Archive for the Commentary Category

Upper Deck captured the fun of the ballpark in 1992

Posted in Commentary, Misc. with tags , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2021 by Cardboard Icons

A few weeks ago my son and I opened a pair of 1992 Upper Deck baseball boxes in search of one of the legendary Ted Williams certified autographs. While we did not pull any of the signed cards, we did complete a full Baseball Heroes insert set (sans the short printed Header card) of the Splended Splinter.

Over the last two weeks, the boxes of base cards had been sitting around and earlier today I decided to take another look at them before putting them into another box I’ll likely donate. While checking the contents, I started to noticed that 1992 Upper Deck captured something other brands from the era seemed to routinely gloss over. Upper Deck captured various fun moments at the ball park, specifically the interaction with fans and players signing autographs.

This is not to say that other sets didn’t even capture this. But Upper Deck’s design allowed for two photos to be used per player, the dominant image on the front, and the one on the back. And while looking at the fronts and backs, enjoying various images I came across 18 different cards from the boxes that showed this pre-game interaction between fan and players, and I couldn’t help but wonder if this type of thing would ever be common place again given the way COVID-19 has changed the world.

What’s sort of fun in these images is to see which players were captured signing, what items were being offered and in one case it looked like someone was trying to give a $1 bill for a signature.

We start with a pair of Hall of Famers in Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn.

Ripken was still about three of so years away from breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played streak, but he was an established star and on the front of his card he is shown signing a large poster that’s been rolled up and brought to the ball park.

The front of Tony Gwynn’s card is a action game image, but the back is where we see Gwynn signing for fans, several of whom appear to be offering an Upper Deck promotional piece.

One could argue that Dale Murphy deserves to be in the Hall of Fame however he still remains on the outside looking in. But if there was an autograph HOF, Murphy would be a first-ballot member as his flowing, loopy signature is a favorite among fans. Here we see Murphy signing autos with his left and — which is opposite of his throwing hand — and there is no shortage of demand. My favorite person here? The person in the center in the Hard Rock Cafe shirt, totally geeking out as he looks to be placing his signed card back inside his binder page.

At the start of 1992, Darryl Strawberry was still a major star in the game, coming off a 28-homer performance in his first season as a Dodger. On the rear of his card, he’s shown signing a few autographs down the right field line. It’s worth noting that Darryl appears to be signing baseballs with a black marker, which is not really the preferred method. But would you complain? Not I.

The following 14 cards showcase MLBers who weren’t exactly of the same caliber of those mentioned above, but it’s worth noting that fans are fans, they’ll seek a signature from whomever is in uniform offering to ink their collectibles. The first seven will be cards with signing occurring on the front, while the second set will show the interaction on the backs.

Here’s Brewers pitcher Chris Bosio signing what appears to be a baseball.

Former prospect Ben McDonald is shown on his card conducting an interview while signing a baseball in blue marker. What’s comical here is the fan shouting in the background and the Diet Pepsi logo in the foreground as it was on the side of what looks to be a promotion Orioles baseball cap.

Phillies pitcher Mike Hartley is shown here signing the underside of a Phillies cap with some sort of marker.

Mets pitcher Anthony Young appears to be signing some sort of flat — probably a card — as it rests on the wall along the first base side of the field.

Angels reliever Mark Eichhorn appears to be enjoying himself as he signs for several members of the US Military. I wonder if those guys ever learned they were featured on a baseball card.

Braves reliever Marvin Freeman took his signing session to the next level and sat on the dugout pregame signing for fans using the ever popular blue ballpoint pen to make memories.

White Sox pitcher Melido Perez is shown signing autographs, specifically what looks to be a game-day lineup sheet from a Program. What caught my eye here is the fan in the background holding a $1 bill. It’s not clear if the fan is offering to pay him for a signature or if they wanted him to sign the money.

Blue Jays star pitcher Dave Stieb looks to me making friends as he sits on the tarp at what I believe is Angels Stadium.

Brewers closer Doug Henry is shown on his card preparing to sign a glove with a collectible team ballpoint pen.

Cubs catcher Rick Wilkins is pictured using a purple Sharpie to sign a program. It’s worth noting that the autograph probably turned out upside down.

Phillies shortstop Kim Batiste was captured signing autographs at Spring Training.

Cubs starter Frank Castillo is shown signing before a game at Dodger Stadium. A couple fun things of note: Castillo is going to sign a baseball with what looks like a scented (blueberry?!) blue marker and someone is holding a poster featuring Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan, possibly offering for that to be signed by Castillo.

Orioles relief pitcher Todd Frowirth was captured pausing between signatures at the old Memorial Stadium … and there are those pesky Diet Pepsi logos again.

And lastly t here is veteran outfielder Mike Deveraux returning a hat after signing it. And given by the looks of things, it is probably one of those promotional Diet Pepsi/Orioles hats. Fitting.

I don’t own every card of this set, but that seems to be a lot of fan interaction for the 72 packs that my son and I opened. It’s an 800-card set so there’s probably more that I’ve missed.

Have one from this set that I missed? Leave it in the comments, or share it over on Twitter.

Cautionary tale of jumping back into the hobby – a quick “L” for a returning hobbyist

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , on December 11, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

I was sitting in my car the other day when I received a text message from a relative who wanted to put me in touch with someone who needed some direction in this hobby.

I’m always down to help of course so I offered my assistance. And within seconds I was linked up to a 30-something who like many others collected during their youth and for one reason or another left the hobby but now find themselves coming back.

He’s into football and basketball and loves Panini products, which of course is no surprise given products for those two sports are produced by that company.

During the course of our conversation this person told me he was interested in more information about the current state of the hobby, and told me just a night prior he had already made his first purchase.

“I’m into the autographed stuff,” he said as he sent me a picture of his buy – two boxes of Panini “One on One” basketball from his LCS. The allure of a big-ticket auto of course came with a whopping price tag of $1,700 for the pair.

I cringed. I had a feeling it didn’t go well. What did he get for his money? Four cards highlighted by a Jarrett Culver rookie patch auto and a signed Mike Conley relic card.

What a brutal break. I joked that his return was about $17 in cards, which of course isn’t completely accurate but it’s not too far from.

I told him I wouldn’t blame him if he just walked away from the hobby after that kick to the groin, but alas here we were talking about the hobby and he was as interested as ever.

I schooled him up on some basics and got permission to share this story as it seemed like a good cautionary tale for new comers or folks returning to the hobby. It’s a lesson that spending big money will not always get you a big return, or even cards that you’re pleased with.

Not everything is going to yield a card worthy of TMZ reporting. Please seek information before spending money, especially if it’s going to be a significant purchase like those two boxes. Yes, the market on those specifically is hot, but the contents as you can see can be frigid.

Here are five quick tips for people returning to the hobby:

-Identify WHY you’re coming into this hobby. Do you like cards, the gambling aspect, or just want to revisit some old feelings? None of these are wrong. Just identify your purpose and then figure out how to chase success.

-Compare prices online versus your Local Card Shop (LCS) to make sure you’re at least in the right ball park if you decide to buy something today. Cost at the LCS will almost always be more since there is overhead and of course the convenience factor, among other things.

-Seek information: Who is actually in the product? Wondering why there are no Michael Jordan cards in Panini? A quick internet search will tell you about his Upper Deck exclusive.

-Pace yourself. This hobby can be exciting, but it also has addictive qualities, especially if you’re info opening packs and boxes. There’s a constant chase of the euphoria felt when opening a package of promise. Once you get a taste of it there’s often an urge to again meet or exceed the feeling. This feeling probably will never go away.

-Find a trustworthy ally who can help when you have questions, and preferably someone who is not trying to make money off your decisions. Card shop employees can be great sources of information, but remember their job is to sell product in the store and I’m sure some of them work on commission so realize there could be an ulterior motive.

I am an attention-seeking hypocrite … there, I said it.

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , on December 9, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

Hypocrisy is often something I wrestle with. I cannot tell you how many times a day I scroll through my Twitter timeline and either groan or shake my head at something that I see posted by one of the persons I follow. 

Every morning I can count on three things:

-Someone is bitching about a facebook post involving a card that appears to be grossly overpriced.

-Someone is posting about a shopping cart full of retail products they scored that morning; or conversely a picture of empty shelves.

-Someone stirring the pot about the collector versus investor/flipper.

It’s fucking tiresome. I stare at the stuff and wonder why folks post what they do, and almost always it comes back to one thing: Attention.

Whether you realize it or not, your decision to type 140 characters and hit the “send” button is often an act of self indulgence, an exercise to reassure that you have a space in this world, in this card hobby. Sure, every now and again your intentions are pure. Maybe you’ve got a question about a product or are seeking something. But when you’re posting random stream-of-conscious thoughts, pithy messages or even meaningful ones — particularly vague ones — or pictures of stuff you own, there is only one reason you do so: It’s because you need the attention.

And don’t get me wrong, I write this column KNOWING that I often do the same thing. I wrestle with this every day. There is indeed a desire for attention, but also an addictive quality to this whole social media phenomenon in which we participate and it’s good to call it out every now and again.

We love writing something that gets people talking; we love having a unique take or being the one to break news. We love the “like” and “retweet” notifications, and we get off on the number of followers we have.  All of this is part of what some deem a form of “social currency” — it gives us purpose, value in a world — digital or not — where it is easy to go from super popular to someone who gets lost in the shuffle. And at age 40, some 33 years into this collecting career, I fear this is where I am.

I’ve never been one to seek attention, yet here I am almost every day looking for a way to hold my space in this hobby. There is a real fear that I may in fact become irrelevant, and after being somewhat public for the last 12 years through my blog and Twitter, that is a reality with which I am having a hard time coming to grips.

And don’t get me wrong, I’ve never believed that I was/am super important in this space. I’m just a dude in California who got into cards at age 7, spent a bunch of money over the years, amassed some desirable cards, retained a bunch of information relative only to this hobby, and decided to start a blog one day to chronicle my journey. But the blog got some attention, it was coupled with the birth of Twitter, and was taken to another level a few years later with some thrift store finds that opened doors to some magazine writing opportunities. All of this created this idea that the account “cardboardicons” was worth following for some of you; and with each of the likes, retweets and follows grew this notion of importance. And with that “success” comes this incessant desire to maintain it.

Where I struggle though is realizing that some of this forces me to be something I never was or really wanted to be: An attention seeker. And while I have days where I tweet whatever I want, whenever I want, I have many other days where I self edit because I can see myself groaning and shaking my head at some of the very things I begin to write. Because I know that I am indeed a hypocrite.

Having said all of this, I cannot say this changes anything. So much of the hobby experience — at least for me — these days is dependent on sharing thoughts and experiences with persons whom we have deemed friends because we follow each other on Twitter. And I enjoy this little space that I occupy in this hobby, even if it’s shrinking in relevance given today’s market and current practices. But the one thing I will continue to be is real, and that is why I felt it important to identify these feelings I am having. Hell, maybe some of you also feel the same way about hypocrisy and need someone else with whom you can talk to about them.

Is It Time To Buy or Sell? Answer: Both

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , on August 19, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

The current state of the hobby is an interesting one. In some ways this feels unnatural since things that were irrelevant now matter (again), but at the same time there is a familiar feel of days gone by, a time when lots of people were talking about trading cards and telling stories about how they collected when they were young.

It’s a fascinating thing to witness as a middle-aged man, considering the last time this market was booming — early 1990s — I was an impressionable youth trying to find my way.

For those who’ve been here a bit, this quick-paced market now leaves some confused about about how to feel about things. Will this last? Is this a fad? Are were still on the upswing or are we peaking? Is it time to sell what I own, or is it time to keep buying?

None of us should be telling others how to feel about this market, our cards, or anything else. But in terms of reconciling the the latter part of that series of queries, I do have a recommendation: It is time to sell AND buy.

Yes, this is typical me, kind of being neutral, but hear me out. In my 33 years of collecting I cannot recall a time when this hobby was hotter. More eyes are on this field than ever, and social media has given us access to so many more potential selling/buying/trading partners than we ever had before. And what this means to us who have loads of cards just sitting around is that this is an opportunity to turn some of that stuff into something we want … or re-purpose that money.

Two and a half decades ago it was easy to take your unwanted cards and find trading partners, whether it be at the card shop, a card show or with others you knew. Trading still exists, but since a lot of it is done online there are associated costs, specifically shipping. You might have once agreed to trade your 1989 Donruss Don Mattingly for that 1988 Topps Kirby Puckett, but would you have done so if you knew the transaction would cost each of you the price of a stamp? Probably not. The result is that a lot of the stuff we owned became dead stock for us; it sat and sort of became useless and in some ways worthless.

But what’s old is new again. While the Mattingly for Puckett swap mentioned above still may not make since today’s market — they’re both worth about a dime each — there are surely other examples of items in your collection that have just been sitting for years and suddenly they are relevant again. This is the time to seize that opportunity and dig out all of that stuff and find someone who will appreciate it; someone who will give you a few bucks for a card that has been sitting in your closet for a decade.

Forget seeking the next flip online when your closet, basements and storage units are full of items that had been carrying little to no value for you. If you look at it the right way, that’s all “found money.”

In terms of buying, I’d say this is also a time to seek the items you always wanted. Take all that money from the aforementioned sales and sink it into an item (or multiple items) you once thought was (were) unattainable. And even if you’re coming into this era of the hobby with no card cache but with a wallet or account full of cash, don’t follow the trend and buy the new shiny hotness, unless of course that is all you know. Bottom line: If cards talk to you, find the ones (new or old) that make YOU happy and give them a new home.

And if you’re here just to flip? Then you keep doing you, and accept the results, both good and bad. There is room for us all.

Don’t Be Mad at the Project 2020 Middle Man for Plummeting Market, Long Wait Times

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , on August 18, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

It seems there has been a lot of hatred over the last month and a half as it pertains to Project 2020, specifically in the area of returns and upset buyers who’ve yet to receive their items.

When the market got hot, lots of folks were buying multiples thinking they could either get their cards for free by selling the extras for a profit, or could straight up flip everything for a multiplier.

The result was larger print runs, slower delivery times direct from Topps and, as we see now, a soft market for certain Project 2020 cards. The cards were available direct from Topps for a 48-hour window, however some buyers decided to use resellers who offered the cards at a discounted level. These prices were usually a dollar or two cheaper than what you could get them for direct from Topps when buying multiple copies.

The deals worked out for collectors — ultimately they get, or will get, the cards they ordered for cheaper than it would have been direct. But for folks buying on the discount, hoping to also resell their cards for a profit of their own, that business model imploded as print runs grew and the bubble burst with the Keith Shore/Joshua Vides release day of Ken Griffey Jr and Nolan Ryan; those cards collectively sold about 150,000 units and forced Topps to change the stated delivery times.

And now almost two months after the sale dates of those cards, buyers who bought through middlemen/resellers are angry because they were out of their money immediately, they haven’t received any product and even when it arrives, they are taking big losses.

If you’re in this position and you’re blaming anyone other than the person looking back at you in the mirror, then you are wrong. You decided to buy at a discount and the only way that was possible was buying through a middleman, who is/was subjected to the same wait times direct from Topps, so you had to know that it would take even longer to get to you.

No one likes to lose money. I don’t enjoy it and I don’t wish it upon anyone else. But don’t take out your frustration on someone who was offering products to you at a rate cheaper than anyone else. You’re poor decisions and impatience are not vindicated by sending messages of hate, or wishing harm or death upon people.