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Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Jersey Off My Back

2008-09 Artifacts Treasured Swatches "Mr. Hockey" 

Ahhh, Jersey Cards...

2008-09 O-Pee-Chee Premier Triple Remnants Dale Hawerchuk

After opening a couple boxes recently, I really started thinking about the value of the perceived "hits" that are included as part of the release.  I generally am not a "hit" chaser.  I don't meticulously pack search or toss the base cards in favor of the "hits".  I'm mostly a player collector and set builder.  But I still like when I pull jersey's, especially when it's a player I collect.  I like to rub my finger across the swatch and try to figure out what part of the jersey it came from.  But they don't always look good or feel good, and when you pay $100+ for a box of cards, a jersey card that could yield $5-10 if you're lucky on the secondary market probably won't leave a very good taste in your mouth. 

2008-09 In The Game Between The Pipes Origins Gerry Cheevers (blocker pad)

The introduction of the small piece of material into trading cards has long been a staple of the industry, dating back to when Upper Deck started putting the tiny swatches into cards in 1996 (I think Press Pass actually started the phenomenon with their NASCAR sets prior to that but look where that got them).  I don't know the exact date that they started appearing in hockey cards but I'm guessing late 90s-early 00s, at least that's when I first became aware of them.

2010-11 SPA Future Watch Limited Auto Patch Eric Tangradi

Memorabilia appearing in sports card releases were once a HUGE part of the industry.  These little "pieces of the game" were a rare find and highly sought after by collectors.  They became so overwhelmingly popular that they started appearing in every release issued, by every manufacturer, every year.  You can see where I'm going with this.  More demand spawned more supply and thus a by-product of their own popularity, their value went into decline.  Nowadays, you can go into many sports card shops or to sports shows and find thousands of these abandoned in boxes with price tags well under $5 (there is a dealer I see sometimes at the larger Chicago shows with $1, $2, and $5 jersey boxes).

2010-11 In The Game Heroes and Prospects Subway
Super Series Jersey Silver Jonathan Huberdeau

Why?  Well I blame three things; oversupply, lack of creativity on design, and lack of trust in their authenticity.

2011-12 Artifacts Tundra Tendems Dual Fight Strap 
Marc-Andre Fleury & Kristopher Letang 

2012-13 Artifacts Tundra Trios Fight Straps 
Joe Thornton/Brenden Morrow/Patrice Bergeron 

As I mentioned earlier, more demand spawned more supply.  Manufacturers saw the popularity surge and began chopping up every piece of memorabilia they could get their hands on.  Jerseys? Cut em.  Pants?  Cut em.  Gloves, hats, pads, bats, sticks, skates, cleats, balls, helmets, towels, warm-ups, nets, photos, checks??  Cut em ALL!  There's no telling how many pieces of history have been mutilated in order to satiate an industry demand since the late 90s.  I don't know a single collector that would even want to know either.  I'm much more familiar with the hockey card market and I can say that I've seen some items by some manufacturers for early era hockey players that come from paychecks, letter correspondence, and other memorabilia, trimmed to fit cards.  While many of them look cool, it is scary to think about what had to be destroyed to get to that point.

2010-11 Upper Deck Game Jersey Kristpher Letang

As the manufacturers overloaded their products, they began to get lazy.  No more was there thought put into a card design.  Player photos were sometimes abandoned in favor of swatch real estate.  Even the material swatches and patches themselves became overly focused on single color or even just plain white...PWS is a hobby term used quite often now.  In recent years, the higher end sets and more premium cards feature better looking pieces of material with multiple colors and stitching present on the card.  But the industry is by far dominated by "hits" in boxes that contain players that don't actually play, aren't exactly household names, and are just plain boring.

2006-07 O-Pee-Chee Swatches Daniel Alfredsson

Which brings me to my last point.  Authenticating memorabilia has become a very contentious part of the hobby.  The over abundance of fraudulent items that hit the market every year is staggering.  I don't think we have gone six months in the last ten years without hearing about a large dealer, vendor, or supplier being investigated by the FBI and many ending up serving jail time.  Unless you physically remove the item from the subject, cut it yourself, or watch them sign it, there is no definitive way to prove it's real.  Manufacturers have always listed their proof of authenticity on the backs of memorabilia cards but while the industry used to be much more upfront about the origins of their items, they've gradually declined in their details to the point of many saying "here's a piece of something used (or touched) by someone at some point".  I'm being facetious of course but it's getting bad.

2010-11 In The Game Enshrined Complete Package Tim Horton

This isn't one that I mentioned earlier that I opened but take for example a box of Upper Deck Black Diamond from last year.  Prices are close to about $200 for a box/pack that features five cards.  Yes you read that correctly...5 cards plus one bonus Exquisite card.  Basic math isn't my strong suit but six cards for $200 comes out to $33.33 per card.  Considering there are still 50 base cards to contend with and no guarantee that all the cards will be "hits"...the gamble is high.  In real life sales of individual cards start at about 39 cents for base cards and go up from there. 

39 cents!!  For a $200 product?  Nope.

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