Cross Another Whale Off The “At Large” Wanted List

The term white whale, prior to its bastardization in Triple Threads, meant a card that you had a card out there in the sea of collectors that was virtually impossible to find. To this day, people still chase white whales all over the hobby, and for many of us, they are truly a quest fit for Ahab. In most cases, those whales were usually 1/1s that you didn’t know had been pulled, or a rare card that infrequently hit ebay at an affordable price.

For someone like me, there werent many of these cards that I had on my list. I can think of two specifically, and after last night, both of them were on the captured list. The first one took me forever to find, and I mean absolutely forever. I think I posted at least three times about the 2005 Artifacts Joe Mauer Patch Auto /10 before I pretty much gave up looking, even going so far as setting up multiple daily ebay spam mailers with new auctions. I was searching for about 3 years before it finally popped up on ebay in the middle of last year, and I knew that I absolutely needed to buy it before it was lost again forever. A user on FCB collects the set, and luckily I knew he already had this one, so my competition was going to be easier because of that fact. On the other hand, this card was the coveted number 7 of 10, Mauer’s jersey number, and I knew there would be more people wanting it just for that fact. Even though I couldn’t care less what number in the run it was, other Mauer collectors would definitely have it on their list because of that.

There was a problem though, and it was one I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with. The card was located in Taiwan, and most card collectors know that cards from overseas are always a risk, especially expensive ones like the Mauer. I put the thought out of my mind and concetrated on the win. As the final seconds ticked down, I entered a ridiculous snipe. You know, the type of max bid that could really get me in trouble if it actually was put to the test. It won me the card at a much higher price than I wanted to spend, but I still had the card on its way to California, and that was all that mattered to me at the time. This was also before Mauer’s MVP run, so prices were considerably cheaper due to it being the off season. I still spent more than I had spent on a Mauer card in over 3 years, yet it wasn’t something that would break my bank. I waited for around three weeks with no delivery, but the card eventually showed up without problem. It is still on my shelf today, and is no doubt my favorite and only current on card Mauer signature. The patch on it is way above average, and to have the hard signed card, great player picture and nice patch is what makes it the centerpiece of my collection. I would sell my Chrome Rookie Auto before I sell this card.

The second card was one that I had been looking for on and off for the better part of three years, but it definitely was not as rare as the Mauer and not worth as much. The reason I wanted it was more for filling a hole in my Vikings collection than it was collecting the individual player, something that hindered my need to search for it daily. The card I am talking about is a 2003 Leaf Certified Fabric of the Game Cris Carter Patch Auto /80, one that I wanted for some very specific reasons. First and foremost was the auto that adorned this series of cards. Carter is notorious for signing like a chump, and this card was one of the only ones I saw that featured his full auto. Second was that this set looked better than any of the other donruss cards that he signed, so naturally, it was the one I wanted. I first saw it on blowout two years ago when someone posted their complete set of these type of cards, and I knew it was the Carter auto I wanted. Because autos and patches were VERY rare in the 2003 set, and because this set had an extensive checklist, they rarely came up for sale.

As if the cardboard gods were taunting me again, the seller of the card had VERY low feedback and even had a few negs on his profile in the last six months. That was a bad sign, but I figured the forty bucks was worth the risk. Well, things really didn’t turn out the way I expected, and my 75 dollar bid was swallowed up pretty quickly into the final 24 hours of the auction. I ended up having to spend 90 bucks to get the card, and I am now forced to play the waiting game and see how this card turns out. I could tell this guy was not an eBay veteran, as the picture in the auction was mirrored and flipped, as well as being quite blurry. He does live in Minnesota and was selling a ton of Carter cards, so I don’t think he is in the market to keep his collection. Ill be sure to let you guys know as soon as I get the card in my hands. Otherwise, I will definitely not hesitate to flip a shit like normal.

In the end, when it comes to White Whales, you need to make a sacrifice in order to cross them off your list. With the Mauer it was overseas shipping and high prices, and with the Carter, its definitely the seller’s profile that I will need to put out of my mind. If these cards were easy to get, they wouldn’t be my whales, so its obvious that certain measures would no doubt be necessary.

A GREAT Example of Why Hard Signed Cards Are FREAKING AWESOME

Just got these preview card pics out of 2009 Ultimate Football from Upper Deck. The set is being released in early december, and I cant wait. After seeing these cards, I have much more confidence that Ultimate should be as good as last year’s great product.

Of course, here are some impressions I got.
I love the personal touch cards which are based off the USA baseball ones from last year. Those cards were extremely popular, and these should be too. Also, I fucking love that Aaron Curry wrote Batman as the answer to that question instead of Jesus or some shit like that. Shows that he is definitely in the right frame of mind, right? One other thing, anyone questioning why Mike Fucking Epps is Shonn Greene’s favorite actor? Haha, too funny.
Secondly, I really like the 1997 Legends cards, but the autos are a little streaky a la Panini. That kind of sucks.
Lastly, the college shout out cards are really cool, and should be pretty sought after. I have a feeling that the Pettigrew is just one of many cards like that, as Gregg told me a while back that inscriptions are the new on card auto project to make their brand stand out. I love it.
Ultimate should have some pretty awesome shit, if these are any indication. Glad to see they are stepping it up.

Down in the (Sticker) Dumps

Now that Topps is out of football for the next few years, we do know that one thing is coming. Unfortunately for us, Topps will need to get rid of their built up stickers and jerseys, and the sticker dump product will be on its way. Sticker dumps are an inevitable part of using the labels for products, and thanks to this new Topps-less NFL, we are prone for a glorius second helping, after choking down two to three similar products from them and UD already this year.

Most of you are probably wondering what a sticker dump actually is, so here is an explanation. Basically, each year, the different companies send out their label sheets to rookies, veterans, and others for them to sign for the upcoming year(s). Unfortunately, due to the fact that the world of sports is ever-changing, a sticker that deserved to be in a set one season, may not have that status for the following year. This is especially true for rookies that never get established in the league, and are demoted, hurt, or cut. Due to the Tom Brady effect of having to put every single possible player’s rookie auto in every product (just in case), there are tons and tons of stickers that end up in a box somewhere at the end of each card year. This box sits and rots in the warehouse until a set is developed where the company can use those stickers to fill out a checklist with players that dont matter.
For the NBA and its new exclusive license, both Topps and UD needed to rid their stores of unused stickers so that they could make as much money off the leftovers before they were unable to legally be used any more. The result was Topps Signature series Basketball and UD SP Signature edition, where the products’ sole purpose was to eliminate all possible unused labels. Im sure it was pretty obvious something was up when you were getting Jorge Barbajosa and Josh Boone up the ass.
Earlier this year, you may have also noticed that Topps Magic Football was stuffed full of autographs from players like Isaiah Stanbeck, Allen Patrick, and Fred Davis. These players, at one point, were welcome in sets that featured many of the rookie autos that we have come to expect per normal protocol. However, as they have moved into 2nd or 3rd string roles with their respective teams, they are now not welcome in any normal set. Of course, when you have a sticker dump, those types of stickers come out of the woodwork for one last use before either being tossed, or whatever else is done with unused stickers.
This practice of completely dumping everything was even more prevalent in the crime against collecting known as 2009 SP Signature Edition football. As recent comments have pointed out, this set is quite possibly one of the most obvious sticker dumps ever created. Players that are now practice squad players, or at best second stringers, are littering almost every auto card, with rare big hits of people that actually matter. Granted the price is VERY small at around 40 bucks a box, however, it doesnt justify the horrid, horrid checklist.
The fact of the matter is this. If we continue to support the sets like this, they will continue to terrorize us. We need to speak with our wallets and show that products like this are completely unacceptable. Even though UD tried to blind us with four and six autos per card, it doesnt matter if none of those players will ever see game action or make a good contribution to their team. Although I think the Brady effect is very much to blame for a lot of these horrible excuses for products, it is not a reason for us to have to endure the pain.
The problem remains, Upper Deck and Topps have become pros at doing this every single year, sometimes without prior warning of a checklist. This leads to people opening their products expecting one thing, and getting something completely different. Although Topps will be forced to employ the sticker dump as a way out, UD should have a similar answer when the next season rolls around. The only way to avoid being caught in the trap is to look for obvious signs on the sell sheets, and wait for breaks and checklists before committing your dollars. Trust me, its worth losing fifty to one hundred bucks on a case pre-order when you find out you just saved thousands by avoiding a dump.

2009 Upper Deck Philadelphia Is Live

Some of the first Philadelphia cards started to pop up on eBay last week, and today, many of the higher dollar cards started to surface as well. The on card signatures look really good, and the cards look like they would be a hit for many of the retro collectors out there. The Philadelphia Signatures are well done, as the full color game photos make these that much better. Usually with retro sets, many of the cards are painted or sketched, which this set also has (with autos), but uncropped action shots are completely underrated. I know most of you feel the same way, when your player cards look more like a Fathead on a background, more than a player on a field. I may have to pick up a few signatures solely for that.

On the other hand, I really dislike that we STILL havent had a UD product in NFL unis. I understand that the on card stuff has no ability for the players to be in rookie premiere garb, but the unsigned stuff has no excuse. I will trade on card sigs for rookies in college uniforms, but I will not accept regular cards at this point of Matt Stafford in a Bulldogs uniform.

I still have no interest in buying boxes of these cards, and still think they would have been better as an insert set, but I can also see the massive appeal this set will have. To see that UD managed to many of these cards hard signed puts this set above any other retro sets this year. We can compare apples to apples when we know that sticker autos are the rule, but when you see the actual exception in practice, it makes all the difference in the world.

Full review will be up tomorrow, more pics as they are posted.

They Cost How Much?!?

Recently, one of the readers of SCU emailed me about an idea for a product based on the idea of eliminating scrub autos. He was concerned about the amount of value one gets out of a box in relation to the price one pays for said box, a feeling that many of us have on a regular basis. In most cases, when you pull an auto of a backup’s backup, you wont get more than a dollar in return if sold. Considering that these types of hits litter the products year round for all three companies, he wanted some justice in his wax buying.

What most people dont understand is just how much players actually charge for the autographs that the big three put into their products. Its this type of misunderstanding that lead to people’s poor attitude about busting wax as a way the companies are screwing them out of their money. Although the attitude IS justified, there really isnt a way to fix it without ridding products of autographs completely in some cases. We all know that wouldnt fly with most of the collectors out there, myself included, so there is a resulting high profile dilemma on what is happening in terms of signatures.

Just to give you some of the information, player autographs are one of the most expensive parts of a product. You already knew that, though. What you may not know is the degree that this cripples parts of some releases. Players like Emmitt Smith and Joe Montana charge so much for their autograph, that they have almost priced themselves out of many products. I have heard figures as high as $225 per card, but nothing lower than $150 for every signature they sign. How crazy is that?!? Think about it for a second, and then think about how many players like that are necessary for a checklist to be considered viable. Even younger players like Adrian Peterson, Matt Ryan and Reggie Bush also charge a ton, with cards costing the companies as much as $150 a piece just to have them sign.

It doesnt end there, unfortunately for us. Even for rookies that will most likely never play a down, card companies are forced to pay them more than you would expect. I have confirmed figures as high as $35 per card for the lower tier of the rookies who attended the premiere, a figure that surprised me to no end.

What all of this leads to is higher prices on boxes and more and more scrubs being used to fill out checklists. Why? Because its required by the league to have X% of the set being rookies, and because its too expensive to do it any other way. There are always exceptions like Paul Hornung and other older people who charge very little, but the majority of the athletes want a ton.

This also factors into stickers versus on card, as I have been told there is no difference in price paid for the auto. Im guessing this is the main reason that Upper Deck has pretty much done whatever they could to avoid stickers, as it seems like more of a waste to pay for an auto if it isnt directly on the card going into the pack.

As long as this is forced to continue by the players, wax prices will never drop as long as they contain autographs. Personally, I am happily able to accept the trade-off due to my love for autos, but a portion of the older collectors have sworn off wax altogether because of it.

Im not sure what the future holds, but I dont think it will ever be like it was, especially in terms of price. With the subjects of the cards becoming more like primadonnas every year, its not always the fault of the people who produce the products. Yet, because of a lack of info that is out there, most of us just blame them anyways. Maybe its time to show us what’s really going on.