Collectors Still Love the “Big Hurt”

There was a time long ago when baseball belonged to a 260 lb. beast named Frank Thomas. He was the most dominant and feared hitter in all of baseball without the need for Steroids or other enhancements. Before the game became tarnished by ridiculous home run records, the “Big Hurt” was head and shoulders above any slugger.

Before all was said and done, Thomas ended his career with over 500 home runs and a .301 lifetime batting average. Perhaps he hung around a bit too long judging by his final seasons in Toronto and Oakland but no one will ever forget the years Frank won back to back MVP trophies or his torrid 1994 season before baseball went on strike.

As you can imagine, Frank Thomas has some of the most dedicated and loyal collectors who spend most of their times scouring through eBay looking for that next amazing card to add to their collection. Trying to find a nice game-used relic or certified autograph isn’t too hard but it’s those early-year “hits” that collectors really love.

Take for example the 1997 Leaf ‘Thomas Collection’ patch you see below. It’s a beautiful card from the days when Donruss knew what they were doing but it’s not all that impressive. The patch is not really that big and the card is numbered to an astonishingly high (by today’s standards) 100. At the most you’d think it would sell for close to $100, if that.

Here is what the card actually sold for!

A new group break conspiracy?

One aspect of collecting that I have avoided since my return in 2007 is the group break. While there are many reputable & trustworthy collectors who host breaks, there is always one or two bad apples in the bunch. A few months ago we had “MelbourneCowboys” who has become the most-hated collector on YouTube and now we have a new storm brewing over a Donruss group break on a popular message board.

Recently, “Ballerskrip” held a group break for 700 sealed blister packs promising around 140 hits if seeding was to follow through. The starting price for one slot was $55 dollars which included shipping, supplies, & Pay Pal fees. One of the messages in the original post to join the break read, “NO WORRIES ABOUT GETTING FELT UP PACKS, OR PACK SEARCHED PACKS. AGAIN, THESE ARE SEALED BOXES!”

As you can imagine, all the slots filled up pretty quickly and then something strange happened when the box arrived (after a delay). In the live video chat which was hosted by US Stream, it was obvious that the packs were not in sealed boxes but actually loose blister packs. Apparently, some members mentioned it but were ignored in the chat by the host. Shortly after the break, the host went on a planned vacation.

It’s obvious from the fact that the packs came in loose blisters and not sealed boxes that they were tampered with. Look at it this way, how did the autographs manage to slip in but there was not one single game-used relic and/or signed patch? Each pack could have easily been weighed and the lighter packs thrown into the box to ship out.

According to some, the seller in question is this guy. If you check out the auction, it states that these 700 packs were purchased directly from Donruss. If you check his feedback, he’s also received lots of recent negatives. Furthermore, why was the listing private? Also, if someone sells you sealed blister packs instead of the promised boxes why not stop the break and ask for a refund when the box of loose packs arrived?

Chris Gilmore, owner of Freedom Card Board, the forum where the break took place has now gotten involved. He spoke with Donruss’ Mike Payne who assured him that in these blister packs the focus is on autographs and not relics. Relics can be pulled but they are seeded at an extremely low rate. Unfortunately, no exact insertion rates were mentioned.

Both the host of the break and Chris Gilmore are currently working on making the situation right. Chris is not someone to let things like this happen on his watch but there is still something not right about the entire situation. Whatever the conclusion may be, it’s just one more black eye that could keep collectors from joining future group breaks.

Did Fleer steal from Donruss?

Go ahead and insult my taste if you must but damn it, I love Fleer’s bright, yellow, ’91 design. Tonight while brain storming on a post I made a truly shocking discovery regarding two of my favorite brands from the early-90’s. It really doesn’t matter now that Donruss Panini is out of baseball and Fleer is in retirement but it’s news to me.

Take a look at the 1990 Donruss (left) Jose Canseco card. Now, take a look at the 1991 Fleer Jose Canseco card and tell me if you notice any similarities. For starters, the size of the actual photograph is almost identical. Fine, just a coincidence, right? What about the oddly placed two black lines running through the top of the card on both cards? What the heck is that about?

Am I the last person on the planet to discover this? Considering that Topps sued Upper Deck a few months ago regarding Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee, one has to wonder if Donruss ever made any fuss about what is essentially ’90 Donruss 2.0 back in 1991. For the record, 1991 Donruss had a very unique and memorable design.

When was the last time you said that about a recent Donruss product?

(put your hand down, Tracy Hackler)

John Hughes: A missed opportunity

During my ten years away from collecting I needed something to keep me entertained. Being single and working 80 hours a week the best I could come up with was movies. I opened up a Netflix account and over the course of three years watched over 500 films & documentaries.

One of my fantasies that I was banking on someday was the return of John Hughes to directing. After all, how could the man responsible for such films as Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Breakfast Club, and Weird Science simply walk away like he did in 1991?

Sadly, John passed away at the age of 59 yesterday. Not only did he never make the comeback I and millions of movie buffs were waiting for, he also did not have a single certified autograph in any trading card set which is a travesty.

In a day and age when Donruss & Upper Deck are releasing multiple celebrity-themed products, someone should have thought of John’s accomplishments and pop culture relevance and got him to sign a few cards.

Below is my personal list of Top 3 directors which should get some Hobby love in 2010 and beyond. As you can see, Quentin Tarantino has already received the works thanks to Donruss/Panini but another one would not hurt, especially from the era when Quentin was still considered “cool”.

1. Francis Ford Coppola

Why? The Godfather & Apocalypse Now

Why Not? Jack

2. Martin Scorsese

Why? Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, & Goodfellas

Why not? Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ video

3. Quentin Tarantino

Why? Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction

Why not? For turning into a pussy, ‘Deathproof’ from Grindhouse

Do you hate just to hate?

Once upon a time during my 10-year hiatus from collecting I took up Transformers. I began collecting the 80’s toys, along with the DVDs that had been recently released. Considering no one I knew collected Transformers, I began looking on line for a forum where I could discuss my hobby with others.

It took a few weeks but eventually I chose to join a Transformers message board with thousands of members. It was without a doubt the worst on line experience I’ve ever had. I joined a community that did nothing all day long but bitch and moan. From the toys, tv show, and even upcoming movie… it was 99.9% negativity.

I feel the same way about some collectors right now. All I see from 4-5 on line communities is absolute hatred for the companies, products, you name it and someone hates it. I feel like some are forgetting that this is a hobby meant to be enjoyed.

Don’t get me wrong, I am the first to point out a negative but then I also go out of my way to find the positive. I may bash Donruss for too many stickers but I also gave them praise for their celebrity-themed releases.

I gave Upper Deck hell for recycled “X” designs in their baseball lines but then fell in love with this year’s Spectrum of Stars autograph inserts, which I have now blogged about three times.

Topps without a doubt took the biggest hit in 2009 with my commentary on Letterman football but then I ended falling hard for their retro-themed releases like Murad and Mayo.

Am I the only one who thinks there is just way too much negativity right now?