Grand Cards: January 2009

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Sob Story or, A Turning Point

Yesterday, Sooz over at A Cardboard Problem posed an interesting question, which was rooted in an analysis of how a player’s cards appreciate dramatically once he joins the New York Yankees. She concluded her post with,
When it comes to favorite players do you want to see your player end up in a Yankees uniform?
I thought it best to include a short answer and a long answer/explanation.


That was easy. But for that definitive “no” to really make sense, I’ll need to give you some background, and that is where the Sob Story comes in.

In the summer of 2005 I was a college student managing my own house painting business. Although I worked all over the state, a buddy of mine and I spent a good piece of the summer in the suburbs just east of Detroit painting a few different homes. It so happens that Detroit hosted the All Star game and its accompanying festivities in 2005, and as luck would have it, I had tickets.

On the evening of the Home Run Derby, we packed up a little early and my friend dropped me off at the ballpark just after the gates opened. My tickets were about 10 rows behind the first base dugout, but, seeing as how I was there so early, I thought that I’d go into right field and catch some batting practice. Batting Practice was fantastic. There were some solid lefties smashing balls our way, Ichiro dazzled the crowd with an incredible show of power and two people immediately in front of me and one guy behind me caught BP Home Runs. At the end of batting practice many people left to go to their seats, including the guy in front of me who caught one of the BP Balls. As I stood there with an hour to go before the start of the derby I thought to myself, I’m just going to stay here and try to catch a ball until somebody kicks me out. Well...
(Go ahead. Click on Mark Teixeira's highlights--I couldn't figure out how to embed the video directly.)

Yep, that’s me, catching Mark Teixeira’s first Home Run (nice grab, huh?).
I had tickets to the All Star Game the next day as well. I spent the entire BP and pre-game session trying to get Teixeira to sign the ball. Cal Ripken signed for 10 minutes in front of me, but I wouldn’t let him sign it. Joe Morgan did the same. Ichiro spent 30 minutes down the left field line and received a standing ovation from the fans, but I didn’t want to leave my post behind the AL Dugout. Alas, the time came for us to take our seats and I was left with an unsigned derby ball.

Flash forward 1 year:
The Rangers head to Detroit for a four-game stint and I’ve got tickets to game one, but am leaving town for the rest of the weekend. My future-wife, future sister-in-law and I get to the game about 90 minutes early and I immediately rush to the visiting dugout. For the next hour or so, I embarrassingly yell “Mark Teixeira, Mark Teixeira!” occasionally followed by a “Icaughtyourhomerunderbyballlastyearwillyousignit”? As quickly as I could. Of course, the time came to return to our seats. I was left autograph-less again. But I didn’t give up. I snuck back up behind the dugout during the national anthem and immediately after, I gave it one last shot. “Mark Teixeira!”

Success! I tossed him my ball and pen and he signed it for me, and another for a young fan that wisely followed me up there. That ball was the crowning achievement of my entire life as a sports fan. It was the only ball I’ve ever caught at a game, and it’s the only item that I’ve ever had signed at a game by someone who wasn’t named Felipe Lira or Sterling Hitchcock. Not having a digital camera at the time, I took a picture of my newly hancock-ed ball with my phone and sent it on to my vacationing family.

Flash forward 3-4 months or so:
My college house, with 6 other housemates had a habit of throwing parties for our birthdays. They were large parties. One (mine) on the weekend of the Michigan-Ohio State “game of the century” in 2006 ended in minor legal ramifications for us “contributing to a loud party.” They were big. My room was in the attic. The door looked like a door to a closet. Up there, on my desk, proudly stood my signed ball. This particular mid-september party went until the early hours of the morning. I actually packed it in around 1am because I had a 15k race that I was running in the next morning.
I woke up bright and early to make the drive to the 15k. Foggy-eyed, nauseas and with headache in full force I walked over to my dresser. There is was, the broken plastic case that formerly held my Mark Teixeria signed ball. Still in place? Computer, Laptop Computer, Cell Phone, Wallet, Keys, iPod. What?!?!

I woke up my future-wife.
“Somebody stole my Mark Teixeria ball.”
“Somebody stole my ball. I have to go. Its gone."

As I made the 30 minute drive north, I carefully crafted scenarios in which I would commit murther most foul, using a baseball bat in a fit of poetic justice. I was certain that I would find and kill whoever did this. Suffice to say, I proceeded to run my race at a sub-7:45 pace, which was very fast for me at the time.

30 minute drive home, now crafting my defense of temporary insanity. Of course that would never fly, given that it was all pre-meditated, but nobody would ever know. A police report was filed. The plastic case was dusted for fingerprints. I scoured eBay every single day for 4 months. I put 250 brightly colored flyers all over campus offering a $100 reward, no questions asked.


I felt that there was a void in my soul that could never be filled. I bought an autographed football helmet. It helped a little bit. I got kick-started back into collecting. A little more help. I couldn’t handle buying a regular Teixeira ball, it just wasn’t the same. I needed that uniqueness, or for it to be signed in person again. I my story needed a happy ending, not a cop-out. Finally, I found an unsigned 2005 Home Run Derby ball on eBay. I gave a sigh of relief when I opened the box. It now resides in a plastic case on my desk.

This incident single handedly re-ignited my collecting career and prompted my to start a small collection of autographed baseballs as well. Yet that ball still sits on my desk, unmarked.

I had crossed my fingers during this offseason that Teixeira would sign with the Orioles. He would be back in Baltimore. There would be chances to get him to sign at games. At the very least, there would be signings. But no, he signed with the Yankees. I can’t imagine what his signing fees will be now. I can’t fathom how difficult it will be to get him to sign at games, where Yankees fans appear as if from thin air. I have resigned myself to the fact that this ball will remain empty until the end of days. The void, a mere fraction of its former size, remains.

And this, to answer Sooz’s question, is why I never wish for my favorite players to don the pinstripes. Sure, their cards and signatures become more valuable but you lose so much more. You lose the feeling that only you and a handful of people truly appreciate the player’s greatness. More importantly, you lose access. The Yankees are too big and you, the fan, too small. Once the player is a Yankee he exists only on Sportscenter and baseball cards. Cards and memorabilia are harder to get, printed shorter, more expensive. Autographs are a pipe dream, eye contact fleeting, appearances either packed or non-existent. Voids become impossible to fill.

Programming Note

It has been a very busy week for me from a business and pleasure standpoint, hence the slow posting schedule this week. With new releases knocking at our doorstep, I am going to try and post the rest of the 2008 "Ultimate Checklist" furiously over the next few days. I may fail at this, but I'll try. I'm also going to try and put together the fifth and final installment of "The Value of Cards" by the early part of next week. So, while there likely won't be much (if anything) before tomorrow, I recommend you stay tuned, plenty of good scans and fun stuff to come--including the entirety of Curtis Granderson's 2008 releases from across the Upper Deck spectrum.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

More New Cards!

A series of envelopes have come in over the last three days to make up an order of miscellaneous 2008 cards off of Sportlots. For those of you that don't use it, Sportlots is a great way to pick up base/inconsequential cards for very cheap, and without crazy eBay shipping prices. My most recent order added another 17 cards to my collection. Here's what I got:

My first UD Documentary cards of the year, 8 in all:
From Grand Cards

Four more Moments & Milestones to chip away at my set:
From Grand Cards

The base card and Chrome version (#/1959) from Topps Heritage High Numbers:
From Grand Cards

Upper Deck First Edition:
From Curtis Granderson Collection

...and that set's accompanying Starquest Card (giving me all six):
From Curtis Granderson Collection

And last but not least, the Navy Blue version of UD Heroes (#/199):
From Curtis Granderson Collection

A few thoughts on these:

  • I do not like the Documentary set, having now seen it in person. It is lame. Out of those 8 cards I have two different pictures and only one of the cards even mentions Curtis. From Game 33: "Detroit worked Daisuke Matsuzaka for eight walks (10 overall) but couldn't capitalize. Curtis Granderson continued his hot hitting with a two-run single in the fourth." That game was at home, but shows him in his away jersey, by the by.
  • I'm slowly chipping away at the Moments & Milestones set. Please Help Me.
  • I'm a big fan of the Topps Heritage stuff, especially the chrome.
  • Upper Deck first edition is perfectly nice, but no different than Upper Deck. At least Topps Opening Day was distinguishable (albeit blinding and somewhat cheap looking)
  • The Heroes set would be very tiresome to build, but it is a blast for a player collector. These cards are bright and vibrant and relatively inexpensive and make for a very cool Rainbow collection when put together.

Mail Day!

A sheet of ice covering Baltimore has delayed the start of work for an hour, so I figured I'd fit in a quick post about some of the packages that came across my desk in the last couple days. I'll cover two here, but there are more to come!

Brian at 30-year old Cardboard sent me an unsolicited email last week asking for my address so that he could send me a package. I was happy to oblige and was handsomely rewarded! A pack of assorted Tigers, ranging from the late 80s all the way through the 2008 Topps set greeted me when I opened it up. Some highlights:
From Grand Cards
I don't have a lot of those late 80s Score or Donruss so they will fill out my collection nicely! Of course, the highlight of the whole package falls into this category.
From Grand Cards
I'm not going to get into a long diatribe about people being in the Hall of Fame, but I will say this: Tram should be getting more serious consideration that 17-18%. That is a joke--get with it people.

Thank you Brian for your extreme generosity! It was a very friendly "welcome to the blog-neighborhood!"

My second package came from StevieBurks32 over at the Detroit Sports Collectors forum. Steve was the beneficiary of my extra Topps Tigers Bonus cards. In exchange for those beauties, he obliterated my 1980's Topps Wants. He sent 46 cards off my wantlist--including 23 from the 1985 set that I needed. He also gave me 8 Gold Foil versions of 2008 Topps cards that I needed. I wasn't a big proponent of collecting those, but I kept getting them so I thought, why not? Here are the highlights from Steve's package:
1980 Topps "The Bird"
1981 Topps
1982 Topps
1983 Explosion!
1985 Topps
1986 Topps
White Sox GM Ken Williams in 1989

And of course, my favorite from the set: Sweet Lou.
From Grand Cards

The only thing more egregious than Tram's paltry Hall of Fame support is the fact the Sweet Lou didn't even make it past the first ballot. Look at his numbers. Seriously, look it up. He is Hall Worthy, in my opinion as much or moreso that Alan Trammell.

Well, that's all for now, off to Work. Thanks to Brian and Steve for the great cards!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Trading Philosophy

So it turns out that all this “blog” stuff can be useful for trading cards with other people. Who knew? In the interest of making life easier for prospective traders, I thought that I would post my Trading Philosophy and keep it available for easy reference.

I collect Detroit Tigers. I collect Curtis Granderson. If you have cards that fall into these categories, I will likely be interested. On occasion, I may also collect other cards. For example, Rookie Cards of Hall of Famers, 2007 and 2008 UD Masterpieces have also fallen under my collecting radar.

My philosophy is simple: I am willing to trade anything for cards that I need for my collections. I don’t care about the value of the cards. That said, I’m not going to make trades that are patently unfair, but I’m certainly not going to be splitting hairs.

My primary collections are this:

Topps Detroit Tigers—Base, Inserts, GU, Auto etc.
Curtis Granderson—All Brands/Cards

Secondary collections may include:
Upper Deck Detroit Tigers—Base Only
Hall of Fame RCs
Detroit Tigers in Topps Chrome, Heritage, Goudey, A&G, All Time Fan Favorites, Topps Retired
Zach Putnam—All Brands/Cards

Tertiary collections may include: Other Tigers Cards, other interesting cards

All of my Detroit Tigers wants are available (in checklist form) in the Wantlist in the sidebar. If you have a card that isn’t on the checklist, it means that I don’t know of its existence and likely need it. The wantlist is a spreadsheet. There are tabs on the bottom for different categories, and little arrows to make the tabs scroll. My Granderson wants are part of my Ultimate Checklist series, which is ongoing. If in doubt, ALL of my Granderson cards (except '08 M&M) can be seen in my Curtis Granderson Collection (also in the sidebar).

My tradelist is also in the sidebar. Every single card that I’ve acquired since 2007 is in that spreadsheet. Tabs across the bottom also help categorize things. Cards may be cross referenced into different categories. You can also organize these cards, the way you would a spreadsheet, by player, team, brand, card number etc. I constantly upgrade my Wantlist and my Tradelist to reflect the most accurate information available.

If you are interested in trading with me, just send me an email.

That’s it…Happy Trading!

A Sensible Viewpoint

For those of you who haven't heard, there is all sorts of hubbub right now over the Texas High School basketball game that ended in a 100-0 drubbing. Almost every article depicts the game as an unnecessary throttling of helpless kids. The coach has been fired and the whole thing is a mess.

Well finally someone has offered a sensible viewpoint on the issue. I encourage you to give it a read, if only to clarify for yourself that "Learning Difficulties" are very different from Mental Disabilities, and that there is no reason that somebody who has trouble in an academic setting should be inherently bad at sports. This comes from Splice Today, which is also linked in my sidebar. It is a relatively young website that provides insight and commentary on a wide variety of issues, including sports from time to time. It also finds and links (in their leftmost column) some of the most entertaining news that you'll find on the internet.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Value of Cards (Part IV)

I'm sorry for the slow posting around here, this little piece has been tormenting me for a few days. If you make it through this and follow me the whole way though, you will be rewarded! Also, today was a tremendous mail day for me, so there will be all sorts of pretty pictures in the days ahead.

For a refresher, Parts I, II and III

Having wrapped up the “true” value of cards from a market perspective last time, I thought that it would be interesting to view the other side of the coin. I hypothesized that manufacturers actually have an implicit Suggested Retail Price (SRP) for cards in a pack that can be derived through a study of pack prices and printed odds. The odds come courtesy of 25 Years of Baseball and we will perform this whole analysis using Topps Series 1. For 2008 Series 1, Topps produced 5,445,000 packs of cards. Based on what? The odds of a platinum parallel are 1:16,500 packs on average. There is one platinum parallel per player, 330 cards in the set. That is 5,445,000 packs to reach the 1:16,500 average. Let’s break it down further:

Gold Cards = 662,640 (pack odds say 605,000, but 330x2008 says otherwise)
Black Cards=18,810 (pack odds say 57,315, but 57*330…)
All Star Rookie 50th: 1,089,000 (55 Subjects-19,800 per player)
Own The Game: 907,500 (25 Subjects – 36,300 per player)
Year In Review: 907,500 (60 subjects – 15,125 per player)
Campaign 2008: 605,000 (12 subjets - 50,416 per person)
Mantle HR History: 605,000 (34 cards – 17,794 per card)
Trading Card History: 453,750 (25 subjects – 18,150 per card)
Mantle Story: 302,500 (10 cards – 30,250 per card)
Commemorative Patch Relics: 13,216 (35 subjects- 377 per card)
World Champion Auto Relics: 500 – 50 per player (odds say 377)
World Champion Relics: 1,136 (15 subjects – 75 per player)
Highlights Auto—Group A: 170 (5 subjects – 34 each)
Highlights Auto—Group B: 718 (15 subjects – 48 each)
Highlights Auto –Group C: 5,683 (15 subjects – 378 each)
Highlights Auto –Group E: 5065 (5 subjects—1013 each)
Highlights Auto—Group F: 6083 (8 subjects – 760 each)
Highlights Auto—Group G: 1773 (1 subject – 1773 each)
Highlights Relic –Group A: 1513 (3 subjects –504 each)
Highlights Relic –Group B: 256 (1 subject—256 each)
Highlights Relic –Group C: 3156 (3 subjects – 1052 each)
Highlights Relic –Group D: 2770 (14 subjects –197 each)
Presidential Stamp Collection: 2792 (30 subjects – 93 each)

Add all of those cards up and you get 5,596,531 cards. Let’s round that up to 5,597,000 to account for some of the other 1/1 cards, printing plates etc. Assuming 10 cards per pack, that leaves us with 48,853,000 Base cards or, approximately 148,000 per player in the set.

Does this check out? By this math, a Gold card would be 73 times more rare than it’s corresponding base card. Well, considering you get 1 base card in every 9 packs (or 1/90 cards is Gold) then I would say that we’re at least in the ballpark! This is useful because it allows us to create a cohesive set of relative prices for base cards and inserts. For all non-relic and non-autographed cards, the only thing that makes one card more valuable than another card is scarcity. With that, we can create this conversion table:

Base Card=1/7 ASR50=1/4 OTG=1/9 YIR=1/3 Campaign=1/8 MMHR=1/8 TCH=1/5 MMS=1/73 Gold=1/2596 Black

These are the cards that have no intrinsic value—e.g. there is no jersey or autograph that actually affects the cost/value of the card. Let’s say our baseline pack (retail pack) features 12 base cards for $1.99. That, in essence, creates an SRP of a base card of $.166. Now, with our conversion chart, we can extrapolate that to SRPs of other cards!

Campaign= $.49
Gold= $12.16
Black= $430.9

Clearly, our equation starts to fail at the extremes. However, it actually does a surprisingly decent job of estimating the market prices of base and insert cards. I would say that many of us, especially those that need it for a specific collection, would be willing to pay the “SRP” prices for these cards. So, for “regular” cards, the manufacturer’s “SRP” and the market price seem to match pretty well.

Can that same logic convert to “the hits?” Autograph and Relic cards create an actual cost for the manufacturer, and you would expect that cost to be reflected through higher “SRP” prices and higher market prices. Let’s use our ol’ friend Albert, who started this whole ruckus a few weeks ago. Based on what The Sportscard File has told us, you would expect the SRP for a Pujols autograph to be at least $250—the $200 cost plus a 25% profit margin (this ignores production costs). Let’s see if our data can help here.

Pujols happens to have a Group A autograph in Series 1, and we find, via pack odds that there are 34 Pujols Autographed cards in this set. We have already established that our simple relationship fails in extremes, and that holds true here. The Pujols card would have an SRP of $4,376.47—clearly an absurd figure. So what else can we do?

Let’s go back to the basics. There are three types of packs that exist: Retail, Hobby and HTA Jumbo. Let’s assume that the only difference between these is the number of cards in a pack and the relative likelihood of receiving a Relic or Autographed card. The SRP of a Hobby Box is $70 and features 36 packs with 10 cards per pack. SRP of a Retail Box is also $70 but has 12 cards per pack. The SRP of an HTA box is $100 and has 10 packs with 46 cards each. Just dividing SRP by number of cards we get:

Retail: 16 cents per card
Hobby: 19 cents per card
HTA: 22 cents per card

A retail box has 72 more cards than a Hobby Box—or the equivalent of 6 packs ($12) worth. To make up for that difference, the Box provides $12 of additional value, on average, through a relic OR an auto. To get the 460 cards that come in an HTA box via Retail would cost only $73.60, a difference of $26.40. Accordingly, the HTA provides the additional value of a relic AND an auto.

What does this mean? The guaranteed Relic or Auto in a Hobby Box has an average value of $12. The guaranteed Relic AND Auto in an HTA box has an average value of $26.40. Using these numbers, and the group odds, we can at least figure out the value of a card from a particular group.

Lets assume that the values of cards within a Group are constant and that relative values are proportional to the card’s scarcity. I realize that this may be a stretch, but it’s all we’ve got for now. In this case, a Group A autograph is the scarcest, and most valuable. With 34 cards per subject it is worth 1.41 times more than a Group B card, of which there are 48 cards per subject. Using that logic, we can make another relative value equation for Autos:


I do not know why there is no Group D breakout in the odds that I found online, so we’ll have to deal with what we’ve got.
Similarly, for Relics, where Group D is the scarcest at 197 cards per subject:

There are 19,492 autograph cards and 20,911 relic cards (using only Highlights Autos/Relics and Commorative Patch relics for simplification). In other words, there is one relic card for every 1.07 autograph cards. Earlier, we calculated that there are 5,445,000 packs. In a Hobby Box 1/36 packs has either a relic or an auto. That means that 151,250 packs have either a relic or an auto.

r=1.07a OR a=.935r

Knowing how many relics and autos there are tell us that there is a 51.68% chance that the “hit” is a relic and a 48.32% chance that it is an auto. Almost there…

The Expected “Value” of our Auto is .4832*12= or $5.80 Let’s use the median instead of the mean to determine that the median card falls in Group F. If F=$5.80 and A=22.35F, then A=$129.63

Clearly, this is well below the $200 that Albert charges for an Autograph. There could be two reasons. The first, is that I don’t know what I’m doing mathematically and that I even ended up with the proper number of figures is a miracle in and of itself. That is the most likely probability. The other reason is that Topps is using Pujols to sell the product (he is on the box after all) and is willing to take a loss on the box to entice people to buy. This is what The Sportscard File has called a “loss leader.” It is a card that entices people to buy the product, but actually costs the manufacturer more money to produce than they expect to get back off that card.

You see, markets rarely lie. They tend to incorporate all of the available information to determine prices. Would you be surprised to see a 2008 Topps Pujols Autograph sell on eBay for $129.63? How about a Pujols Autograph #/34 for that amount? That sounds pretty darn accurate to me.

My point is, Topps has implicitly set an SRP of around $130 for this card, even though it costs them more to produce it. They make up for it by also inserting cards that have low SRPs (Group C is SRP’d at $4.35—sounds about right for the Lance Broadway auto I pulled from my box), and making the difference back as profit. Interestingly, the relic in the box has an Expected Value of $6.20. This may be due to the fact that the relic cards are almost all stars or semi-stars, whereas the autos can be quite obscure.

I’m not mathematically proficient enough to continue this to figure out how things change by guaranteeing both in the HTA box. I know that r+a=$26, but I kind of fall apart there. Feel free to take this and run with it.
Again, I could be wrong on all of this and I would love it if somebody could correct me or help on any of it, but it makes sense to me intuitively. Next time, IN MY FINAL INSTALLMENT, I’ll talk about how we can use this information for good instead of evil and finally explain how we, as bloggers, can save the world.

Thanks for making it through.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

More 2008 Topps Heritage

Boy, people sure do love their Topps Heritage. I talked about the Granderson/Kaline Dual Auto the other day, and I've mentioned the Dual Relic in the past as well. Now, the the Autographed Pants Relic (CCA-CG) numbered to 25 is on the board.
That card is perfectly nice, basically a yellow version of the standard relic card. It is nowhere near as nice as the Dual Relic #/59 which routinely sells for OVER $85 (insert disbelief here) or the Dual Auto card which was fetching in the high $100s/low $200s. However, with over two days to go, there are three bids on this card and a price of $86.00!!

Am I missing something here? I like Granderson's cards in Topps Heritage a lot, but $86 with time to spare? Yes, it is numbered to 25, but I was not under the impression that there were that many Granderson collectors out there. For comparison, the standard relic card can be had for about $1-3. The standard "Real One" autograph will range between $15-20 or so. Why is the Autographed Relic selling for $86? Clearly, I'm stumped. All the "Value of Cards" analysis in the world won't help me on this one. Speaking of which, I'm going to try to write Part IV shortly and get it up today or tomorrow. In the meantime, feel free to refresh on Parts I, II and III.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Ultimate Checklist: 2008 Topps Triple Threads

It's a fun coincidence that I reached the Triple Threads installment of the "Ultimate Checklist" on the same day that two separate blogs talk about the football version. To sum: Sports Cards Uncensored is not a fan. Maybe the baseball version is better, or maybe, as this was really my first foray into "high end" cards, I just don't know better.

Either way, I like Triple Threads. I understand the gripes that people have--sticker autos, small pictures, bright colors, artificial scarcity etc. but I actually think that these cards look nice. That said, as I only care about the Granderson's from the set, you would never see me buy a pack of the stuff for $150+ Here's the rundown on the product:

Granderson has what amounts to two version of the same card: 187a and 187b. The difference between the two is the die-cut area for the jersey swatches. "a" is shaped like stars, while "b" spells out "DET". Here are two standard versions of the card for comparison.
From Curtis Granderson Collection
From Curtis Granderson Collection
These cards are numbered to 99. A "Sepia" version of the card, which adds in some refractor technology is numbered to 75, and uses different swatch materials (note the patch):
From Curtis Granderson Collection
"Emerald" versions are numbered to 50:
From Curtis Granderson Collection
and Gold Versions are numbered to 25.
From Curtis Granderson Collection
Note how as the numbers get scarcer, the desirability of the swatches gets greater. Further down the list a "Sapphire" version is numbered to 10:
From Curtis Granderson Collection
Followed by two "1 of 1" versions--the "White Whale" and the "Platinum" Actually, the "White Whale" has four versions, featuring the 187a and 187b shapes as well as the MLB logo and Baseballs.

In all, 187a and 187b amount to 14 different Granderson cards from this set, none of which are particularly easy on the pocketbook.

Triple Threads also features the "Double Cards" that have become staples of the High End market. Those come in two flavors. The first just attaches the cards of two different players. In Granderson's case, he is matched up with Former Tiger uber-prospect and current Florida Marlin future star Cameron Maybin in Rookie Stars Auto #2. Here is the Gold Version:
From Curtis Granderson Collection
With the Double Cards like this, only the Red (#/50), Gold (#/25), Sapphire (#/10) and Platinum (1/1) versions exist.

The other type of Double Card is a "Combos Double" (#32) relic card of a group of players, past and present, spelling out something relevant--"Tigers" in this case. While I do not own any of these cards (sadly), and none are up on eBay, I will say that they are a vast improvement over last year's version. Gone are the small pictures of the players replaced by larger shots and refractor technology. I LOVE these cards. The Double Card features pictures and relics from Magglio Ordonez, Al Kaline, Ivan Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Ty Cobb and Gary Sheffield. Nice.

They are also done up in a single form ("Relics Combos #12), spelling out TIGERS with two relics from each of Ordonez, Kaline and Granderson. I happen to have the highest numbered version and featured it on one of my earliest posts.
From Curtis Granderson Collection
Both the Single and Double relic cards use the same color rainbow as the Granderson-only cards, but with different numbering. The highest starts at #/36 and progresses with /27, /18, /9, /3 and 1/1.

Add all of it up and Granderson can be found on 32 "Different" cards in 2008 Triple Threads. That is a ton of cards for a high-end product like this, making the quest for the Granderson "rainbow" in this release expensive and seemingly futile. However, if you check out my collection, you'll notice that I'm chugging along nicely.

If you're a bit confused, don't worry. This release and all of the others that I've covered in the "Ultimate Checklist" posts can be found in the "Ultimate Checklist," where every Granderson card discussed up to this point is in easy-to-understand checklist form and any card that I have is linked to a picture of the card from my collection.

Granderson's Take on the WBC

The Grand Rapids Press had a (very) quick interview with Curtis Granderson about his thoughts on the World Baseball Classic and how he can help Team USA bring home the Gold*!
Tigers' Granderson looking forward to WBC

*What do you get if you win? Is it a Gold Medal? Ring? Trophy? I have no idea.

UPDATE: Apparently those of you viewing this post in Firefox are treated to ridiculous spacing. I just copied the embed link off the site I found it and have no clue why it does it or how it can be fixed. My apologies

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

2008 Topps Heritage High Numbers: Update

In an earlier post on Topps Heritage I mentioned a Granderson/Kaline dual auto. Little did I know that Dave from Fielder's Choice was able to pull that very card less than a month ago. Well, he pulled the redemption, which arrived without incident shortly thereafter. Courtesy of Dave, I bring you what I believe to be the best Curtis Granderson card of 2008, and possibly, the greatest ever made.

Ultimate Checklist: 2008 Topps Opening Day

Here's a quick lunchtime update:

"Opening Day" is the much derided throwaway set from Topps that shows little creativity and adds nothing to Topps' main set. However, it is red.
From Curtis Granderson Collection

Terrible for a whole set, perfectly fine for an individual card. I do like the "Opening Day" logo on the cards, but feel like this would be more fun as a parallel (get rid of gold foil and first edition stamps, perhaps) than a separate set. (My head just exploded with cries of NOOOOO! from across the card blogging universe)

Granderson is Card #32 in the set. A Gold version of the card, which is white (??) is serial numbered to 2199, and has date of Opening Day stamped on it.
From Curtis Granderson Collection
Just my two cents, but that card is much uglier than the regular version. By removing the circles from around the team name you zapped the design of any character it might have had. I also don't understand why it is numbered to 2199, but whatever.

To sum up: #32 base, #32 "Gold" (#/2199) and printing plates. With that, I think Opening Day has gotten about as much post space as it deserves.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ultimate Checklist: 2008 Topps Moments & Milestones

For a set that everybody loves to hate, I have a dicey love/hate relationship with 2008 Topps Moments & Milestones. I don't know how it happened, but somehow I got a small lot of Granderson cards from this set for next to nothing (like 99 cents, or something like that). I thought, simultaneously, in a true feat of quantum mental bandwidth, "these cards are cool/these cards are stupid." First, the technicals: The "base" cards are all numbered to 150. There are parallels that are numbered to 25 (black), 10 (blue) and 1 (red).

Fine, that all seems pretty straightforward. So what's the problem? Why the love and hate? First, the love:
From Curtis Granderson Collection
From Curtis Granderson Collection
From Curtis Granderson Collection
From Curtis Granderson Collection

These cards are nice. I'm sorry. Look at them! There are four cards, four different pictures, design variations, nice color schemes--they're even printed on an excellent card stock. Its not too thin, its not too thick. I am a fan. Curtis Granderson's cards, numbers 38, 39, 40 and 41 are worth collecting.

Unfortunately, Card number 38 has a few variations. 38-1, 38-2, 38-3 etc. up to 23 for each home run. Card 39 has 26 variations, one for each steal. 40 has 23 variations for each triple and there are 38 versions of #41 for each double. So, Curtis Granderson has 4 unique cards that are great. Or, Curtis Granderson has 110 cards that are repetitive and mediocre.

That is the hate component of this set, and it is what everybody hates about this set. There is no reason to have 110 different cards that only have 4 different designs. There is really no reason to have 110 more that are numbered to 25, 110 more numbered to 10 and 110 more "1 of 1" cards. These are not one of ones. These are a joke. Moments & Milestones are a prime example of artificial scarcity and corporate greed that has frustrated collectors all year.

Still, for all the criticism that I have about this set, I must confess a sickness. I have an issue, which you will become familiar with over time, if you're not already, in which I must complete any collections that I start. The corollary of this is that I don't start collections that I'm not prepared to finish, which is why I don't collect the Black, Blue and Red versions of this set. However, I am stuck trying to complete the frustrating, annoying but addictively beautful "base" set of Topps Moments & Milestones.

With that, I need your help. I need the following cards (#/150) to finish my set (Updated 2/15/2011):
Home Runs (Card #38): 15
Stolen Bases (Card #39): 10, 19, 25, 26
Triples (Card #40): 4, 10, 11, 13, 18
Doubles (Card #41): 23, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37

I beg you. Let me put this sickness to rest.

Formatting Note

The "Card Blogs of Merit" list in the sidebar has been given a slightly more prominent position. I have moved down "Essential Reading" and renamed it "The Bigger Picture" as I feel that it provides a larger sports context to our more card-specific pursuits. I will add new links to either of these lists as I see fit.

A note on the "Card Blogs of Merit:" I will add blogs to this list on occasion but I see no reason for it to be a super long blogroll. Rather, I will limit it to card blogs that I read and enjoy on a daily basis. Criteria for inclusion is interesting, well written content that I like. That said, there may be some additions (and subtractions) over time, but I am not strictly limiting myself to a defined number of blogs a la Wax Heaven's "Heavenly Seven." If your blog is not there it is because a) I don't know about it or b) haven't really gotten into it yet. I apologize. Please do not be offended. There are many blogs that hit my personal RSS feed and when I find that I read some much more than others, I will add them.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ultimate Checklist: 2008 Topps Heritage

Heavy stuff as of late. How about some cards instead?

From Curtis Granderson Collection
Topps Heritage is the stuff that everybody loves and I, for one, don't have much to add to that. However, I do not collect Topps Heritage because I am intimidated by it. You see, I got back into collecting at the end of 2006, when there were already years of Topps Heritage sets available. If I starting collecting Heritage, I would have to go back and collect Heritage from previous years. With A&G that was no problem, I started in 2008, with only a 2 year backlog. Goudey was even easier with only one year. But Heritage had years and years that I needed to catch up with, add in the SPs and my massive catch-up with regular Topps. What can I say, I was scared. So, as much as I would like to, I have never started collecting Topps Heritage. That doesn't keep me from racking up the Granderson cards though!

In 2008, Topps Heritage only featured one Granderson card. #34 "Pitchers Beware" with Magglio Ordonez (up top). It also came in a Black Back short printed version that looked like this.
From Curtis Granderson Collection
I love everything about the card, have no particular qualms with the short print and was able to leave 2008 Topps Heritage happy as a clam.

Oh! In 2008 Topps Heritage also did something that it had never done before, it released an update set. Topps Heritage High Numbers was much more Granderson heavy, and features great cards. His base card is #535 and is paralleled into a Chrome (#/1959), a Refractor (#/559) and a Black Refractor (#/59). I'm short on all but the refractor seen here:
From Curtis Granderson Collection
A "Real One" Autograph Card is Granderson's first autograph for Heritage, and On-Card at that! It comes in regular and red ink (#/59) flavors.
From Curtis Granderson Collection
A "Clubhouse Collection" relic has a similar look and features a game used swatch of...Pants! Sure it looks the same as a normal swatch, but Pants! An autographed version (#/25) also is alleged to exist
From Curtis Granderson Collection
The real catch of this series is the prescient teaming of Granderson with All-Time Great Al Kaline for two beautiful cards. The first is a dual relic card (#/59) that you may recognize from an earlier post.
From Grand Cards
I love this card very much, but have yet to see it sell on eBay for less than $80. For a dual relic card. Geez. The other card is a Dual Autograph card (#/25) of Granderson and Kaline. I have seen this twice--once as a redemption card and one as a redeemed card in hand. Also too rich for my blood and sadly, I don't have a picture. Suffice to say that it is wonderful.

So, to make up for the low Granderson content in its first release, the High Numbers series is loaded with tremendous Granderson cards. I'm sure that I'll be chasing those Kaline cards for years to come and alas, with Granderson's star rising I'm unlikely to see prices fall by much, if at all.

A final note, hand numbering the cards (except the refractors) is a great touch. Sure, they could be numbered by intern Steve over at Topps, but they give that extra personal feel and uniqueness that just adds to these cards. I'm a big, big fan.

Blog Bat Around #3: If you don't care, I don't care

The topic for this Blog Bat Around, organized by Dave at Fielder’s Choice:

2008 is over and 2009 has just begun. We’ve seen the previews for the first card releases of the new year. We also know that Upper Deck is planning to eliminate a few brands in 2009, and with the economy in a recession, Topps and other card companies may follow suit. As collectors, we want to see the card companies make cards that we want to collect, but how do they know what we want? This is your chance to tell them…

What type of sets would you like to see produced in 2009 and beyond? What sets from 2008 and past years do you want to see return, and which brands would you like to see killed off? How could existing brands be improved and what new types of card sets would you like to see created? Should new sets be geared more toward set collectors, or should the number of hits (autographs and game-used relics) be increased? What about short prints? Parallels? Inserts? Gimmicks? What do you love about current cards, what do you hate, and where should the card companies go from here?

My response:

As many of you know, I am a newcomer to this blogging community. My history and relationship with card collecting features a big black hole between about 1994 and 2006. As such, I don’t feel experienced enough to be able to provide deep insight on the state of the hobby or its future. Still, I am happy to offer an opinion. Perhaps it is an opinion that many of the people who have been out of collecting—or have never collected—hold and maybe it isn’t.

For me, collecting is a complement to my true love—baseball. I view it as a way to track the history of the game and, more importantly, for me to recall various milestones and memories from different points of my life. Collecting was a way to connect with my favorite players growing up as well as a way to take pride and ownership over something that I had built from scratch. I believe, at its core, that all collectors share this feeling in some way. Amidst the “hits” and the 1 of 1s and all of the things that didn’t exist when I was younger there need to be cards that people can identify with and enjoy for what they are.
The way I see it, the entire hobby can be simplified into four groups: Full Set Collectors, Team Collectors, Player Collectors and those who just enjoy interesting cards and/or cards of good players. While no two collectors are the same, I think that grouping into these categories is appropriate. Manufacturers need to recognize these divisions and not try to make a “one-size-fits-all” product. Lets take Topps or Upper Deck’s main sets for example. In general, those who build full or team sets start with these releases. They should feature base cards with a good checklist, nice photography and should be challenging, but achievable to collect. The worst thing that a company can do is make a set-collectors product too difficult or too expensive to collect. Higher end products that heavily feature game used, autographs and parallels are fine, as long as they are recognized for what they are—sets for player collectors and those who just want high quality and unique cards.

The problem is that even the high-end market has been dumbed down to a degree, and has been cannibalized by the massive inclusion of GU/Autos, Short Prints and Parallels in lower end sets. Set collectors don’t care about those things, but some collectors do. By relegating the “expensive” cards to “expensive” packs you are able to keep the market for those cards fresh and keep the set collectors happy.

Still, I don’t buy high-end packs because they’re too expensive so I’ll end my talk about them there before I end up with my foot in my mouth.

Whether there are too many releases in the market or not enough, I’m not one to say—that’s for market research to determine (although there sure seem to be a lot out there). However, there is one thing that I am confident in. The success of a set comes down to its design. According to most of the blogs out there, Topps Allen & Ginter is almost universally beloved. How can this be? It includes non-baseball cards in a baseball set, it has short prints, a bunch of parallels and more. If A&G were designed to look like UDX people would piss and moan about the short prints, and the flags and buildings and parallels etc. I guarantee that would happen—look at the “uproar” surrounding the fossils that Upper Deck has in hand for a new release! People are calling for a dinosaur-only set! Is that really different than getting Leo Tolstoy or whoever in an A&G pack? No. But the design is amazing and the set is well done.

I guess what I’m saying is that the sets that buyers don’t think twice about are the same sets that the manufacturers didn’t think twice about during the design process. People like the concept, but not the execution of UD Documentary, for example. It's not that the product is bad, it’s just that it was done poorly—if done correctly it could have had a neat niche. Look at UDX, CoSigners and Moments & Milestones, for example. They’re kind of lame. There fine for a single here and there, but in all, they just don’t look that nice, or get repetitive etc.

Isn’t that the whole point? Why are we card collectors instead of coin collectors or stamp collectors or hoarders of old newspapers or bottle caps or coasters, beer glasses etc. (I realize that some of us are—not the point). We collect baseball cards because baseball cards have feeling. They are portraits of our time, capturing a moment of a player’s career or a team’s ascendancy to greatness. It needs to return to that. The cards themselves need to be held to a higher standard. If the design lacks feeling or quality design the set will fail. I dare you to provide me with a counterexample.

So those are my overall feelings for the future. A few bullets on specific grievances:

  • Stop using the same picture on multiple cards in a set. I’m talking to you Generation Now, UD Documentary and Moments & Milestones. These are not different cards and they are not parallels. Stop it.)
  • Topps Gold is good. It is a nice variation on the base set that is seeded in such a way that doesn’t hamper normal set collecting.
  • Topps Gold Foil is bad. It is indistinguishable, unnecessary and makes it more difficult and frustrating to build a set.
  • I like inserts, especially when they can be built into their own subsets (Topps World Baseball Classic, e.g.). I DO NOT LIKE continuity inserts that commemorate an extraordinarily long list of achievements, such as career home runs. Those cards become unremarkable after a few packs. If you continue with them, at least use a picture specific to the “moment” on the card.
  • Parallels and Short Prints are a player/team collectors challenge. Keep them within reason (ahem, Co-signers and Heroes) and you’re fine. Go crazy (e.g. SPs in UD Masterpieces) and you frustrate the set collectors and depress sales.
  • The market is saturated with Autographs and Game Used cards. They need to be harder to pull (turn Hobby packs into Retail-seeded packs for some sets) and pack prices on some products should go down. If people want Autos and Game Used they can go to the higher end.
  • The 55-card team-specific gift set from Topps was wonderful. Those should rotate so that each team has one every three or four years.

As a penultimate point, I have a suggestion that may or may not gain any traction. Many people point to the success of card games that offer Starter Packs and Booster sets, and relatively high price points. As someone who played Magic “The Gathering” in Middle School, that provides a very interesting model. How about this: Starter Pack of 60 cards for a $10 (this is the $10 blaster, 5 packs or 12 card each, SRP $1.99 per pack). Starter Packs are seeded in such a way that they are primarily base cards,with lower than normal insertion rates for inserts and parallels. Booster Packs of 10 cards can be sold for $4. While some base cards will be there, they may be drawn from a higher caliber of player. More importantly, parallels and inserts can more easily be had via booster pack. I’m not exactly sure of the implications, but I feel like that would cut the fat for set collectors, restore the “special” feeling of inserts and parallels and keep people buying more packs (especially the higher priced booster packs) to get the rare cards or marquee players, instead of buying regular packs only to pull 5 cards of Dan Haren (right Thorzul?)

Finally and most importantly, the market needs transparency. Checklists need to be readily available for all products online and in boxes. They need to be accurate and complete. The Retail-only releases from recent years are fine, but need to be recognized and accounted for. “Secret” short prints (Gimmicks) need to be stopped altogether. The frustrating part of this hobby is seeing cards sold on eBay that are outrageously priced because there is not adequate information out there. The sad part of this hobby is seeing somebody pay a high price, only to see the price fall over time. The companies need to make it easier for collectors to collect. That is all we ask. Let us know what cards are out there, tell us what we should expect to get out of a pack (odds) and we will be on our way.

If you made it through this, congratulations.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Value of Cards (Part III)

I lied. This post went up today and not yesterday. My apologies.

Part III: When Prices Rise Over Time

Parts I and II are available here and here

When information is scarce and prices haven’t stabilized, it is most common for prices to decline, as discussed extensively in Part II. In the majority of cases, waiting will yield lower prices, unless a stable “market price” has already been set, in which case prices will stay the same. It is important to note that this effect does not necessarily hold true for all cards. Rather, only cards that are capable of commanding high prices will follow this logic. In low price ranges, the psychological barrier of spending an extra dollar or two is not large enough to prevent people from spending a little more than their perceived value just to win. With high prices, some people will try to get the card cheaply, some will spend moderately and some will eventually spend a lot to win the card. Ultimately, the price will settle at a more moderate range where the bulk of collectors would value it. This stabilization point is the point where the two lines on our graph cross, known as the equilibrium (labeled true market value).  Here's our graph from the previous post to illustrate:
From Grand Cards

However, there is another scenario that can arise in which waiting will lead to substantially higher costs. I will call this the Andrew Miller Paradox. In 2007, Topps released rookie variations for a handful of cards in their Series 1 set. Andrew Miller, Delmon Young and Troy Tulowitzki, among others. The Andrew Miller card showed him posed, instead of delivering a pitch like his normal card. It became known as #15b. Here are the two side by side with the variation on the right.
Now, this card came out right when I got back into collecting. I saw it on eBay when Topps series 1 was released and the two cards, bundled together sold for around $10. A month or so later, I saw another one on eBay with a starting price of around $40. Later there was another one at about $40 with a few days to go. Other sightings from members of the Detroit Sports Collectors forum saw prices get as high as $75 and $175! So what happened here?

Well, asymmetric information reared its ugly head again. When this card was first released, people knew that it was short printed, but they didn’t know how short. Prices were inflated above normal card value. However, it quickly became known that these prices were SUPER short printed. The forums came alive with rumors of 1:3400 Wal Mart Packs, Less than 1 per case, etc. All of a sudden this card, which people had apprehensively bid on initially, was known to be extremely rare. With all the information out in the open, the price exploded. Topps set collectors, perhaps the largest subset of collectors, clamored to get it, leaving Tigers and Miller collectors in the dust, although still willing to pony up for the card. In this case, the price may have stabilized at a persistently high level, or it may have been high up until the point that these rare cards disappeared from the market. Either way, the price of this card never did go down and remains an impossible card to find to this day. Graphically the series of events looks like this:
From Grand Cards

In the first graph we see a “true market value” based on the information available to consumers. However, once more information is revealed, and the scarcity of the card known, the graph changes. The upward sloping graph (supply curve) shifts to the left, reflecting a lower supply than originally thought. This creates a new “true market value” at a much higher level, given the fewer number of cards in the market.

Contrast the Miller case with a more famous short print from the same release, the Derek Jeter w/Bush and Mantle card. With collectors still jittery over the Alex Gordon and Alay Soler releases in 2006 Topps (Beckett wrote a good article that provided much needed information on the scarcity of the card—clearly with intelligent economists on staff), and with the Jeter card receiving tremendous publicity, prices started out sky-high. However, as the scarcity of the card became better known, prices fell—as you would expect in a traditional scenario. Graphically:
From Grand Cards

In this scenario, consumers thought that the card had a lower supply than it actually did. As you may remember, the market was initially confused about whether this was a gimmick or a joke that wasn’t caught. This confusion bred high initial prices. Once it became clear that it was a gimmick, and that the card was more common than originally thought, the supply curve shifted to the right, lowering the price. (You could also argue that demand shifted left, lowering prices further, once the card was revealed as a gimmick, turning some people off. It is important to note that while actual suppy didn’t change, the perceived supply in the market, based on the information available did change, causing the price fluctuation. While this isn’t technically asymmetric information, which assumes that either buyers or sellers exploit the other by having information that only they know, this general disinformation has the same effect for our purposes).

So how do the cases of price inflation discussed here and deflation, from the previous post, help us determine a final market price? The key is information. Looking back at the original post from Dinged Corners, we see the Babe Ruth “hair” card. The seller has no idea how much that card is worth. Neither do you. Nobody does. Why? Because only one of those cards exists, and there are no comparable substitutes out there. This is not a printing plate “1 of 1” where there are other printing plates from the same player and other players that can help set a market price (for printing plates), this has a hair from Babe freaking Ruth. Now, if this were just an autograph card, we could set a price on it based on the going rate for Babe Ruth signature cards or, failing that, Babe Ruth signatures on other items. The issue is the hair. Perhaps if cloning were up and running then someone could evaluate how much a modern day Babe Ruth would earn as a professional baseball player, subtract the cost of the cloning procedure and the cost of raising him over the course of 18 years until he could get drafted out of high school and reach a final number for having Babe Ruth as a son. Otherwise, what is the point of the hair? Because it’s cool? Last I checked, you can’t put a price on cool (I should know—Heyo!) So, instead we are left with a card that is so potentially valuable that it has no value because it can’t sell. The only way to find the price of that card is to put it up for auction and see where it ends up. Meanwhile, Jeter and Matsuzaka cards are selling within narrow-ish ranges, although some buyers are getting better prices than others. Clearly, there is an established market for these players that has helped set a base price for their autographed cards, allowing for fluctuations based on set, condition, autograph quality etc. Price stabilization occurs when all of the information about the card is known. It doesn’t need to be perfect (e.g. the card can be relatively common or relatively rare) but there needs to be some heuristic that buyers can follow. If there isn’t, we get crazy Armando Galarraga and Andrew Milller situations until more information is discovered.

So that, my friends, is how the eBay market works to price cards. I hope that made sense for everyone. But wouldn’t it be interesting to know what the companies thought the cards would be worth? Wouldn’t it be easier if there was an SRP for cards like this, especially the really rare ones?

I hypothesize that there actually is. Through a combination of pack prices and the odds released by manufacturers, we can actually deduce the manufacturer’s SRP for almost EVERY CARD in a release! In the next post, I will attempt to prove that hypothesis and use it in conjunction with our newfound knowledge of the dynamics of eBay to determine how we can purchase on eBay more effectively and, how we, as bloggers, can save the world.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mythical Pre-New Years Lot

Alright, that lot of cards that I ordered between Christmas and New Years is now up, bumping my 2009 total from 3 to 17. I will discuss the dynamics of this lot in an upcoming "Value of Cards" post, (aka, how all of these cards were a STEAL). Speaking of which, Part III of that series should be up tomorrow. I have to draw and photograph my diagrams and then we're good.

Anyway, here is my big-time lot that really kicked off my 2009 (Other than my Topps Finest Red Refractor seen here)

2008 Topps Finest Auto
From Curtis Granderson Collection
2008 Topps Heritage High Numbers Refractor (#424/559):
From Curtis Granderson Collection
2008 Bowman Chrome Printing Plate Yellow (1/1)
From Curtis Granderson Collection
2007 Topps Triple Threads (#14/99)
From Curtis Granderson Collection
2007 Topps Triple Threads Sepia (#75/75)
From Curtis Granderson Collection
2007 Topps Triple Threads Gold (#04/25)
From Curtis Granderson Collection
2008 UD Spectrum Auto (#25/30)
From Curtis Granderson Collection
2008 UD Spectrum Emerald (#15/50)
From Curtis Granderson Collection
2008 UD Heroes Relic Green (#22/25)
From Curtis Granderson Collection
2008 UD Premier Milestone Autographs Masterpiece (#06/25)
From Curtis Granderson Collection
2006 Upper Deck Special F/X Red (#12/50)
From Curtis Granderson Collection
2008 Upper Deck Starquest Super Rare
From Curtis Granderson Collection
2008 Upper Deck Starquest Ultra-Rare
From Curtis Granderson Collection