I suppose it is in my blood. By nature, or from learned behavior (thanks Dad), I am completionist. Although not technically a word that you will find in a dictionary, I believe we all know what it means and most of us can relate.
My hobby of choice, is trading cards. More specifically, baseball cards. More, more specifically, A’s baseball cards. More, more, more specifically EVERY A’s baseball card! Once again, thanks Dad. I want them all. No, I need them all. No, I want to need them all, or is it I need to want them all?
I was sorting through old 1980s cards in my collection the other night and thought to myself… Had I not collected as a kid, there is no way I would be pursuing my A’s PC the way I am. Without the assist from my childhood collection giving me a massive head-start, I don’t believe I’d have the patience (or money) to go back and collect every A’s card produced (sans parallels and one of one’s of course). So for this, I suppose I should once again, say thanks to my dad!
I have built an extensive checklist for my A’s cards. My database is thorough and detailed. However, it’s also very daunting. To look at it can be overwhelming, both for what I don’t have, but for what I do have as well. I have a lot already, but I have a lot of needs left. It will be a life-long project, one that I hope I can share with my boys… And one I hope that they will take over someday, when my time has come.
In the meantime, I have to vent. Being a completionist is a tough thing. I am sure most everyone can relate to some degree. If it’s cardboard… If it’s green & gold… I want it… Nay… I NEED it! I don’t just want the ones I like… I want them ALL!
I want the COMPLETE set!
I am beginning to think that these major trading card companies are taking their core financial supporters for granted. I think that they truly believe we will blindly support their products as if they are some kind of cult leaders. The voices are coming from the cornfields of Iowa… “If we make it… They will buy it”…
NEWSFLASH: YOU need US more than WE need YOU!!!
C’mon ‘insert-trading-card-company-here’… We aren’t asking for much. All we are asking for is a list of which cards will be in the latest product release. Is that really too much to ask for?
I don’t want the checklist on Tuesday, when the product hits the shelves on Wednesday. Believe it or not, most of us hobbyists don’t have the resources to continuously support every product release, every time, every year. Most of us are just Average-Joe collectors with household budgets, living paycheck to paycheck.
So, please, cut us some slack and allow us a chance to game plan and prepare for how we want to utilize are finite resources.
I have blogged in the past about the many parallels each product seems to have; And how there are far too many products to being with. So I won’t get into that here…
I just want what you should want me to want… A list that prepares me, as a collector, for your next release. It would be something I could anticipate and get excited about. Knowing that there will be “XXX” of my favorite player/team in “product”, releasing at the end of the month.
How could you not want that as well? Would it not benefit you? Would it not be nice for your core base of personal collectors, prospectors and case breakers to know what they are buying well in advance?
The two most common responses I have seen to the “checklist” issue is:
1. Checklists change up until the last minute.
My response: Okay, I can sympathize with that. For instance, there is a Turkey Red Auto that has still yet to surface and I am not sure it was ever made (although it appeared on the final checklist”. However, what is the harm in releasing a preliminary checklist so that we have a general idea of what to expect?
2. Releasing an early checklist might be bad for Pre-Sells?
My response: So fix that (2013 Bowman Chrome anyone???). Strengthen your product. If collectors might respond negatively to a checklist… Then release a stronger product. Ask your customers what THEY want to see in next year’s product. I, for one, am willing to offer my thoughts… Should you ever be open to listening… And I am sure, I’d bring 200-400 collectors with me… And that only covers my Twitter family…
Releasing a checklist early will not be detrimental to your A/R ledger… In fact, I strongly believe, it’d be the exact opposite… You’d created a more enthusiastic fan base… Whether that is the person that buys 1-2 boxes per year… the retail card shop owners who pre-sell at the store level… Or the big case breaker out in Arkansas… We’d be informed and know exactly what to subsequently tell our customers… Or wives!
We (the collectors) are not asking for much. We are excited for the new products. Please just allow us the opportunity to set aside some money for it. Please let us know what we can expect.
We aren’t asking for the location of the Holy Grail… What came first, the chicken or the egg?… Or even the age-old question of God vs The Big Bang Theory…
All we want to know, in advance, is whether or not our favorite player(s) are in the next product release, what card number they will be and how much money we need to set aside… So that way we can start kissing up to the wife today… 3 weeks in advance… And not the night before!
Unless, of course, you’d like to personally call my wife and explain where that extra few hundred dollars that is missing from our checkbook went???
Did you need her phone number???
Yesterday was a day of reflection for me when I had a I-miss-“my”-childhood moment at my Local Card Shop (LCS).
I’ve took to Twitter in the past to vent my frustrations with the current state of this collecting hobby. Something that should be fun, seems more like a headache more often than not. Collectors have so many different products to purchase nowadays, you simply cannot collect everything. Especially not at the retail prices that our LCS’s have to charge to make a profit.
But I digress, this is not about the cost of the hobby as much as it about the sheer volume and speed in which it comes at us. Before you have a chance to catch your breath after the release of Topps’ flagship Series One in February, you are slapped in the face with pictures of cards on Twitter from “Next Week’s Release of Topps Tribute”! But don’t get caught up in the excitement of this $50 per pack product, because 2 days later, is the release of Topps Turkey Red, a limited print run product (which features major coalition issues, but that’s for another day). Before Topps could get to it’s next big release (Heritage), Panini drops Donruss into our laps. Then after the “street date” gets pushed back 3-4 times, Heritage finally hits stores… Followed very quickly by Museum Collection (At $50 a pack and $200 per box, no less)… And folks, that covers February and March of 2014!
I fancy myself as a 3-type collector… I collect Oakland A’s cards for my personal collection (PC). Any ole’ A’s card will do and it will be much loved. Second, I am a vintage collector, leaning towards my PC A’s first and foremost. And lastly, I am set builder/collector.
In recent years I have completely stopped buying packs/boxes of cards. Not at the cost of $75-$500 per box. The reasoning behind this revelation in my collecting habits stems from wanting to focus on my PC needs first. However, with this change though, comes the fact that I won’t ever get the thrill of ripping into “wax” anymore. I won’t ever get the chance at the big “case hit”… Or any other highly sought after cards from the latest release. The beauty of this type of collecting is that I can funnel ALL of my resources into buying specific cards for my PC and I have the peace of mind in knowing that I will only be buying the cards I truly want.
If you know me from Twitter (@ourtradingcards), you know that I love me some Yoenis Cespedes… I love me my A’s cards… And you may be asking yourself where exactly am I going with this blog and my “revelation” yesterday at my LCS. Before I get to that… Let me show you one small example of how frustrating it is to be a TEAM PC’er in today’s hobby.
If I wanted to just PC the Oakland A’s and just PC them from one product, let’s use Heritage as our example, it can be extremely costly. The following is a breakdown of only the A’s cards featured in the 2014 Topps Heritage product and the approximate cost of acquiring those cards in the secondary market:
A’s 15 card team set: $3
Jarrod Parker SP: $5
Sonny Gray SP: $5
Jarrod Parker Error Card (Sonny Gray pictured): $65-85
Yoenis Cespedes Throwback Variation: $85-115
Josh Reddick Throwback Variation: $85-115
Yoenis Cespedes Purple Refractor: $5
Yoenis Cespedes Refractor /999: $7
Yoenis Cespedes Chrome Refractor /565: $10
Yoenis Cespedes Black Refractor /65: $30
Yoenis Cespedes Gold Refractor /5: $100
Yoenis Cespedes Mini /100: $10
Sonny Gray Mini /100: $10
Yoenis Cespedes Black Back: $35
All other 16 Black Backs @ $10 a piece: $160
Yoenis Cespedes/Rickey Henderson/Reggie Jackson Triple Relic /25 $100
Yoenis Cespedes/RIckey Henderson Redemption Dual Auto $250
Let me recap (and I will assume I didn’t overlook any)… The approximate cost (on the low end) for this A’s whole Heritage collection sits at $965! Or the cost of almost 13… THIRTEEN boxes of Heritage! So please explain to me again why I would buy a box to bust before I pursue my A’s PC???
The last year I bought Heritage by the box, in fact, was 2012. I bought 1 blaster for $20 from Wal Mart and 3 boxes from a LCS at $70 each… So my total investment was $230. The base set featured 425 cards. After compiling my personal set, I was almost 200 cards short of a complete set! No SPs or insert sets! Just the BASE set! And I had more cards in my “dupes” pile than I did in my set pile! So now we are getting to the purpose of this blog.
This hobby is and most likely will always be a “Man’s” hobby from this point forward. Gone are the days of the 10 year old kids running into their LCS with their lunch money in hand. Choosing an empty stomach in pursuit of opening up a pack of cards to unearth their favorite players (and a stick of stale gum!).
So back to where I began. Yesterday I am sitting at my LCS surrounded by an array of over-priced unopened packs of glossy cardboard pictures of men. There was Topps Museum Collection (NFL and MLB) at $200 per box; Panini National Treasures at $500 per “pack”; Panini Titanium at $100 a box; Panini Totally Certified at $120 a pop; Topps Tribute at $300 a box; And, of course, many more products! The only 2 products that were “affordable” were Topps Stickers and Topps Opening Day… Afterthoughts to 98% of collectors in today’s market.
So, two kids walk in… Probably 6 & 9. They go through the LCS’s selection of $0.10 inventory blowout cards. They were so excited to see Cal Ripken and Ken Griffey Jr in there! Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa! One of the boys yells to his mom “This guy used to play for the Philadelphia A’s”! (Referring to an old Fleer product and a Jimmie Foxx card). I knew damn well, watching these boys, that they’d never know the joy of taking $2.00 into a hobby shop and taking away eight packs of cards. (At least not 8 packs that feature current players… I am sure every LCS has tons of old 88-91 packs laying around).
These kids were so excited to spend their $2.00 each. Both of them chose 10 of the blowout cards and one pack of Opening Day. The little guy, opens his pack… He had a sparkle in his eye… He looked at his brother and yelled… I mean he was loud…
“My pack had three Marlins players in it… How sick is that”!!!
Yeah, Topps… Panini… Leaf… Quit focusing solely on high-end, hit-driven, prospect-laden products… Cut the crap out of Quibis, Chipz and other gimmicky crap…. Give the young collectors something to get excited about… So if any of you happen to read this…
I want to open a box again… Not for the latest, greatest Bryce Harper, Mike Trout or Yasiel Puig hit… But for sheer fun of pulling a base card of Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss… Looking at my wife… And saying… Honey… For only $0.50… I got my 3 favorite players in ONE pack…
“How sick is that”…
Okay Topps… We get it. You like to make variations of the same card. I have 8/10 cards of the rainbow. Yes. There are, in fact, 2 more variations! They are, however, both 1/1’s (Red and Superfractor).
Last week, Topps released Series 2 to their base set for 2013. With it comes another onslaught of multiple variations. Every base card has a white base version (1). A red Target exclusive parallel (2). A blue Wal Mart exclusive parallel (3). A purple Toys R Us exclusive parallel (4). And then a few pack inserted parallels: Emerald Foil (5), Gold serial #’d/2013 (6), a salute to the military with their Camo serial #’d/99 (7), a tribute to breast cancer Pink serial #’d/50 (8), a black bordered serial #’d/62 (9). And then there are the Silver Slate redemption packs: Blue Silver Slate (10) and Silver Slate serial #’d/10 (11).
That’s right folks. Every card has 11 separate variations for all of your collecting desires. And I am guilty as charged! I want every variation for my beloved Oakland A’s. And at last check, Topps inserted 15 different A’s players into the Series 2 checklist. Thanks Topps! That’s 165 cards that are on my Christmas wish list. At $5 a piece… I have to explain to the wife where that $825 just went.
Unfortunately for me… They aren’t $5 a piece. The Silver Slate /10 and Black bordered /62 can get quite pricey. So let’s just say that there are 9 “affordable” variations… bringing our $5 per card total all the way down to $675!
Wait, wait, wait. There were 8 cards times 10 variations in Series 1. That’s another $400. And I am sure Update Series will have… Say another 10 base cards… Times 10-11 variations…
Does anyone have $2,000 I can borrow?
Also… There are autos. And relics. And auto/relics. And inserts. And SPs… OH MY!
Good thing Topps only produces these 3 Series every year and nothing else. Wait… Please hold… That’s the other line…
I have some guy named Bowman and all of his variations on call waiting. And his brother Bowman Chrome is also calling. Their cousin Bowman Draft also wants to make an appointment.
Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects wants to be on Tier One of the appointment list.
I just had a walk-in wanting to make some kind of Tribute to the past. Someone is on hold wanting to discuss their Museum Collection.
A lady from the Archives department is holding as well. A representative from Allen & Ginter called and left a message while I was at lunch. Sounds like a law firm to me.
Bowman Platinum and Sterling must be wanting to sell me some kind of jewelry.
I can make reservations at the Finest restaurant. They have 5 Star service. Just don’t sit in the back by the bathrooms. There’s a Gypsy Queen who usually sits back there.
Mom just texted me wanting to discuss our family Heritage. She seemed upset also. She must have figured out that our pet Turkey is Red.
Well enough about all the different variations of Topps Series I, II and Update. I am off to detail my rims. I have to polish the Topps of the wheels with a Chrome finish.
6 months ago, you couldn’t find a box break that wasn’t already sold out. It seemed box breakers couldn’t bring the product(s) in fast enough to support the demand. Prospective buyers would flock to multiple breakers to scoop up their favorite team(s) and/or the team(s) with the hot and upcoming prospects.
The Nationals (Harper) and Angels (Trout) were gone as soon as they were listed on the web site of the breaker. The Colts (Luck) and Redskins (Griffin) were gone before the breaker hit refresh on their latest listing.
It seemed every day, no less than 5 new breakers, were following me on Twitter and asking me to peruse their web site for all the latest products and deals. People that had little, to no business, breaking boxes came out of the wood work.
Maybe I am mistaken. Maybe I just got a false sense of the direction of the online portion of the hobby. However, it seems over the past 2 months or so, box breaking has slowed quite a bit. Is it because of the change of weather? Folks are out with their families more?! I doubt it. Ebay sales have seemed to screech to a halt as well. More families are spending less on hobbies these days.
It’s not just trading cards either. I was speaking with my dad the other day about hobbies in general. He mentioned that toy trains (his poison of choice) has seen a drastic dip in both online sales as well as the overall value of the product. Trains that once sold for $100 are being listed at auction beginning at $0.99. The seller is ecstatic to get rid of the item for $10! Can you imagine selling a low-grade 1969 Mickey Mantle card for $10? Can you imagine being happy that you got that much?
Talking to multiple local collectors, there seems to be zero interest in group breaking at the moment. Even in person where there is instant gratification. No one wants to spend good money without any guarantees of getting a decent return on investment (ROI). It’s hard enough to sell them a box that guarantees them 3 autos for $100. There’s no guarantees those autos will be worth than the cost of 1 pack combined.
Box breaking has become a rich man’s game. Another way to gamble, while gaining a tangible asset. Even if you get skunked in a break, you still do get “something”. But for the average collector on a moderate hobby budget… A $30 gamble is a huge potential loss. Especially now that most breakers have went to a random team format.
Why have they went the route of a random team format? Well, because… Um… No one wants the Marlins. Or Padres. Or Astros. Or Twins. Or… you get the point. There is a half dozen teams that a small group of collectors want for their personal collection. Yet, for the guy with $100 a month to spend on cards, spending $25 on a random team break and ending up with the Marlins doesn’t seem like a good ROI. And if the breaker sells the break by team, then they won’t sell the same group of 6-8 teams.
I recently found myself bored and looking for something to do. I got into a small, affordable, break. I bought 3 spots for $18. There was only 1 box being opened, so my chances of getting a decent ROI were below-average at best. I was randomed the Marlins, Padres and Tigers. The product being broken (2013 Bowman) was not terribly impressive for any of those teams. So before the box had even been broken, I realized I essentially flushed $18 down the toilet. The end result? A pile of base cards and 1 gold parallel that I would be lucky to sell on ebay for $0.99.
As the initial excitement of online box breaking started to wane… I believe collectors started getting smart about their money. “Why spend $30 for a random team (on the chances they may get a ROI) and if I get something good, I can sell/trade it for something I do want”. Why not just spend the $30 now? Buy packs at a LCS if you want the thrill of “gambling”? Buy an individual card(s) for my personal collection. Spend the money on something I know I want that I can appreciate more than a random stack of cards.
Sure the Live Case Breaks and Mojo Breaks of the world will always be around. I am sure you can always find a box break to get into if the fancy strikes. I predict the number of box breakers that will start to close up shop will increase over the next few months. They had there 15 minutes of fame and their day in the sun… I believe collectors have become smarter with their resources. I believe a lot of folks have realized their money is better spent on certainty as opposed to chance.
The days of “Boom! I just nailed a $60 auto” are over. Since it cost that collector $400 to finally get something good.
Maybe I am wrong. Maybe it’s just me that changed my perspective. I just don’t think so. And if I am wrong… If breaks are still selling out as strong as ever… then enjoy your ever-growing stacks of random base cards and $2 autos… While my personal collection continues to grow… and grow… and grow…
My first introduction into box breaking was at a local card shop (LCS). I was there with my wife and daughter at a monthly trade night. I was just getting back into the hobby (2010) after an almost 20 year hiatus. I was also learning about all of the additions that cards companies had made.
What was a relic?
An auto card was pretty self-explanatory!
What were refractors and parallels?
Some cards were numbered…
Some were chrome…
Some were retailer variations…
Some were worth more just based on the product in which they came out of…
Whew! That was a lot to learn! The hobby was no longer just about buying a $0.50 pack and hoping for a player from your favorite team! So the idea of box breaking was a whole new aspect. Fellow collectors would pool their money together to open a pre-set number of boxes. Each buying a specific amount of teams as their budgets and level of risk taking would allow.
My wife and I tried buying into a box break and were hooked. The gamble was fun. The adrenaline was intoxicating. Could we be going home with a case hit worth multiple times our small investment? Or would we strike out and go home with nothing more than base cards/inserts? It was time to double down!
However after a few months of this, we tired on the prospect of those big chase hits. We were spending $60 and more to come home with stacks of base cards from the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers. With that, we retired from box breaking at the LCS.
Somewhere along the line, I discovered Twitter and found a vast community of fellow card collectors and hobby enthusiasts. I also found an entire online community of box/case breakers. Some of these breakers were much more reliable and trust worthy than others. Some were fly-by-night breakers, selling their spots on eBay and through Pay Pal invoices.
I found a few really great box breakers. I made good friends with the Layton’s of LaytonSportsCards.com. Rich and Sara Layton have always treated me well and I always have fun in their breaks. They are fair, fun and reasonably priced. They have superior customer service and I always feel welcome in their box breaks.
However, the box/case breaking business is not for everyone. It’s not as easy as being able to buy some product and being able to sell the slots to customers. As the months have passed, more and more box/case breakers have popped up. As the days go by, it seems there are more people trying to break than there are customers to fill those breaks.
I have had the pleasure of guest breaking for DandPbreaks.com. I had a lot of fun being on the other of the table. Ripping packs and sharing in the excitement of the awesome cards being pulled is more than a thrill for this collector! I hope to be invited back in the future!
However, there is a lot of time and effort that goes into this aspect of the hobby. I have seen first hand a small glimpse of what it takes to execute a successful box break. It’s a tough business and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. It definitely isn’t a business just “anyone” can do. I do believe, it helps to have a reputable brick and mortar store behind your breaking business.
These are just a few of my thoughts on a rapidly growing addition to the hobby of card collecting. In summation, box/case breaking should be left to the professionals. It’s not an easy gig and I don’t envy anyone for doing what they do. Personally, I just don’t think it’s a good way for everyone to make money. It’s long hours with a very small profit margin and a tight window for mistakes.
Just because you can get a case of cards, doesn’t mean you should venture into this highly competitive side of sports card collecting. Sometimes it’s okay just to sit on the collector’s side of the table!
Originally posted 9/13/12 on our website:
What is value?
“Value”: relative worth, merit, or importance.
What is worth?
“Worth”: having a value of, or equal in value to, as in money.
As a follow up to my “Jersey Gate” blog, I wanted to explain what I think the definition of these two words are and how they relate to the sports card hobby.
As we have learned that all of our “relic” and “cloth” cards, may/may not be 100% authentic, it brings up the question:
If the cloth is not real, does it “devalue” the card any?
In my opinion, it does not. I laid out my thoughts in my previous blog. Many fellow collectors were quick to point out that the Beckett value of the card has dropped. I contend, again, that it has not. Beckett is not a “value” guide. It is a “price” guide. The word “guide” reflects it’s sole purpose. To give someone an idea of what something is “worth” in today’s free trade market.
If asked what my most expensive card is… I will quickly answer my 1933 Goudey, Lou Gehrig RC. We can all turn to page 32 of the Beckett Price Guide and see how much the market dictates it should be “worth”.
If asked what my higest valued card is… I will quickly answer my 1986 Topps Eric Davis. It is now listed as a common card in the Beckett Price Guide.
So why is it my most “valued” card?
In 1986, as a 7 year old, I went to my cousin’s birthday party. He was a few years older then me and I always wanted to be like him. He started collecting baseball cards that year. At his party, each kid received 2 packs of 1986 Topps cards. That was the night I got my first taste of the madness. I opened my packs and stuck them in my pocket. It wasn’t until later that week that my dad brought home my first Beckett Price Guide. In one of my packs, was the Eric Davis card. When I looked it up it was “worth” $1.25!!! I was 7 years old with a card that was worth more than a dollar!!! I was rich! I figured I would sell it, put the money in the bank… Possibly buy a car or a nice house someday with the profits… It didn’t matter, I was on my way to the big life!
Speed up 26 years and the same card is now “worth” a penny. However to me, it is invaluable. No card, not a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle or a 1911/1912 Tobacco Honus Wagner is “valued” at more money! That is my most prized card.
So does the authenticity of the cloth in the new cards devalue a card? No. It may make their “market worth” less. It, however, does not make it less valuable if you enjoyed collecting the card for your PC. I enjoy all the A’s cards that I have added to my PC throughout the last few years. They don’t need to have authentic game worn gear in them to make them “valuable” to me. I just enjoy collecting, sorting and looking at them.
Why can’t we all just be the 7 yr old kid again opening their first pack of cards… Why can’t we all just feel “rich” again, when holding our favorite player’s rookie card… Why can’t we get excited when we pull a card with a relic or auto on it? Why does it have to be all about eBay? Why does it all have to be about “Beckett’s Price Guide worth”???
Shame on us. I “value” my hobby as more than it’s “worth”.