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Saturday, August 20, 2011

More Fun With The Futility of Redemptions

Oh, Upper Deck.  This love/hate relationship we have together is beginning to wear thin.  Sure its' a one sided affair.  You don't even know who I am, and yet you sit idly by, taunting me.  You mock me at every turn, bringing me back into the fold with your clever little gimmicks and sweet pull potentials.  Then, like a prized fighter in the 5th round of a championship fight, you knock me down once again with your dud boxes, poor production quality, and wicked hatred for the general populace you claim to service.

It's time for another in a long line of blogger rants about redemptions.  Yes, my friends, I was again a victim of the industry's slap-in-the-face known as the redemption card.  Although it would seem I have actually had better odds than most collectors out there in cashing in those evil cards that have become the bane of collector's around the world, it's hard to say for sure since most of us only talk about the bad experiences and not about the good.  I have probably about a 85%+ turn around rate which is definitely going to rank in the top tier.  Today, we continue that all too familiar saga.

For some reason I needed to bust some packs the other day.  You would think with all the boxes I broke from the National, I would have been satiated at least until some new hockey releases started to appear.  I guess that "while" was up the other day as (you know the feeling) hands went clammy, heart started racing and the blood began pumping while strolling past the card aisle in [insert retailer name here].  I had to bust something so I began to peruse the welcomed, yet rarely seen well stocked shelves.  I had lots of choices but I already knew I was overburdened with Donruss, Pinnacle, and Upper Deck from last year, as well as this years Victory.  Plus, the latest Topps Football release still hasn't amplified it's siren song loud enough for me to hear, nor have the other early football releases peaked my curiosity.  I therefore decided, once again against my best judgment, that I would take another shot at a franken-box of hockey cards.

You all know the franken-box.  I believe I have talked about them many times before but these can usually be found in one of three ways (or more if you look hard enough), a random packaged box with 15-16 packs for around the $20 mark (which isn't entirely a bad deal all the time; just most of the time), a plastic cube-like box for between $5-10 with a random amount of cards (at least you get a neat carrying case), or a blister pack hanging on a peg hook offering 4-10 packs for $5-15 (I have no need for another sixth line defenseman's autograph). 

I decided on the first, making my way to the self-serve checkout (I can't let anyone see the shame).  I had a good feeling about this one, too.  If only I had a time machine.  16 packs were in the box ranging from regular Upper Deck releases from the last 4 years to Ultra, to Artifacts, to ITG.  I think there were a few older Victory packs in there too along with the pack that I had never opened before, 2005-06 UD PowerPlay.

Powerplay was a 172 card set that was issued I believe for the first time in 2005 with six card packs for about $3/pack.  You can still pick up a box if you so desire.  I'm not going to endorse any one site here but you can Google it and probably find a box for less than $50.

As far as I know, there were not differing hobby and retail versions but I could be wrong on that one.  In the set, the first 90 cards feature the typical range of veteran players listed alphabetically by team name.  The rest of the cards are spread between In Action, Cup Celebrations, and Goal Robbers.  The Rookie cards are 133-172.  But my point is not to review the product here.  I'm focusing on the redemptions that fell about 1:12 packs.  These were lettered A-D and were supposed to be good for 10 cards.  Yes I said 10 Cards!!.

My card that I had the unfortunate luck of pulling was labeled Group C.  Pulling a Group C card would have entitled the lucky owner to cards #153-162 in the set.  Yeah for me.  Who are the fine gentleman associated with such cards, you ask?  Well let me show you.

153  Corey Perry

154  Alexander Perezhogin

155  Zach Parise

156  Mike Richards

157  Braydon Coburn

158  Cam Ward

159  David Leneveu

160  Andrew Alberts

161  Petteri Nokelainen

162  Lee Stempniak

I guess if it was a bunch of scrub, nobodies, that never made it to the NHL or at best, were relegated to an occasional call up from the minors, I wouldn't have cared as much.  As soon as I did it, I knew I shouldn't have gone and looked to see who was on this list because it was only going to fuel my ire.  But I did.  And now here I am.  Not that this matters one bit but you have three $6 cards, a $5 card, a $4 card, and some commons on that list.  No Crosby or Ovechkin but not a bunch of garbage either.  Translation...probably about $10-12 worth of rookie cards that will never be seen.

So what does Upper Deck plan to do about expired redemptions for product that has never been recalled or bought back off the market in order to be repackaged to prevent false hopes and failed collation?  Nothing.  Sure, it's a subject that comes up all the time.  Sure it is bad publicity when collector's go on their rampages about the frustrating nature of the situation.  Sure it makes a collector want to throw every card manufactured by them out the window.  It was even discussed at the uhh, umm, Industry Summit held in Vegas back in March.  But for now, they are content with this...

"This redemption offer is now expired. Unfortunately, late entries cannot be honored and our inventory is now depleted. We apologize that we can no longer assist you with this promotion."
Well since you are sorry, all is forgiven.  NOT!!  Here are what my redemption cards would have looked like.  This just makes me sadder because I really like this design.  It's busy but somehow works.


Blogger Problems

Ever since I moved my page over to it's own domain, Blogger has given me nothing but fits.  When I post, it doesn't show up on anyone's blog rolls.  ANYONE'S!!  Not even my own since I follow myself just to make sure it works.  I've read through countless numbers of troubleshooting posts and not a single one offers a solution. 

Has anyone else ever encountered a problem like this?  Is so, would you care to enlighten me on how to fix it?


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Autographs From The National - An Olympic Hockey Hero

I had mentioned before that I was able to get another autograph at the National show a few weekends ago.  That auto came via a redemption of sorts with the fine folks at In The Game.

For their redemption program, if you busted a "Special National" version box of ITG: Decades 80s at their booth, you would receive the box loaded multi-player, multi-GU card featuring current, former, and future Blackhawks and an additional 1/1 Show Stamped card based on some numbering system on the boxes (which I will show in a future post).  In addition, you were entitled to an autograph ticket for former Olympic Team USA and "Miracle On Ice" team member, Mark Wells.

Wells played collegiately as a forward for Bowling Green back in the late 70s before joining Team USA after college.  For those of you that didn't know, I am a graduate of Ball State University, fellow MAC conference and rival school for BG.  More on that later. 

Mark was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in his sophomore year of college and eventually made the team in Nova Scotia.  He put his NHL career on hold so that he could take part in the Olympics which basically doomed his future career.  Montreal sold his rights to Detroit, his "hometown" team however he wanted to stay a Canadien.  He never quite made it to the NHL roster however and was signed by the Rangers after the 1980 season. He toiled around the minor leagues, playing with New Haven, Flint, Fort Wayne, and also Oklahoma City.  Unfortunately, Wells never was able to crack the roster of any NHL team and retired in 1982 without playing in a single NHL game.  A pretty sad ending to a career with tons of promise and a Gold medal to boot.  I would encourage anyone interested to look up his story.  If you can find it, it's very sad testament to the fragile nature of life and how easily things can be taken from us.  But, I want to stay positive here so, moving on...

With autograph ticket in hand, we made our way back to the ITG booth at the appropriate time.  Much to my surprise, there was anything but a line waiting for Mr. Wells to sign.  I didn't have anything for him to autograph as my intentions were not to bother with the in person autographs in the first place.  There were dealers with 8x10s and various other memorabilia, I just had no intentions of looking.  ITG was very kind to provided a large scale "blow up" of their regular issue autograph cards for Mark to sign for anyone without an item. 

As I approached the table, I quickly remembered he was a Bowling Green guy and I just so happened to be wearing one of my Ball State Football shirts.  One glance was all it took, "Ball State football, huh?", he said.  I said, "Yes, sir.  And I know you were a Falcon."  He proceeded to ask if I had played football to which I responded with laughter and asked him if "fantasy" counted.  We struck up a conversation about watching small conference schools and the competition level between MAC teams vs. bigger conferences.  He had asked about whether BSU had a hockey team yet or not.  Back when I was a student, an intramural-type team was formed but I was unaware of an actual NCAA sanctioned team.  He said that was a shame because more schools need to get programs going, to which I agreed.  As I didn't want to take up more of his time, I thanked him for signing and stepped aside so that my collecting pal, Sal could get his 400 cards and photos signed (slight exaggeration; he only had 240). 

I heard after talking to some folks at the show that Mark has had some health problems over the years due to a back condition that he has had multiple surgeries for.  Mounting financial/medical issues led him to do what most could not and that was sell his medal.  Last year it was consigned to Heritage Auctions and sold for over $300,000.  Unfortunately, that was the second sale, captained by a private collector that had bought it from Mark some eight/nine years ago when he was in dire straits.  Mark had only received a mere fraction of what it was purchased for from auction, something like less than 15% of that auction value.  I will say this though...Judging by his spirits and attitude at the show, I couldn't tell that he was probably in some serious pain having to sit in one spot for hours on end, especially on those metal folding chairs.

What a great experience for me though, even if it was only short lived.  I now have an Olympic gold medalist's autograph and a member of the symbolic team of heros better known as the Miracle On Ice.  I was definitely too young to remember when that all went down but I have seen the video, watched the documentaries, heard the commentary, and even saw the movies (both the 1981 Steve Guttenberg version and the Disney remake with Kurt Russel).  Even still, despite knowing the outcome already, the story gives me goosebumps every time, not only because of the excitement of the sport itself, but of the cultural impact the event had and still has to this day.  Mark Wells was a part of that little "miracle" and even though he may no longer have the reward for the hard work and effort, no one can ever take away the memories and experience he has with being an Olympic champion.  No amount of money can ever buy that.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Recapping My National Plan

When I announced I was going to attend the National Sports Collectors Convention last week, I created my "gameplan", if you will, that I would follow to the letter in order to get out of their in one piece.  Well good intentions are not just paving material for the gateway to hell. 

I set out with my goals in hand, ready to attack at the moment my 5 year old Nike ACGs hit the floor of the convention center.  What I failed to remember was the sheer size and magnitude of the show.  Last time I went was 1993 and the show was held at McCormick Place in Chicago, the former "IT" place for conventions until they ran into the UNION problem a couple years back.  Of course that show seemed big.  I was only like 16 or something so everything seemed bigger (or is that when you are six?).  At any rate, I got immediately overwhelmed by the scope of what was present in front of me.

I hit a few tables right off the bat, looking for a few cards that would get my collecting juices flowing.  After browsing about a dozen or so, I made my way through the carpeted area with all the Premium vendors.  This is where the card manufacturers were along with many of the show sponsors, broadcasters, and larger dealers.  It was there that I was sort of sucked into the hype of the promotional packs being given away for pack redemption.  I watched for a bit as people were busting boxes left and right at the Panini booth and the Upper Deck kiosks, in hopes of pulling any of the rare cards that both manufacturers put into their show packs. 

As that excitement wore off, I hit a few dealer tables in hopes of scoring a great deal on some wax.  I was just looking at this point because who knew how many other dealers may have had the same thing for a dollar or two less?  Certainly not I, at that point.  It was then that I ran into my buddy Sal from Puck Junk.  We chatted a moment before he had some business to take care of with the guy from The Wantlist, the Canadian collector magazine that has all the great kind of articles that Beckett used to have eons ago when it was relevant as well as real time pricing and of course, the biggest, most comprehensive Wantlist you can imagine.  If you are a hockey collector and don't get this publication, what is wrong with you?  Go here and check it out. 

Next thing I know, Justin from The Hopeful Chase strolls by and we all decide to go to the special VIP Lounge to do some trading.  Yes, I said it.  Actual trading of cardboard took place.  So when they say there's no trading in the VIP room, they are wrong.  Since I have already sort of alluded to it being something I picked up, I might as well share.  First, I traded for this beauty.

Is that a Mario Lemieux Rookie, you ask?  Yes.  Yes it is.  Sure it is a little off center but the corners are all sharp and the back of the card looks almost perfect.  Did I mention it's a Mario Lemieux rookie?  Sure I gave up one of the most iconic football cards of all time to get it but I really had no emotional attachment to it despite is uber-coolness and if I wasn't going to cash in on this garage collection project anytime soon, the least I could do is flip stuff for my own PC.  Right?  RIGHT?!!?

Also in the mix were a few other cards that I needed including...

I have been off-and-on putting this set together.  Occasionally I pick up one or two and then I don't see or hear from them again for months.  Kind of like one of those relatives that you really want to see but then are sick of them after an hour or so.  Of course, seeing them here on this scan makes me want to start looking for them again.

A couple of singles that I didn't have for some reason.  The Rookie Finalist Lemieux I actually have never seen before so that was cool.  The Tangradi I thought I had but turns out I didn't.  I have some weird man-crush on Tangradi which I can't really explain so don't expect him to be on the Pens that much longer.

You may recall seeing this in another blog post on another blog.  Well it's mine now.  A Sweet Dual-Sweater Swatch of Flower.  The colors are actually the same and come from the dark sweaters (not the one in the picture).  The interesting thing is the two different textures.  One is definitely from a sleeve, the other, not too sure.  It's out of /35 too. 
So with those trades out of the way, that leaves my goals. I only had four.  Let's see how they turned out.

1.  Pick up 2 boxes. - - As usual, I went overboard on this one.  Atlanta Sports Cards had quite a few boxes that have been on my radar.  In fact, I have been on their website numerous times and had these in my cart but never pulled the trigger.  In all, I picked up 7 boxes including ITG Decades: 80s, a blaster of BAP, and a variety of Pacific products from the early 00s.  If you haven't seen them already, I'll be posting most of the breaks on the blog. So on a scale of 1-10, 1 being complete failure; 10 being triumphant success...this goal would rank a 10.

2.  Pick up 5 cards for each of my main player collections - - Well since I have 3 player collections, 15 cards didn't seem like a big deal.  Well, it was.  I picked up quite a few Mario's.  If you count the ones I got in trade, I picked up a total of 9.  As for Jagr, I'm really not on the Jaromir kick at the moment.  Looking at some of his cards, while cool, makes me want to burn them.  I don't know why.  Maybe it's the image of the up coming orange and black jersey he will be wearing. As for Billy G., do you know how hard it is to find Guerin cards?  Pretty damn difficult unless it's an auto or GU card and even then, you have to dig.  So using my scoring system, this goal ranks a 5 out of 10.  Three players, five cards each, 33% per player.  Bonus points for the extra Lemieux's.

3.  Pick up at least one autograph or memorabilia card for each of my Pittsburgh team collections - -This one kind of fell flat as well.  While I did get a few nice autos of Penguins that I didn't have (3 to be exact), the Pirates I sought out to pick up were no where to be found and I really didn't even look at Steeler cards at all.  I give this one a 3 out of 10.

4.  Sell something.  Alright, you can't say I didn't try on this one.  I had about a dozen or so cards to try and get rid of.  The only one that I had any traction on was this one.  I offered up stuff to about a dozen or so guys at the show and 7 of them were all interested in this one in particular.  Only one guy made me an offer to which I politely refused.  The others weren't really sure what to offer.  I had one guy who wanted it but really couldn't come up with a number.  I threw out a Ben, not knowing if that was fair or not, but even at that, couldn't get anyone to bite.  So I can't really give this one a legitimate score other than for trying.  We will say 1 out of 10 in this case. 

So adding up my score, with 40 possible points I scored 19 in completion of my goals.  But if you take into account that all 9 of the Mario cards were ones I needed and I picked up a Lemieux rookie, as well as three autograph Penguin cards, a hockey HOFer signed puck, an Olympic hero signed photo card, a bunch of fun boxes to bust, and some pretty cool memories from the show, I'd say that's pretty close to a perfect score.

More on this later.