Examining the Good With the Bad

In the past, I have done a five on five about the hobby, or a discussion of a few good things and a few bad things that I believe are relevant observations about what is currently going on. Since things have changed so much, even in the last few months, I think it bears a redux and re-evaluation.

Five Things That Are Great

1. Community

Since 2007, the online card community has become a staple of the industry to a point that it is taken into consideration when news is released. Not only do collectors participate in the discussion through message boards, facebook, twitter and blogs, but the companies have joined on as well. As of right now, all of the big three companies have facebook pages and twitter accounts, and two of the big three have a blog that covers relevant topics. As great as it is, those things are just the tip of the iceberg. Back in the early part of 2008, when SCU was founded, the amount of online participation was minimal compared to now. Card blogs were few and far between, and widely read card blogs were even fewer. Message boards were heavily policed and rarely produced anything but flame wars and mail day posts. Twitter was barely going, and facebook was for connecting with old friends. Since that timeframe, card blogs have become increasingly popular, message boards have gone so far as creating their own card sets, and twitter and facebook have become a staple of the community. As we saw with the turnout for the recent National show, many people from the community made it a point to meet up in Baltimore to put a face to the keyboard. It’s a great time to be a part of the hobby when it comes to online collecting.

2. Communication

When it comes to communication between the companies and their end users, less is more had always been the policy du jour. In a time where community is a key part of the process, communication has gotten to a point where collectors now have more of a voice in what is going on. If a company does something right, they hear about it from all sorts of different places. If a company does something wrong, they definitely hear about it, and in some cases they fix it. A great example of this was with the prevalence of the fake Rookie Premiere Autos from Topps, and their commitment to serially numbering the future cards to prevent fakes. On that same note, news on upcoming products, as well as announcements on new directions have become practical holidays on the net, and all is thanks to the way that the companies have started to communicate with the collectors. Is it all that it could be? No, but it’s a great thing that is going on in our hobby. As I said yesterday, the Topps panel at the national was an event that had good intentions at heart, but further improvement is needed. Regardless, a panel like that never would have happened a few years ago, and that is where we can see the progress.

3. Collectors Are Starting to Open Their Eyes

In terms of the soft underbelly of an industry known for defrauding its fans, the general collecting populace is starting to catch on that not everything is as peachy keen as Beckett makes it out to be. I remember a few system questioning topics being discussed on message boards when I first got back into collecting, and how much of a fight it turned into. None of the people who commented on the topics could fathom that Beckett or the manufacturers could manipulate them the way they were. Now, if you go on a message board and start talking about it, board members are quickly going to ask you if you have been hiding under a rock for the last three years. No longer do the companies have free reign to churn out questionable items or videos, as skepticism has become much more of a welcome feeling. Many of you may say this has contributed to a lot of negative aspects, but I disagree. I have never been one to want the wool pulled over my eyes, and I think its great that people are finally starting to see that all is not what it seems. Also, from a purchasing standpoint, a lot of collectors are starting to recognize the fakes that have been such a problem in the past. Whether its fake autos, fake patches or fake anything, someone is always there to jump on it. I cant tell you how happy that makes me feel, and I think its great that people are getting the point. They are surely a long way from where they need to be, but it is a million times better than it was.

4. The Hobby Is Receiving National Media Attention

For an industry profit marging that has deteriorated as greatly as it has over the last few years, national media attention is like a breath of fresh air. Whether it’s the sale of the Strasburg superfractor, or any number of other stories, news outlets are realizing how many people still care about sports cards. Hell, I have even seen the Million Card giveaway come up on MLB game broadcasts and morning news shows. When I attended the rookie premiere, an event usually reserved for card companies, the news stations from the LA area and even a few national services were there at the party. Because Topps, Panini and UD were the ones who had set up the event with the NFLPA, they were front and center when coverage of the event was broadcast. Although the hobby will never die, the industry does have a shelf life, and it is extended every time a story is covered nationally. That is definitely a good thing.

5. Things are Rebounding From the Recession

For a long time, the industry looked to be on its last legs because of crippling blows from the recession. Because of the way the manufacturers produce their products, card collecting success is in direct correlation to the amount of disposable income that is available to the nation. When the nation is in dire straits, so is the ability to buy cards, even more so than some of the other industries that were hit by the recession. Now that the nation is starting to recover, there was a looming cloud of doubt that surrounded whether or not the industry would be able to recover. As we have seen with the success of recent releases, as well as the completed auction tab on ebay, things are slowly getting back to the way they were. It may never reach full speed again, but its great to see that collectors are not giving up on the things they love.

Five Things That Are Bad

1. The Money

Baseball cards and money will always be interconnected, but its become ridiculous lately. I frequently blame entities like Beckett and their grading service and price guide for furthering the notion that cards are an investment rather than a fun way to pass the time, and I definitely think that is a good part of it. However, its not the entire story. So many people are solely in this for the money, and that’s a terrible thing. When looking at the reason they are in this for the money, I think some of it hinges on the ways cards are presented in a national perception of collecting. When new people come into things, the first thing they are usually exposed to is the question I see way too much of. “HOW MUCH IS THIS WORTH?” Instead of trying to collect things that make them happy, they start to collect things that will make them the most money. Then when Beckett presents such an unrealistic representation of value, it creates disappointment when the truth is realized. I will be the first to admit that I fall victim to this vicious circle as well, and I guess that comes with the territory. However, I think its time for cards to be presented in a way that doesn’t paint this hobby as a money pit. However, when the Strasburg super does what it does, that becomes practically impossible.

2. Creativity is DEAD

I have commented a number of times that there is no more creativity in this world of cards we love so much. Don’t believe me? Look at every product released under Panini since the take over. They might as well have been one continuous product. Topps isnt much better. Then when you see that a company like Upper Deck kicks themselves in the nuts and l
oses everything, the ability to foster new ideas dissapates. As much as I hate what Upper Deck did in terms of their business ethics and practices, their products were always the summer blockbusters of the card world. That is undeniable, especially when you see how a product like SPA or Exquisite compares to anything else in the same category of products. The boredom has become so disheartening, that many people are giving up based on the sheer number of emails I have received. Personally, I think it has more to do with companies focusing on packing as many relics onto a card as possible, rather than focusing on the simple beauty that cards had in the past. Design and composition has become an afterthought, instead of being the primary focus, and as a result, we have products like Topps Triple Threads and Panini National Treasures Basketball.

3. Scams and Fakes are Becoming Harder to Detect

It used to be blatantly obvious when something wasn’t right. The patch was perfectly centered, or the auto was ridiculously terrible. It was cut and dry, and the informed people never had to worry about getting taken. However, because of the way companies are trying to wow the collectors (a good thing), fakers have had an opportunity to exploit it (a bad thing). It’s a huge problem, and many of the manufacturers refuse to address that it is even happening, mainly because some of them don’t even have a clue as to the extent of how far it reaches. Although some of them take small steps into combatting fakes, none of them go the whole nine yards, either due to cost or due to time needed. They have gotten BETTER, but they are so far from GOOD that is fucking frustrating.

4. The Cost of Maintaining a Respectable Collection Is Getting Crazy

Part of it is due to the amount of money companies have to spend to get their products done, part of it is the nature of the business. The bad thing is that the cost of having a wow collection is getting unmanagable. Box price average is slowly creeping higher, and the content inside those boxes is not following suit. This leads to much higher prices all around, and much of it has to do with things out of the control of the companies who produce the cards. When the top players like Albert Pujols charge as much as they do for an autograph, it drives up the cost to produce a product that is filled with enough content to buy. Pujols doesn’t need the money, and neither do many of the players who sign, but yet they still feel that their signature is valuable enough to commit highway robbery. Then again, when they expect tens of millions of dollars to play a game we all think is nothing more than fun, I guess its expected.

5. Everyone is Using The Wrong Arguments For Why The Hobby Isnt Growing

Kids not collecting cards is not the problem. That’s pretty much it. That argument holds as much water as a generic brand baloon on a cold day. Kids are not the future of this hobby, casual sports fans are. When the collecting base is populated by as many twenty somethings as it is, the manufacturers should not be wasting their time trying to compete with XBOX and DVR. Kids are gone, and they are not coming back – at least until they start cheering for a sports team and buying their own stuff. Because that usually happens around age 16-20, that is where the focus needs to be. Kids spending 2 bucks on a base Topps pack at wal-mart is not going to drive the hobby to a point where it needs to be. Getting the billions of casual sports fans interested in buying AUTHENTIC autographs and memorabilia from their favorite sports players will.

As blogging is always about opinion rather than anything else, these are obviously mine. Im sure all of you have your own opinions, and I encourage you to voice them. However, when considering the things that you like and the things that you hate, remember that there is more to this hobby than bitching about redemptions. These highs and lows are more of a representation of intangible concepts that play into tangible products. When the intangible is corrected or improved, the tangible end results will improve. Bottom line.

Cut Autos for the Sake of Cut Autos

I have never been someone who likes cut autographs, especially ones that have been created in the last few years. I completely understand the necessity of having cuts in a lot of the cases in which they are used, but it seems like the companies are losing sight of what makes them awesome. It used to be that pulling a cut auto was like hitting a cardboard meal ticket in every way, where now, some cuts are offered at one per case.

As with every innovation in the industry, the manufacturers will exploit it like a child actor. Its gotten to the point now that companies have forgone paying for the licensing fees of including player pictures, only because the cuts need to be made as cheaply as possible. Then, when half the cuts themselves are of people that the casual or even hardcore fan has never heard of, things start to look more and more like the cards are becoming a gimmick rather than a worthwhile addition to the set.

This is one thing that Topps has actually done better than both Upper Deck and Panini put together, mainly because they use cut autos sparingly in most of the products that contain them. Of course, the cuts themselves usually look ridiculously awful, but at least the players are worthy of being included. However, Topps has had problems with including fake cut autographs in high end products, similar to what Upper Deck ran into a few years ago, and that brings them right back down to everyone else’s level.

In all truthfulness, are cut autos even that necessary anymore? Every player that needs a cut auto has one, and its only getting worse when you are pulling a ten dollar cut from a product that costs 200 dollars a box or more. Even in the recent Panini Classics product, almost 90% of the cuts in the product sell for less than half the cost of a box, and at that point, I would much rather have another scrub rookie than a signed piece of paper from some guy I have never heard of.

The worst thing is when companies destroy valuable pieces of American history to create the cards. I mean, there cant be THAT many letters and things signed by George Washington any more, right? Even if there are ten thousand valid sigs out there, its still a part of our country’s history that maybe should remain intact. Thats just me, im sure others love that they have these types of opportunities.

Either way, cuts are still out of control. Look at some of these recent ones I saw on eBay:

Brett Favre Cut Auto – A cut auto of a living player that signs no shortage of items? WTF. Seriously, WTF.

Mantle/Williams Cut Yaz/Robinson Sticker I actually dont even know where to start with this abomination. Triple threads is bad to begin with, but sticker autos on top of cuts? Cmon, I cant understand why this was even conceived.

Mantle Picture Cut – Aside from the fact that Mantle has one of the most forged signatures in history, im not sure why a card like this happens. I would much rather just have a redemption for the whole picture they cut up for this card. Happens all the time, and I just dont see the appeal in half of a signed pic of the Mick’s calves.

Lee Smith Cut Baseball Card – Tristar is almost offensive the way they do cuts, and this is a prime example. I think this franken-cut speaks for itself. Holy shit.

Walter Payton Phone Card Cut Auto – Considering how many autos Payton has out there, its terrible that Donruss has used these phone cards to death. Even worse than the fact that they look terrible, they cost about 90 bucks if you want to buy one uncut. It could be so much better for not much more cost.

Of all the things that companies could cut back on without problem, cuts are at the top of the list. I dont think there would be an outcry if the cuts went back to the way they were. With Razor and Tristar creating entire products centered on the cuts with no other redeeming factor, I think its time to give them a rest. You wouldnt hear boo out of me, and the companies could devote more money to creating better looking and more unique content in their products.

The First 2009 National Treasures Cut Auto Hits Ebay

The first one is up, and there are many more to come at one per case or whatever. Although it isnt as bad as the UD Black ones, the card companies are showing that they still havent mastered the picture-less cut auto. Ill be posting updates as they come.

It actually kind of makes me think that with all the different cuts that are released, that they are just too expensive to produce with Logos and or Player pics. At least give me some kind of football likeness, not just a “here it is, go ahead and love it” attitude.
On these cards, there is rarely any indication that its a person related to the game of football. Its just a border on a piece of signed paper, and I am not feeling it.

How Not To Do A Cut Autograph

For some reason, over the last year, cut autographs have gone from awesome pull to fucking ridiculous pieces of shit. When I mean fucking ridiculous pieces of shit, I mean that some of them dont break five dollars. Its not necessarily due to lack of rarity, but that is definitely a factor. I think its just as much a testament to the awful and disgusting designs that have overtaken the cut auto market.


This is a cut auto out Panini’s recent release of 2009 Limited. In previous years, Limited cuts have looked like this, this and even this. Not necessarily that bad, right? Then we have this:

No more picture, looks like a soccer ball, done for the sake of doing it. At least there is a team logo and the colors are based on the team’s. Since Panini puts fucking rainbow foil on everything, this card was not spared, and good lord is it bad. Unfortunately, this is the best of recent cards, and yes, it gets worse.


Upper Deck is usually thought of as the innovator and perfector of the cut auto. Their Legendary Cuts baseball product has always been a collector favorite. Recently in UD Black, all of that history went out the window so quickly that my head spun as I was projectile vomiting. Now, with newly painted walls, feast your eyes on this abomination:

No picture, odd looking hand numbering, and a weirdly shaped window that does nothing to help the cause. Just awful. For a set that looked as good as black did, there is no reason to include cards like this. I think this is the quintessential card to show that companies are now using cuts as a way to lure collectors in while delivering very little. Sad.

Fucking Horrid

Triple Threads is one of my least favorite products of all time, without question. However, even I could not believe my eyes when I saw this next card. It takes the whole cut autograph concept and just sets it aflame. Its so bad that you may want to take any children out of the room before continuing.

I dont know where to start. First off, the card is printed on bright blue neon foil. Im sure Vince Lombardi would have been proud. Second, those “relics” are from seats of the old Packers’ stadium, and I am not sure why this card even needed “relics” in the first place. Fucking stupid. Lastly, we have the crown jewel, the cut itself, and I cant even find a way in my mind to get the card the way it turned out. Obviously this is a check, but they mangled it so badly that you cant even call this his autograph anymore.

Seriously, if this is what we are forced to endure with cuts over the next few years, I want them gone. This has gotten to a point of parody, and I am not pleased that this is the direction things are headed. At least pay the money to put a picture on there, make the cards rarer, and dont use them in every fucking set. All three companies are such horrible offenders of this crime, that hopefully there is still time to make it back to the way things used to be. Wow.

Seeing This Card Makes Me Want Something Similar

The mystery cuts checklist from UD was pretty impressive with some of the ones they had found. Jimi Hendrix, the Marx Brothers, Presidents, etc. They also managed to get a card in there that I think is awesome in concept.

Take a look:

Bruce Lee has had a number of cards thanks to Allen and Ginter, and this card adds to it. Too bad there is no pic of Lee on the card, which is what made the Ginter one so cool. The Ginter card did not contain an auto, so this is much much more valuable. The seller wants a car for it, and probably couldnt get more than 1-2K, but its still worth posting.

This cut has a bold and beautiful signature, and I want to go find a cheaper version for my own collection. How cool would it be to have this type of thing as a part of your display. I guarantee everyone who saw it would feel as good as you do for having it. Too bad it will cost so much.