The picture you see here is a 2012 Panini Golden Age Museum Age relic featuring a piece of clothing worn by actress Jayne Mansfield. I got this card last week -- but the best part about it, was that I got it for free.
You see, I got this through an NPN, or No Purchase Necessary, drawing held by Panini. And I got the information about this drawing from npncards.com.
All I needed to do was put a 3x5 index card with my name, address, and email address on it in an envelope and send it off to Panini before their drawing date. Panini will even add the information to your redemption page if you win, but not completely ruin the surprise by telling you what exact card you're receiving.
Every major company has an NPN program. In fact, they are required to have it by law. It's in the small print that you probably don't read on the back of a pack. I usually send in one NPN per product (some companies will limit you to one anyway). With all that we invest in the hobby, gambling the cost of one postage stamp for a hit isn't too bad, right?
So if you've never tried this before, check out the site and follow @npncards on Twitter for all of the addresses and information on currently available programs. If you have, use the comments to share what you've received.
Following up on my last blog about some collecting pitfalls with autograph cards, comes this post. It's not often that I like to dwell on a single aspect of the hobby, but I've honestly been meaning to do this post for a while now.
Autographed cards are a big hit in the hobby, as they have been for years. But do to the logistics and print schedules, it's becoming more rare for athletes to have on-card signatures. It's something I would try and plan better if I were a manufacturer -- but that's a story for another day.
The majority of autographs found on cards today are sticker autographs. They are shunned by some, but steadily they seem to become accepted more and more. Stickers can have a whole range of problems too, but I'll ignore those for now also.
So that brings us to the topic of embedded autographs. Now I'm not talking cuts, but rather the practice of having an athlete sign some piece of material, be it leather, jersey or manufactured patch and embedding that on a card. One example is the Torrey Smith pictured above.
The first cards I remember like this, but probably not the first to do it, were Upper Deck's Sweet Spot autographs. I had a Piazza Sweet Spot for a while but sold it when I noticed it was beginning to fade. I pointed that out to the buyer, but they didn't seem to mind. But I minded. That Piazza would probably still be part of my collection, if it were still a bold autograph. What's the solution to that? Would I have been better off having it slabbed? It's not like I kept the card in direct sunlight, it was in a box with the rest of my collection.
On some newer embedded cards, I've noticed lots of autographs that are bleeding. Look at the Torrey Smith again, that card is a year old. What will it look like in five years? And if cards like this completely fade, what then?
I've noticed similar bleeding on Panini's manufactured patch autographs lately. My 2010-11 Derek Stepan from Limited looks fine, but my 2011-12 Carl Hagelins are terrible. It looks like the material itself is thinner, too.
As these become more and more prominent in the hobby, I believe that manufacturers will have to do something to ensure the longevity of these cards. Is there some sort of spray that would keep the signatures bold? Should they be slabbed from the start? Are the manufacturers even aware of these issues and have they done anything to try and prevent it?
If you have any cards that are fading or bleeding, I'd love to hear about it; so just leave a comment. I'm going to try and see if we can get a response from any of the manufacturers too.
One of the things that drives me crazy when getting an autographed card is how illegible some of them are. It's no secret that today's athletes don't have the penmanship of their forefathers. Maybe it's a sign of the times (excuse the pun), that up and coming athletes -- children of a digital era -- don't pay as much attention to their signature as athletes of yesteryear.
One story I read recently was that of Michael Cuddyer. Cuddyer had your typical modern scribble autograph when he broke in with the Twins. At a signing he sat alongside Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew who called him out for having a sloppy, illegible autograph. Cuddyer said that from that point forward, he began to take his time with autographs; and it shows, he now has one of the nicer autographs in baseball.
It's even worse, in my opinion, when all you get are initials or scribbles. Take a look at Matt Elam's autograph here. He signed it "ME", which is something I've always wanted to do, but he can get away with it since it's his initials. But initials? From a guy who hasn't even been drafted yet? And it's not just the rookies, I saw an autograph from Leaf Originals Wrestling of Missy Hyatt that was simply signed with a script M.
So with Harmon Killebrew no longer around to start calling out people, who can we turn to? I have an idea. The card companies. How, you ask? Simple. Structure the agreements that full signatures equal full paydays for the athletes signing your stickers/cards. Tell them that if they want to sign with initials, they should also be prepared to accept less money.
Will this happen? Very unlikely. It probably would lead to some players opting not to sign at all. And if that happened, there would be less autographs to go around and less "hits" per box. But really, wouldn't you almost rather have that than "ME"?
On Monday, @ToppsFB ran a Twitter contest awarding some football product to a one of their followers. They were looking for followers to play "GM for a Day" and provide them three WR's they would look at in the 2013 NFL Draft. With visions of a couple of packs of Supreme in my head, I replied to this tweet with my choices of Cordarrelle Patterson (Tennessee), Tavon Austin (West Virginia) & Justin Hunter (Tennessee).
There was no right or wrong answer, Topps was simply going to randomly select a winner from all eligible entries; and I happened to win. On Tuesday, I received a message that some packs of 2012 football were on the way. At that point I figured that my dreams of Supreme were just that, and I'd get a couple of packs of 2012 Topps flagship.
When I got home from work yesterday I found that they had FedEx'd a small box to me that contained 6 packs of 2012 Topps. No, it's not their newest product. No, it's not expensive. But you can't look a gift horse in the mouth. After dinner, I opened those packs and it reminded me of why Topps base products are so solid year after year, across baseball and football. Clean design, some throwback stuff and even a memorabilia card. It's the perfect mix for a low-cost product and it should be the go-to answer for anyone who complains that the hobby is too expensive for kids these days.
So thanks Topps, for running this promotion and for reinforcing why I've loved your products for nearly three decades. I look forward to 2013 Topps football and hope that someday you will have NBA & NHL licenses again.
One of the things that some collector friends ask me is why I've been leaning more towards group breaks than buying individual boxes lately.
There are actually a few reasons for this. The first one to me is the convenience factor. I only have two LCS's within a half hour of my house along with a couple of big box stores. With group breaks, I'm able to get the latest products without leaving the house.
The second is cost effectiveness. Instead of spending $100 on a new box, I can get a spot in the break for four or five bucks most of the time. And while I may not end up with a team that I collect, it does give me the opportunity to network with people who collect the teams I end up with and find new trading partners.
Group breaks also allow me to buy into a product that I normally couldn't afford. For example, it is extremely unlikely that I'd walk into a LCS and lay down $400 for a box of National Treasures. But, group breaking ends up allowing me the opportunity to buy a single team spot for about $15. I did this last night and ended up with the Yankees. And while I didn't get a Mantle or a DiMaggio or Ruth; I did end up with a couple of hits, including a Curtis Granderson booklet (the first booklet I've ever owned).
To further exemplify this last point, I splurged and took place in a Heroes of Sport Baseball break last night also. While my hit was lackluster (a BGS 9.5 2011 Bowman Strasburg), one of my fellow breakers received a T-206 Cy Young card! Now that's the thrill of a group break to me. For a quarter of the cost of the box, he ended up with a century old card of the greatest pitcher of all time.
Group breaks have added some great cards to my collection over the last month including a 2012 Topps 14K Gold Pablo Sandoval 1/1 (from a code card received in a break), a 12-13 Elite Passing the Torch dual auto of Dennis Rodman and Kevin Love, an ITG Motown Madness Terry Sawchuk jersey with a print run of 9, and a Triple Threads Russell Wilson autographed jersey rookie numbered to 50.
Without group breaks, these hits came from products that I normally wouldn't even buy at full retail.
Even if I don't have the money to buy in to every product, it's still fun to hang out with some of the great collectors I've gotten to know through these sites and see what they end up with on any particular night.
So if you're looking for a fun and relatively inexpensive way to get some new products, I highly suggest you check out a group break or two and see if it's right for you.