More Discussion on Loaded Boxes

The existence of loaded boxes in the industry is not in question, and it never has been. Yet, after some rousing discussion on Twitter yesterday, things got a little bit more interesting in regards to whether or not we know the full story about them. I know I have always wanted an admission of guilt regarding the free boxes that are sent to Beckett and many of the blogs, but I have always just been told that the luck of the draw is the luck of the draw. Personally, I have had private conversations with people still employed in the industry confirming that loaded boxes are regularly sent out, but that Beckett is the only ones stupid enough to video tape and show them. So, the question becomes, do they know what they are getting ahead of time?

Before I answer that, I need to examine a few things that were brought to the forefront by Beckett yesterday in an arrogant post on their site. Obviously the employees are tired of having to deal with the constant backlash regarding their breaks, and they wanted us to rethink our position. For most of the people that have been to a few rodeos, it was a slap in the face to have Beckett post that the cards they pull on a regular basis do not deserve our ire and wrath. They wanted us to believe that because so many 1/1s are created every year, its not out of the question to believe that they would pull as many as they have. However, the 1/1s they pull are only part of the argument, and that’s where I don’t think they wanted to reveal the whole truth. If you go back and tally up ALL the amazing cards they have pulled, its absolutely crazy to believe that its luck. I mean, really go back. Yesterday alone they pulled close to $3000 worth of cards from two boxes of tribute and a few boxes of National Treasures basketball. In reality, they and their advertisers just want you to believe that you have the same chance they do at having those types of days. Of course we do, of course we do.

This leads us back to the original discussion on the loaded boxes themselves. If they exist, which is all but confirmed by everyone in the industry, does Beckett know what they are opening before they open it? This is where there is some debate, and I am on one side of things, and many in the industry are on the other. Steven Judd said some very interesting things on Twitter yesterday regarding this exact question, and its up to you whether or not you want to believe him. He has held just about every job in the industry, and it has made him enough friends and enemies for him to be warranted in saying what he said.

His first Tweet said, “So Beckett got a loaded box, big deal. I “packed” quite a few of them over the years. Get over it. It’s part of the business. Geez…..” From this statement, the discussion starts to materialize. He continues, “When the Beckett boards were more dominant. I would make a special “case” (I’d give the packout vendor a specific list of auto/mem hits to put in each box), have it sent to a buddy of mine a week prior to the release date, have him break the scan and scan all of the auto/mem cards and then post a box-by-box break on the Beckett boards around midnight on the night before the release date in order to get people excited about the product.I like to call it guerilla marketing.” Right, so the loaded boxes are pretty common, no news there, this time its just from someone who worked in the industry. This is where it gets to my questions, as Judd seems to think otherwise that Beckett doesn’t know what they are getting.

“Just to be clear, Beckett or the folks who work there have nothing to do with the “loaded” boxes they receive. It’s the PDT/marketing people at the card companies that plot and scheme to jerrymander the box/boxes.” Notice he doesn’t say that they don’t know what they are getting ahead of time, just that they arent involved in the scheme. See, im not sure if all of you know, but Beckett has its hands in just about every company that is out there. Certain reps from Beckett and Panini are actually such close friends that they participate in each other’s weddings. Hell, even the new brand manager for Panini Hockey is a former Beckett employee. Same with a number of other people at all three major companies. Beckett has people in their staff that worked in the industry too, so they are not free from the reverse of this instance. Basically, everyone in the industry knows everyone VERY well. Now, considering how close all of these people are, do you really think that no one sends emails back and forth explaining what needs to be done with the video breaks? Cmon. I don’t think anyone is that naïve. It’s the same reason why the people talk about certain cards before they are actually pulled in the break.

The companies have a responsibility to generate as much hype around their products as they possibly can, and this is the best way to do it. People say that pulling these types of cards would do nothing for a product, but obviously that isnt true, or Beckett wouldn’t continually get boxes. Are the companies wrong for creating this type of situation? Of course they are, its manipulative and unethical. But, its also expected. The companies have been rewarding their best customers and best friends for years. If you spend $100,000 a year on wax with a company, its understood that you are taken care of. When I worked at a shop one summer during high school, I witnessed it first hand. This industry is built on that kind of deception, and no one wants to believe its happening, because we want to think that we actually have a shot at pulling something when we buy a box.

The bottom line is this. Beckett general news reporting and their breaks do not present a realistic view of anything regarding the hobby, and it is the reason why they feel the need to try and justify everything they do. If they presented a realistic view of what is actually going on, people would accept it without question. However, people would also realize how crooked and terrible the industry can be at times, and that is where things would cause problems. Beckett caters to a certain type of reader, the reader with blinders on. The one that just wants the hobby to be a hobby, regardless of what goes on behind closed doors. They don’t research fakes, they don’t care about the negative things people say on message boards and blogs, they just want to be spoon fed the news and then buy their boxes free of concern. I am not like that, and many of the people who read this site are not like that. However, more and more people are becoming like me every day, and that is where Beckett and the companies are going to have major issues one day. It finally caught up with Upper Deck earlier this year, and I have a feeling its only a matter of time before it starts to surface in other places.

If Beckett wants to continue breaking boxes with an arrogant attitude that we are the bad guys for questioning the authenticity of their breaks, they are not going to stop hearing the guffaws from the crowd each time they pull something huge. As the FCC starts to crack down on the free product that media outlets receive, they may also need to adjust things before the government regulations catch up with them. Sure, there are a lot of 1/1s these days, but it is still ridiculously tough to pull them, especially if a normal collector broke as few boxes as Beckett does each year. I think its time that collectors stop kidding themselves, and its also time that both the companies and Beckett own up to the presentation of the products they get. Its not fair, especially when the uninformed part of the hobby that still reads their magazine, thinks that the hobby world that Beckett presents is the real world and not some ridiculous fantasy land.

I get that there is no way any of this goes further than this page, but it was worth the discussion among the few people that read this site.

Tuff Stuff Wants To Discover What’s Wrong With The Hobby

Recently, Tuff Stuff has taken it upon themselves to go over what readers think is wrong with the hobby and to look for possible solutions. I think its a bold step, but in my opinion, a generally horrible idea in this format. First, the average reader has no fucking clue as to what is truly the more IMPORTANT bad things, and that will lead to a pretty boring list. Second, half the major problems in the hobby stem from things the magazine does themselves. Anyways, here is what their list will probably be, followed by mine.

TUFF STUFF PROJECTED LIST (not in order of importance):
1) Redemptions – I have said it before, its more the players than the companies that have problems with redemptions. If the players dont sign, the cards cant go out. I think the expectations set by the company, replacements for unsigned cards as well as lack of updates are the bigger problems. I will give kudos to Topps for publicizing their redemption updates via twitter.
2) Number of products – I cant tell you how much I hate it when people say that product variety is a problem. There are five million car companies, but no one ever complains that they have too many choices. Number of products as a complaint is shit. Just buy what you want and shut up.
3) Lack of kids/cost of boxes – Again kids havent been the primary focus of the hobby since the late 80s, and yet people think they are the answer to everyone’s problems. Complete crap. As that relates to the cost of boxes, its easy to blame the companies again, but the players are just as much to blame. There are still a lot of lower end products that are good, and yet the variety thing comes into play again. Yes, there are very costly products, but they dont account for everything.
4) Fake patches/cards/autos – I agree with this one, but the only solution is a photo database that is easily accessible to everyone. There are a few users who have taken it upon themselves to take care of this themselves, but it isnt perfect.
5) Some sort of eBay complaint – eBay sucks at doing some things, but is great about others. I will say that I would take eBay the way it is any day than having to buy singles at shows or at stores.
MY LIST (not in order of importance):
1) Price Guides – There is no reason for a price guide, especially one that is run by people making money off the hobby. The guides out there present unrealistic expectations of value, and cause more problems than they solve. Their existence continues to show that this hobby is more about vanity and money than about fun.
2) Boring concepts / Gimmicks – This hobby has spiraled into a snoozefest of products that are not designed well and feature horrible concepts and themes. Its time to get a better design team in there that focuses more about a good looking product. No more rehashes, no more copycatting.
3) Beckett – Their arrogance of their place in the hobby, as well as the fact that they serve more as an ad vehicle rather than an objective source is detrimental to the people that still follow them. Beckett as a group is underhanded, vindictive, and ethically objectionable, and has yet to provide a worthwhile contribution to the hobby. They also have a public relationship with a card company that breaks all sorts of moral rules.
4) Grading/Authentication – there is no need for it, especially by humans. Besides being completely subjective and arbitrary, it is commonly used as a publicity machine as well as a way to please large customers. On top of all of this, Beckett sells their own graded cards. As for the authentication, there are so many stories of people sending in IP autos they themselves have gotten and not getting auth. Just shows that humans are just that, human.
5) Complacency of the companies towards Fake autos/Fake Patches – There hasnt been much done to counteract the criminal empire created by thieves on eBay. Ebay wont do anything, the card companies wont do anything, and the collectors only have so much of a voice. Until a bigger focus is made policy, we will continue to be victims of the great douches of the hobby.
6) Boxes for Review – Again, this whole practice solves absolutely nothing, and creates a ton of problems. There are currently more than 50 different groups of people who receive free product the companies. More than half hold a vested interest in the product’s success. That means, ad money, publicity, reviews, etc. This is not just for highly produced stuff, but also the very limited products too. Beckett received 4 boxes of 2009-10 Exquisite Basketball. That is close to 2400 retail dollars of swag. Completely unacceptable considering that they price cards for over 50% of the uniformed hobby.
7) Lack of communication – Card companies are about as transparent as a lead door in this industry. There is rarely any info transmitted that actually gives collectors what they want, and that needs to stop. There needs to be better websites, more feedback, and more involvement with the collecting public. Talk to the boards instead of with Beckett.
8) Brand/Player/Sport exclusive contracts – there is nothing worse for collectors than exclusive anything. This should be at the top of everyone’s list. The fact that there is only one NBA license and only one MLB license is ridiculous. It is also ridiculous that players like Jordan, Kobe, Lebron, Jeter, Griffey, A-Rod, Pujols and company are only able to sign for one brand. That is a poor situation. Look at the NFL, there is no exclusives and it is one of the best places to start a player collection. So many choices, and that is a great thing!
In all reality, there could be a huge economic disaster, worse than the last few years, and the hobby would still survive. People like to collect shit. That will always be a given. The industry part may fall by the wayside, but cards will always be a commodity. So, to put together a list like this is easy, but pretty much ineffective. The effective part comes from the buying public, as they need to put their money where their mouth is. I have been practicing this for the last few years, only buying the stuff I like, instead of wasting my money on stuff that is just there, or buying because I am bored. As a result, I have a collection to be proud of, rather than a hoarded mess of cards I have no connection to. Hopefully others will follow suit and not give their money to products and company that shouldnt get it.

OooOOOooO! Shiny!

What the fuck? Seriously. Im so fucking sick of companies using mirror board, foil board and especially the rainbow foil board as a coating for their cards. It chips, it looks awful, and the cards are never in acceptable condition out of the pack. This is because every single ding is highlighted by the poor printing process and the crappy coating doesnt highlight the subject of the card. I dont get why it is used, especially when most of us cant fucking stand it.

For those of you who dont understand what I am talking about, pull out one of your cards from Absolute, Leaf Certified, Triple Threads, Elite, Prestige, Threads and a few others that are printed on what seems to be mirror or foil. The cards are pretty tough to miss. They arent printed on cards like the Chrome, where the card is produced on special stock, but more like cheaper stock that looks like the player pictures were printed on wrapping paper and rolled onto the boards. For this, you can see why so many of think this type of shitty printing should disappear.
Because the cards are printed on cheap stock, they become extremely condition sensitive, as well as looking like poop. When the coating is chipped or damaged, especially in production, its almost unavoidable in drawing your attention. Unlike other normal cards, where the coating cannot peel off, a ding is more in the actual stock than the card. For these types, damage usually keeps the printing in tact, rather than looking like it is peeling off. Foil board isnt so lucky, because of the process in which it is printed. You will see that in addition to the stock being damaged, the foil overlay will also pull apart. Because its reflective, a ding is much easier for anyone to recognize due to the breaking of the flat mirrored surface.
The looks are the other part of the equation, as a good card on mirror board looks twice as bad as a bad card on regular flat stock. I cant think of a worse idea to print cards as one printed on a surface that reflects rainbows. Not only that, but the scans are basically impossible to get something that an online collector can appreciate, leading to more problems. If I ever have the choice between a card printed on rainbow board or a card on a flat board like base Topps, ill take the flat every time. That MO is something I know many collectors have adopted in recent years, only because buying boxes of products like Limited, Triple Threads and Absolute lead to getting damaged cards practically 100% of the time.
Panini is obviously the worst offender, as almost every set they produce uses some sort of foil board, with the exception of National Treasures. Im sure for those of you who have ever bought a box of Absolute, you have also pulled a rookie premiere card that is missing part of a letter die cut, or has edges that look like a tiny ding fairy came and hammered in the sides like crazy. You can also go and check out Beckett’s crapfully displayed preview for the 2009 set, and really get a good idea what to expect. Remember, those preview cards are supposed to be the BEST ones they can find. Go check it out, im going to guarantee you have the same idea I had. The first thing I thought was, “If these are the best, holy fuck.”
Lets be honest here, 15 years ago collectors liked shiny things and were impressed by a card that took it to a level that hadnt been done. Now, we are more impressed by cool design elements rather than some crappy board you have stockpiledd in the back room from 1998. I think most people agree that cards like the Rookie Premiere Material cards from Absolute, the Freshman Fabrics from Certified, or the Phenoms in Limited would be that much cooler if they didnt look like you were looking into a mirror with rainbow accents. Imagine those cards on a flat stock with brighter colors and clearer elements. Its ridiculous how much better that would be.
Of course the morons who produce each of Donruss’ releases are running around with blinders on as usual, thinking that their horrid design team has great ideas, rather than accepting the fact that the tech is old and rotting. “You mean we could go back to the drawing board and do the work to make a good set, or we could do it like last year and hit the links? Huh, thats an easy one.”
Foil is the work of hacks, and its starting to reek of laziness across the board. Instead of putting out cards that actually look good, its seeming like the companies are using the foil to hide a bad design. Because the colors are dulled and the design becomes obscured, its not as obvious how crappy the card really looks. Lets get rid of the mirrors, rainbows, bright neon orange, and all the other tricks. Start doing better. Make cards look good. Its that simple.

My Take On The National

There have been a ton of posts on all the blogs already about what happened at the national, lack of foot traffic, dealers not giving two shits about it, etc. And though Beckett seems to think this National was “teh best natty con EVAR,” its become undeniable that something just wasnt the same. It could have been the city, it could have been the economy, it could have been all of that or none of it. One thing remains, however, the national card show has a few problems and they arent going away.

The main thing that I believe is the reason the national attendance has been going downhill is because its a card show. That is one reason that no one seems to get. Who wants to pay $250 for plane fare, 100 bucks for hotel, 8 bucks for parking, 20 bucks for admission, and all sorts of money for food, just for a card show? Yes, there are a lot of people there, but in all reality, there is now a free card show that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in ebay. In any economy where people arent scrounging for money, it wouldnt be too much of a factor. However, when disposable income is at a complete minimum, why even make an effort?

Add in the fact that you have mediocre autograph guests charging hundreds, and there is an even bigger problem than before. When you have someone at the show like Barry Sanders, thats all great and everything, but when he charges as much as he does, it loses appeal for collectors who normally would pay under 100 bucks for a great photo and or football on eBay. The same prices were true for last year, but the economy was different.

Then, when you have hundreds of dealers all competing for the dollars of the few consumers who live in the area or made the trek, you would expect that it would be a buyer’s market. From the many reports I got through email and on the boards, however, the dealers were not able to make it a buyer’s market due to the fact that they were having trouble making rent for the show. Also, they had such poor service that people were turned off by their actions and went elsewhere. Its been quoted on a few places that the dealers’ biggest customers were other dealers, im guessing because so many people needed stuff to sell to the dwindling customer base.

My thought is that even though the economy will rebound, events like this will not. People are starting to wise up on the best places to get deals, and will go to these events more to be around other collectors and to see their favorite card company’s booth. They will not go to buy cards from a dirty old man who charges high book. Beckett wants you to think that the national is the best thing since sliced bread, because they know its the one place where they can do more than average bloggers, and because book value is everywhere there. It makes them seem relevant in the hobby more than they really are. The fact is, many bloggers dont need to go to the event because of the lack of interest to most readers, and because there is already enough communication with the manufacturers outside of the show. Bloggers WANT to go to the show to meet people in person, but I guarantee you that none of them spent more than a hundred bucks or so, give or take.

Under that assumption, I would encourage the bloggers to make a trip next year to Baltimore, but not with the idea of providing the “OMG, we are everywherez!” coverage that Beckett did. I think it should be more about educating the public, showcasing our talents as hobby media personnel, and getting to know the reader base. If you want to do interviews, why wait for a once a year event? Its your responsibility to seek them out for your readers the whole year long. Use the national the way it should be used, as a gathering of the populace, not as a place to show readers that you can get interviews with Scotty Prusha and Tracy Hackler. These are people who would normally scoff at your attempt at providing news as a “cesspool of misinformation,” and shouldnt be the people that get the stage at any time, let alone at a card show.

Bloggers and message boards are the new number one source for hobby commentary and news. Everything else is stale and outdated. Its time to show what we got 24/7/365 instead of just for one weekend.

Beckett’s Upcoming National Show Report: REVEALED!

Guys, I just got an exclusive preview of Beckett’s national card show report, as my personal psychic has dictated it word for word to me per her vision of the future. At this point in our technology, we are unable to time travel into the future, but this is a pretty good replacement. For your warning, I want to post this just so you have an idea of what is going to go down this week, before it happens. Thanks to Madame Cleo for this:

Beckett Is A Bright Star At The National Card Show

By Tracy Hackler, Editor, Beckett Everything Magazine

Golly! What a week at the national card show! We had a blast showing everyone the awesome things that Beckett has done over the last year as well as what is coming up for 2009 and 2010! I cant believe how many collectors we met, as well as all of the amazing things that at the best booth at the show! Here is a recap of what went down.

- Most of you heard about the Pristine 10 BGS Montana RC from last year’s show, but just wait until you hear about this year! In front of everyone, we graded the first ever Pristine BGS Michael Jordan 1986 Fleer RC! It was a sight, and a great investment for a collector who wished to remain anonymous. At least he was wearing a Beckett shirt, which was great for working the booth after the commotion died down! Who would have guessed that the biggest card grade in history would have come from the biggest show on the planet? We didnt!

- There were also a ton of people who came and told us how much they loved seeing us do our Beckett Box Busters! Unfortunately, there are a few vocal people out there who tell us that this is a huge problem, but the ten or so people we talked to all told us how much they loved it. Shows how much those downers out there know about collectors! Then, when those Beckett fans broke the boxes we gave them, they told us about how much more they loved the Beckett Box Busters! We aim to please!

- On Friday, our own Chris Olds and Timmy, a ten year old collector from Cleveland, got a chance for his own special episode of box busters! Thanks to our “friends” at Panini, they were able to break dueling boxes of Panini’s upcoming Absolute Memorabilia, more than 2 months early! To our amazement, Chris ended up pulling a 1/1 Michael Crabtree auto patch! Talk about luck, right? As for Timmy, he pulled a sweet Andre Caldwell auto, so he went away happy too!

- Beckett also unveiled that in addition to grading cards on the spot at the show, they were also starting up the first ever completely graded card live auction! We opened the huge Beckett vaults, pulled out as many 9.5s of some of the most important cards in history, and made them available for the first time to you! The auction was a huge success, and it also allowed us to pay the electric bill we have been trying to avoid paying for so long. People may have complained that the cards we sold didn’t look right, but our grades are completely legit, as they always truly are. These are the ones graded by our top graders over the last few years, and the grading standard has been accepted by collectors worldwide. Also, some of these graded cards will be available again on the new Beckett Graded Card Marketplace, where you can buy the 9.5s directly from us!

- We also got compliment after compliment from kids at the show who told us how happy they were to find out that their collections were worth so much in the price guide. After using our “my collection” station, 8 year old Joey C found out that the cards his dad had given him from 1987 were worth over $1000 dollars due to the sheer number he had! Again Beckett satisfies another collector, good luck selling those million cards Joey!

- Fresh off his sweet box break, Chris Olds was also a big hit! He wowed us with material from the best blog on the net, showing everyone why the Beckett blog should be the ONLY stop you make on the blogosphere. We are so glad to see that his work paid off in talking about the Craigslist Collector Corner, where he tried to educate a few people on how outdated their ads were. He also showed a few previews for his expose on the fake Topps rookie premiere autographs, as well as his “man on the street” features. Chris is definitely the most innovative blogger out there.

- Lastly, Panini and Beckett embarked on a long standing relationship with our teams formally announcing that all high end Panini products will feature Beckett/JSA authenticated player autos, as well as a special Panini page on the Beckett site. Despite accusations that the new partnership stood against everything that is right and just in the hobby, we promised that no favoritism would occur. In fact, we even showcased the first pricing for Panini’s Donruss Elite, the most valuable set of the year so far! This is great news for this new company on the block, as well as great news for our new special Panini Market Analysts, who will be working directly with the manufacturer to make sure all pricing reflects exactly what the cards are worth.

The folks here and in Texas cannot wait for next year’s show, so be sure to check back to Beckett.com for more overage and pictures!

Im so glad that Madame Cleo had such a good vision of the future! This is some gold right here!