Friday, September 21, 2012

It's Almost Guaranteed Some of Your "Game-Used" Cards . . Aren't

A couple of weeks ago now, Cardboard Connection's legal analyst, attorney, Paul Lesko, was doing some research and fact checking into a follow-up on a case involving four sports memorabilia dealers convicted of various fraud charges related to the sale of bogus sports memorabilia. In so doing, he came across an interview with one of the defendants that alleges some pretty damning charges against the trading card manufacturers and Upper Deck in particular.

You can read the whole article here and listen to a spirited discussion on the topic on last Wednesday night's Cardboard Connection Radio show here. Since that time, we have invited the trading card manufacturers to make a statement about these allegations. To date, we have not heard one single tangible comment other than from Panini's Tracy Hackler who said the company will be making a statement at some point in the future. In all fairness, Donruss was the company mentioned which as you know, is no longer a legal entity.

The crux of the issue came to a head with this comment in the FBI interview with Authentic Sports Investment's (ASI) owner, Brad Wells, where he states the following:

"WELLS was asked if the card companies knew that what he was selling to them was not game used. WELLS said that the card companies were too smart to put their beliefs in writing but they knew a lot of what they were buying from resellers like WELLS was not game used. WELLS recalled a conversation he had with UPPER DECK buyer MIKE O'GRADY at the Anaheim, California National Sports Collectors Convention approximately three years ago. During the conversation, O'GRADY told WELLS that UPPER DECK needed eight DEREK JETER jerseys and they were willing to pay between $1,000 and $1,200 each. WELLS told O'GRADY that he was paying between $3,500 and $5,000 for JETER jerseys from STEINER SPORTS and STEINER SPORTS obtained their JETER jerseys directly from the New York Yankees. WELLS told O'GRADY that by only paying $1,200 for JETER jerseys, UPPER DECK was inviting fraud. O'GRADY said that UPPER DECK knew what they were getting, but they needed the JETER jerseys at the minimum price."

In my most humble of opinions, this is pretty damning stuff at the worst and reputation damaging at the least. The alleged activities took place from 2005 - 2009 and would include some of my favorite Upper Deck products of all time. While all the manufacturers were named, it appears that it was specifically Upper Deck that was willing to "play ball".

We as collectors deserve a statement, an explanation, a promise of remedy, something, ANYTHING, but all we have received so far is silence in the hopes that we as collectors are too ignorant or uniformed to know or care about the issue in the hopes that it will just go away.

It's not going to go away. Not if collectors inundate Upper Deck for answers. Knowing the financial straits they have found themselves in as of late, and in light of these allegations and their guilty verdict in a previous counterfeiting case (Yu-Gi-Hh) how does it make you feel about their $570 hockey product, The Cup, their $610 football product, Exquisite, and their $675 basketball product Fleer Retro?

Your turn. What do you think after reading or listening to the aforementioned information?


Fuji said...

How does it make me feel? Well... let's just say that I'm glad I've never dropped those ridiculous dollar amounts on a single box of cards.

It's also disappointing to hear that there's a chance UD knew they were giving collectors swatches of fake jerseys.

Thankfully I have never dropped a substantial amount of money on a single relic card... I think the most I've spent was $30 for a Jackie Robinson Triple Threads relic.

I'm not going to cry about that purchase... but if I had 200 $30 relic cards in my collection that might be fake... I just might shed a tear.

dogfacedgremlin said...

Real, fake, game used, event this point in the game, the line has been blurred so far by a market that has been over saturated with little one inch by one inch squares of fabric. I'm to the point where I almost don't care where they came from (especially plain white ones but that's another story).

Do I want the piece of mind to know they are real? Sure. But what is a statement going to prove? Does anyone think for one second that someone from UD or Panini or Topps or whoever, is going to stand up and say, "yes, our swatches are fake. we apologize and it will never happen again. please accept our issuance of "book value" replacements for all inquiries?" Heaven's to BLEEP no!! Not going to happen. If I was to guess, they will most likely stand by their product like they always do and try to sweep this under the rug as you mention. The 170 of us that pay attention will see through it but the other 2 million collectors will probably just ignore it.

Whether these were in The Cup or Exquisite or some other high-end product is irrelevant. If they were in those products, then they were in them all, all the way down to the $1.99 retail packs. But because it's become the gripe du jour to go after Upper Deck anytime anything bad happens (and sometimes they deserve it), it makes people kind of forget some of the stuff other companies have pulled on all of us in the past. Some of them aren't around anymore and probably shouldn't be. But in my opinion, it's unfair to single out UD without looking at everyone in the industry a little more closely.

This is still all testimony of basically a fraud and theif. The investigation is only getting started and I think we will hear a lot more as it develops.

Jason Presley said...

That whole exchange doesn't make any sense. If Upper Deck "knows what they're getting" why bother with the $1000-$1200 charade? Why not just buy a bolt of the fabric jerseys are made of and be done with it? Why would even Upper Deck pay $1200 for something they KNOW is not authentic?

Corky said...

It almost seems as one of those situations where someone knows they are being lied to but want to be told they are hearing the truth so they can feel better.

Like Dogfacedgremlin pointed out, no company is going to come out and state that they used fake jerseys, that would open up a world of legal issues. Hell, in the last few years alone Topps has put polyster jersey cuts in to a Lou Gehrig and a Honus Wagner relic cards not to mention the fake Ruth and Gehrig autos. Did we ever hear a satisfactory explination? Nope, it is easier to lay the blame on someone else and ignore it until something else draws the colelctor's anger away from them until their next mess up.

Not that Topps is alone, just these examples were more glaring errors due to the player's popularity/demand.

I have given up the days of even considering a product over $75-100 for a box. This way if I get ripped off by pulling a fake relic at least it is a $10 card instead of one that could run thousands.

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