Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A collecting we will go....

So far you’ve read about my gambling problems and my distaste for the general fans of the TBA. Now it’s time for another one of my other vices – card collecting. That’s right I collect little cardboard pictures of my athletes and put them in boxes that clutter up my closet. It takes my money, space in my luxurious condo and it gets on my girlfriend’s nerves.

Why do I do it? I don’t know honestly. I used to tell everyone that I was investing in cards or that I planned to sell them on line. Part of that is true I guess, but the more I think about it the more I realize it’s just fun. It also satisfied my need to organize things. Right now it is perhaps the only thing in my life that’s organized, but that’s a story for another day.

I consider it a nice and somewhat less expensive habit than snorting cocaine, but the addictive nature of the habit is similar. At the present time I have a bout 70,000 cards which is a solid amount, but no where near Big Mike’s collection which is currently estimated at about 1,000,000. To say Big Mike has a little bit of clutter in his house is an understatement, but he is also moving the cards to buyers at a much faster rate than I am.

By the way I’m currently watching “The Island” on HBO and I’m wondering how it wasn’t turned into a video game. The first 30 minutes blows away anything you can do in Grand Theft Auto (well other than smack a hooker). Chase scenes, gun battles and stuff blowing up – what more could you want. Oh and it has Scarlett Johansson in it as well. Not too shabby. I wouldn’t buy it, but if it’s on it’s worth a watch if you’re flipping through the channels. Now back to the normal column.

So why am I telling you all of this? Well I have a quest this season, by season I mean baseball card collecting season. That quest, fair readers, is to chronicle my attempt to collect the entire 2007 Topps Series. It’s not an overly ambitious undertaking as there are several thousand collectors who do this on a yearly basis. What I want to do is see how much time and money it will take an average (that’s me!) collector to put a set together.

The journey started on Monday when I bought a box of 2007 Topps Series One from Target. Cost - $9.99

Here’s what I got:

Total base cards: 53 (out of 330)
Duplicates: 0
Inserts: 7
Best Card: JG46 – Josh Gibson HR History
Best Looking Card #222 – Scott Hatteberg
Devil Rays 1 (#244 Team Card)

Overall the set is pretty sharp looking. Topps went with an all black border this year. That’s usually a dicey decision as corners and edges can chip easily. Any type of defect devalues the card so there could be some disgruntled collectors out there that score a nice base card that they can’t get full value for because of a small bent corner. I’m not too worried about it as I am not a big time investor of cards.

The inserts in the first series are pretty varied with 27 different sets listed on the back of the box. The best odds are the “Generation Now” at one every 4 packs ( I scored two in the 10 packs that were in the box I bought). The longest odds are shared between two insert sets – “A-Rod Road to 500 Continuity Autograph” and Distinguished Service Cut Signature – at 1 for every ONE MILLION packs purchased. Or about the same odds of me having more than 5 readers.

The most intriguing insert set this year to me is the “Distinguished Service” which is running about 1 per 12 packs. Topps is paying homage to the major league baseball players that served in World War II. I did pick up one – Bob Feller. According to the back of the card he joined the Navy is 1942 and picked up 8 battle star citations during his service.

Since some of these insert sets have ridicules odds I’ll consider my set complete when I have all of the base cards. There are 330 in series one and probably another 330 in Series two which will be released later this summer. Series II is usually the better of the two halves because of its card selections. The later series will have more rookies and more of players in their new team’s uniforms.

In recent years Topps and other manufacturers have started airbrushing new updated uniforms on players. This year Aubrey Huff is an example of this latest trend. I have mixed feelings about it. While it’s nice to see a player in a current uniform retouching cards like this can lead down a questionable road. What’s next photoshopping in players who weren’t in on the action?

Consider that a lead in to the card in the set that is already gaining some notoriety. Mr. Derek Jeter himself. Topps took it upon themselves to release a Jeter card that has a few interesting additions. Featured among the cheering fans in the background is a waving George W Bush. In the dugout waiting his turn to hit is Yankee legend Mickey Mantle. I guess I should say DECEASED Yankee legend Mickey Mantle.

Topps is not correcting the card they are going to let it stand as is. So far trading activity has been strong as Beckett reports that cards are going for about $10-$25. This is the second “mistake” Topps has made in the last two years. Last year they lit the collecting world on fire with their Alex Gordon cards – a card that shouldn’t be included because of the licensing agreement with the players association – and this year with Jeter. Topps claims they are honest mistakes, I happen to think they have an excellent marketing department.

I won’t bother you with these posts all the time, just when I pick up some more cards. With the money I’m making at my day job I don’t see myself buying cards too often.

There will be a couple of more posts this week as I have tickets to the Lightning game tomorrow and the US Soccer match on Sunday. Good times are here!

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