Archive for Topps

The Joy of Sets

Posted in Box / Pack Break, Kid Collectors, Misc. with tags , , , , , , , on September 7, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

We did it. My son and I completed our first baseball card set.

There is something special in this hobby about a parent collector who is able to pass down the hobby to their child or children, and at times I wondered if my children would ever be into the same hobby that i have enjoyed for almost 30 years.

I mean my kids (ages 7 and 5) have always been around my stuff, and at times they’d ask about why I collect cards, but when I’d offer to buy them sports cards they often pass, or ask for some cartoon cards, comic cards or something else.  It’s cool; I get it. I’ve always been of the mindset that if my kids didn’t enjoy my hobby then I would not force it upon them. But I’ve always been willing to support whatever hobby they decided to take up.

And then just a week ago my son asked me about baseball cards. He wanted to know more. He wanted me to buy some. He wanted me to buy some for him.

insert tear drop.

img_1851Without hesitation I bought a blaster of 2016 Topps Bunt. He enjoyed it (and so did his cousin). I told him about Hank Aaron — one of the first cards he pulled — and how at one point Aaron had the most home runs in baseball. And when I said the name he remembered a conversation we had a few months ago about a signed 16×20 photo of Hammerin’ Hank that I have hanging on the wall. “That’s him!” he said pointing to the photo and then looking at the card.

So yeah, proud Dad moment for me. Anyhow, a day after we ripped into those packs, we went to a different card shop to pick up some supplies and he asked me about buying a few more packs of Topps BUNT.

For my readers who don’t know much about BUNT, it’s a price-friendly product that features a great 200-card checklist that mixes old and new players.  In my opinion it has been Topps’ greatest effort to bring in the new collectors as the set is based on the popular Topps BUNT digital trading card app.

Anyhow, I looked at my son and he was genuinely excited. At that moment I decided just to buy an entire 36-pack box as it was only about $30.  I figured it’d be something we could open together and maybe put the set together.

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It took us a few days to open all of the packs, even with the assistance of his cousin. We could have rushed through it, but I wanted to take time and look at each card and read the player name and the team, in a way I was hoping that I was laying the ground work for future endeavors and the foundation of baseball knowledge. So when he started to get tired of opening or reading, we stopped for the day and later picked it up.

After a few days we finished going through the box. We separated all of the base cards from the inserts and then separated the code cards — which can be used to unlock packs of digital cards in the phone app.

The next step was to see if we had a complete set. I grabbed a stack of 9-pocket Ultra Pro binder pages and used a black marker to number each of the pockets. I figured this would be a simple way for my son (and his cousin who helped us at times) to see where the cards go. In a round about way this was another school lesson for them as they are in kindergarten and still learning some of their numbers.

img_1745And so we spent maybe a total of three hours over two days taking turns reading the card number and then finding its location in the binder. And by the end we had a complete 200-card set with 22 cards left over.

I’m sure some of you — if you’re still reading — are wondering what the entire set is worth. Honestly, not much in terms of actual money. I mean while there are some big names in here and some decent rookie cards, the set could probably be bought in its entirety on eBay for about $20. And yes, it’s easier to just buy an entire set, but what’s the real fun in that?

While not worth much money, this product just got my kid into the hobby, gave him a task to complete — which didn’t involve pixelated pick axes (yes, I’m speaking of Minecraft) — taught him some organizational skills;  involved reading words, names, logos and numbers; involved hand-eye coordination as we placed the cards into binder pages, AND was definitely quality father-son time.

Never again will I call a low-priced baseball card set worthless as it can be priceless for others.

Thanks, Topps.

 

Target run reminds me WHY I collect

Posted in Box / Pack Break, Misc. with tags , , , , , , on September 2, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

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I made a brief Target run late last night to grab some necessities and made the obligatory stop in the card aisle. There wasn’t anything “new” to buy, but there was a Fairfield repack 20-pack box that intrigued me. There were a handful of 2014 Prizm Draft Picks packs inside, some 2015 Topps Series 2 packs (Think Kris Bryant rookies) and what was clearly two 1991 Stadium Club packs, along with other stuff.

I’ve opened my fair share of 1991 Stadium Club, but I was still feeling nostalgic about cards at the time. You see this week I think I finally got my son into the hobby; earlier in the day we went to the card shop and he had a blast. (*Side note: A big thank you to Kevin at Stevens Creek Sports Cards for the stack of free commons you gave to my son. He loved them.) I digress.

The Prizm packs, the jumbo 2015 Heritage and Topps Series 2 packs seemed to make the box worth the price, but the two 25-year-old packs really set the hook in me.

For the uninitiated, 1991 Stadium Club was quite possibly one of the finest card sets released in it’s time. Sure, we remember 1989 Upper Deck for the premium Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card.  And we recall 1990 Leaf for having another iconic rookie card in Frank Thomas, as well as dozens of other rookie cards of stars from the time. But 1991 Stadium Club was THE premium baseball card. Every card featured full-bleed photographs, gold foil and high gloss that got you high (read:not really, but if you opened this stuff as a kid, the scent is one you’ll never forget. Packs were several dollars each upon release and star cards — not rookies — were in high demand. Griffey and Thomas were each well over $20 for a while.

My guy at the time was Roger Clemens, the flame-throwing perennial Cy Young award candidate. I couldn’t afford these packs when I was a kid, but I distinctly asking my dad for $5 and then riding three miles on my bike to the local card shop to buy one card — the Roger Clemens 1991 Stadium Club that had been sitting in the show case of Brian’s Books  in Santa Clara, Calif.

Flash forward to last night.  I worked late and then made said Target run.  When I got home I took the above photo, opened all of the packs save for two — the 1991 Stadium Club. Whatever lurked inside these packs was surely worth nothing more than a few pennies. But the nostalgia is everything and that can be priceless. I tore opened the first pack, flipped card by card and then it happened — the second last card:

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There is Clemens is all his glory. That pose. That glove. That spring training uniform. Just like I remember it. True, I could probably get a brick of 500 of this exact card for like $10 because no one cares about him or this card anymore, but none of those would be as valuable as just this one card, for at last I had pulled something I could only dream of as a kid.

Someone asked me recently: WHY do you collect baseball cards?

This is why.

It’s not really about the money. It’s not really an investment because cards rarely appreciate with time under normal circumstances.

It’s about the memories. It’s about how in an instant single worthless card can transport you back a quarter of a century to the moment when you asked a parent for money and trekked clear across town to buy a card of your childhood sports hero.

I have other reasons for collecting what I do. And sometimes I can’t fully explain it. But THIS is probably the strongest reason why.

Topps BUNT blaster stocked with Trout; creates fun break for kids

Posted in Box / Pack Break, Misc. with tags , , , , , , on August 30, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

My kids know the drill.  When we need something, anything, for the house we’re making a Target run. And the first thing we do there is make a b-line for the baseball card aisle.

IMG_1490Tuesday was no different as my son and I went to gather some items for he and his sister’s school lunches. And when we got to the card aisle, my 5-year-old son pointed to a blaster of Topps BUNT and said,”Look, Daddy!”  He remembered the packaging from a few packs of the product that we bought last week at our local card shop.  In all honesty I wasn’t planning to buy the blaster, but I’m not going to say no if my son is showing an interest in my hobby.

So he picked the blaster as we carried one with our shopping.  When we got home, he and I started opening packs, and then my nephew of the same age came over so I let him wrestle his way into a few packs. No, seriously, look at that effort! (I got his parent’s permission to turn it into a meme.)

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It was fun watching the boys work their way into these wrappers. I’ve opened thousands of baseball cards packs in my near three decades in this hobby. I miss the old wax packs as they really weren’t a problem at all. I even remember the Sportflics brand that had wrappers similar to those used on Pop Tarts — the noise those wrappers made was weird. Upper Deck’s foil wrappers were always a treat because in their early days, the product was considered premium. The worst by far was Score — it was like someone took a plastic shopping bag and just heat-sealed a stack of 15 cards inside. I digress.

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The kids seemed to get a kick out of opening the packs. My son has a little experience with this but it still learning. But he figured it’d be best to put his knowledge to use and he tried to teach his cousin: Pinch at the top with your left hand, used your right thumb and index finger to pinch the flap and pull.

Now once the wrapper was started, the process got a little more tricky. The kids seem to think it’s cool to open the wrapper like 20 percent of the way and yank the cards out of the packs.  A few corners did not survive, but I looked to change that behavior real quick. And but the time we got through the 11 packs (remember, it’s 10 packs plus ONE bonus pack for $9.99) the boys had it down pretty good.

We went card by card; naming the player and the team. We also kept tabs of “special” (insert) cards and the code cards, which I explained were for the app on my phone. And when they hit a big name, I explained who they were/are and what that have accomplished.

My nephew managed to pull a Ken Griffey jr., a Roberto Clemente and Kyle Schwarber insert in his packs — as well as a Babe Ruth that somehow got stuck to another card and I didn;t see until I sorted the cards later. And my son reeled in a pair of keeper-size Mike Trouts, the base and a sweet “Unique Unis” insert as well.  He also nabbed a Corey Seager rookie, which was cool to see.

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I’ll be honest: I love this brand. I bought a blaster for myself about two weeks ago and knew that it was a perfect set to share the collecting experience with my kids. It’s cheap, has a loaded checklist of current and legendary players, and offers a super long shot at ink, which is appealing in that when/if you hit one it’ll be akin to finding a Elite Series insert in those early 1990s packs. I see many more packs and/or blasters of this and more in their futures.

 

Cardboard Icons author in video interview about hobby, collection

Posted in Commentary, Misc. with tags , , , , , on August 26, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

Late last week Patrick at Radicards.com hit me up about doing an “on-camera” interview with him about the hobby. I paused initially because for years I was the one asking questions, not the one answering them. And for so long I had this phobia of being in front of the camera. But after some thought I decided to do the interview. And I’m glad I did.

It’s a 30-minute video, edited down from our hour-long discussion,  The audio on my end starts out low but does get better. We touch on my history in the hobby, why I collect what I do, some discussion about the state of our hobby and so forth.  Give it a watch (or listen) at your leisure. It was a lot of fun to do.

And if you’ve never seen Radicards, take an opportunity to check it out.  There are dozens of interviews like mine sitting there waiting to be watched, which is somewhat unique because we don’t often get to see people talking about the hobby other than when they are busting wax.

Thanks for reading (or in this case watching),

Ben, Cardboard Icons.

Reach me via e-mail at cardboardicons@yahoo.com; on Twitter at @cardboardicons, and LIKE the new Cardboard Icons FACEBOOK page

 

Lifetime of memories made during National Baseball Card Day 2016

Posted in Misc. with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 13, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

I decided to take my kids to the National Baseball Card Day event at South Bay Sports Cards (Sunnyvale, Calif.), where the shop — like many others across the country — was giving out packs to customers on this special day. What wound up happening was something that will never be forgotten.

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This story doesn’t end with some card worth a small fortune. But it does end with smiles.

I told the kids about the day and how they were giving away packs at the shop to promote the hobby, a fantastic move by the way. Topps is the company with the exclusive Major League Baseball license so they are the makers of the cards given away on this day. Such events have been around for at least a decade, and have over the years included cards from other companies, including Fleer, which is now an Upper Deck brand.

My son’s comment: “I LOVE opening packs!”

For the record, neither of my kids have been completely bitten by the  card collecting bug.  I actually didn’t start collecting until I was 7, almost three decades ago, so it’s still early.  My daughter collects American Girl dolls and Shopkins. My son has learned the joy of opening packs from sharing in the ripping of my packs when I buy them, and his own Skylanders Battle Cast cards. Gotta start somewhere, I suppose.

So we went and along the way we started talking about baseball cards, and even some Olympic cards, which I had recently purchased from Target. I told them that we might buy some more at the store, it just depends on how much they were.

Personally, I didn’t “need” anything. But I’m always down to see my buddy at the card shop — for the record he wasn’t there today, which I didn’t know until we got there — and I wanted the kids to get their free packs. That was what this trip was really all about.

I checked out the stuff at the shop and decided on three baseball packs and then opted for a “blaster” box of Topps Olympics cards. These “blaster” boxes are the same as those sold at Target and Walmart, 8 packs for $19.99. I figured let’s have a little fun. The kids were talking about Gabby Douglas in the car anyway.

So I made the purchase and the guy at the shop — whom I do not know on any level other than being a repeat customer — grabs three random packs from his stash of Topps National Baseball Card Day packs, and then grabs three of the Kris Bryant cards — which appears to be the last card in the set — and puts the Bryant cards into magnetic holders for us, all free of charge.

Outside the shop I snap a quick selfie of the three of us in front of the store with our free packs. I wanted to tweet at Topps and subsequently enter the MLBPA Twitter contest for additional stuff.

My daughter grabbed a pack with Nolan Arenado on top, my son snatched up the one with Joe Mauer on top, which left me with Clayton Kershaw, which was the one i was hoping the kids would leave me. Kershaw is my favorite active player; he’s No. 2 all-time behind Roger Clemens on my list of favorites.

My son ripped his:

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His cards: Joe Mauer, Ichiro, Sonny Gray, Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Joe Abreu

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My daughter then ripped hers and immediately says, “Oooh, Daddy!”

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You see, during our conversation about Olympic cards in the car I was telling them about game-used cards — those containing pieces of shirts, uniforms, caps, etc., worn or used by players and athletes.  I also told them about autograph cards.

Out of the middle of her stack of six cards was one with ink. She spotted it instantly.

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That’s injured Yankee Greg Bird’s autograph, serial numbered 062/165. The rest of her cards: Bryce Harper, David Price, Yadier Molina, Luis Severino and Nolan Arenado.

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She was so pumped that I was super happy for her. It really didn’t really matter who the autograph was, but she was so surprised that she actually pulled an autograph.

“It’s like everything we talk about comes true,” she said.

My day was already made. The Kershaw card already made my pack a winner, but now I was curious if more ink would be found. There was none in mine, but it was a solid pack: Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, Zack Greinke, Salvador Perez, Andrew McCutchen and Francisco Lindor.

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I purchased three loose Topps Chrome baseball packs in addition to the blaster.  Shiny, yet fairly uneventful.  I did pull the Kent Maeda rookie, which is a plus.

We decided to open the Olympics blaster box at home.  There was some discussion about doing a video, and we agreed to do it for fun but my phone ran out of memory. As we got through the first six packs, there was nothing of significance. We pulled three Aly Raisman cards — which my daughter liked — but still no Gabby Douglas.  And then it happened.

In pack seven, a base card of Gabby Douglas.

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About two minutes before we got to Pack 8 I told the kids about the memorabilia cards in this product and how they were worn by the athletes and then cut and placed into the cards. I also explained how the cards were a little thicker than the others.

My son opens Pack 8, the last one in the box and says, “Dadddddddy!”

Boom.

Ryan Lochte memorabilia card.

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“Oh my god, Daddy, it really is like everything we talk about comes true,” my daughter said again.

I realize these cards aren’t worth a fortune in terms of money, but the memories of how they were acquired are priceless. And before you start asking, neither the Bird autograph or Lochte memorabilia card are for trade. They belong to the kids.

This card adventure ranks right up there with the memory of my daughter’s first baseball game, which I wrote about here almost five years ago.

Blaster Break: 2016 Topps Olympics/Paralympic hopefuls (2 hits)

Posted in Box / Pack Break with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

IMG_0351Topps Allen & Ginter baseball has been out for nearly two weeks, however I have not seen a single pack of it at retail. What I did find, however, was a single blaster of Topps Olympic and Paralympic Team Hopefuls. With the Olympics kicking off this week in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, I figured now was as good a time as any to bust one of these blasters. And as it turned out, I defied the odds greatly with two hits in just eight packs.

Here’s a breakdown of each pack with a few takeaways at the end.

 

Pack 1

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Parallel: Bronze Kami Craig; Insert: Kim Rhode

Base: Gabby Douglas (Gymnastics), Claressa Shields (Boxing), Nathan Adrian (Swimming), April Vioss (Volleyball), Adeline Gray (Wrestling), Diana Taurasi (Basketball), Sam Mikulak (Gymnastics), Candace Parker (Basketball)

Pack 2

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Parallels: Silver Candace Parker (Basketball), Bronze Perry Baker (Rugby)

Hit: Bronze Relic Paige Selenski (Field Hockey) 64/75 (odds: 1:132 packs)

Pack 3

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Parallels: Silver Phil Dalhausser (Volleyball), Bronze Leo Manzano (Track & Field)

Base: Matt Stutzman (Archery), Jake Dalton (Gymnastics), Claressa Shields (Boxing), Danell Leyva (Gymnastics), Tatyana McFadden (Track & Field), Summer Ross (Volleyball), Kim Rhode (Shooting), Ryan Lochte (Swimming)

Pack 4

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Parallels: Gold Sam Mikulak (Gymnastics), Bronze Brittney Griner (Basketball)

Base: Alana Nichols (Para-Canoe), Lex Gillette (Track & Field), Cullen Jones (Swimming), Nathan Schrimsher (Modern Pentathlon), Bob Beamon (Track & Field), Madison Hughes (Rugby), Jenny Thompson (Swimming), Carly Patterson (Gymnastics)

Pack 5

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Parallels: Silver Tom Shields (Swimming), Bronze LaShawn Merritt (Track & Field)

Hit: Bronze Commemorative Olympic Medal (1:122 packs)

Base: Conor Dwyer (Swimming), Brad Snyder (Swimming), Margaux Isaksen (Modern Pentathlon)

Pack 6

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Parallel: Bronze Jake Gibb (Volleyball) Insert: Sam Mikulak (Gymnastics)

Base: David Boudia (Diving), Brady Ellison (Archery), McLain Ward (Equestrian), Haley Anderson (Swimming), Joe Kovacs (Track & Field), Merrill Moses (Water Polo), Galen Rupp (Track & Field), Courtney Mathewson (Water Polo)

Pack 7

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Parallels: Gold Nathan Adrian (Swimming), Bronze Emily Day (Volleyball)

Base: Aly Raisman (Gymnastics), Missy Franklin (Swimming), Ryan Lochte (Swimming), Megan Rapinoe (Soccer), Abby Wambach (Soccer), Carlin Isles (Rugby), Elena Delle Donne (Basketball), Sue Bird (Basketball)

Pack 8

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Parallels: Silver Abby Wambach (Soccer), Bronze Gary Hall Jr. (Swimming)

Base: Steven Lopez (Taekwondo), Simone Biles (Gymnastics), Jake Dalton (Gymnastics), Natalie Coughlin (Swimming), Mariel Zagunis (Fencing), Kayla Harrison (Judo), Paige Selenski (Field Hockey), Rulon Gardner (Wrestling)

Takeaways:  It’s not every day you nail two hits in a single blaster. This feat seems even more improbable since you are not “guaranteed” even a single hit. What’s interesting to note is that the relic card of the Field Hockey player is like twice as thick as the Bronze Medal card.  It just seems like it would have been the other way around since the medallion is heavy and the relic seems to be a piece of a T-shirt.

Also, look at the star power in pack No. 7. That’s a star-studded Olympic lineup right there from across all sports at the Olympics.

I posted briefly on Twitter about this blaster and someone wrote back they they didn’t have much luck in theirs. My response bears repeating: The product is always hit or miss. The key is to limit how much you buy. Even though it’s not mainstream sports cards, it’s enjoyable in small portions.

In case you’re wondering, here are the posted odds for these blasters:

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A Flawless Diamond added to my collection

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

Gem stones and baseball cards. This is hardly a new concept.

There were some “24 karat gold” cards (made my Bleacher if I remember correctly) sold via television home shopping channels during the 1990s that also had stones — rubies if I remember correctly — but as clear as I can remember, Pinnacle Brands was the first company to incorporate actual pieces of stones (diamonds) into mainstream baseball cards when they brought us The Diamond Club inserts in 1996 Pinnacle Zenith.

It was cool in theory. I mean aside from putting cash into cards, actual gem stones are the only other way to ensure that a card in your collection has some real value outside of just this hobby. But those early cards were poorly produced.  They were the same thickness as regular cards and the stone was in a small metal mount that easily came off some of the cards. Furthermore, the size of the stones was tiny. Think smaller baby earrings.

Fast forward a decade and a half and Topps brought us some special 1/1 Diamond parallels with gem stones to coincide with the company’s 60-year anniversary. The design was much approved over one of the rival companies from 15 years earlier. But they were 1/1’s Good luck finding a card of your guy.

And then in recent years, Panini America seems to have taken a liking to the idea of gem stones and cards and the company has used diamonds and what appear to be rubies in some of its higher-end brands.

Watching from a distance, I really wasn’t overly impressed with the cards, or really the notion of the gem stones in the cards. Truth be told, my sour experience with the inserts from 1996 and the difficulty actually obtaining one of the 2011 Topps cards really put me in a negative mindset as it pertains to such cards.

And the more recent Panini cards to me looked more like a way for the company to justify the price point at which the MSRP was being set rather than something collectors actually wanted. While it’s completely unfair of me to make such a broad assumption, it’s pretty clear that there is at least some truth to my thought as the secondary market on these cards remains relatively soft given the quality of card, the fact they contain actual stones, and the limited serial number nature of the cards.

Side note: I’m assuming these stones are real as there is a statement of guarantee on the reverse of the cards. And yes, I have seen some of the videos on YouTube calling their legitimacy into question. But it should be noted that while some didn’t pass the test of jewelers reviewing the cards, many did.

That said, I decided to buy one. Why? Because I found one of my all-time favorite player, Roger Clemens, … and the price seemed cheap.

This 2015 Panini National Treasures Multi-Sport Flawless Diamond card shown above is limited to 20 copies and shows Clemens in his University of Texas Longhorns garb. It has a few factors that might keep it out of the hardcore Clemens collectors, which kept the price low I think, but for $30 it seemed like a good addition to my collection.

So, do I feel any differently now that I have one of these nice, shiny Flawless Diamond cards in hand?

Yes and no. The quality on these cards is fantastic. Thick card stock and flashy foil help the “bling” factor if you will. I do think this one is a cool addition to my collection. But are they for everyone? No.

For the rippers and flippers, these are merely the equivalent of pocket change — nice to have as they are better than a pocket full of lint, or premium base cards, because they’ll eventually decrease the net cost of your break. But they are hardly the chase cards that collectors will hunt with an open wallet, which in turn would make a flipper a small fortune.

For player collectors, I think they present an interesting opportunity especially with prices for most guys being relatively cheap. And by relatively cheap I mean in the $20-$60 range for a hit that hails from a product that commands several hundred dollars sight unseen.

For everyone else it just depends if you want to spend your money on a piece of cardboard with a small diamond. Bottom line, that’s all this really is. There is no significance to the stone, or the paper in which it has been embedded.