1999-00 Pacific Aurora + Striped
1999-00 Pacific Paramount
1999-00 Pacific Prism
1999-00 Pacific Revolution
1999-00 SP Authentic (minus SPs)
1999-00 Topps Premier Plus
1999-00 UD HoloGrFX
1999-00 UD MVP
1999-00 UD Piece of History
1999-00 UD Retro
1999-00 UD Wayne Gretzky Hockey
1999-00 Upper Deck (minus SPs)
2000-01 UD Heroes
2000-01 UD MVP
2001-02 SPx (minus SPs)
2001-02 Topps
2001-02 Topps Heritage parallel
2001-02 UD Honor Roll (minus SPs) (x2)
2001-02 UD Ice (minus SPs)
2001-02 UD Mask (minus SPs)
2001-02 UD MVP
2002-03 BAP All-Star
2002-03 Topps Total
2002-03 UD Classic Portraits (minus SPs)
2002-03 UD Mask
2003-04 BAP Parkhurst Original 6 NY
2003-04 SP Authentic (minus SPs)
2003-04 SPx (minus SPs)
2003-04 UD Ice (minus SPs)
2004-05 ITG Franchises Canada
2004-05 ITG Franchises East
2004-05 ITG Franchises West
2004-05 SP Autnentic (minus SPs)
2004-05 UD All-World (minus SPs)
2004-05 UD Ice (minus SPs)
2004-05 UD Legends Classics
2004-05 UD Rookie Update
2006-07 SPx (minus SPs)

I have no idea how many cards the list above comprises, but it's quite a few. Basically I didn't want to have to deal with trying to sell or trade them, as packaging and shipping potentially hundreds of cards is just too tedious.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

So what do 25,200 hockey cards look like? *

I'm trying to do a little fall cleaning. Windows open with the breeze flowing through the house, the Autumn-colored place-mats already out on the table. Kind of a refreshing feeling to be honest.

The place that keeps getting more clogged than a fat man's arteries is my office. I'm saving myself the embarrassment of showing pictures of that. However, one place that could really help out is my closet. In it remained the boxes full of hockey base cards, from my many years of collecting.

So where can the veterans like Howe, Plante, Roy, and Gretzky rub cardboard elbows with the new kids like Brust, Dawson, Smid, and Price? In my trash can, of course.

A veritable plethora of dead trees and ink, gloss and great action photos, stats and pronunciations, holograms and logos. All gone. **

It was fun flipping through them, but depressing thinking about how much money I sank in box costs in hopes of hitting those big cards. But it evened out. For every good box I opened up 4 bad ones.

So what sets did these thousands of cards come from?

Topps, OPC, BAP, BAP All-Star, UD Foundations, H&P, Artifacts, Trilogy, Ice, Between the Pipes, Invincible, Prism, Crown Royale, SP Authentic, the Chrome quadruplets (Bowman CHL, Topps, OPC, and Bowman), Classic Portraits, SPx, SP Game Used, Parkhurst Retro, Topps Premier Plus, Bee Hive, Hot Prospects, Black Diamond, Franchises, Vanguard, Original 6, Victory, SPx Top Prospects, Leaf Preferred, Bowman's Best, Omega, Gold Label, Paramount, Pinnacle, Score, OPC Premier, Revolution, Dynagon, Donruss, Donruss Preferred, Gold Reserve, Greats of the Game, Stadium Club, Private Stock, Titanium, Legacy, MVP, Vintage, Young Stars, Top Shelf, Heads Up, Stanley Cup Champs, Topps Total, Archives, Challenge for the Cup, HoloGrfX, UD3, and plain old UD.

Notice I didn't break them out in years, as the list would be terribly long.

And I'm not even sure what sets are in the other boxes.

So goodbye Gretzky checklist card, later Iginla Hot Prospects, see ya' Datsyuk Parkhurst. It was fun.

With no further delay, this is what 25,200 cards look like:

Next up, what ever shall I do with all my complete sets?


* The 25,200 total was a safe estimate based on the full boxes and some added in for the stacks tossed, as well.

** OK, so they're not all gone, I just ran out of those small plastic bags. I find those bags have a nice balance of card volume versus weight. I have a couple more 3200-count boxes and s few stacks tucked away in my closet.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The problem with sketch cards

It seems that non-sports sets these days are pretty much required to include sketch cards. There are the obvious Batman Archives-type sets that are based on comic books. Those scream "sketch me", but do we really need sketch cards for something like CSI?

In any event, someone on a message board I frequent is in love with Heroes cards. I've seen a few sketch cards of Hiro that I really liked, so I hopped over to our friendly neighborhood pimp, eBay. I came across a couple that are terrible as far as sketch cards go.

No disrespect to the artists, as they can clearly do better than I ever could have, but who are these people supposed to be? (Images shamefully ripped from the auction descriptions.)

The above is supposed to be Claire. Again, it's better than what I could attempt, but it looks a lot like a character on one of my wife's soap operas who most certainly isn't Claire.

The next example is:

This is Niki? According to the description it is, but I'm not seeing it. I understand there are intentional stylized renditions (see Mark McHaley from Batman Archives), but faux-Niki is pretty bad. I can only imagine the look on the person's face who pulled that one.

So is this an easy way to differentiate between high-end sketches and the "rest"? High-end sketches actually resemble the person they are supposed to?

Sorry, but a crappy sketch card by a great artist is still a crappy sketch card.

UPDATE: The soap opera "Claire" gal is, after some investigation, Leven Ramblin from All My Children. Here's a small pic:

Thanks to my wife for pointing me in the right direction on that one.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

New items on eBay

Rittenhouse's Batman Archives set was recently released. Now as a somewhat recent convert to non-sports (at least full time) I was eagerly anticipating this set. I have a healthy infatuation with anything Catwoman, so the sketch cards were a big draw for me (pun intended).

What I'm noticing is that a lot of sellers on eBay are starting their items at a high starting price. I recall in the sports world this was not as much of an issue with new releases, but it may have been more with the particular player I collected.

There is a certain psychology that goes with bidding in an auction-style format. That said, I think the sellers are missing out. Example? I'm less likely to bid on a card with an opening bid of $49.99 than I am to set a snipe of $50 for a card currently at $15 or more. It's weird, but I do it time and time again.

I also think sellers need to do a better job researching what they think their cards are worth. Sketch cards values are determined by a plethora of factors:
  • Popularity of character - Spider-Man will always sell better than Kraven
  • Relative rareness of the artist - someone who sketches 300 cards will probably not go as high as a comparable card for an artist who turns in 100 cards
  • Uniqueness of the sketch - do a quick search on "waterhouse sketch"
  • Black & white vs color
  • Level of detail - NAR
There are obviously others. For me, though, I am seeing opening bids for Catwoman sketch cards that are just ok starting at $69.99 or more. In a lot of cases they are ending unsold, which doesn't surprise me, but oftentimes they are relisted for the same price.

As a collector, I have a strong "gotta have it" mentality. So when I see cards relisted I wonder if some yahoo is going to happen across it and say "oooh, I want that" and win it. I have some remorse about not being able to get it myself, but then I think, hey, I had the same opportunity.

With all that said, I guess I have no point. Well, maybe one. I wish I were rich and $69.99 for a so-so sketch wouldn't be a bother.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

It's been a while--just checking in!

Wow, it sure has been a while since my last entry. Blame it on laziness, blame it on the hardwood floors I'm putting in at my house (my suggestion: pay the extra $ to have it done!), or the Everest-like attempt to try for a new job at my current company.

At some point I'll have a little more time for this. Also I expect to move the focus from hockey, since I've been removed from that scene for several months, to non-sports. Non-sports are where my hard-earned money is now going.

In any event, stick around, as I'll be back.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A decent stab at a Short Reports database

For quite a while Beckett Hockey has produced a column of sorts called Short Reports. By the generally accepted definition, a Short Report-able card is one whose print run is less than 25, so a /24 or less card. In this column they list cards which fit this criteria, and also include a confirmed price.

Cards like this are not typically included in the "regular" pricing section by Beckett (nor in the OPG), and for good reason. I won't go into how their published book values are usually out of whack anyway, but a card with a print run of, for example, 10, is simply too "volatile" to be able to accurately price. I agree with that.

So Beckett's monthly column does list some of those cards. They have also, on occasion, published "bonus" reports online. With the Beckett Hockey now moving to a bi-monthly publication, the usefulness of the Short Reports column is becoming a little less useful. With more and more of these low print run cards coming out, they are becoming more available. Hence more people are buying more of them.

To briefly go off on a tangent, one of my Pet Peeves in the hobby occurs when someone says "What is this worth?" The smart-ass (and absolutely correct) answer is "Whatever someone will pay for it." Of course, this is no good to someone who has pulled it from a pack, won it on eBay due to a poorly-titled auction, or whatever. Some people generally are curious about "real world value" and rightfully so.

So when someone has a question about Short Reports-calibre cards, what can they do? Usually one suggestion is to check eBay's completed auctions. There are a couple of problems with this. eBay only makes this data available for 30-days, so that is the most obvious pitfall. Also, what if it is a 1/1 card? Unless the card has been flipped, you won't see that exact card on eBay.

Without any concrete record of what another copy of, say a /15 UD Patch card would sell for, the next most typical response is to check for similar releases from previous years, or for the going rate of a similarly collected player. Still better, but what if you can't find recent prices for /15 UD Patch cards, or know who a player in the same "selling bracket" as Corey Perry would be? What if Perry gets hot all of the sudden and his cards moved "brackets"?

So in an effort to tackle some of these questions, back in November of '07 I attempted to create my own publicly available Short Reports database. It was quite the lofty goal, and while I at least had a viable framework in place, it was wrought with problems from the start.

It started originally as a pet project of mine where I had planned on inputting all the Beckett Hockey SR columns into the database. Unfortunately Beckett does not include the specific serial number, complete player listings (if multiple players are on a card), or even the card number. These were all pieces of information that I wanted, because I wanted them to be searchable fields. This meant that I had to do a lot of homework, mostly spending time toiling over checklists from UD or ITG. For older sets from Topps or Pacific, I had to resort to Beckett's MyCollection portion.

My database was housed in MySQL and was nothing fancy, and was in no way normalized, to use proper database parlance. The structure and random examples was as followed:

id - an auto_increment field
setname - "2005-06 Upper Deck The Cup"
card - "Original Sticks Gold"
player - "Bill Guerin, Mike Modano"
numbering - "8/10" (if exact serial number was not known, it had x/10)
notes - "Magenta" (referring to press plate color)
source - "scrub" (more on this later)
amount - "$450.00"
date - "2007-10-29" (the date of the actual sale, or the date of the Beckett magazine release)

The structure was the easy part. Even all the PHP pages I created to interface with the data were a breeze. The most time-consuming part was gathering the data, standardizing it for consistency (calling it "Upper Deck" and not "UD" all the time), and having to look up a lot of the missing data I referred to above.

The sources were another interesting part. I checked for the following:
-Beckett (from the monthly column or the online bonus listings)
-self (these were cards I purchased myself, almost exclusively for my Jagr collection)
-contribution (these were private sells people told me about, usually members from Hobby Insider)

The "scrub" is where it gets interesting. We all shop on eBay. We all know some sellers who we see quite frequently. I tapped into that and starting checking feedback on sellers I knew of that dealt in high-end stuff. High-end oftentimes translated into a /24 or less card, and the mere presence of feedback would (in theory) mean the transaction was legitimate. Toward the end I had a list of approximately 60 eBay users, both buyers and sellers, whose feedback I checked.

I also had a number of saved searches that I ran, usually on a weekly basis. I created a new eBay account solely for tracking and would add these to my watchlist. Once done I would wait for feedback to be left then I would add the pertinent information to the database. Curious about some of the searches? Here you go. As you can probably guess, some were created when a product first hit:
  • SPx (1,5,10,15)
  • (BTP,"between the pipes") (emblem,number*)
  • (lumber*,cut,titlist*,shield*,logo) -donruss -die -laser -clear -diamond -mcdonald* -team -opc -50 -"blue shield" -"steve shields" -"crease cut" -sticker* -399 -699 -25 -100
  • cup (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24) -25 -199 -75 -249 -50
  • cut auto* -die
  • patch 15 -25 -50
  • rookie material* (15,patch)
  • significance -25 -50 -100
  • (international,intl*) ice (gold,10,20)
  • (spgu,sp) (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,15,20) -authentic -25 -100 -50 -999 -499 -spx -letter -base
  • o canada (gold,emblem,number,patch)
  • ultimate achiev*
  • ult* (mto,made to order)
  • by letter

There were others, but you get the gist.

Lastly, I maintained a text file of auction numbers that I just came across in my random searching. The idea was to go back on those and see if feedback was left. That text file contained somewhere around 450 item IDs from eBay when I called it quits.

So where did all this get me? In the few short months I compiled data and actively maintained my Short Reports database, I accounted for 4305 total cards whose combined selling amount totaled a staggering $587,863.47.

Wanna see for yourself? Go check it out:
Short Reports Database

Note that it is no longer being updated. I spent between 5 and 10 hours a week on just the data portion. Ultimately it would be great if someone could take it over, but it was quite time consuming. Overall I am extremely proud how much I got done with just the framework itself.

Anyone with the time, willingness, and patience to take over the project, just let me know!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Notes from a retired hockey card collector

I spent the last decade collecting hockey cards--lots of sets and random cards I liked, but predominantly cards of my favorite hockey player, Jaromir Jagr.

Sometime back in March or so I decided I was done. I had been on the fence for a few months, and admittedly had thought about getting out sometime last summer. And the winter before that. And probably the summer prior to that, too.

Once I finally decided to cut the cord, I didn't make any big announcement or thread on a message board, as I felt that was quite presumptuous. Who cares if some guy from Durham, NC, is no longer buying up hockey cards? Probably no one but me.

However, as time went on, and people noticed, I did get a lot of questions asking why. It seems several others have considered stepping away from the hobby. I had the chance to carry on some conversations through email and PM (would that be PMversations?), and it seems that many others share the same feelings.

My advice? Think long and hard about it. Collecting becomes a matter of lists and gotta-haves. It's hard to break the habit of looking at checklists for new releases, checking on eBay for the best patch pieces, or watching the Box Breaks sections of your favorite message board. Collecting takes dedication. If you have ever collected anything (Pez dispensers, Depression glass, Tiffany lamps), you know just what that statement means.

I started out collecting every Jagr card possible. A few years later, when jersey cards were more popular and still "cool" I decided to just collect game-used and autos. After a while I got bored with the parallels, and a dreadful feeling of never getting anywhere close to 100%, and went with autos and just patch cards I liked. The "I liked" was an important piece that kept me hobbling along for a couple of extra years, if for no reason than that meant I did not have to maintain an accurate list of patch cards from release to release. If I liked a patch card enough I went for it. Plain and simple. I picked up press plates and other 1/1s when I could, but for the most part it was patches and autos.

So as you can see I've refocused my own Jagr collection a couple of times. I also added new player collections that were, in retrospect, merely a distraction (Gerry Cheevers, Bill Goldthorpe, Ondrej Fiala). At the end of the day, though, the fire just wasn't there. After spending untold thousands over the years on just Jagr, it got to be just a habit. Go check the mail, leave the eBay feedback, scan the card, and update my website. Mail, feedback, scan, update. Rinse and repeat.

It's sad to think of it this way, but I've seen jersey cards seeded at 1:2500 packs and actually worth something to 1:1 packs and worth less than a pack of Victory. Once you start looking at a hobby in terms of a dollar value, well, you may be in my shoes sooner rather than later.

Not once over the years did I worry about recouping my costs. If you collect things wondering what it will be worth (truly wondering, not just half-thinking about it), then you are probably not really collecting. You are investing. At least a little.

At this point, yes, I acknowledge I spent a veritable ton of money on just Jagr cards (we won't get into "other" cards, boxes, and the like). Unfortunately I'm mostly an all-or-none collector. Aside from the 1/1 cards, if I knew it existed and I liked it, I wanted it. So now that I'm done with collecting, I want to get rid of most everything I had. But my wife convinced me to keep my favorites, though it was hard to limit myself.

I am keeping about a dozen Jagr cards, a Vezina stick card from ITG Ultimate, and a '33 Ice Kings Charlie McVeigh. The rest are available, and eventually I may even sell the "keepers".

There was no one event, no straw that broke the camel's proverbial back, heck there was no camel at all. There was a whole Jason Pollock-like swirl of reasons, all of which just merged at the right time in my life. There is a list of reasons that all contribute to "the decision", but they are as individual and personal as any aspect of collecting hockey cards should be.

Like most of you, I get my eBay searches each day. However, now I look and delete them for the most part. A few I add to my watch list for curiosity purposes only, usually cards I have and am wanting to know the going rate. Mainly so my asking price will be more reasonable when I actually finish setting up my eBay store.

As for where my money goes now, I buy a lot of non-sport stuff. I'm also getting back into comic books a little, and I've always bought toys from when I was younger (I was born in 1976, so GI Joe, Transformers, Thundercats, things like that). So my hobbies have changed, that's all. Hockey was fun, and had a good run. I don't regret it at all. As I mentioned, I bought some Superlative cards, so I can't say I'll never buy another hockey card again, but I'm not a real collector anymore. There are still a couple cards that I would go for if they showed up.

In the "real world" my wife and I are also saving up some to buy some land, about 30-acres (that's roughly 12.14 hectares for the Metric folks). We're eventually gonna build a house that we are designing ourselves. With me selling off my Jagr collection, I suppose you could say that in a small way, we're building our dream house out of hockey cards.

So if you are one of the people on the fence about collecting, no matter what your decision, just make sure you'll be happy. Keep a few cards, sell them all, whatever you won't regret 6-months from now. And you know how they say to chew gum or eat carrots to stop smoking? Find your gum or carrot for hockey cards, because it really is like an addiction!

Monday, May 5, 2008

The best parts about ITG Superlative? Sometimes it's the little things...

In retrospect I was probably a little rough on Superlative, but c'mon, I was basing it solely on the marketing that had been done by ITG. So for that I stand by my opinions.

However, now that the product has been released, there are definitely some bright spots. I guess I can't be too critical since I haven't bought any packs/boxes/books, but the two things that has stood out the most were... well, let me give you some visual clues (all pics admittedly stolen from current eBay auctions):

And this one:

Then this one:

And we'll add this one:

And lastly:

Give up yet? So what's the significance? Well, it is two-fold:

1) They used different pics for each card--something somewhat different for ITG; and
2) They used pics of the player in the correct team jersey, in that it matches the patch or jersey piece

Very minor, but as a former player collector, something I picked up on right away.

I noticed that this also holds true for the most part with other multi-team players such as Brett Hull, Roy, and Thornton.

I did see a Quad Patch card with Forsberg, though. It has what appears to be an Avs patch piece, but he's shown in a Team Sweden jersey.

There are probably plenty of other exceptions like this, but sometimes people notice the little things about the players they collect. Or at least I did.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Pet Peeve #1 : "What should I buy?"

This is the first of many pet peeves because, well, I have a lot of 'em. Perhaps in externalizing my annoyances I can help others get through the hobby a little easier. OK, that's probably a long shot.

Anyway, my first Pet Peeve is something that happens with some frequency on the message boards. It's when people ask "What should I buy?" It could be in reference to a particular card, box, or even player (a close cousin to the "Who should I collect?" question that we'll tackle here as well).

Why is it a peeve? Because we're all a bunch of strangers to you (and you to us) and we could care less what you spend your money on. That would be like me asking you what my favorite brand of tomato sauce should be. Oh sure, you'll get the occasional "Whatever you do, don't collect Brooks Orpik because I don't need anymore competition!" but that's usually a self-righteous attempt by that particular poster to advertise their own collection, and really doesn't help out the person asking the question. I can easily name a hundred players someone shouldn't collect!

That brings me to a series of questions and scenarios that someone should look over before asking a bunch of people, the vast majority whom you will never meet, how you should spend your hard earned money.

Player collecting

1) Veteran or rookie? Is cost a factor? Some rookie cards are outrageously expensive, and some rookies fizzle out in a season never to be heard from again. Some veterans have a ton of cards but are cheap to pick up.

2) Do you want a bunch of cards to chase, or something more manageable? Some popular veterans have literally thousands of cards out there (especially if they appeared in Pacific sets from the mid-/late-90s to early 00's!). Are those going to be fun to chase or will you be ripping your hair out just trying to maintain a checklist?

3) Any players from your favorite or local teams that you follow? Chances are if you live in San Jose, you'll have at least some faint interest in the Sharks, for example. Or maybe you like alumni from the Univ of North Dakota because that's where you went.

4) Favorite position? Get your mind out of the gutter. Some people have a soft spot for defensemen, some people are goalie collectors. Don't believe me, check out this guy's very thorough site filled with nothing but goalie-oriented sets. Still others like the enforcers. And with a face like this, who wouldn't?

5) Favorite player. This is an easy one, and the reason I collected Jaromir Jagr for years. He was just my favorite player, plain and simple. As an extension to that, consider what you would do if your favorite player retired or, worse yet, got traded. Would you continue to collect that person if they went to your favorite team's rival?

What to collect

This one sort of follows the player collector mentality to an extent, though some of the questions are exclusive to non-player collectors.

1) Specific manufacturers? Some people hate UD, some don't like ITG's designs.

2) Vintage cards or newer stuff? Pretty self-explanatory.

3) Everything. When I started out collecting Jagr I collected any and everything I could find. Mini Foodland cards, UD Predictors, Swedish Semic Wien cards, even those terrible Starting Lineup figures that in no way resembled the player. Later on I decided to collect just...

4) Game-used cards. These would be the jersey cards or any number of patch cards (Numbers, Emblems, Nameplates, Logos, etc.). In addition to game-used cards, I also collected just...

5) Auto cards. This could be further divided into hard-signed cards only, since some people break out into hives over the thought of sticker autos.

These are just some examples.

Some other quick snapshots of peoples' collections:
-rookie cards
-complete sets (much more popular before the mid-90s)
-team sets with all cards from a particular team
-graded cards, especially BGS 9.5s
-ticket stubs
-pocket schedules (affectionately known as skeds)
-mini helmets
-TTM (through the mail) autos

The list goes on and on. The point is that you can collect anything you want. It's completely up to you. The more unique your collection the more enjoyment you will gain from it. And asking other people what you should spend your time on futile, because at the end of the day hobbies are a very individual thing.

If you're just not sure what it out there, both Beckett and Hobby Insider have forums for box breaks. In case you are not sure what those are, they is the ultimate in vicarious living. Someone buys a box (or pack, as some products are quite expensive) and they list some of the cards they pulled. If you're lucky, you'll also get scans. Browsing the appropriate forums is an easy way to see what sorts of cards people are pulling.

Who knows, it may also lead to you some great trades as well.

Also keep in mind that card prices stretch from nickels to thousands. Box and pack prices are almost as varied. You can easily find a box of cards on clearance at your local hobby shop for $10, or the hottest new products easily for $125. There are the "ultra high end" (because "high end" just wasn't good enough...) boxes that can cost $400-$500. Just because it's out there doesn't mean you have to have it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Why Sid has hurt the hobby

Let me get this out there first--I'm not a fan of Sidney Crosby. Not at all. To say I can't stand him would be accurate, but that needs some clarification.

I don't like that he has been deemed The Chosen One, the carrier of the Ring, the "it" guy. He has been on more Beckett covers already than anyone else (probably, I haven't counted), and I even think there was one month where he occupied 15 of the 20 cards on their Hot List. People can't get enough of him. Except for me.

But my personal distaste is besides the point.

What I can prove is that his cards are ridiculously priced. Now that Ovechkin has locked up a couple of trophies for his performance this season, you can include him in the high price list. So for now on I'll refer to them collectively as SidOvi.

The problem is that with all the hype came people who had never collected hockey before. If they were all kids, great. Kids need a role model, and the hobby can always use new recruits who can grow in the hobby. Unfortunately it was people who saw what I like to call Lebron Dollars.

Yes, in came the prospectors, like this was the California Gold Rush. Only we're not doing environmental harm or driving out the Native Americans, we're driving the hobby in the wrong direction all to the detriment of The Hobby.

In a brilliant marketing and product development move, Upper Deck released 2005-06 The Cup. It was hockey's Exquisite, and you'd find no shortage of eBay sellers who would spam titles with the "E" word. UD claimed it was the most expensive product yet released, and it couldn't have come at a better time.

SidOvi fever carried the product quite strongly. While non-SidOvi cards sold quite well, it was the draw of pulling one of the /99 auto patch rookie cards that really drew in the collectors and prospectors. Months earlier Beckett lauded the Nash Premier RC for breaking the $1k mark, then off the bat Crosbys were selling for ten times that. And there were 99 made!

That's unfortunately a precedent that is so high up there, the let down of not pulling one is quite a tumble. When you see a card consistently selling for that much, the ceiling of card collectibility rises a lot, but so does the floor.

Time and time again I witnessed people breaking boxes from 05-06 hockey products. "I didn't pull a Crosby, oh well." They seem slighted when they don't get even a Sid base card. It doesn't matter that they pulled a nice patch or jersey card. "No Sid, but at least I got a Stajan base for my collection." Why at least? It's not good enough to even get one card closer to a player collector's goal.

Unless that goal is to only pull a SidOvi card.

As a corollary to the fever, I remember when Sid hurt his ankle earlier this season. People began asking about the effect on his card prices, should they sell, wait it out then sell, etc. Then there were several people wanting to know if the hobby would take a turn for the worse. See. At least I'm not the only one to see his effect.

And it's a bad one.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Superlative "reasons" were not so super

Man, what a let down. For months we were teased about ITG's Superlative product. By teased I mean we were told very little, aside from the guarantee than it would be the greatest hockey set ever produced. It was trumped in interviews as the ultimate (pun somewhat intended) "just you wait and see" set.

This sure got people talking. Gee, what have we not seen yet? What makes this better than Utimate? For the record, I guessed that we would see some more of Vezina's pads. Based on at least one card I was right from the start:

(It's easy to miss that this is also a Ken Dryden card, but we all know he has issues.)

I wish I would have kept the teaser image from ITG's website. It looked as if they scanned the cover of the Dupont Registry--fine living at it's finest. It showed something like a speedboat, a fancy swimming pool, maybe it had a Rolex, or a beautiful lady in a mink stoll. I can't remember.

That's where the raised eyebrows began.

What could be put in some cardboard that we had never seen before? Well, it turns out it's really nothing new, but perhaps the draw is due to a particular combination of things, a magical formula that collectors will be (or at least should be in ITG's eyes) clamoring for.

Then ITG's ingenious marketing ploys reached new heights. They sent out emails to their subscribers saying there would be seven reasons why this would be the best set ever made. The reasons came in dribs and drabs, then a deluge of them. It seems that they finally realized the collectors thought the secrecy was silly really late in the game, then the final few reasons gushed out like a geyser.

Obviously anyone can get them from the website, but I'm listing them below.

Reason #1: Hard-Signed Autographs
Uhh, OK. After months of waiting, this was #1. Sure collectors have decided that sticker autos are the work of the devil, but this? This is what collectors have always wanted, so it's one of those understood wishes. That's like saying we would like cards to be rectangular in shape. Besides, ITG has resorted to sticker autos for every product they released over the past several years, as far as I can remember. This being reason #1 just reminds me that they've been using stickers, even in their high-end Ultimate Memorabilia. Ouch.

Reason #2: No Redemptions
Err, ITG never has redemptions, so they're not exactly sticking their neck out on this one. OK, OK, for the sake of thoroughness they used to do the Draft Redemptions, and their Made to Order program is also based on a redemption card, but it's not UD's we-didn't-have-the-card-ready-so-we're-giving-you-this-one-in-the-meantime type of redemption.

Reason #3: All Memorabilia is Game-Worn
See Reason #2--ITG has always used game-worn, so what's the point? Oh yeah, it's another thumbing of their collective noses at UD. They might as well have said "No photoshoot jerseys" but perhaps they were afraid collectors would be able to see through that one...

Reason #4: Loaded with 1/1's
Swing and a miss--with the glut of 1/1s already on the market this isn't really a bragging point anymore. UD already beat you to the 1/1 punch. They're called Press Plates, and The Cup is overflowing with them. Will these be unique 1/1s or just parallels? If they are unique, that is your selling point; if they are going to be parallels, then you should have chucked it and gone with just 6 reasons.

Reason #5: Over 100 Cut Signatures
OK, a little better. But until I see a checklist I'll mark this one as a "tentative kudo". There is also no mention if these will be 1/1s or if it is 100 unique signatures, so it could be 5 cut autos of 20 players.

Reason #6: Authentic Game-Used Jersey Letters
Seen 'em already in SP Game Used, and liked 'em better. Hopefully they "custom" cut each card so that the letter or surrounding fabric fills the whole window. Now that's something to advertise. Still, though, they just look too plain.

Reason #7: Seven Cards per Pack-- All Inserts, No Base Cards
This is something that should appear on a sell sheet in the fine print, not as something plastered on the website and email campaigns. At least they ditched the "artist's rendition" of the players for this one. In this day and age where autos and memorabilia rule, the lack of a base set is somewhat innovative, I suppose, but it's not going to draw people to a product.

Overall, the designs for Superlative are ok, but nothing that screams "Buy Me", especially at the price.

The hidden gem in all of this? They mention that all cards with print runs of 9 or less are individually numbered. It sure beats the generic "1 of 10" mess.

The release date is set for April 30th. While I have been rough on the product, I am waiting to see what sort of stuff comes out of it.

I hope I am able to come back at some point after it's release and have nothing but good things to say about it.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Message Boards - Prelude to the Pet Peeves

I suppose I'm naturally a cynical and ill-tempered person in general, so I wanted to get that out of the way right up front. If I could be represented as a smiley I would most definitely be the
one with the rolling eyes.

That said, I have a list of pet peeves in the world that would rival in length Shakespeare's completed works. Over the years, I developed a lengthy list--perhaps just Macbeth-length--of peeves that pertain to just message boards.

For the sake of full disclosure, I frequent just two hockey card-related message boards. The first is Hobby Insider (referred to here on out as HI), where you have to be approved before being allowed to join. It is well organized, people are genuinely helpful, and it's filled with people who truly enjoy the hobby. The other is maintained by that bastion of the hobby, Beckett Media. Beckett lets any yahoo join it's message boards, and it unfortunately shows. Beckett is moderated in the sense that there are moderators, and they do an outstanding job with what they have. They are purely voluntary but act as if it is a paid job.

If HI and Beckett were siblings, HI would be the mature one, always eating his peas, minding his q's, always obeying; Beckett would be the one that tries and sets the neighbor's cat on fire and flicks boogers at the other kids.

So, I'll give you one guess where my pet peeves originate from. Yep, Beckett. Perhaps it's because I have been hardened by the years of repeated threads, useless posts, senseless members, and other such nonsense. According to my profile I have been a member since August 27, 2004. That means that by my math, I have roughly 10 gray hairs for each year, and I'm pretty sure that at least a few are due directly to Beckett.

Why do I let it bother me so much? I wish I had a good answer for that. My wife hears me chuckle or sigh on a regular basis as I'm sitting in front of my laptop. When I mention it to her, and she hears the words "Beckett boards" she immediately glazes over. It's all old hat to her, as is her response: "So what?!"

Obviously my wife doesn't get it. Or may she gets it just perfectly and I'm the one who doesn't.

Anyway, I figured I'd enumerate the pet peeves at some point, but I felt I had to get the intro out of the way first.

Stay tuned!

Me blogging? Why not?

Sure, I'll jump on the bandwagon.

I work in the tech industry, so blogs are a way of life for us. However, I never planned on ever authoring one of my own, and certainly not about a hobby like hockey cards.

Actually, let me check that, err, czech that. As of a month ago I no longer collect hockey cards. I'm finished, done, finito. It's been a long and winding road, and there are a number of reasons why I made the jump out of the hobby. At some point I hope to have them all down on this blog, because in talking with many, many others, I'm quite simply not the only person who feels this way.

So, for my first post, nothing groundbreaking, just a quick intro, and a request that you check in, err, czech in, from time to time. Comment as you see fit. Please do keep it clean, though, or I'll edit responses. Hockey cards are to be enjoyed by people of all ages, as are my snide comments.

If nothing else this will help me stay somewhat sane. The hockey card fever still exists, so I guess it's sort of like trying to quit smoking. Except there are no MTV commercials saying why you shouldn't collect hockey cards.