Archive for Project 2020

Project 2020: Now a collection now driven by FOMO?

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , on May 27, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

When Project 2020 launched in March I had zero intention to purchase any of the pieces. I had not done any research about the project, was not familiar with the artists, and as a whole am not overly intrigued by Online exclusives.

Then I saw the mock up of the Ken Griffey Jr. piece by King Saladeen and everything changed. It felt like a must-own item and the style was appealing to me. That day I purchased the Griffey, and just before checking out I added the Mike Trout by Ermsy. It’s not that I loved the Trout, but conventional wisdom told me to grab it as well because … it’s Mike Trout. Also, I liked the idea of having them shipped together.

That was exactly two months ago today.

Today I sit here with 10 cards in hand, another 22 different ones on the way and am daily on the Topps site checking for new releases and spending a fair amount of time tracking the secondary market for these cards as they have become a national talking point.

That initial $40 purchase (or investment if you prefer that term) could in theory net me about $4,000 on the secondary market today. That’s for the first two cards that I bought. And although I did not get into this for the money, I’d be a damn fool if I didn’t at least entertain the notion that I could make a handsome profit.

The economics around these cards changes daily, and for different reasons. What’s important to remember is these are not merely like every other baseball card on the market. I mean it is a picture printed on card stock like other cards, but the vast appeal and demand of these far exceeded the expectations of anyone. While a print run of 1,500-2,000 of a normal card seeded in packs may seem high, such numbers here has proven to be extremely low.

After purchasing my Griffey and Trout, I fell in love with the Roberto Clemente by Mister Cartoon but balked at making the purchase. I backtracked and wound up buying it a week later on eBay for a small mark up. At that time, the Clemente cost me $30 shipped, which was a palatable penalty for me since I missed the window to buy direct.

From that day forward I really used a simple adage to help make my purchase decisions: If I liked it, I bought it. In theory the $20 price point had proven to be a mark at which I could not really lose. And so I did. I looked at the site each day to judge the art. If the art work grabbed me, I made the card mine. Others merely did not appeal to me and I marked them as “not for me.” Now, at this point I was looking at this as art … not as a card investment opportunity,

Of course as we know things changed. I still log onto my device each day to see the newest release and to judge the artwork for myself. But I find more and more that my decision to buy or not has been increasingly driven by FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out, as the act of checking the secondary market has almost felt like following a sport.

There had been pieces I passed on before, and the resell market has had me banging my head against a wall, as I am sure many others have as well. But over these last three weeks my judgement has been clouded by the almighty dollar.

I routinely am asking myself if I am actually enjoying the art, or enjoying the idea that I might be getting in on the ground floor of something that may just now be taking off.

As a card collector for 33 years there is a part of me that wants to jump off this ship with as much gold as possible before it sinks into the ocean. This feels very unnatural. But it’d be foolish of me to not at least think that this may actually be bigger than baseball cards and some of the logic in that hobby may not fully apply here. There are people outside of our hobby circle who have taken an interest in this, and that is a factor for which I cannot fully comprehend.

Will this trend of increasing prices continue? The answer to that question shouldn’t matter to me if I am collecting; if I am sticking to what brought me to this point. The decision should be simple: Buy what I like and pass on what I don’t. But it’s not that simple. It’s just not. And every day my judgement and decision-making is put to the test. And when that happens, the bigger questions start to be asked internally: Do I enjoy these that much that I am passing on crazy money being thrown at some of the early ones I own, and could I be missing out if I pass on something today solely because it did not hit my pallet the right way?

The struggle continues today with the release of Mariano Rivera by JK5 and Cal Ripken Jr . By Don C.

Over the weeks I’ve taken a liking to JK5’s pieces — they’re so complex and there is so much to see and interpret. Don C’s two pieces to date have fallen into the “not for me” category right off the bat.

Today I marked myself as “out” on both, but there is a part of me that is still on the fence for the Rivera. And when you’re in for one card, you have to consider the other as well since there is a small discount when buying the daily pair.

Money shouldn’t be driving my decisions with these; it should be about enjoying the piece. But clearly, money is always factor, no matter how you look at it.

A plea to Topps: Project 2020 needs a anti-counterfeiting measure

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , on May 21, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

Since the time I started collecting cards in the 1980s I learned that whenever large amounts of money are involved, there is a good chance someone is nearby looking to take advantage of someone with a fake.

We all know there are thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of fake (or modified legitimate reprints) t206 Honus Wagner cards on the market and almost no one in their right mind would touch a raw one outside of special circumstances.

In the 1980s we saw mass quantities of counterfeits of the 1963 Topps Pete Rose rookie, the 1968 Nolan Ryan rookie, the 1984 Fleer Update Kirby Puckett and Roger Clemens cards, the 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco, … the list goes on and on. Hell, we have even seen fake 2011 Topps Update Mike Trout rookie cards.

And it’s only a matter of time before today’s hobby darling, the Topps Project 2020 cards, start to see their own.

The newer releases are being produced in larger quantities so they may be less susceptible to counterfeits, but those early ones — the ones that have commanded major premiums on the secondary market and helped spark the current fervor surrounding the project — are the ones that concern me. No one truly expected to see a $20 On-Demand style card skyrocket to more than $400 in less than three months. With all of the technology in the world now — and the lack of security measures for the cards coming from Topps — it’s only a matter of time before the fakes start hitting the market.

The cards are printed on 130-point card stock and merely placed in a One-Touch (or snap case as we’ve seen recently) and then a Topps sticker is placed over the top. But we’ve already seen artists peeling stickers to sign and sell signed versions of their own card; and we’ve seen some folks re-holder their cards in premium magnetic cases and on occasion replace the stickers.

There are no security measures in place, and that is scary.

There are surely ways this issue could be handled, and all will likely increase cost on the production end. But perhaps the easiest and classiest way is to print the backs with the same technology used for the Topps Now cards. Those cards feature a holographic Topps logo on the rear — it wouldn’t detract from anything, yet would give collectors a sense of security.

As stated above the newer releases are less susceptible to fakes, but even for cards that draw at least $20 on the secondary market, there is some appeal for con-artists to ruin a good thing.

Topps Project 2020: The product I never thought I’d chase

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2020 by Cardboard Icons

I’m not going to pretend that I am an art expert. Hell, I passed my Art History class in college 16 years ago by showing up exactly five times — which is to say I was there for the first and last days of instruction, for the mid term and final exam, as well as a spot in between to turn in a term paper. Not that I am proud of it, but that is solid C work.

So yeah, art and I have a history … but I don’t have in my brain the history of art, ya dig?

That said, you don’t need to have a degree, special training or any other skill to be able to tell when you like (or dislike) a certain piece. When you look at a design, a drawing, painting, photo, or other type of creation does it make you think or feel a certain way? Do you like it, do you not, do you not care?

Art is subjective. There’s no right or wrong way to create, or appreciate. I don’t always seek out art, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate talents that I do not possess.

When Topps launched the Project 2020 line a few weeks ago, I admittedly did not do a lot of research. Hell, I had no intention to buy anything. The first wave came and went and I thought nothing of it. The second wave brought a controversial version of Mike Trout’s 2011 Topps Update rookie card as re-imaged by Ermsy. It appealed to be on some level — I enjoyed the odd comic-style and the color scheme — so I mulled it over and then pulled the trigger the next day when King Saladeen’s take on Ken Griffey Jr.’s 1989 Topps Update was released. That Saladeen hooked me immediately; and to this point his art in this series has become ones that I will absolutely buy, regardless of who is being depicted.

I suppose it was at that point the Project 2020 release became must-see morning viewing for me. It’s not that I had this idea of collecting every card, but it was really a test for my senses. Would there be a piece today that would evoke an emotional response from me? Seeing as how I own(ed) the original copy of almost every card used as inspiration in the series, I wanted to know how each artist was going to interpret the card/image and present a new version to the world.

I had no clue how the secondary market would take to this, and honestly I didn’t care. This wasn’t a money-making venture on my part; this was a if-it-makes-you-happy-then-acquire-it type of situation. And at the price point of $19.99 in this time in history, there was a direct correlation between blaster money turning into a limited edition personal collection addition.

And now as the weekdays pass I check out the Topps.com site each morning with high anticipation to see if the mood strikes me; will there be a design that speaks to me, or not?

As it turns out, I’ve found myself being infatuated by everything King Saladeen has done in this series. For one reason or another, I’ve decided that I will own a copy of each of his pieces. And I’ve also taken a liking to Blake Jamieson, Mister Cartoon, Ben Baller and Matt Taylor — although I probably won’t buy them all. Those are the five artists to whom I have gravitated, but that’s not to say the others aren’t good in their own way.

I try to refrain from saying certain piece aren’t good. Few things bug me more than when someone just says “the piece sucks.” They may not evoke emotion for me or you, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good to someone else. It merely means that the piece isn’t for us.

The one artist in this project whom I think got a raw deal early on was Joshua Vides, whose first piece was not explained and merely looked as though he took a black marker to hard edges and added a few scribbles. I know I mocked it early on, and as it turns out, it was indeed more than what was shown and I was wrong. His pieces are textured, and that is not just black marker on a copy of the card, it’s akin to puffy paint on a plastic coating over the top. I wish I knew this before hand because that, to me, changes how I can appreciate his work. If I had known that before hand, I would have purchased his first piece, the Rickey Henderson, and others might have as well.

At this point more than 60 cards into the set and I’ve got six in hand, two in the mail, and another 8 or 10 that should be shipped soon. This is not something I imagined I was going to embrace in the way that I have, but it’s certainly given me something to enjoy each weekday in a time where we are seeing almost no new card releases due to the ongoing issues regarding Covid-19.

It’s worth nothing that the sales figures for everything in this project are starting to increase as the project gains more attention. That Ermsy version of Mike Trout as mentioned above eclipsed the $500 mark earlier this week — which is a hell of a return on the $19.99 investment — so its hard to not let some resell talk enter your stream of consciousness.

Finally, I will say this: If you like these cards I recommend you BUY THEM DIRECT FROM TOPPS. Look, I enjoy saving a few bucks here and there — and that is possible if you buy them from a bulk re-seller on the secondary market. (Hint: They’re buying in bulk at like $15 each and reselling for $18, which is good money when doing bulk sales.) But when you buy direct from Topps you are giving yourself a chance — a chance! — at receiving a special 1/1 version, which can be re-sold for thousands of dollars. When you buy on the secondary market, you’re saving about $5 in some cases, but you also give yourself no chance at that receiving the lottery ticket. Additionally, buying on secondary market will certainly add an extra few days to your delivery time as your seller is essentially a middleman. If neither of these latter points bother you, then by all means do your thing and support the resellers and save a few bucks on a piece you’ll enjoy. Its a personal preference, just like art.