Archive for Panini America

My son: “That’s probably my favorite brand this year …”

Posted in Commentary, Misc. with tags , , , , , on November 1, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

We’re coming up on about a year since my son has decided to follow in my footsteps and join the hobby.

On Thursday night before heading out the door to do some trick or treating, he sorted some more of his cards, including a blaster of 2019 Panini Chronicles he recently purchased. As he removed the cards from the packaging, I noticed he had a small stash of blaster boxes I’d grown immune to seeing.

I asked if the boxes were empty and he confirmed that they were. I then made a comment that he must really like them since he still had three boxes in the house. That’s when he made his proclamation:

“It’s probably my favorite brand this year,” he said proudly.

These three empty blaster boxes probably represent half of how many he has opened for HIS collection — some of them paid for by him, the others subsidized by me.

But it made me happy to hear him have such an opinion, and it wasn’t like he chose it because it’s the newest product on the shelf, or because he pulled an autograph from the packs.

I asked a follow up question: WHY do you like this brand?

His response is great:

“Because you don’t know which designs you’re going to get, or even how many. I like the variety. it’s not just base cards and autographs.”

Absolutely love his response. The cards don’t have logos and that will hurt long term value, but this hobby is about so much more than money. It’s about fun and personal enjoyment of a product which are contributing factors to perceived value.

With this product, every time he opens a blaster he’s getting 2-6 cards of top rookies, multiple parallels, and often a serial numbered card. And because of the configuration, the checklist is ripe with rookies of the game’s top stars.

I’ve watched my son actively pass on blasters with guaranteed hits in favor of Chronicles solely because he gets a bunch of enjoyment from the product. I personally enjoy the product a lot as well, mainly because of the variety and its a teaser as to what could be if Panini had a full license.

Second round of discount Prizm NBA from 7-Eleven leads to “Points are poop” chant from kids

Posted in Box / Pack Break with tags , , , on May 9, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

A few weeks ago I scored big time when I stopped at 7-Eleven and located a ton of retail NBA Prizm prices at 99 cents a pack and nailed a Trae Young silver, Trae Young auto and a Luka Doncic Pink Pulsar, which has since been sent off to BGS. (See post here.)

Today, I went back to the 7–Eleven to pick up a case of water and much fo my surprise and delight, they found more Prizm in the back room. You know I had to buy it all. I again left the Hoops behind.

Well, I had my kids and my nephew with me, so I decided to turn this as an opportunity for a family #PrizmRipParty

I couldn’t pass on these at 99 cents a pack when that’s like a third or even a quarter of what these would cost online or even at the card shop.

We all took turns opening packs, one at a tome. I’m a collector, my son is new to collecting, my daughter (the oldest of these three kids) has been opening packs and and off with me for years and my nephew? Hello, he STILL has not opened the half box of 2018 Topps Big League I gave him for Christmas hoping that he and my son would start trading cards. Nonetheless, I included in this family break. I really didn’t care what I pulled from these proverbial lottery ticket packs, this break was all about the kids and their reactions.

And as it turned out, my nephew actually did really well. In terms of notables, he pulled a Malcom Brogdon auto pretty early (I believe it was his first hit ever) and ended up hitting a Luka Doncic Base Prizm Rookie.

My daughter participated for about half of the break and didn’t pull anything of real note other than this Trae Young insert silver.

My son was acting the whole time like a jaded collecting veteran, I really think he was expecting us to pull another Pink Pulsar Luka. His big hits were a green Derrick Favors (numbered 15/25 — his jersey number) and a Panini Points Card which actually has now become a priceless peace of Cardboard Icon’s collecting history. (See below)

As for me, I’ll hang my hat on a green Prizm Trae Young Rookie parallel, a Joel Embiid Pink Pulsar /42, and a Purvis Short autograph, which promoted a second classic reaction.

But that just PART of the story. Remember the Panin Points listed above?

I explained to the kids what the appoints program is and how instead of an actual autograph in a our, the company put this Points Card inside so that we could go choose a hit from the Web site. Their reaction?

“Points are poop!”

I had to break out the phone to record the second wave of chanting, but I had NOTHING to do with their reaction. They were very disgusted with the idea of points, so much so that when we were opening the last of the boxes I explained there should be one more autograph and they collectively said “Or more Points!” Then the chant continued again. And because of their reaction, ’tis card shall remain in my collection forever. Seriously.

Another giant take away from this break was my daughter’s reaction to my Purvis Short autograph.

Daughter: “Wait, does that mean the player actually held that card?!”

Me: “Well, no. This is a sticker autograph. They signed the sticker, and it was put on the card.”

Daughter: “That’s just dumb!”

Again, I did not prompt this response. I As a seasoned collector know why the sticker autographs exist, and can understand to some degree why the points could be appealing. But, it should not go unnoticed how innocent people who do not know the intricacies of the hobby react to things. As a friend of mine said: “Thats some great market research!”

So, overall how was this break? In a vacuum it was kind of rough. But you also have to realize this was probably the remainder of the case of blasters and retail packs from my break a few weeks ago, and THOSE packs yielded some great cards.

It sounds silly to call this a priceless experience, but in many ways it was. Now if only I can get my nephew to open the damn cards I bought him.

And lastly, don’t go hunting at all your 7-Elevens for these cards, almost every store will have. I idea what you’re talking about. Most don’t sell cards.

Rhys Hoskins should be the guy whom my son and I collect

Posted in Collecting Hoskins with tags , , , , , , , on March 14, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

How one goes about choosing their favorite player, or at least the ones they decide to collect, is completely arbitrary. Some choose a top draft pick and go to town on that guy for however long it seems sustainable. Others choose a player from their favorite team and remain loyal to them until there is reason not to be.

In some ways I have done both in my collecting career. I chose Roger Clemens as my guy in the late 1980s because he was the face of my favorite team. And I lucked my way into Clayton Kershaw after I fell in love with a YouTube video of his knee-buckling curve ball and then pulled his 2006 Bowman Chrome Draft Refractors Autograph from a blaster at WalMart.

But it looks like there is a new player whom I should be courting in this hobby, and one whom my son and I should be together building a personal collection of — that player is Rhys Hoskins.

I’d been thinking for a while that he and I should be finding a guy whom we should collect together. He likes Steph Curry, but I didn’t own much basketball before my son really expressed an interest. And while I’ve been pounding the drum of how great Mike Trout is … we’re a tad late to that game. (Side note: I did sell his 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Auto BGS 9 about 18 months ago when I really needed money, but that’s topic for another post.)

As it turns out, I think we stumbled upon our player rather organically last year without us really noticing. Here’s the story:

In July 2018, Topps released “Big League.” I loved the product and the hype that came with it after I saw people buying and ripping. One day after it hit retail shelves my kids and I went to Walmart and they have two packs of Big League. I tossed them in the cart and later opened then in the car. To my surprise, the packs were great. I pulled a Jose Altuve auto from the first pack, and the second pack had something shiny in the middle. It was a silver holofoil parallel of Rhys Hoskins, serial numbered 076/100. I showed it to my kids and both smiled to appease me and went back to their video games.

About a month later when 2018 Topps Stadium Club hit shelves I told my kids how much I loved TSC because of the photos. They have come to know me as not only a card collector, but also an amateur photographer, especially as it pertains to sunsets and baseball. So it was rather normal for them to understand my attraction to TSC as it is largely built around great photography. I bought a hobby box of TSC and allowed by kids to partake in the break, knowing that they’d be looking at the photos but also looking forward to the two autographs per box. My daughter ripped her six packs and pulled a Garrett Cooper auto; I opened my six packs and didn’t get any ink; and then my son got about half way through his packs when he nailed a Rhys Hoskins auto.

I thought it was an excellent pull and great addition to my collection. But I also made a mental note that the Hoskins was a card I would not sell or trade because it was a good rookie auto pulled by my son. So even though I paid for the cards and at the time he was not actually collecting, I sort of saw this Hoskins TSC as HIS card.

A few more months pass and I am in a phase in which I am buying into random number group breaks of Panini America Immaculate cases through breaker MojoBreak.com, which is headquartered not too far from where I live. The idea with this style break is you pay a set amount and are given a random number 1-99 (because nothing in Immaculate is numbered to more than 99) and whatever card comes out of the boxes with your assigned serial number is yours. During one session I paid like $15 for a random spot and lucked into the coveted Number One spot. So anything numbered 1/5, 1/10, 1/25, etc. was mine. It also meant that any 1/1 was also mine. Welp, guess whose name popped up again? That’s right, Rhys Hoskins.

Conrad at MojoBreak did his whole “One of One of One” chant and revealed this Immaculate RPA featuring Player-Used (so from a photo shoot) striped jersey with a patch and an on-card auto. I was ecstatic, but also a bit perplexed as this was yet another Hoskins hit rearing its head.

I’ve managed to cull the rest of the 2018 products I had sitting around and as it turns out, I have some 50 Hoskins rookie-year cards, which is a lot considering I don’t buy a bunch of everything.

And then the other day while digging through some old prospect boxes, look what else popped up: a 2014 Bowman Draft Paper Blue Hoskins First Bowman serial numbered 212/399.

If you don’t call that a sign, I don’t know what to make of this. So while I will not chase Hoskins with the fervor that I do Clemens and Kershaw, it’s definitely the guy whom I shall pitch to my son as the player whom we watch and collect together going forward.

Video Break of 2018-19 Panini Revolution Chinese New Year

Posted in Box / Pack Break with tags , , , , , , on March 5, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

My son and I swung by our local card shop this week and decided to break a box of the newly released 2018-19 Panini Revolution Chinese New Year. We bought the box and brought it home and tried our hand at a video box break. I’ve done them before — but this was really my son’s first foray into this.

A few notes:

-My son is 8, be nice.

-I sniffled a lot as I was just getting over a cold.

-Basketball is not MY passion so I likely butchered some names.

-We are not professionals and used only an iPhone, sorry if quality isn’t what you’re used to.

-Lastly … I can’t embed the video here, so you’ll have to click HERE to view it.

I really didn’t want this … but I couldn’t pass it up

Posted in Collcting Clemens, Collecting Kershaw with tags , , , on March 4, 2019 by Cardboard Icons

Have you ever found yourself staring at a card of your favorite player knowing you disliked the card, but still found yourself debating whether or not you “had” to own it?

This was the case for me a few weeks ago while doing another of my blind searches. I was stunned to see a 2014 Panini National Treaures Flawless diamond for sale for under $40.

My first reaction was to mash that Buy It Now button, especially since the card was encapsulated as a Gem Mint 9.5 by Beckett Grading. But I balked. Why? Because I own a similar raw gem card of Roger Clemens and for the most part I find these cards underwhelming.

This is my opinion. I know some people love the idea of a real gem stone being embedded in their card. But for the most part this doesn’t strike my collecting fancy. I purchased the Clemens gem card about a year or so ago for under $50 and thought it was a deal since the price of the sealed product is astronomical. When the Clemens arrived I looked at it, shrugged and set it aside with other Clemens cards. Was it nice? Sure, in theory. But the card just seemed bland.

Fast forward to the topic of this post: the 2014 Clayton Kershaw Flawless card.

When the card was posted at $40, I felt I needed to get it because the price was cheaper than Clemens and I felt this was a steal of a price. But as I noted, I balked because I really didn’t feel like dropping that price on it. But, I kept the item in my watch list.

The card failed to sell for several weeks, and the seller continued to drop the card’s price … until it got to a point where I felt The need to own it before someone else would. That price, around $25.

My driving force for the purchase was two fold:

1 – The new price: There is some built-in value in the fact that the card is already graded; also, the fact that this came from a product with a ridiculous price point made it feel like a deal.

2 – Symmetry: I own a Clemens gem card, so in a display case I can now show one gem card for each of the guys I collect.

Collecting is really about personal preference so the way I feel about gem cards might not be the same as you feel. But it is telling when a card depicting one of the game’s best players, limited to 20, containing a diamond, coming from a product that costs several hundred dollars –in a gem mint condition no less — can sell for well under the cost of two retail blasters. And given that context, doesn’t this really make us wonder where all that value is in those expensive Panini briefcases?

By the way, I am not letting Beckett get away without me mentioning how ugly and cheap these slabs feel for these gem cards. There is a ton of extra space inside the grading case, and the quality of plastic feels extra cheap. I’m tempted to crack the slab, but that gold label is the only thing stopping me.

New Year, New Focus: The 10th Anniversary Edition

Posted in Misc. with tags , , , , , , , on July 12, 2018 by Cardboard Icons

It’s a tad bit embarrassing to admit this, but I recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of this blog. It’s weird to say that it’s been a decade since I started writing here; it’s even more awkward since the last few years have been relatively light on posts.

It’s been a turbulent decade to say the least, one filled with the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows both personally and in this hobby. But here, as I start this tenth year owning my own Web domain, I am on an even keel, with a new focus for my collection.

I’ve started to shift gears over the last year — a journey I’ve hinted at and have written about minimally — from straight cardboard to something else. Topps likes to use the slogan “bringing you closer to the game.” But I’ve decided to just eliminate the middleman when it comes to my new focus. The focus of my collecting efforts is now procuring game-used baseballs.  Not small pieces of the ball — which Topps, as a middleman, places into cards for the hobby — but the whole damn ball.

Whether you know it or not, your local (or favorite) Major League Baseball team will sell directly to you: jerseys, helmets, bases and other items — including balls — used in their games.  And most of these are not just generic “used” items. Everything from the teams come with an MLB Authentication holographic sticker and serial number that matches their database letting you know exactly when your item was used and often by whom it was used.

Like many collectors, I was intrigued by game-used memorabilia cards when they started to hit the market in the late 1990s.  And over the last 20 years I’ve owned thousands of the cards, a few hundred of which are still in my collection. But over time, the authenticity of the fabric has been brought into question. Furthermore, the ambiguity with which companies chose to word their certificates of authenticity is off-putting.

Take for instance Topps, which for years has pledged to bring us closer to the game but still uses verbiage to legally cover themselves by making no claim as to which season or year the enclosed item was used. Hell, sometimes they won’t even make a claim as to what the item is. Is that really a piece of bat used by Jackie Robinson or Babe Ruth, or a piece of a seat used at the stadiums in which the legends used to play? It wasn’t until recently that Topps began partnering more often with MLB Authentication to add some credibility (and collectability) to the modern relic cards

And Panini? Please … I don’t want cards with swatches from photo shoots and signing sessions, even if they are very appealing to the eye. I’m glad I don’t collect basketball or football cards as it is common place to see guys dropping hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on breaks hoping to get a signed patch card featuring swatches handled and glanced at once by the pictured player.  BUT, at least Panini is clear on what these swatches … most of the time.

I digress. My point here isn’t to slam Topps or Panini — or even Upper Deck — for what they’ve provided to us collectors. Rather, my point is that what’s being offered these days just doesn’t fit my needs to feel like I own something special, something significant.

Enter: The game-used baseball.

The ball is white, the stitching is red, and in blue are the facsimile signature of the League commissioner and the logo of Major League Baseball. From several steps away — and even just a few inches away — one ball does indeed look just like other.  But if you look closely, none of them are identical. All of them are unique, especially when you take into consideration the way that MLB authenticates their items.

I know I am late to this hobby. But I’d argue that there is no better time to have gotten into this arena of sports memorabilia collecting. Have you see all of the information that MLB includes in their authentication?

It’s no longer about simply assuring you that the ball in your possession was actually used in a certain game. MLB’s Authentication program now includes the player who threw the ball, the hitter who was at the plate, and the fielders involved in the plays. Hell, the program now includes the speed and type of pitch thrown, as well as the launch angle off the bat … or off of a person.

Yes, I said off of a person.

On May 10, 2018, the Minnesota Twins faced off against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. On the mound for the Twins was right-handed 24-year-old pitching phenom Jose Berrios of Puerto Rico. At the plate in the fifth inning was 26-year-old Mike Trout, easily considered the best player in the game today.

Berrios reared back and threw a 92.5 mph fastball to get ahead of Trout 0-1. He then threw a slightly faster pitch (92.7 mph) down the middle of the plate to make the count 0-2.  On the third pitch Berrios lost control of a 92.8 mph fastball — the ninth straight fastball of the night to Trout if you watched the broadcast — and drilled Trout in left arm between the elbow guard and his bicep. Clearly it was a mistake pitch; but that goof created a one-of-a-kind collectable.

That ball was taken out of play, authenticated by MLB, and sold by the Angels.  And after passing through the hands of at least one other owner, the ball that struck generational player Mike Trout for his 57th career official Hit-By-Pitch now sits in my collection as one of the cornerstones for a segment of my game-used baseball collection that focuses solely on balls that struck players.

You see, the Trout HBP ball is not the first ball that I own which has caused a grown man to grimace in pain, or in Trout’s case cause him to turn away from home play, look upward for a few seconds and then flip his bat toward the dugout in disgust before trotting to first base.

This Trout ball is merely the latest of my admittedly odd theme.

My love for these HBP balls began only a year ago when taking in a Cubs game in San Francisco.  After the Aug. 7, 2017, game, I headed to the Giants official store at AT&T Park to buy a ball from the game as a momento, hopefully something with Kris Bryant’s name attributed to it.  Lo and behold the only available ball attributed to Bryant was the one that struck him on the left arm in the third inning — a 2-2 92.6 mph fastball that got away from Giants starter Matt Moore.

The acquisition that night ignited a passion that has now led to me owning nearly 10 pain-inducing baseballs, some of which I shall show off in the future.

Baseball cards have always been my collecting passion. But to say that the thrill is gone would be an understatement. The current products produced by manufacturers by and large just don’t appeal to me. And my goal of collecting Hall of Fame rookie or tobacco cards is one that I’m choosing to take a break– although truth be told, I’ve got the majority of the guys I’d sought many years ago.

And the stars of today? All those Bowman Chrome autos I collected? Yeah … I’m selling.

The crack in the foundation for these Chrome autos came last year when I decided to part ways with my BGS graded 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects Mike Trout. His basic autograph from that set had reach an all-time high and the money was just too appealing. Once I sold that card, it decreased the purpose to keep any of the other chromes. And so, as this tenth year of writing here, those Chromes will slowly start to hit the market as they no longer appeal to me.

Just don’t ask about my 2006 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks Refractor Clayton Kershaw. That’s not for sale as Kershaw is one of only two guys I’ve decided to focus my cardboard collecting attention.

I’m going to the store just for supplies… I think.

Posted in Commentary, Misc. with tags , , , , , on January 12, 2018 by Cardboard Icons

After I wrote yesterday’s post, I finished up with the car maintenance and headed over to the card shop to buy nothing more than supplies. Just a few new little plastic cases to help protect some of the items in my collection.

And while that was my sole intent, I thought it’d be fun if I found something to add to the collection. To sort of mark this place in my life.

The thoughts and emotions that ran over me. They were familiar.

What was I going to buy? What would I find? Was this hypothetical card purchase really going to be something I wanted/needed, or merely something I was buying to soothe an itch?

When I waked into my local card shop I was greeted by the secondary guy — it was Thursday, the sole day off for the primary guy with whom I usually spark conversation .

I said hello and went straight to the supply area. I needed a 180-point one-touch to protect and display a specific card I recently added to my collection. And after grabbing two of those (because that’s what we do, right?), and two packs of soft sleeves specifically designed for tobacco cards, I decided to have a look around the shop.

I looked and looked. And looked some more. I looked high and low and didn’t see anything that sparked my interest. Not even the vintage case — which was pretty barren on this day — had anything that enticed me, partly because I owned most of the stuff that was in there.

I then saw lots of high prices for packs, priced way above retail for products that didn’t interest me.

Yes, NBA Panini Prizm is hot. But guess who doesn’t collect basketball? This guy. And I sure as hell was going to pay $35 for a blaster box that costs $19.99 at Target … when /if you can find them.

And all baseball released in 2017 has been marked up so much it’s disgusting. No fault of the LCS of course.

And so I reached familiar feeling: There was nothing that struck my fancy and I was leaving without any cards. Hey, it’s baseball’s off season, I’ve been here before.

So I went to pay for my cases, and there next to the register stood a stack, about 8 inches tall, of cards left behind by other customers. The shop always offers customers a chance to take whatever they want from the stack. Sometimes I indulge. Today it appeared to be 90% basketball and football, but I found a small stack of 2017 Panini Contenders Draft Picks, baseball of course. The clerk said I could take them all — so I did.

I knew there were no “hits,” but this was a cost-effective way to soothe an itch that I could feel growing. Plus I knew Roger Clemens has a few cards in the set so I was hoping to find one.

The funny thing about seeing this stack though, is that it instantly reinforced the idea in my kind that this hobby has become so much about the hits that there are people who simply don’t care about the standard issue items. Some of the. Simply discard practically anything that doesn’t bear a swatch of fabric, a smudge of ink, or a serial number.

But after thinking about that reaction for a minute, it made me feel a certain way — like I’ve been looking at this hobby lately through such a prism of negativity that I couldn’t appreciate this instance for what it was worth: someone made a conscious effort to stack the freebie cards there and offer them to others instead of actually tossing them in the trash, which many collectors see as sacrilege. And on this occasion I was the one benefiting from this … this … generosity.

I still see a lot of negative aspects to our hobby right now, but perhaps I need to allow myself to see the other side of things and understand why things are the way they are.

By the way, I spend less than $9 on supplies and in that stack of cards I got for free there was indeed a Roger Clemens card I did not yet own.

Ben Aguirre, Jr.,

Former Beckett Baseball columnist.

———

Collector of Hall of Fame tobacco era and Rookie cards.

Collector of Roger Clemens and Clayton Kershaw.

You can reach me on Twitter and Instagram @cardboardicons. You can also e-mail me at cardboardicons@yahoo.com