What The UD Awards Say About Hobby Reporting

Since 2008, the hobby media has gone through MANY significant changes, especially with the advent of social media. First there was the 2008-2009 blog boom, then facebook, then twitter, all of which contributed to collectors being the most informed “generation” in sports card history. Message boards also have contributed their share of connection tools as well, mainly that there is a growing number of places where collectors can converse without leaving their house. Thanks to sites like eBay, Blowout Cards, and DA Cardworld, the internet has basically rendered the shop and show obsolete, and I am one who welcomes the digression from the norm of the last 25 years. Collectors are now tied together more readily and easily than ever before, and I love it.

Yesterday, we entered a new chapter in this ever changing saga, as Upper Deck became the first manufacturer to offer awards for excellence in these mediums. Unlike other hobby media who loathes the loss of their reporting territory and prominence, Upper Deck has chosen to embrace it. Although the idea is most definitely a publicity tool to drive people to their site, the concept reflects how social media has revolutionized the hobby’s reporting crew. Three years ago, if a anyone offered awards like this, there would only be a handful of people around to accept them, now there are thousands. Collectors are starting blogs like it’s a job, mainly because of the wonderful community that has been established by the hundreds already in existence. Twitter is catching on as well, with manufacturers starting their own pages to complement the many blogs and message boards that are already established. Through these Blogs, Twitter and Facebook, collectors no longer have to search for the info they need through pages of outdated and disconnected magazines or through posts on countless forums. Instead they can go to the Blogs or Facebook pages and see a ton of information as it becomes available.

With the recent advent of awards for best of the best, I can forsee a lot more people getting started in speaking their mind through places like Twitter and Blogs. With magazine readership dropping, people who do it for fun have become the best resource for information and commentary, as there is no ad revenue or editors to worry about. Most of the time, that leads to free roam of the hobby landscape, something that has never been offered before, ever. It also gives people the opportunity to police the douchebags, as previous hobby news sources still try to shy away from exposing the “dark side” of collecting.

For a lot of the people who casually stumble across the hobby, the mantra usually is a variance of “its just card board,” but for a lot of us, its more than that. Its something we use to better writing skills, build resumes, and most of all have fun doing. There are no limits and no censorship, and because of that fact, online collectors are quickly starting to outnumber old and stubborn curmudgeons.

I doubt the Upper Deck awards will be the last of its kind, because its obvious that its online success will produce copycats. Im fine with that as long as the contests facilitate more people take up the banner and start their own way of reporting on the hobby they love. Just because there are hundreds of blogs and message boards out there already, doesn’t mean there isnt room for you to find your niche as a new member of the online community. As I have said a hundred times before, I will not hesitate to add any new people to the sidebar and give you a link, or answer any questions you have in getting started.

Remember, if you have something to say, there will always be people willing to listen. Then, if you are fortunate enough to have great content and good readership, you now have the ability to be recognized industry wide.

A (Non) Comment On The Worthless Press Pass Exclusive

So far today, Press Pass has made a huge hulabaloo about an inconsequential detail that will affect no one but impatient Florida fans who buy SAGE. Sooooo, not many people. Right. Press Pass announced through a release that they had signed Tim Tebow to an “exclusive contract,” but that the contract is only exclusive to their competitor. For those of you who actually like Tim Tebow for some god forsaken reason, you will still be able to get him in every single NFL licensed set this year regardless of press pass’ news. Don’t worry your little Christian heads, Tebow will still be able to walk on water through your personal collections.

Really, since the NFLPA has a no exclusives rule, as soon as a set is licensed by the NFL, Tebow is fair game post NFL draft. Although I am sad that I will have to put up with this glorified fourth round pick all freaking year, there is no reason to get your panties in a bunch unless you are a SAGE collector who loves him. Tracy Hackler may have tried to over-hype Tebow’s potential like putting lipstick on a pig, but most of us still know he could end up being the biggest draft reach in NFL history. He may be able to run and jump, but that means absolutely nothing when he has to work in a pro offense he has never seen before. Oh, and try and get that long ridiculous motion all the way through with Jared Allen or Dwight Freeney coming at you. Yeah, its not going to work.

Being a winner in college means dog shit when you cant play with the big boys.

Also, the press pass exclusive pretty much becomes a moot discussion when Upper Deck gets the exclusive CLC license starting in a month or two. So really, Press Pass may be out of football cards all together.

In other words, move along, nothing to see here.

Has The Upper Deck Lawsuit Done More Good Than Bad?

The Upper Deck lawsuits have brought a lot of attention to the hobby, some good, a lot bad. Oddly enough, with all of the bad press, there sure have been a lot of people who have started poking around on here. Ill give you an example. Since the lawsuits have broken on ESPN and other news outlets, SCU has gotten close to 1,000 visits per day. That is 35% more than I would normally get in a day, and I had not broken 1K before without a link from Deadspin. Although some blogs are fighting to drive up traffic with days devoted to giveaways, SCU has greatly benefitted from people looking to actually find out about the lawsuits and other hobby info. In addtion to that, many of them have returned multiple times for both updates and other articles and posts. At least 2 people in the Ultimate break came to the site as a result of hearing about the lawsuit coverage from a news source other than a shop or a hobby site.

In fact, since the Upper Deck lawsuit posts have run on SCU, I have received about 10-15 emails a day asking both about the lawsuit, or about the lawsuit and how the hobby has changed over the years. One person, Jeremy, wanted to start collecting cards after he heard that autographs and game jerseys were packed out in boxes now. That, my friends, is the great audience that baseball cards have. Although a few of these people have never collected cards, they have heard they exist, and now want to start as a result of info gleaned from the lawsuit publicity. Whoever said that any publicity is good publicity is right, because there are more new faces on this site than ever.

What is even better is that instead of going to a place like Beckett, they are turning elsewhere. Instead of getting bombarded with fluff and regurgitated crap about how book value is still relevant in this world, they are coming to SCU and other blogs. Because of these sites, they get the real meat of what to expect when joining or rejoining the collector ranks, instead of unrealistic expectations. Im not saying that Beckett wont get traffic as a result of giving away 2 dollar jersey cards, but at least there are that many more people who are now seeing how to function in this hobby without a price guide at their eye level. So far this week, posts from SCU’s almost two year existence have gotten more clicks than ever, especially ones about the evils of Beckett’s grasp on the uniformed part of the hobby.

Personally, I think its kind of funny that this kind of stuff is growing the number of people who buy cards, as you would expect it to be the opposite. Even the local shop I visit has had increased traffic over the last few weeks. That is crazy, especially when you consider the nature of what is going on. I will say this, products like Ultimate may be in Topps’ best interest to stick around, because it has really been a LONG FUCKING TIME since something good has come out, and they can definitely benefit from its success.

In all seriousness, I am just happy that SCU is reaching a broader audience than it ever has, especially in covering fakes and scams. Although I may have “appointed [myself] a guardian of the hobby,” I fail to see why that is bad. More people are wising up, and even more people are starting to realize why Beckett is no longer the number one source anymore, thanks to the card blogger network and message boards. Remember, two years ago, there was only a minority of people who had lost faith in the hobby media’s attention to the important parts of the industry. Now, it’s an expected outcome with every informed collector, and I credit the number of people who do their fucking homework. Now that sites like this are coming up at the top of google seaches rather than the same old bullshit, you are starting to see a lot of differences in the way people function. That fact is all because of how a voice is all that is needed to make waves, and I encourage all of you to speak up to make it more turbulent in these waters. Even if we don’t agree, informed commentary is always a better thing than posting news releases and official statements 24/7. That way, the future of the hobby is what WE make of it, not some disconnected curmudgeons who have no clue of what is going on.

How Not To Handle One Of the Most Valuable Cards Ever Made

This card was posted on Blowout’s Twitter feed earlier today. I am in total shock as to the content of the card, but more importantly what someone (possibly the seller) did to this card. Take a look at the auction first, as the seller sure did a major hype job in the description -rightfully so.

Now, I have a few questions for you to ponder.
1. Why the fuck would you grade this card? Seriously. This card has no reason to be graded, not a single one. By letting someone arbitrarily work on this card, you can only diminish its value rather than helping it. Even if it grades a 10 by some ridiculous standard, who cares? Its not worth any more than it actually is. Some people idiotically believe that every card can gain value by having it graded. Some can, as the prospecting genre of collecting is pretty much based on that stupid but true fact. As for the others, ESPECIALLY the super high end cards that are not known for being in pristine condition, or even necessarily desired in pristine condition, have more of a chance of LOSING value than gaining it.
The funny part of this whole grading question is that this is a fold out card. The fact that it is a fold out card makes me even more confused as to why someone would desecrate a card like this with a Beckett holder. Guess he got what he deserved, either way, as the holder looks ridiculous. The person who did the grading will probably argue that this gives more protection, but honestly, that argument is demeaned by the general aesthetics of the results.
2. Why would you even entrust this card to a third party for an extended period of time? Im guessing you have to either leave it with those idiots at a show or (god forbid) send it through the mail. Considering this card is pretty much priceless, Im not sure why you would risk the grading knowing that there is always that slim chance that you may not get it back. Even with the insurance money, you probably wouldnt be able to even replace something like this if you tried.
3. Why would you by a card that is encased like this? The reason I ask is because the seller has made it infinitely harder to display, and infinitely uglier in the ridiculous case that Beckett used. You cant really crack it, mainly due to the value of what is inside and how you would have to get it out, so why not just buy the cuts yourself and make a similar card for that much cheaper.
Im not going to get into my feelings on the grading service business, or its scam potential, but I just couldnt help but scoff at the person who ran this through Beckett. Some people. Ill file this under epic fail.
EDIT: After some discussion on the boards, this card was possibly a result of one of the biggest cut signature fuck ups in industry history. Documented on HBO, a collector who had gotten a quad cut of four players including Ruth found out that two of the cuts used by Upper Deck weren’t real. He was given a few cards to make up for it, this being the crown jewel I would expect. Notably, the others (known so far to be a Jordan/Lebron and a Tiger) were sold ungraded.

I Hate The Culture Of Scams

Ive always taken a firm stance against douchebaggery in this hobby, mainly through outing the scams that I find to be the most detrimental to my overall experience with cards. For some reason, there is an unlimited supply of asshats to join the ranks of people looking to take advantage of others, and knowledge to combat them is at a high premium. Most of this is probably due to lack of coverage in major news sources, time needed to learn about countermeasures, as well as a lackadaisical attitudes by the manufacturers. This is combined with a secondary market that functions both online and in storefronts, thus limiting policing bodies.

That’s not to say that memorabilia in general hasn’t received national attention, as operation bullpen and FBI raids at the national sure completed the picture of who is taking notice. Im just wondering if maybe sports in general takes on more of these scams than with other money making ventures. Is it because Memorabilia is so valuable and easy to fake?

Lets take a look at some of the more recent card scams for evidence, as it has become very easy to fake and make money off of them. With the rookie premiere autographs, as well as the patches in cards that you can cut off of a 10 dollar ebay bought replica jersey, the opportunity cost of scamming people is micro. Its those types of situations that worry me to no end. I could go on the most widely read sports site in the world, post non-stop for a year and still not even make a dent because of the culture created by the bodies who have the ability to police the problems.

Then, when you look at sources like the idiots over at Beckett, who have a pedestal to reach a lot of collectors, they don’t. Instead, they only address this situation when the manufacturers give them the window with a press release or something. They never take the opportunity to inform, as it shows a weakness or vulnerability in collecting, and they are in the business of sounding the “all is well” alarm 24/7/365.

Even places like social media outlets created by the manufacturers have the opportunity to address the sitution, but rarely take that chance. They also don’t want to show the chink in the armor or the weak link in the chain because Its bad for business. Even though places like Panini have offered patch faking countermeasures, nothing is valid until you already own the card. Add in that the quick opinion button for PSA only applies to autographs, and there is nothing to help the general collector to avoid scams.

I have mentioned before that a national photo database is a great idea, but that only will be used by collectors who use internet media for their collecting habits. I think the best thing would be for the manufacturers to utilize an outside service to comb through questionable auctions, and prompt eBay to pull them down. They wont catch them all, but they will catch some.

This does bring us to another huge issue, which is eBay themselves, as they make tons of money off the sellers who sell fakes and get away with it. Each of those final values sends a percentage to eBay’s bottom line, and to take those away is taking money out of their pockets. When you factor in that most people don’t avoid ebay despite these things, you have a recipe for disaster.

When it comes down to it, scams are always going to be a part of any commodity that has money making ability. I just wonder why cards continue to be the easiest to thrive in when you are a criminal. Granted, now with mediums like blogs that garner thousands of readers per day, and don’t have to answer to their advertisers, hopefully the weak link will be exposed more. At that point we can begin to repair it, and hopefully we wont have to live in this type of culture for much longer.