Monday, August 24, 2020

The Price We Gotta Pay, The Games They Play

Every time I look at the list of products for the current year on the TCDB, I get a little discouraged.  There seems to be more high end stuff each year, and more rookie-only stuff, and less regular current and classic player stuff.  Remember when most hobby boxes were less than $100 and anything over $200 was considered high end?  I guess at this point you have to be of a certain advanced age to remember that.  I decided to do a price survey and quickly classify the list of 2020 products.  (All prices are single hobby boxes on major online dealer sites.)

"Regular stuff"
2020 Topps Big League $30
2020 Topps Opening Day $35
2020 Topps Gold Label $95
2020 Stadium Club $120
2020 Donruss  $128
2020 Topps $128
2020 Topps Update $128
2020 Topps Gypsy Queen $220

Big League remains the cheapest product of anything that isn't retail-with-a-hobby-counterpart.  I would still guess that it is one of the more successful products Topps puts out, but not the most profitable.  

Gold Label was a surprise find in this category.  At less than $100 a box, though only 35 cards, it's not nearly as high end as I imagined.  Not sure if the auto catalog contains anything but rookies.  I'm not interested enough to find out.

After that, though, everything else is over $120.  Flagship Donruss and Topps are all at $125 a hobby box, even though Topps is reducing the amount of inserts put into each box.  Stadium Club is the only one at it's ideal price point.  And where does GQ get off going up over $200??

And of course, now everything is getting a shiny parallel as a separate product (except Bowman - see below).  Not to be outdone, the original shiny parallel separate set is now getting a parallel version - Chrome Black.  They're not bad looking, but like the original, is priced way to high above what I'd pay for it.

"Shiny Stuff"
2020 Donruss Optic $170
2020 Stadium Club Chrome $225
2020 Topps Allen & Ginter Chrome $240
2020 Topps Chrome $255
2020 Topps Chrome Black $350

And the worst idea of them all - Ginter Chrome.  Stop with the Retro Shiny!

And speaking of retro, that's still another category that is going strong ~ and should have some separate products added to it instead of being inserts in flagship.  (Looking at you, yearly "tribute" '80s bloated inserts!)  But I've been shouting that to the wind for a long time.

"Retro Stuff"
2020 Topps Heritage $98 - Best product of 2020!
2020 Topps Allen & Ginter $125 - My new regular build.  Not as excited about the inserts this year though.
2020 Topps Archives $130 - Put the auto's in Heritage or Flagship and halt this one, it's redundant.  Again, been saying that for a while too.

2020 Topps T206 $35 - 10 cards

The T205 thing is fine, except it's online only and is $3.50 a card.   Sorry Topps, I don't know when you thought this business model would work better, but we don't get it.

Then there's the other guys. Without the licenses.  So their stuff looks fine as far as design, but all the players look like they're in men's league softball outfits.

"Stuff with no logos"
2020 Panini USA Stars & Stripes $63
2020 Panini Diamond Kings $75
2020 Panini Prizm $150
2020 Panini Select $170
2020 Panini Absolute $185
2020 Panini Chronicles $250
2020 Panini Immaculate $350
2020 Leaf Lumber Kings $400

As Night Owl has documented, Diamond Kings hasn't evolved significantly in a few years.  I've been hoping it would morph into a design I really like and I'd get a bunch of it one year.  Still waiting.  The other stuff to me is converted baseball versions of football or basketball products.  (Wouldn't mind seeing Score baseball, but with a license.)  But anything after Absolute is exceedingly high end anyway.  Not sure how they pull that off without logos.

Bowman is the line that features players that are wearing logos, but they're just not of MLB teams yet.  Talk about products and inserts that need to be separated ~ Bowman has 100 cards in the base set, yet there are Prospects that are inserts - 150 of them.  AND, there are Chrome Prospects - that aren't part of the separate Bow Chro set, but are also inserts in the regular set!  My brain is fried...  Oh, and they're all more than $200 a box.

2020 Bowman's Best $200
2020 Bowman $260
2020 Bowman Chrome $270
2020 Bowman Sterling $315
2020 Bowman Draft $400
2020 Bowman Sapphire $580
2020 Bowman 1st Edition $650

And, to gracefully segue into the next category, we have high end, which is also mostly rookie-saturated, and priced way above the average collector budget.  There are so many high end products now, there are several tiers.

<$100 (only one card per package)
2020 Topps Clearly Authentic
2020 Topps Archives Signature Series
2020 Topps Archives Signature Series Retired Player Edition
2020 Topps Pro Debut $68 - 4 autos

$200 - $300+ a box
2020 Topps Inception
2020 Topps Tier One
2020 Finest
2020 Topps Five Star
2020 Topps Luminaries
2020 Topps Triple Threads
2020 Topps Museum Collection $320

$500+ a box
2020 Topps Dynasty
2020 Topps Tribute
2020 Topps Finest Flashbacks

2020 Topps Sterling $1000

2020 Topps Definitive Collection $1500

2020 Topps Diamond Icons $2000

And don't even start on the Transcendent Collection things at $21,000 a box/case/set...

So you have 18 high end products, compared to about six mid-range or so (Topps flagship, Opening Day and Update counting as one).  

I thought about calculating the price per card of each of these, but it's already past midnight.  Suffice to say that at least to me, the products put out today, while approaching the same counts as say, 1998 (52 in 2020 vs. 58 in '98) don't offer NEARLY the diversity that the older ones did.  If you don't follow the fads - in this case, shiny rookie mojo hits - you only have a few good choices.  And there's a price....

Which reminds me of a song...

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

These Things Just Keep Mutating!

If you love oddball sets, (and I think the majority of us - set collectors, anyway - do) then the 1987 Hygrade All-Time Greats is right up your alley.  It's a green bordered, 114 card set with some orange promos, and other oddball inserts.  And there are tons of variations.  Mostly hat logos cropped out of the front photos, with a few notable exceptions.

When my friend Stuart and I first completed this set, there were 24 pairs of variants with a third Duke Snider, making 49 cards in the Error/Variation list.  

The cropped pairs included Banks, Berra, Clemente, Cobb, Dickey, DiMaggio, Feller, Ford (w/jersey), Foxx, Gehrig, Grove, Hubbell, Kiner, Mays, Musial, BrooksR, JackieR, Ruth, Traynor (jersey), Waner, and Ted Williams.

As I mentioned before, Duke Snider has two of the same shot where his hat logo is cropped out, plus a third one with a different photo.  (With the new Blogger, I can't make these images the same size.  Stupid.)

Jim Kaat has pictures in two different uniforms.  The backs have different writeups.

The most unique variant is also the most prestigious player - Mickey Mantle.  He's got two completely different photos too.

Recently, we discovered that there had been two more additions to the list on the Database.

Tris Speaker's photo framed so his hat touches the border, even though it doesn't hide a logo.  (Oops, I reversed them in this image.  But you get the idea.)

And Frankie Frisch has a version that doesn't have the Cardinals logo across his chest.  I luckily had the logo version in my set and three extra of those without.  Can't believe I didn't notice the difference. 

And I suspect there may be more.  A closer look at some of my dupes finds that there are subtle differences even when they don't hide the insignia...

Check out the hat logo.  It's not a big difference, but the C on his cap is just off the top border in the first card, and just behind it in the second.  A closer view:

There are subtle changes in more of the Hygrades.  I think you may be able to make a whole set of A & B versions really. 

Kind of amazing, a 33 year old oddball set that keeps evolving.  That's why I love sets like this.

Monday, August 10, 2020

BBA: 2021 Topps - Make It Better

 I think most of the world would like to leave out the "Topps" in my title and write a re-do to the entire year of 2020.  For now, we'll go with a tweak of the future flagship design as originated by Cards That Never Were.

I've got a few versions to throw at you, but this is the closest to the final product.  The original is just too busy, or I'm too old.  I don't need all the junk protruding into the image and covering it up in spots all over the place.

Let's see the original to compare.

The name is WAY too small.  Shades of the last few years of Topps football when they were seemingly trying to find the smallest font size tolerable.  And those bars on the lower left.  What are they for?  Nothing.

I shortened them up, cleaned them up and gave the rookie logo somewhere to anchor to instead of flotaing free in the corner.  And separated the position over to the other bar.

Replaced the honeycomb from 1987 Donruss behind the middle with the 70th Anniversary of Whatever Facet of Cards This Year across there.  It could almost stand to squeeze the picture at the waist and widen the area for the logo so you could at least see it fully.

Skootched the team logo to the center of the bar a bit too.

I kinda like this typeface for the name better on the light colored bar, but it doesn't work for the position - needs to be bolder and more opaque over there.  You can see that I had the position and variable rookie logo swapped originally.  Figured the empty frame is better for the RC logo since it's only on 50 or 60 percent of the base cards.  (OK, I know, I'm being cynical).

An earlier, and slightly more generic name font.  The lowest blue stripe has been left unfinished.

This is what it looks like when you duplicate the logo before fading effects.

None of these are my final version.  They're all still unbalanced.  Something needs to go in the upper area, but I don't know what.  And it would be interesting to try and make some other players to see how their names fit.  Adell's is really short.

But that's my take on it.  I'm not expecting to see much of these in real life here at the Collective.  Waiting for Allen & Ginter to supplant my annual flagship build.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Chillin' In The AC

My air conditioning is working fine.  I just replaced it in January.  My electric bills haven't risen above $60 per month since.  But I'm not here to talk about that "AC".

The 2020 National Sports Collector's Convention has been pushed to December 12 instead of it's usual calendar spot the last week of July into August.  It's slated for Atlantic City, NJ.  We'll see if it happens at all or not. 
This is the first time in several years that I haven't taken two weeks off at this point in the summer.  I'm usually traveling to Michigan and then to Chicago, or my trading buddy Stuart comes down to Maryland if the show is closer.  Then the other week is spent galavanting to all the local dealers and antique shops in the area. 

Was looking forward to hunting for all these things at the show:
  • Killing the rest of the inserts for 2019 Topps Update.  COVID-19 shut down all the shows right before I had a chance to fill out my Update lists.

  • Finish what's left of 2020 Topps & Heritage.  At least I've had some nice trading during all this.  I'm well on the way to finishing Heritage and the Decade's Best from Series 1. 

  • Finding a couple decent and cheap Wayne Gretzky rookies.  Both of us need that and the funky error on League Leader card #8 to kill our 1979-80 hockey sets.
  • Lots of player collection oddballs and some moon & space sets like 1963 Topps Astronauts, and singles from 1990 Starline Americana, '02 American Pie, and '13 Golden Age.
  • 1977 Charlie's Angels to finish my set, and Paige wrestling cards.

  • Killing a bunch of my football sets from 2008 to now.

  • Getting a good deal on some more vintage hockey starters.

  • Crushing my 1968 baseball set build and maybe even finding the last '59 variation.
  • Maybe getting lucky and finally landing my T205 Mathewson.

  • And meeting a few more fellow bloggers in person!

And then at a few different Michigan shops:
  • Finding a set or box of 1990 Topps football with the disclaimer backs.

  • Knocking out big chunks of older cheap sets.

  • Spending a whole day digging through rooms packed to the ceiling with nothing but white boxes and binders of cards.

Just have to wait and see.  At this point, even just the monthly show with a few dozen vendors would be nice...