EXCLUSIVE: The end of game-used relics?

When I returned to the Hobby in mid-2007 I couldn’t be more amazed by game-used relics. One day I even threw a fit when a box of Topps Heritage yielded none. After all, for $100+ you would expect to retrieve one or two relics, right? Well, just how often is that box with two relics or more ever return a profit? More than likely you are going to end up with a piece of bat once used by Mark Kotsay and a tiny, white jersey worn by Curtis Granderson during Spring Training. Unless you are paying $250 dollars a box, most of the relics are just plain average.

Below are two examples of Leaf Limited inserts called “Lumberjacks”. The first is a 1996 Ken Griffey Jr. #’d to 500. Look how amazing the card looks when a company sets their focus and resources on design and photography. The result is a perfect baseball card with an added scarcity.

The next card is 2003’s version of Leaf Limited Lumberjacks. Not only is the design loud and obnoxious but there are two worthless pieces of game-used relics that really add absolutely nothing to the design of the card. Does the Hobby world still care about these “gimmicks”? Hell, even “Shoeless” Joe Jackson bats are polluting eBay these days so can anyone really get excited about a tiny chip of Albert Pujols’ bat anymore?

Word from an insider I spoke to last month is that there is at least one company considering sending relics into retirement in the next couple of years as they have found a new, fresh “gimmick” to replace them.. They have already been limiting their print run on relics and it has resulted in above average sales on eBay. At this time all the information I have received is confidential but I am working on changing that.

Any guesses on which company will be the leader in non-relic wax boxes by 2010?

34 thoughts on “EXCLUSIVE: The end of game-used relics?

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  1. I’m happy to see the relics headed to retirement, but I’m not thrilled that there’s some new “gimmick” waiting in the wings.

    Why did we ever get away from the idea of buying cards to build a set?

  2. I don’t mind seeing gimmick cards…I just wish they were fewer and far between. Reduce the purchase price of these products and put fewer gimmick cards in the set & limit them to star players or rookies.

  3. I’d be interested in finding out what this new “gimmick” is. It could be good. I mean relics/GUs are cool IMO. Its just that the market has been flooded and with them and depending on the player, they are worthless. I would love to see companys cut back on relics/GUs. They wouldn’t even have to do away with them, but at least limit the amount they make (have low #d GUs making them more rare and more desireable) and try to only make them for the top players. That way the cards are rare and more of a novelty than they are now. And when you do pull a relic/GU it would be of a good player…not someone like Mark Kotsay.

  4. Could that company be Upper Deck?

    I still like the idea of relic cards but not in every single product and two to three per box. The market is over saturated with relic cards featuring average players. I also get tired of the plain white or gray swatches. Couldn’t they at least include a pinstripe or logo on each swatch? Produce less, but with better quality.

  5. If this means reducing the prices of their flagship because there are no more sure hits then I’m all for it. Agree with everyone here regarding the saturation part. Focus on design and photography and limit the relics to just really good players and insert them like 1in 10 cases or something like that. My 2 cents worth

  6. If they are already limiting print runs, the only company that floods less than the others lately is Topps. I still contend you can’t use the term gimmicks as you do, because you looooove gimmicks mr. shiny card, in it for the inserts guy.

  7. I don’t mind the relics, but I think most people would agree that pulling a plain white bit of cloth is not really exciting, no matter who the player is. The patches (or at minimum, the pin stripes) add a tiny bit of collector value to the cards, at least to me. The bat cards don’t do much for me at all though….unless it happens to be of a favorite player.

  8. If the companies didn’t waste their time or money on single color jerseys I would be ok. I like the all star, the pro bowl, playoffs, etc. Nothing but autos would be cool.

  9. Oh yeah, I hate, hate bat cards with very limited exceptions.

  10. I think it might be Press Pass. Their higher end products put the focus on autographs (all on card) and put forward relatively few game used cards. Look at a product like Press Pass SE…autos outnumber relics 2 to 1. In a set like Legends Bowl Edition…there are just no relics period.

  11. Topps just figured out last year that they should put a relic in every box, so I doubt it’s them. Whoever does it won’t be lowering box prices anyway. I’m also a little apprehensive about this new gimmick. There’s not a whole lot they haven’t done yet. Game used dirt? Done. Tickets? Done. Game used bases? Done. Game used seats and walls? Done and Done. I don’t think they’ve chopped up lineup cards yet…

    I wouldn’t mind just one stinking set with no relics or autos, minimal inserts and a robust checklist printed on cheap cardboard for a buck a pack with 10 more more cards in a pack. Just one. First Day and Opening Edition don’t count.

  12. Bring back Topps Total!

    I don’t have a problem with relics, to be honest. I don’t see the harm. I also don’t see myself ever paying more than a few bucks for them, but am more than a happy recipient when others trade them to me.

  13. I think it’s going to be Upper Deck. After ridiculously overdoing the relic thing with Ball Park they’ve got to be looking for some new gimmick.

  14. I’m sure Mario will name names when the time is right. As far as my guess, my deductive rasoning leads me to Donruss. Topps and UD don’t serial # the relic cards in their flagship products, so I can’t see it being them. And like dayf said, Topps thinks they added value to their boxes by guaranteeing a relic card. Plus I’m pretty sure every relic in DLP products this year was #’d. I have no idea what the new “gimmick” could possibly be because I’m pretty sure everything has been done. Plus the newness of the new “gimmick” will wear off quickly anyway. If all this means is that we’re going to get more Brandon Boggs and David Murphy autos that are just as worthless as relic cards, I don’t think it’ll make a difference. Just my .02

  15. Charlie, you are right and wrong. It’s been done before on a small scale (is there anything new?) but it’s going to be one of the big two that’s going to do it.

  16. Well, we know it can’t be DLP, because the only reason anyone will buy DLP baseball these days is for the chance at a “big hit” relic (maybe a sig) of a deceased legend. No one will buy unlicensed base cards.

    We also know that UD can’t afford to lose game-used relics because too many of it’s high-end products contain barrels, patches and other special game-used memorabilia. Although with UDA they could create a unique situation where they sell custom game-used items through UDA and abandon such items in its cards. I don;t think that is the case, but it’s an interesting thought.

    That being said, I’m guessing it will be Topps. Topps has a solid following and will sell most of its base products regardless of relics. There are only a few “high-end” Topps products, but many collectors have shared their disdain for the lack of creativity in those products. Really, Topps could be fine without such items. There should be enough business with Topps, Bowman and Chrome-related items.

  17. How about printing the cards on the relics themselves. Like the wooden cards and silk cards. Just print them on the jersey swatch or bat piece.

  18. I would love to see just one set from UD or Topps focus on great photography and interesting card design rather than gimmicks.

  19. how sick would it be if they took a piece of a game-used bat the size of a card and printed a regular baseball card of the player who used it on the card

  20. When I first back into collecting (2007) I was thrilled to pull GUs regardless of player. My first GU was Miguel Cabrera from 06 UD (pulled it from some variety pack at Target) and I loved it. However, once I started to buy hobby and not retail I realized that these GUs weren’t all that special. Expecially considering the different players I had pulled (Scott Podsednik, Brian Roberts, Scott Rolen…nothing worth noting there). It made me realize that GUs are now barely a notch above an average parallel or insert. I love the idea and novelty of a GU, but I wish they were more rare and limited only to the best players.

  21. Are they bringing back Dufex? or the “REEL” Action motion cards?

  22. Topps has exclusive rights to the “big guys” of baseball so they wont give up the game used when they paid the big bucks for it. UD Documentary came out recently and did not have a single game used in it. just my 2 cents….

  23. maybe they’re gonna start cutting up syringes and needles and putting them in packs

  24. Please, Johnny Bench, Baseball God on Earth, tell me I did not just see that Upper Deck is putting dinosaur bones on cards! I would rather a chip from your hip replacement surgery. At least that has something to do with baseball.

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