Friday, March 26, 2010

First Video, Bard and Masterson Auto Collections

This is my first video, let me know what you think.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sage HIT is live, awesome and probably done

Although the trading card blogosphere is usually more interested in high-end products, I think that some of the best football cards released every year are the stable Rookie-focused sets released in March and April before the draft. For me, Sage HIT and Press Pass football cards are a sign that spring has sprung and it is time to prepare my mock draft.

Unfortunately, not all niche products are created equal. From year to year, Sage HIT and Press Pass cards can be good, bad, or ugly. I am happy to announce that this year's Sage HIT is good.

To commemorate this good release, let's take a walk down HIT memory lane from 2000 to 2010...

Unfortunately, 2010 Sage HIT may be the end of the line. As of April 1, 2010, Upper Deck will be the exclusive licensee of collegiate trading cards after signing a multi-year agreement with the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC), which represents more than 200 colleges and universities. That exclusive rights contract, similar to the contract that Topps has with MLB, should make it difficult for Press Pass and Sage to continue to produce cards of the top collegiate players and prospects. At the very least, it is almost certain that Sage and Press Pass will be forced to airbrush out any identifiable team logos.
While I won't dispute that, for the most part, Upper Deck makes better cards that Press Pass or Sage, it will still be sad to see them go. In addition to the basic fact that competition makes all card manufacturers better, Sage HIT and Upper Deck provided a number of things that, to this point, Upper Deck and Topps have not. For example, Sage HIT and Press Pass featured cards from a number of top college players that Topps and Upper Deck ignored because they were not NFL prospects. In addition, Press Pass' on-card autos were much better than the sticker autographs that Topps and Upper Deck featured, even in their highest-end products.
What makes this exclusive rights deal even more disappointing is the pathetic reasoning that the CLC is giving for their decision. According David Kirkpatrick, CLC's Vice President of Non-Apparel Marketing, granting Upper Deck the exclusive rights to produce collegiate cards "will place a renewed focus on collegiate accomplishments in addition to a student-athlete's post-collegiate potential." According to Kirkpatrick, "there are many opportunities in the collegiate trading card category that have not been fully realized, and Upper Deck shares our vision for expansion."
Of course, Kirkpatrick's explanation is logically false, per se. By contracting the number of licensed producers of collegiate trading cards, the CLC and Upper Deck are by definition decreasing, not expanding the opportunities for collectors of collegiate trading cards.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

March 18 TTM

Today in the mail I received a few great TTM autographs from two players: two from Justin Masterson and one from Pat Neshek.

Justin Masterson was my first ever TTM success, and has never let me down since. I am now 6/6 with TTM autographs from Masterson since last August. This is the quickest turnaround that I have had with Masterson thus far, taking less than two weeks from when I sent them out to when I received them.

A lot of baseball insiders think that Masterson could have a breakout season for Cleveland in 2010. This will be his first season where he will begin the season as a regular starter, slated to be #3 in the Indians rotation. However, taking into consideration that Jake Westbrook missed all of last season with an injury and Fausto Carmona has been inconsistent in recent season, Masterson could very well be the best and most reliable arm in Cleveland this season. Send him your cards now and beat the rush!

Next, Pat Neshek. Pat is interesting because, in addition to being a very reliable TTM signer and having a cool autograph, he is also an autograph collector and has his own website, On The Road With Pat Neshek, dedicated to his collection and his career. I highly reccomend checking out his site, and sending him some cards.

I'll keep you posted as I get more autographs in the future.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Autographs from Boston's Young Guns

As the Opening Day gets closer, I felt like sharing some autographs that I have collected over the past year from some of the Red Sox top young arms.

First, someone that every Sox fan should be familiar with, Clay Buchholz. After a rough 2008 in Boston, when he failed to live up to the expectations from his 2007 No-Hitter, Clay was sent to AAA Pawtucket to work on his pitching until the Sox felt that he was ready to handle Major Leagues competition. Buchholz was dominant in Pawtucket in 2009 and finally got the opportunity to join the Red Sox in late July to replace an injured Tim Wakefield.

Clay was a pretty good signer at Pawtucket, especially considering that he could have had a chip on his shoulder from being sent back down to the minors. I was 3/3 in getting his autograph when I tried, and they all came out pretty nice. I like this one best because of the way that he took up the whole card with his signature.

Next up, Daniel Bard. Bard is best known for being the 100-mph+ flamethrower out of the Red Sox bullpen and the heir-apparent closer if Jonathan Papelbon is traded or leaves in free-agency.

Although Bard spent less than 2 months in Pawtucket before being called up, I managed to get this 2008 TriStar Projections card signed one night after a game. He was very gracious and signed for the few of us that waited for him on a chilly April evening. On a sour note, I sent him a card last August TTM and have not gotten it back yet, but I haven't given up all hope yet.

Now it's Kelly Time. Casey Kelly is the uber-prospect that the Red Sox snatched away from the University of Tennessee, where he was recruited to play baseball and Quarterback for the Volunteers. Next, the Red Sox had to persuade Kelly to give up his desire to play shortstop in favor of taking the mound, where he has found much more success at Single A Greenville and Salem.

Kelly is expected to begin the season as a starter at AA Portland. I got this card signed at the Paw Sox Hot Stove Party in January, where Kelly was the main attraction and a great signer. Here's hoping that he makes his way to Pawtucket this season and continues to be an enthusiastic authographer.

Lastly, I have included two other pitching prospects who, although not as highly ranked as Kelly is, have shown very good stuff at times: Michael Bowden and Junichi Tazawa.

I am very bullish on Bowden, and think that he will become a very reliable 3rd or 4th starting pitcher for some team in the future, in the mold of Jeff Suppan. Michael has spent the last year or so re-tooling his delivery, and struggled at times last year, especially against MLB competition.

Nevertheless, I really hope that he can find a permanent home in some major league rotation because he seems like a very nice person. This is one of the 8 autographs that I got from him last season, and I am trying to get 1 of everyone of his rookie cards signed before he cuts me off.

Finally, Junichi Tazawa. Tazawa is interesting because last year was his first season of professional baseball. The Sox signed Tazawa straight out of the Japanese Industrial League and he was so impressive that he began the year at AA Portland, became an EL All-Star, and was earned promotions to Pawtucket and Boston. Junichi seemed to wear down towards the end of the last year, and finished the season on the DL. In the offseason, he worked on stength and conditioning to hopefully improve his endurance for a full-season of pitching.

For a highly-regarded prospect whose autograph sells for oodles on eBay, Tazawa is a fantastic signer. Unfortunately, his only card out last year was his Portland Sea Dogs teamset until this TriStar Obak came out after the season ended and an Upper Deck Ultimate Collection was released in January. I got this signed card signed at the Paw Sox Hot Stove Party in January.
Hope you enjoyed my collection, please tell me what you think about these prospects, your autographs or anything else in the comments section.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Autographs from Boston's Future Outfield

I thought that I would take the time to share my autographs today from two of the Red Sox' top prospects that look poised to capture starting outfield positions by the 2011 or 2012 seasons: Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish. Both 2006 Red Sox draft picks, Kalish was selected in the 9th round from Red Bank Catholic High School (NJ.) and Josh Reddick in the 17th round from Middle Georgia College.

Twenty-three year-old Josh Reddick is slightly ahead of Kalish developmentally, playing for AA Portland, AAA Pawtucket and Boston last season. After starting off hot in Portland, Josh was promoted directly to Boston as an injury replacement where he showed flashes of brilliance immediately. Unfortunately, late in the season, the patience at the plate that Reddick had improved to earn his promotions seemed to disappear and he finished the year hitting .127 in Pawtucket and .169 in Boston.

Fortunately, Reddick has regained his patient approach at the plate in Spring Training and has been crushing Grapefruit League pitching, hitting .476 average, .500 OBP, .762 SLG and 1.262 OPS over 8 games and 21 at-bats. Although Reddick will start the season at AAA Pawtucket, it looks like he should be contributing at Fenway before long.

I got this card signed after a Paw Sox game in late August. Josh is an infrequent signer, but that night he signed 2 cards for everyone who waited. Hope that he is ready to sign many, many more this season at McCoy.

Ryan Kalish, who will be twenty-two on opening day, began last season with High-A Salem before being promoted early to AA Portland. Despite early struggles against AA pitcher, Kalish finished the year with a .271 BA and 13 HR, being named the Red Sox Minor League Player of the Year. Kalish kept that momentum going in the Arizona Fall League, batting .310 for Mesa.

Ryan had a very productive stint in the Grapefruit League, hitting .267 with a .467 OBP over 7 games and 11 at bats before being reassigned to Minor League Spring Training. It seems likely that Kalish will break camp with the Sea Dogs, but could earn a quick promotion to AAA Pawtucket if he continues to play well.

In addition, Ryan was recently crowned the winner of the Red Sox Foundation charity benefit "Dancing with the New Stars" competition, edging out fellow prospects and dancers Lars Anderson, Michael Bowden and Mark Wagner. If you have 1 minute and 50 seconds, I promise that it will not disappoint.

Ryan Kalish's autographed 2008 TriStar Projections will always have a special place in my collection because it is the first autograph that I have ever got from a player that is younger than me. I got it before the Sea Dogs played the Bowie Bay Sox at the Futures at Fenway game in August of 2009.

Friday, March 12, 2010

First TTM Successes of the Year

Good news to report, I have received by first through the mail autographs of the year and they are from two of my favorite young pitchers.

I didn't start trying to get autographs through the mail until last season, when I sent out a 2009 Topps Allen & Ginter to Justin Masterson and got it back in about a month. Then, I sent him a 2008 Tristar Projections, and got it back in about a month again. Well, this spring I went back to a sure thing and sent him a 2009 Topps T-206 and here is the payoff...

I got this card back in about 2 1/2-3 weeks. A very nice signature with his trademark PHIL 4:13 below his autograph. Justin is an up-and-coming pitcher for Cleveland after being traded for Victor Martinez last July at the trade deadline and a great signer. I currently have his 2005 Bowman Draft Pick and 2008 Topps in the mail, I'll let you know when/if I get them back.

Next, I got back a signed 2009 Bowman RC from another one of my favorite young pitchers: Michael Bowden. Ranked as Boston's #2 overall prospect by Baseball America before last season, Bowden had an up-and-down season last year, but looks poised for a breakout 2010 season. While playing for Pawtucket last season, Bowden was an autograph-signing machine. He is a great guy and I was very happy to get this card from him.

I sent out this card on the same day that I sent the Masterson card out and got it back on the same day. Pretty cool coincidence, I think. As you can see, Michael personalized the autograph for me, which is kind of cool because he has never done that when I have gotten him in person, and added his Boston number, 64.

That's all for now, but I'll keep you posted on more of my TTM and in-person autograph successes throughout the season.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

If you are busting wax, you're probably wasting your money

The blogosphere is full of collectors complaining that big-ticket products like Topps Triple Threads and Bowman Sterling are ripe for disappointing buyers. What gets less attention is the fact that low-end products are just as much a poor way to spend your money, no matter what you're hoping to get out of them.

Let's discuss the reasons why people bust a box:

1. Game-Used and Autographed Cards.
2. Hot Rookies.
3. Set Collectors.

For every one of those reasons, you can get what you want, guaranteed, for cheaper on eBay any day of the week.

For the purpose of this discussion, let's use 2010 Topps Series 1. According to Topps, each Hobby Box contains 1 Autograph or Relic Card and each Jumbo Hobby Box contains 1 Autograph and 2 Relic Cards. On March 11, a Topps 2010 Series 1 Hobby Box was selling for $68.90 while a 2010 Topps Jumbo Hobby Box was selling for $107.99 on

Let's consider how valuable those Autograph and Relic Cards are. Over the past few weeks I have been assembling a collection of 2010 Topps Peak Performance Relics cards of my favorite Boston Red Sox players. Here is what I paid for them on eBay, including shipping.

2010 Topps Peak Performance Jersey (Red) Jonathan Papelbon: $3.18
2010 Topps Peak Performance Jersey (Red) David Ortiz: $4.50
2010 Topps Peak Performance Bat Kevin Youkilis: $4.34
2010 Topps Peak Performance Bat Dustin Pedroia: $4.24
2010 Topps Peak Performance Autograph Daniel Bard: $8.25

As you can see, for a mere $24.51 I have assembled almost as many "Hits" as could be expected from buying two boxes of 2010 Topps Jumbo Hobby Boxes for $215.98. And better than that, I got to choose the team and players that I like most.

"Okay, okay," you say, "We get it, you can get the "relics" and autographs we want for a song on eBay, but what about the rookies, we want rookies."

Let us look at the price of 2010 Topps Rookie Cards then. As of 7:21 P.M. EST on March 11, 2010 you can Buy It Now:

#2 Buster Posey RC, 1.50 or best offer, free shipping.
#64 Drew Stubbs RC, 1.00, free shipping.
#105 Madison Bumgarner RC $1.00, free shipping.
#196 Ian Desmond RC $1.00, free shipping.
#292 Tommy Manzella $1.00, free shipping.
#312 Tyler Flowers $1.00, free shipping.

"But," you say, "I am a set builder and I want the whole set." Fine then, be like me and buy the entire Topps Series 1 330-card set from twcbjr on eBay for the Buy It Now price of $19.90, including shipping.

Moral of the Story: Don't be a schmoe, let some other sucker bust the wax and just sit back and scoop up the cards that you really want on eBay for a fraction of the cost. This is the Pessimist Card Collector Zone, Because I'm Definitely Looking Out for You!

Update: I have added to my Red Sox Peak Performance Game-Used Collection with a Kevin Youkilis Game Work Blue Jersey for $3.99. Here it is...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Baseball Season Means Autograph Season

AND WE'RE OFF...for autograph season, at least. For me, autographs have always been a central part of the experience of being a fan. Specifically, getting autographs personally. It's one thing to walk into a sports memorabilia store and buy an autographed photo, jersey or ball of your favorite player to hang on your wall, but it does not approach the feeling of actually meeting your favorite players and getting their signature yourself.

For as long as I can remember, I have been an autograph addict. Although I'm not 100% sure, I think that I got my first autograph at McCoy Stadium, the home of the Pawtucket Red Sox, the AAA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. For those of you who are not from the area, the design of McCoy Stadium creates an interesting autograph experience.

As you can see from the picture, because the field is significantly lower than the stands, autograph seekers must design a way for their baseballs, hats, cards and bats to get to the players to sign. When I was younger, my autograph device of choice was a plastic milk carton with one side panel cut off and a rope tied around the handle.

Since then, my autograph techniques and successes have improved, but my passion for the hobby of collecting autographs remains as strong as it ever has been. Now, in addition to fishing for autographs before games on the field, I have expanded my approach to include waiting for players after the game and sending cards through the mail.

Of course, like many other hobbyists, adults autograph collectors are looked at suspiciously. Because so many people put things up on eBay faster than they can say "Thank You," many players look at autograph collectors as opportunists who are taking advantage of their generosity. This toxic atmosphere of distrust has the potential to destroy the best part of autograph collecting, the small personal relationship that is created between the athlete and the fan.

In addition, the popular perception that most adults who go autograph hunting only do so to make money begs the question: if they aren't selling the autographs, why are adults getting signatures? This creates a second sterotype and a hurtful stigma: the autograph collector as the loser living in his parents' basement. Of course, if you're reading this blog, it goes without saying that most adult autograph collectors are perfectly normal, happy, successful and well-adjusted. Unfortunately, the perception that they are doing something wrong by continuing to collect autographs can create a sense of guilt. For awhile I can remember hiding my autograph collecting as a hobby that dared not speak its name that I hid from my friends and family.

In a different but not wholly unrelated issue, the proliferation of fake autographs, especially online, creates an environment of suspicion about all autographs. Because it is relatively easy and inexpensive to forge signatures, and the rewards so high and punishment, if caught, unlikely, many unscrupulous individuals have made loads of cash cheating sports fans with fake autographs.

What makes the peddling of fake autographs and sports memorobelia even worse is that it involves (presumably) sports fans taking advantage of other sports fans. Because so many people (naively) trust others, they take a quick look at an autographed item and just assume that it is real. Plus, because most serious collectors can smell a fake from a mile away, those fake autos usually sell for far less than the real deal, tempting less knowledgable collectors to purchase them as a trophy piece or as an "investment."

However, despite those two problems, there is still no hobby that is as much fun and as addicting as collecting autographs. For hobby purists, who collect autographs themselves to keep in their own collections, it isn't about how much signatures are worth, but the memories that you make acquiring them.

As the season approaches, I will share some of my autograph successes from the past and keep you updated on new autographs throughout the season. I hope that I can provide some interesting insights into the hobby of autograph collecting and I look forward to hearing about your autograph experiences.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Re: Supply, demand, and the question of scarcity by Matt W. of Wax Heaven

Over at Wax Heaven, Max W. took a much needed look at the economics of card collecting, specifically the recent 1/1 craze. While I agree with most of Matt's warnings against sinking big money into "scarce" hits, I think that he misses the fact that by his logic, we overpay for every card that we buy.

Buying cards, and especially low-numbered cards on eBay reminds me of a speech by Governor Romney at the National Review Institute in 2006 during which he described when, as CEO of Bain Capital, a private equity investment firm, he bought Domino's Pizza for over a billion dollars. (Not just a pizza, the whole company) Romney said: "And you think: what is the probability of success in this investment? Here's a guy who has made pizza all his life. He has hired an investment banker to sell it to everybody in the world. We are the biggest schmoes who said we'll pay more than anyone else, at a time that he has decided is the best time to sell. What's the likelihood that we can be successful?"

While no card has sold for a billion dollars (yet), the principles remain the same. Whenever you buy a card on eBay, whether it is a 1/1 Derek Jeter auto/jersey or a 1994 Collector's Choice Ken Ryan, you are, in effect, the biggest schmoe who has agreed to pay more than anyone else in the world for a card, at a time that the seller has decided that it is the best time to sell.
Unlike private equity investment, however, buying cards is not, at least to most collectors, only about making money. Many collectors, myself included, buy some cards as investments and some cards to keep in their personal collections. Personally, I have been building a collection of Justin Masterson and Daniel Bard cards. For me, buying a 1/1, like the 2009 Topps 206 Daniel Bard Yellow Printing Plate that I acquired this past fall, is less of an investment than a capstone of my player collection.

From what I have seen when bidding on 1/1 cards in the past, some collectors go nuts. Even for players like Bard and Masterson, 1/1 cards can go for over a hundred dollars. So long as these Wild West eBay shootouts continue, and the player continues to have even just two die-hard collectors, I have to believe that the demand for 1/1 cards will remain and those cards will continue to fetch top dollar on eBay.

My message to collectors, and especially player and team collectors, is to not hesitate to go for the 1/1 cards, but, like all card purchases, never spend more money than you can afford to lose.

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other, One of These is the Exclusive Card of MLB

As you probably know already, as of 2010, Topps is the Exclusive Trading Card of Major League Baseball. With that powerful position ought to come the great responsibility of designing the best cards on the market. By that standard, Topps has failed. For evidence, a collector need look no further than the 2010 Topps and Upper Deck Rookie Cards of two of the top young players, Giants future stars Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey.

2010 Upper Deck
Buster Posey
2010 Topps
Buster Posey

2010 Upper Deck
Madison Bumgarner
2010 Topps
Madison Bumgarner

I feel as though the cards speak for themselves, and nothing else need be said. Baseball cards may be a hobby and quasi-religion for some of us, but for card manufacturers it is nothing more than a business. As far as Topps is concern, being able to slap "Exclusive Cards of MLB" on their wax and paint a team logo across their cards has superseded the importance of producing the best looking cards. Imagine a Topps Mickey Mantle RC with a microphone being shoved in his face?
Like all other industries, the trading card industry requires competition to bring out the best from all manufacturers. Instead of trying to compete with Upper Deck by providing the best cards and value for collectors, Topps has turned to trying to use their lawyers and exclusive rights contracts to establish a monopoly at the expense of all card collectors. If Topps succeeds, WE ARE DOOMED!