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.