Monday, December 3, 2012

You're Going To Need A License For That Card

I was recently trading with a fellow collector trying to wrap up a trade when I was told about the chance to trade for a sweet Bob Gibson autograph.  The card was not only autographed, but also had a sweet patch.  I was eager to see the scan and quizzed the trader about the card.  What year is this card?  Set?  The answers were rather vague, but I was still hopeful.  I opened the scan and saw it: Omaha Tech.  What is Omaha Tech?

It's a high school in Omaha, Nebraska that lists one Bob Gibson as one of its famous alumni.  The card I was staring at was a 2010 Panini Century Collection.  Yes, the card did have a Bob Gibson autograph (on a sticker) and it did have a patch (which looked rather new).  I quickly shot down the card.  Nope, I cannot take that card.  My counterpart prodded me about the card.  What's not to like about a Gibson autograph with a patch piece.  My eyes darted to the words Omaha Tech on the front of Gibson's basketball uniform.  I couldn't put it into words at the time.  I worked around the Gibson card and finished up the trade.

It bothered me for a few days afterwards.  I took a stroll through the cards posted on my blog and took a look through my boxes of autographs.  I have almost 3000 autographed baseball cards in my collection and I can count the number of cards that are on a card from an unlicensed card product on one hand.  I guess it's really not been a conscience decision, but here I barely a Panini, Donruss, or post-2010 Upper Deck autograph to show for things.

2009 Donruss Elite Collegiate Patches Ryan Jackson Autograph

One fellow collector was chatting me up on the subject a week or two ago and brought up my love of the Donruss Elite College Patches.  While it is true the cards are a Donruss product, they aren't really a Major League product.  Sure, I picked up this Ryan Jackson card because he is on the Cardinals, but it's  really a University of Miami card.  Donruss has a license to make college cards and use the logos.  The card has the Miami logo and the picture features Jackson wearing his college uniform.  While I would rather have a Bob Gibson autograph over a Ryan Jackson autograph, this card is clearly much different than the Omaha Tech card.  If Donruss made a Bob Gibson Creighton card I would trade for one, or buy one a second.  

1991 Jimmy Dean Will Clark

Really, it boils down to this.  When I was a kid I hated the cards that came for free with frozen pizzas, sausage links, or ice cream cones.  Cereal sometimes.  Like this Will Clark card is really ugly.  Why?  It's an unlicensed card and Will Clark should have a big orange SF in the middle of his helmet.  I can get past the fact the this card was packaged with a bunch of sausage, it probably has the same value as many of the 1991 Topps cards, but the lack of logos and uniform markings really burns me.   

Does that make me a card snob?  If it does than I am willing to be content on missing out on a certain segment of cards available out on the secondary market.  I can still pick and choose and every once in awhile I can find some that really have some appeal.  For example, I have always really enjoyed the Tri Star Signa Cut Cards.  They have no logos and few have pictures, but the simplicity of having an autograph surrounded by a piece of colored cardboard frame can actually be appealing.  

2008 Tri Star Signa Cuts Dwight "Doc" Gooden Autograph

Most of Dwight Goden's autographs are stickers anyway and he was definitely one of the great pitchers from my childhood.  Even if he was only dominating for a few years, he was really dominating.  This card passes the litmus test into my box of autographs.  The cards that I really dislike look like the card below:

2011 Leaf Draft Carlos Martinez Autograph

What can I say about this card?  I was really digging some of the things I heard about Carlos Martinez, saw he had an autograph and picked one up.  They were hard to find via trade, so I went the Ebay route and paid somewhere just south of $20.  Of course, they were all going in that price range at the time.  However, Martinez now has out a few Bowman autographs and this card is selling for below $5. So, I have a card with Carlos Martinez wearing a black cap, which has been photoshopped to make it look like he bought it at a gas station, and a $10 loss.

So, make basic argument is this:  Why would a collector choose to buy an unattractive card that has been air brushed, or creatively photographed, not to show the logos on the jersey and cap of a player?  Is it worth the extra money or cards in trade to acquire a card made by a licensed card maker?  I would, of course vote yes. 

Case in point is my latest edition to my card collection.  I actually decided to make this one a double.  A short time ago Leaf released it's Draft set and included two Cardinals draft picks.  Michael Wacha was a first round pick, but I already had several USA Baseball cards, and James Ramsey.  Ramsey was a first round pick, a bit of a stretch in my opinion, out of Florida State.  I was tempted to go out and pick up a few of his autographs right away.  Some of his Leaf autographs sold for as low as $0.99 on Ebay. I held out and waited for Bowman Draft.  Luckily, he was included.  

2012 Bowman Draft James Ramsey Autograph

I ended up trading for the card and my trading partner was kind enough to send me this scan for my post.  I estimate that I probably put in about $20 worth of cards in snagging this Blue version which is limited to 150 copies.  They are selling on Ebay and COMC for between $20 and $30, so the value of this card is clearly between those two amounts at the moment.  I also went shopping for a Ramsey card from the Leaf set.  I wanted something similar with a limited print run and autograph to measure the cards value.  I found this:

2012 Leaf Valiant James Ramsey Autograph

This card is autographed and is serial numbered out of 99.  It's also selling for under $10 on Ebay.  I also factor in that Ramsey went crazy with the inscriptions and you still aren't paying a premium for rare or unique versions.  See Pat Neshek.  For my money, and yours, the clear choice is to focus your time, energy, and money on finding cards from licensed card makers.  They have a clear advantage with design and style, but also have value advantages both in the short term and long term.  

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