Saturday, September 25, 2010

Legalized Bait and Switch

If you missed the the radio show last night, in addition to having legendary baseball artist, Dick Perez as a guest, we discussed with our other guest, Dmitri Young, the problem with redemption cards.

The issue came up as a result of me entering a new redemption code at Upper Deck's website and finding I was still waiting for a redemption from last November. Now, the standard procedure is to notify customer service who will ask if you want to continue to wait or provide them a list of players that would serve as a suitable replacement. This current system requires the collector to take time out of their schedule to help the card company live up to their obligation.

To register for any of the companies online redemption accounts, you need to provide an email address. It would seem that if the card companies were at all concerned with customer service, they would implement a maximum wait time of no more than 3 to 6 months and then send the collector an email saying something to the affect, "We apologize for not being able to timely fulfill your redemption request. We are offering you the following choices as a substitute: Choice A, Choice B, or Choice C. Please reply with your replacement preference and it will ship within 48 hours."

That seems the least they could do.

However, I'll take it one step further and make the claim that the trading card industry is the only industry on the planet where it has become perfectly acceptable to use a blatant method of bait and switch as a standard practice. Imagine buying a new XBOX game and pulling out a cardboard CD and written on it is, "Due to circumstances beyond our control, our programmers have not finished the final stages of the game prior to the product's release date. Please log on to (insert website here) and enter your redemption code. When the game is finished we will mail you a copy."

The bottom line is, if a card is on the official product checklist and isn't physically available at the time of pack-out too bad. That's on the company not the collector. I don't know how this practice is even legal.

A few years ago, Upper Deck's Richard McWilliams stated at an industry conference, that they were implementing a 45-day redemption program. Add that to the long list of Upper Deck failures.

TWOT- This Week On Twitter 9/18 - 9/25

This week's highlights include:

- Looks at 2011 Topps, Epix and Platinum Football, Gridiron Gear, Elite Extra Ed.

- TV's Fall season kicks off

- Netflix expands geographic services and partnership with USA Network

- Product delays

- DC Entertainment moving operations to Burbank, CA

and more.

Check it out NOW!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

When Does A Book Become A Collectible?

When it is a collaboration of artwork by the legendary Dick Perez.

An artist of immense talent recognized by casual fans and die-hard baseball card collectors alike, Dick Perez has been creating canvas beauty for generations. Now collectors have the opportunity to own a limited edition printing of his new book, "The Immortals".

Distributed exclusively through Dick Perez, this beautiful compilation will not be available at retail. A limited number of copies will be produced and there will not be a second printing.

More details and a HUGE image gallery.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Status Report: The Vintage Consignment

Hours of sorting, dozens of transactions and several months later from originally starting this project, I thought it was time for an update. If one were to make a legitimate part-time or full time job of this project it would have needed to be concluded months ago. Fortunately for me, my consignors are business colleagues aware of the demands on my time from a career and family aspect so they have been content receiving the periodic check or PayPal payment.

When it comes to selling vintage, condition is everything. So naturally the more accurate and detailed the item's description, the higher the sale price. Of course your description is only as good as the pictures that accompany it and as is the case with any selling endeavor, these things take additional time. Time being money, you have to find a balance.

Awhile back I posted a picture and link of the listing software I was using (PageMage) but ultimately abandoned this as it significantly increased the time to list an individual item. Unlike pack pulled cards, you have to carefully exam every vintage card, often under magnification and at different light angles to formulate an accurate description.

So that said, here is a picture of what I have remaining to list.

So what started as (2) 5,000 count boxes has had the proverbial dent put into it, but isn't even 25% complete. Which on the one hand means more money, yeah, but on the other hand means more time, boo. So what has this all equated to in terms of money you ask?

The project to date total in net revenue (less fees and shipping) is: $1,120.39. Of which my take has been $408.11.

If anyone is looking for vintage football, I currently have a nice RC and Star lot from 1973 Topps on eBay which you can find here.

TWOT- This Week On Twitter 9/12 - 9/18

This week's highlights include:

- Hotties (Sports Wives and Ex's Gallery, Lingerie Football League)

- New Product Preview (WWE Platinum, Supreme Football, 2011 Baseball)

- New Mob Movies!!

- Pete Roses' Return to Cincy

- an much more!!

Check it out NOW!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

And Your 2011 Topps Card Design Is . . .

Today, Topps released an image of their 2011 base design. I have to admit I really do like it. It has a Stadium Club like look to it with a big photograph and unobtrusive lettering and logos. I do find it funny that they choose to debut it as "2011 Topps Baseball" when in reality it is recycled for not only Series 1, 2 and Update but also Pro Debut, Football, Chrome Baseball, and Chrome Football. So you better like it because half way through the next year's release calendar you'll probably be tired of looking at it.

Panini Has A Moment of Clarity

In the 8+ years I have been reviewing and writing about sports cards, I have never seen a company release an official product preview (complete with email distribution from their PR firm, widely distributed sell sheet and social media commentary on the product) and then reconfigure the product's pack-out based on negative feedback received.

However, that is exactly what happened this week, with regards, to 2010-11 Donruss Hockey. Upon the public release of the sell sheet, the disproportionate price to card ratio for what has always been seen as a quality, low end brand caused quite the uproar on Twitter, Facebook, the blogsphere and was also a subject for debat on Card Corner Club Radio last week in which we asked Scott Prusha, Marketing Director for Panini America, point blank, what they were thinking with a 5 card pack costing $3.99. As to be expected, Scott delivered the company line about insuring value at any price point and now was the time to think outside the box as they re-enter the hockey market.

Now, updated product information has 2010-11 Donruss Hockey, packing out with 10 cards per pack and a much more reasonable SRP of $2.99 a pack putting it right in line competition and value wise against Upper Deck Series 1 and 2, a long time collector favorite. If you missed the show, we also asked Scott why the conscious decision to leave a product gap and not compete for collector's dollars usually reserved for UD S1/S2. He said, "We don't pay attention or care what they (Upper Deck) are doing." Which is obviously not true and certainly not now on the heels of this recent happening.

Was this real time market research or did they get caught with their pants down? What do you think?

Monday, September 13, 2010

If I Wanted Topps Attax Cards I'd Buy Them

That was my first thought about 2010 Topps Football.

2010 Topps Attax Football packs out with, . . . . wait a minute. This is a review for 2010 Topps Football, their annual flagship release, not Attax. It’s easy to get confused though when 10% of the cards pulled are not in fact Topps Football base or insert cards but instead from a separate product entirely. This is a repeat of the overt cross marketing Topps pulled in baseball and last year in football. As recently as 2008 Topps Football packed-out with 10 legit cards and then included a Ticket To ToppsTown card. Did they really think without changing the price that collectors wouldn’t notice that they are essentially paying for 36 cards of garbage? This is the type of gimmicky underhandedness that drives collectors crazy, once aware of the less than ethical practice.

I couldn’t do an honest review of this product without getting that out of the way first.

Read the rest and see the image gallery.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

TWOT- This Week On Twitter 9/4 - 9/10

This week's highlights include:

- NHL drops the puck next month. (Card previews, EA NHL 11 release, NHL rookie premiere)

- Promos for Topps Gridiron Gear and Panini NFL Player of the Day ramp up

- NFL returns for 2010-11 Season

This and much more! Check it out.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

2010 CECE- The Chicagoland Entertainment Collector's Expo

I trekked out to the annual CECE show today and was pleasantly surprised by the experience as non-sport trading cards is a little bit out of my realm, but not entirely. I do, however, own complete sets of The Sopranos and the 24 series and collect specific genres of comic books. Additionally I am a huge fan of movies, Americana, and pop culture so in reality I found myself more in a comfort zone than I originally would have thought.

The venue was held at an area Holiday Inn and was larger and well attended than I would have thought. The organizers should be commended for assembling such a diverse array of comic book and sketch artists, actors and actresses. Dealers of non-sport trading cards had unopened boxes AND complete sets of every imaginable release from Alias to Zoro.

One of the highlights for me was meeting some of the many women of 007 James Bond, including Caroline Muro (The Spy Who Loved Me), Martine Beswick (From Russia With Love) and Shirley Eaton (Goldfinger).

Several other recognizable celebrities were in attendance including Richard Kiel (Moonraker, The Spy Who Loved Me, Happy Gilmore), Erin Moran (Happy Days), Bonnie Piesse (Beru- Whiteson-Star Wars Episodes II and III), Felix Silla (Twiki- Buck Rogers, Cousin It- Addams Family) Tanya Roberst (Charlie's Angels, That 70's Show Beastmaster and Sheena) and many more.

The lineup of comic book and sketch card artists was too extensive to list in its entirity. Some of the highlights included Ken Kelly, Mark McHaley, Dave Dorman, Chris Achilleos, Larry Elmore, Tony Miello, and Manny Mederos. Some people know artists like you and I know starting line ups and team rosters. I am NOT one of those people but I did recognize several base on the comic books at their tables. Here are some of the sketch cards I picked up from Trevor Mueller (Harley Quinn and The Joker), Jay Shimko (Al Capone), and Russell Lissau (Batman), Tony Miello (Dark Knight Joker), and Manny Mederos (Batman).

You can see a gallery from the show floor here which includes Doug Cataldo (my radio co-host) and his charity auction win- a Larry The Soup Nazi" Thomas signed soup ladle :)

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Look Back at the Wingfield Collection

One of the greatest inserts sets of the last five years came in the form of a box topper containing a black and white 5" x 7" photograph reproduction from the original negatives of legendary baseball photographer Don Wingfield. Featuring some never before scene images of players from the Golden Age of baseball these cards are beautiful. Pictured here, are two of the Yankees immortal heroes sharing a laugh.

Donald Wingfield worked for The Sporting News, the Washington Senators, and The Topps Company, Inc during the glory days of the game. He also freelanced for dozens of outlets including Life, Look and other major national magazines. Collectors may not recognize his name but he is responsible for many of the images used in the card sets of the mid 50's and early 60's.

When Upper Deck secured licensing rights to reproduce The Wingfield Collection, it was quite the feat for the folks in Carlsbad who quickly capitalized on their acquisition with the over-sized postcards. Totalling over 6,750 original negatives, many never previously published, Upper Deck provided collectors with a rare glimpse into these treasure archives. Originally used by the company in 2004 their popularity quickly sparked the idea to use them as a value added item at the height of that marketing mechanism. the following year, most notably in Sweet Spot and Sweet Spot Classic.

Several examples can be seen here and Baseball Almanac has an entry from the person who originally appraised the collection.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Quiz Time: Are You Ready For Some Football!!

Wow! This one is tough.
Can you name all 32 NFL starting QB's in 5 minutes? I couldn't.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What's In A Name and Other Musings

Donruss Hockey
Today, details were released regarding 2010-11 Donruss Hockey. Ahh Donruss, a brand name synonymous with quality, affordable base sets. But not this time. With an advertised SRP of $4 per pack they have essentially created a mid-range product labeled with the low-end brand name. With only 5 cards per pack and 2 hits per box that equates to $0.80 a card and/or $40 a hit. There doesn't seem to be any possible way of getting the paid dollar value out of a box with those numbers.

Head of hockey brand management, Al Muir, might have misfired on this one because now Panini doesn't seem to have a brand to compete head to head with Upper Deck's flagship Series 1 and 2. Score was seemingly designed to compete with Victory but as a hockey collector, why would I choose the Donruss base brand over Upper Deck? While some might argue that the Ice Kings and Les Gardien inserts will provide enough incentive for collectors to crossover, I believe UD has too much brand loyalty built to its annual release for collectors to take that gamble.

Gridiron Giveaway
Topps' Gridiron Giveaway is in full swing and seems to be a quality follow-up up to the MCG campaign started earlier in the year. I really like the fact that they have included (albeit extremely rare), chances to redeem codes for full sized memorabilia in the formed of signed helmets etc. That is a tremendous value add and I think making the odds of winning more realistic might be a tremendous opportunity to drive sales of a future product.

I've mentioned before how I would like to see a product brand contain redemption cards for larger ticket items like signed jerseys, bats, balls etc, and this seems to be a potential first step in that direction.

Bill Mastro Cashing In
Former head of now defunct Mastro Auctions is liquidating his collection in an auction (of course) through Legendary Auctions run by his former colleagues. Some rare and unique items are included and Sports Collector's Daily has full report. Mastro Auctions was dissolved under mysterious circumstances after an ongoing and continuing investigation of the auction house by the FBI. Regardless, a detailed look at the pending catalogue shows many drool worthy pieces and it will be interesting to see how the market reacts to this rare offering.

I finished the base set this week and am working on the SP's. Despite not loving the design I have been amused by the whimsical nature of the color schemes, the variations, and the history on the card backs. I have 3 more SP's coming this week including one of my all-time favorite White Sox players, Buck Weaver. More on this later.

The Cup
Upper Deck's high end premium and hockey equivalent of Exquisite is late this year. REALLY, REALLY, REALLY late. I don't know how this bodes for the brand as a whole as I can never remember a product being released AFTER the current year's product's have started to make their way to market. However, hockey collectors are pretty fanatical and people who collect The Cup annually will surely buy it regardless. However, for the sometimes buyer, on a more limited budget, will they have already moved on and be more geared towards the chase for this year's crop of rookies? time will tell but I suspect we see a price drop of this product shortly after initial release.

One can only speculate as to why. An Upper Deck spokesperson on Twitter this week when asked the the reasoning for the delay, responded by saying they were having a hard time getting autos back because of the off season travel schedule of the players. Huh?! I suspect that some key players were holding out waiting to get paid, but that is purely conjecture on my part.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Odd 2010 Obak Variations

If I'm late to the party and everyone is aware of this already, I'm sorry. As far as I knew the only variations in 2010 Tristar Obak, were the image variations and slogan variations. Looking at the back of a few of my card, look at the circle around the number in the Tinkers, Evers, Chance card, and the square around the number on the Heyward card.

So does EVERY card have a variation like this?

A Public Service Announcement From The VOTC

TO BUNDLE A LOT OF TRADING CARDS!!!!!!!!! EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, today I received a package, that at first glance, appeared to be put together in a manner that would keep the 94 count lot of 2010 Obak base cards I purchased in good condition. After opening the priority mail envelope, I pulled out the cards that were wrapped corrugated cardboard in a make shift "box". After cutting the tape, I found an unsealed graded card bag and two stacks of cards with a rubber band around them. What the hell is that?!?!?!

Grant it, they were loosely wrapped, which only meant I fumbled to keep the cards from spilling out of the unsealed bag. The rubber band still managed to ding the top and bottom card's edges. Does this guy keep them stored in a shoebox and ride a bike with cards in the spokes too?!?!?

Here's a breakdown of common eBay packaging. Dos and Dont's

Single Card- Penny sleeve, (UNTAPED) top-loader, team bag, bubble envelope.

Up to roughly 20 cards (depending on card thickness)- Stack of cards secured on back and front with a decoy card, team bag, scotch taped at sides to restrict movement within the bag, bubble envelope.

20-100 cards- Plastic hinged cases with enough room to put a packing peanut, or decoy card on top of the stack, a single piece of Scotch tape to prevent the hinged box from opening, and a larger bubble envelope. OR multiples of above laid side by side in the bubble envelope or wrapped and taped within a piece of paper.

100+ cards- You HAVE to use the appropriate sized storage box. Not a make shift box, a box from Amway, Avon, Mary Kay, or Amazon that you have jury-rigged to act as a cheap substitute.

Things to NEVER do.

- Use an in appropriate sized top loader for a single card.
- Jam to many cards in a hinged box with no decoy.
- Excessively tape a hinged box.
- Use too small of a snap-tight for a game used card.
- Taping a toploader. (I have opened cards that the top edge of the card wiggled under the tape in transport)
- Jamming multiple cards in a toploader.

Now, I am not trying to be the shipping police or tell you how to ship your cards, that's your business. However, suffice it to say that employing these simple guidelines would make the collecting universe a happier, better place.

Thank you.

What are somethings you employ that are cost-effective and make sense?

This has been a public service announcement, we now return you to your regularly scheduled programing.

Changes to TWOT

I have decided to make the TWOT (This Week On Twitter) a stand alone page. They will be kept in chronological order, most recent first. This will keep the main page from becoming so lengthy but still provide easy access. A post will be made as usual with the week's highlights and a link to the page itself. That said here's what happened on Twitter this week.
  • Box Breaks- T206, Razor Rookie Retro, and Topps Football
  • NCAA Football Preview
  • NHL Rookie Premiere
  • WWE's 50 Sexiest Diva's
  • Lingerie Football League
  • Fall Video Game Releases

See all this week's great content!!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

You Learn Something New Everyday

Variations are such a quirky aspect of The Hobby and a true challenge for any completist. Take for instance this other wise mundane card of George Brett from the 1979 Kellogg's series that I currently have listed on ebay. Imagine my surprise when I received this question from a potential buyer today:

"Hi, can you tell me if the copyright symbol on back is in Tony's scarf or below Tony's scarf in lower right corner of box and if there is or is not another one after the team logo on back top right corner?
Thanks, "

Obscure, I though to myself but it certainly isn't any skin off my back to check. This is what I found:

So at this point my curiosity is peaked. I respond to the questions with the results and ask him for further details. Apparently their are 3 variations base on his reply.

"Hi, the cards were printed 3 ways:

1. Copyright symbol on back in Tony's scarf
2. Below Tony's scarf in lower right corner of box and not after team logo
3. Below Tony's scarf in lower right corner of box and after team logo"

So there you go variations on the 1979 Kellogg's 3D Superstar Cards

Guest Review: T206 Is A Head Scratcher

I was very excited to review this set. I own a beautiful Piedmont card from the original set and I was hoping to get a few memorable cards out of this new release that’s an homage to the original set. But the more I examined the cards the more issues I found which dialed down a lot of the glee I thought that I would have.

If I added up a list of my likes and dislikes I think the dislikes would have the edge. There are some “QC” issues but in this day and age should a set have so many?

It's Time For Upper Deck to Start Playing By the Rules

I can't help but shake my head at the latest shenanigans pulled by Upper Deck. As most of you have heard by now, the folks in Carlsbad, CA are once again facing litigation. This time for the unauthorized use of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's likeness in their upcoming product release of NCAA Greats of the Game Basketball. I needed a couple of days to wrap my head around the blatant disregard this company continues to display for the basic rules of law and sound business practices before commenting.

At a time when the company needs to regroup, lay low, and not make waves, they instead pull a stunt like this, which, when all is said and done, will cost them something they don't have a lot of right now, i imagine, cash. Coming on the heels of multiple legal hurdles, injunctions, and lawsuits, the suits at Upper Deck seem to be spending more time lately in the courtroom than the board room.

Their rival, Panini America, just a few years ago, when they were still operating as Donruss, faced similar circumstances of losing multiple sports trading card licenses with no other product category to fall back on and fill the revenue void. Upper Deck, fortunately for them, has its hands in authenticated memorabilia, trading card games, and non-sport trading cards also, to help, at least, temporarily stop the bleeding.

It just seems irrational to me that a company would knowingly choose this fight. Did they think Kareem would simply ignore this situation? Doubtful. Some bean counter worked out some empirical mathematical formula and determined that Kareem's presence in the product vs the cost of legal action was worth the calculated risk. Or maybe I am giving them too much credit. Regardless of the logic, (or lack-there-of) now doesn't seem the time to gamble.

For the first time in years, they are facing competition in the hockey trading card market, their ONLY league licensed sport, from Panini, while simultaneously being required to reduce the number of brands they release in that niche. Instead of plotting a way to dominate market share through an innovative product offering, they are going to have to divert resources in money, time and PR to deal with this pending litigation.

Back in April I wrote a post detailing what I though needed to be done to position Upper Deck for a rebound in the future. None of them have happened, which either means, I don't know what I am talking about, don't have all the information, or the company is too egotistical to make the necessary decisions to come out of their current circumstances as a viable entity in the market poised for recovery.

It is going to be YEARS, before they get their licensing back in ANY sport other than hockey. It's time to accept their role as a little fish in a big pond and start acting appropriately.