What exactly do you do with a not-so-great autograph from a great player? The issue came up after an amazing Wayne Gretzy autograph pull from a box of 2010-11 Black Diamond Hockey, which was detailed here.
As you can see from the picture, Gretzky's legendary name runs out of the confines of Upper Deck's sticker box. This is certainly another indictment of using stickers for any autographs, especially when its a player as hard-to-pull and important to the hobby as Gretzky.
The card isn't going anywhere - not for trade or for sale. It's the equivalent of finding a Michael Jordan signature in a random box, although Jordan has more personal meaning for me as a Chicago-area guy who watched MJ bring six titles home to a city then-famous for its championship droughts.
Knowing this is a private collection keeper, the thought did cross my mind about possibly seeking out a replacement with a cleaner, fully captured signature. But, is this even a damaged card?
Chris Carlin, of Upper Deck, offered a quick response to my email posing the situation. Carlin also suggested this isn't damage in the usual sense. He also said any potential replacements are typically available for eight months after release - Black Diamond came out mid-November, so were about six months out - or until the stock is depleted.
As tough as the odds were to pull The Great One to begin with, would it be worth it to roll the dice on sending it in for a better version?
I'm not convinced that scenario ends happily.
Damaged product, and its handling by manufacturers, is a top-shelf complaint among collectors. Casting off Wayne into what some consider Upper Deck's customer service abyss might sound like an extremely bad idea to many, but for me it's more about risk versus reward.
If they have a replacement, great. If they don't, would I ever see this version again or would Upper Deck upgrade me to a different Gretzky auto?
Too many questions.
As The Wife would say about me, I guess I'll live with imperfection.
Campana's Corner is written by Dan Campana, a media consultant, former newspaper reporter and longtime collector living in the Chicago suburbs with a sports-minded 6-year-old and an understanding wife.