Sunday, July 18, 2010

Expectations lose 'Edge' in Chicago

Being a collector means living with expectations.
From pack to box to case to show, we want what's promised to be realized - and exceeded - more times than not.
This weekend in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, area collectors had one of their three chances a year to enjoy a big stage. The FansEdge show returned with plenty to look at and take home. Sponsored in part by my former corporate boss, The Chicago Sun-Times, these shows are heavy on vintage cardboard and a variety of autograph opportunities.
Frankly, there aren't a lot of good shows around these parts anymore, which is still odd because this is one of the largest metro areas in the country. No matter, this is prime territory to drop some cash on whatever it is you want.
Two weeks before The National, some dealers opted to stay on the sidelines to avoid two trips so close together. It didn't seem to hurt the overall seller turnout, but there were some who set up shop that made two disappointing choices.
First, this show landed here just six weeks after the Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in nearly 50 years. There was no shortage of Hawks gear, cards and photos, more than you would have seen two years ago. So why did many dealers limit their selections to only high-end rookie cards or other items that were great to look at, but not within the price range of some?
The Hawks have resurfaced for even the most casual of fan who collects cards and memorabilia, meaning it was the perfect time to throw it all on the table. The Son, my 5 year old, shouldn't have had such a hard time spending his 10 bucks on something Hawks related.
Personally, the spread offered by Keith Schuth & Associates proved to be the perfect fit for us to grab nice sized Hawks' Cup celebration photos that we'll use for autographs at the Blackhawks Convention. These folks understood demand and delivered. Nice work, folks.
Then there were the clock-management issues. Some dealers didn't make it to Rosemont for Friday's opening night, which left noticeably empty tables and less to see. Not a great impression, yet understandable given travel and other considerations dealers encounter.
On Sunday, the unmanned tables at 12:30 p.m. - the show closed at four - belonged to dealers apparently more interested in beating the traffic home. Know how to make sure no one buys your stuff? Dismantle your set up while folks are still plunking down their $10 to get in the door.
Again, this is about expectations. I can live with a limited number of guys selling wax, but not with shuttered tables four hours before closing time.
In an era where the hobby is competing - and struggling to do so - with so many types of entertainment in a down economy, dealers should be trying to impress with new ideas and approaches at big shows. The alternative is for collectors to lower their expectations.
There's no mistaking which would be better.
Checklist Chasing is written by Dan Campana, a media consultant, former newspaper reporter and longtime collector living in the Chicago suburbs with a sports-minded 5-year-old and an understanding wife.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

An incomplete case ...

Simple math says a collector should be able to do certain things with certain products.
For instance: a 12-box case, with 36 packs per box and nine of a particular insert coming from each box should generate enough of those inserts to make at least one subset, right?
Not so and not so, again.
Two 50-card Topps Series 2 baseball subsets (Turkey Red and Peak Performance) wound up incomplete after an entire case break. One card short on each, but still how does that happen?
After breaking a case, the patterns begin to emerge on how collation occurs, so it's not human error so much as a fluke ... probably.
We haven't started sorting to see how many Series 2 sets will come from the case. Then again, it depends on what you consider a set with the late-arriving Stephen Strasburg card #661 changing the Series 2 dynamic shortly after its debut.
Maybe there's a marketing opportunity for one-card short master sets?

Checklist Chasing is written by Dan Campana, a media consultant, former newspaper reporter and longtime collector living in the Chicago suburbs with a sports-minded 5-year-old and an understanding wife.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Strasburg K's Topps set builders?

Crazy, record-setting auctions aside, the reality of Washington Nationals Stephen Strasburg's impact on the hobby now has a more subtle footnote.
Topps literally made Strasburg's RC-tagged base card for Series 2 as he was throwing his first pitches on June 8. They then anointed it #661 and dropped into the mix for unlocking via the Million Card Giveaway promotion.
In the blink of a Strasburg fastball, Topps expanded Series 2 with a card that, to this point, has not been declared a short print ... at least to my knowledge.
We're still breaking down a Series 2 case, which prompted plenty of eBay searches to see how master sets, plan-old base sets and other cards have fared since it went live just before Memorial Day. How'd you like to have been someone to spend $100+ on a master set and now realize you're a card short?
With our adventure breaking an Upper Deck 2009 Series 2 case last year, a similar thing happened. UD tossed in a handful of SP rookie cards that, while clearly known about, did push the set above the 1,000-card mark. The difference in response on eBay to a complete set of 1,000 versus one with all the SPs was about $25.
None of those guys were Strasburg. Still, if you stopped at #1000, are you satisfied that you've met completion?
When our Topps 2 case is finished and sorted, we'll be able to put together at least one set of Series 1 and 2 combined, and probably at least a pair of Series 2 sets.
Without Strasburg's #661, will anyone care?
Checklist Chasing is written by Dan Campana, a media consultant, former newspaper reporter and longtime collector living in the Chicago suburbs with a sports-minded 5-year-old and an understanding wife.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

2010 Topp National Chicle baseball

2010 Topps National Chicle Baseball.
The Task: Base set of 275 cards.
Timeline: May 2 to May 31
What it took: (4) 24-pack/8-card per pack boxes (one from card show, one from Blowout Cards and two from Dave & Adam's).
Average price per box: $73
Sold: Complete set: $27.75; (13) autos/jerseys/box toppers: $154.93
The Closer: #94 Nyjer Morgan

Let's put the blame on Upper Deck for why Topps Chicle popped up on my radar.
Sitting between the completion of a Topps Series 1 baseball set and arrival of Series 2, there was a gap in my baseball appetite. The Son and I had opened a couple packs of 2010 Upper Deck, but it's just lame with and uninviting.
We could have picked up an Upper Deck box for $50, but it didn't seem like a good idea. Next to it, however, was the new Chicle baseball. Now, there's only two tables at the monthly Rolling Meadows Holiday Inn shows who sell wax, so I surveyed both.
One had it for $78, the other for $90. One said it was brand new, the other said collectors were buzzed about it.
It's not typical of me to go for a gimmick set, this one featuring what are essentially mini painting of each player. Then again, Topps T206 had me hooked -- and chasing the set -- for months in late 2009.
The first box, as it should, gave me a solid foundation with no dupes and a helluva range of hits. The Son pulled this out of his first pack, stating very simply, "Oh, it's the one on the box."
We also hit on a Tommy Manzella auto, a Prince Fielder game-jersey, Robinson Cano game-jersey and Joe Saunders 1-of-1 Cowhide parallel. The total package impressed me, leading to Box 2.
Again, solid progress toward knocking out the set. One reason why is the short-prints and card back variations don't overwhelm each pack. The hits again were strong: Thurman Munson game pants #/99, Madison Bumgarner auto #/199; Johnny Damon 1-of-1 cyan plate, a Koji Uehara black parallel #/25 and a Jason Bartlett auto.
Seeing the finish line with 32 cards to go, it was time to try to seal the deal. In charge of ordering a Topps Series 2 case, it seemed only natural to tack on a couple more Chicle boxes.
The whole order showed up late Friday of Memorial Day weekend, but we eased into the ripping because of nice weather.
Box 3 proved sluggish, yielding only 13 missing cards and the hits weren't as tremendous or were a dupe ... which is worse? The autographs were Tommy Manzella (again) and Neftali Feliz, and the jersey was Elvis Andrus.
Oh well, the hot streak couldn't last forever.
Box 4 did it's job, giving me the final 19 cards, with #94 Nyjer Morgan being the final one crossed off the list before the hits appeared. It was a good thing, as we picked up another Jason Bartlett auto, a Nate McClouth auto, a Jay Bruce artist's proof auto #10 and, again, a Thurman Munson game-used pants ... this one #/199.
Looking back, the number of doubles didn't seem like the actual stack we're left with. We ended up with 24 rookie and veteran SPs, 13 Bazooka back variations and 25 Chicle back variations (at least one SP in each).
Four boxes and four weeks to complete the set made this a mixed bag. Should it take that many boxes to piece together 275 cards? How unlikely is it to pull duplicate autos from two guys and get a numbered jersey of the same guy twice, not to mention we got the same box-topper Cabinet cards (Tris Speaker) from Box 3 and Box 4.
Now, if it were two Musial autos or two Mickey Mantle jersey, I'd be singing a different tune.
Here's the gallery of hits:

Checklist Chasing is written by Dan Campana, a media consultant, former newspaper reporter and longtime collector living in the Chicago suburbs with a sports-minded 5-year-old and an understanding wife.

Chasers and builders unite

For something so simple, collecting sports cards has become such a segregated hobby.
High-end or low-end? Modern or vintage? Prospector or private collection?
There's room for everyone. Still, the biggest crease divides those who chase the "hits" in a particular pack or box and those who take on the challenge of reuniting hundreds of cards into a set.
One style is about chance, the other is about patience. Builders happily accept the sweet insert or serial-numbered card they come across, but many chasers disregard anything base because, well, it's a base card.
It all begs the question, can you be both a chaser and a builder? Can you find the value in every card within the pack/box/case?
From this corner of the collecting world, I dare say yes, yet it's clear few appear to be on board.
Since returning to the hobby in 2007, and introducing The Son to it, we've tested our mettle by putting together - and failing to complete - several hockey and baseball sets during their respective run year.
We do it to see if it can be done.
We've tried sets as small as 100 cards and as big as the monstrous 1006-card 2009 Upper Deck baseball. It's taken as little as a month, as long as six months and then there's a few we just gave up on.
Pack-by-pack, flipping through bins at shows and, in desperation, buying a couple of singles online all accompany the mission to cross out those of numbers listed in an old reporter's notebook.
Sometimes the journey drops a low-number patch card on us or something equally desirable or scarce. Sure, we get pumped to see those show up, but we're just as excited when the closer (the last card to finish a set) appears.
Ultimately, we sell most of our sets, the leftover doubles and best inserts to bring a few bucks back to take on the next challenge.
So, which is the "moment" for you - chasing the "hit" or finishing a set?
Stay tuned to Checklist Chasing as we give you a snapshot of our adventures. You can also post your own here or email them to me at

Checklist Chasing is written by Dan Campana, a media consultant, former newspaper reporter and longtime collector living in the Chicago suburbs with a sports-minded 5-year-old and an understanding wife.