Overcoming Card Prejudice

In case you missed it, Shohei Ohtani has completely taken over the sports world and the world of sports cards, simultaneously. During my return to writing at Wax Heaven, Ohtani was all everyone was talking about but because I had been away for four years, I was too busy catching up to pay any attention. Right before Spring Training, I finally began to do my research on what journalists, sports fans, and collectors were all calling “The next Babe Ruth” but all I could think back to was a fat, bearded Joba Chamberlain playing on his fourth team in five years and then suddenly retiring.

I’ve been collecting since 1990, which means I’ve seen dozens of “can’t miss” prospects completely miss. I’ve even lost good money on guys who were going to be the next Canseco (Ben Grieve), the next Ken Griffey Jr. (Jose Cruz Jr.), and the next Randy Johnson (Andrew Miller). I also wasn’t around for the storm that was Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg or more recently, Aaron Judge. To me, for over a decade, when I think examples of failures as players and in the hobby, the only name I can think of is that of Joba and his infamous 2007 Bowman Chrome 1/1 Superfractor.

I never understood the hype behind Joba but I will never forget how his rookie Superfractor was pulled and put on eBay and the day it sold for just a little over $5,000 dollars. A few months later, the card returned to eBay only this time slabbed and graded and sold for nearly $20,000. Eventually, Jobamania died down and so did this blog and I never found out what became of this card and the probably very embarrassed owner/s. As you can imagine, there were even several other Joba cards that hit astronomical figures but the Super was the card everyone talked about.

Now let’s go back to Shohei and his incredibly hot start to his American career which includes two wins as a pitcher and a 3-home run week following a very rough Spring Training in which everybody pretty much counted him out. Everybody as in respected journalists, hardcore collectors, and even an 11-year card blogger we all know and love. Yes damn it, I thought he was going to be another Joba or better yet, another Hideo Nomo who started out HOT and fizzled out once Major League hitters figured out his stuff. However, I don’t feel the same way about Ohtahni. At least not anymore.

Recently, Ohtahni’s most popular card (for now) from 2018 Topps Heritage sold for well over $6,000 dollars. This was a high for the card whose sale price may have been helped by the 1/69 serial number and the fact that Major League ball player, Pat Neshek was the seller. I wondered if price was a fluke until his 2017 Black Refractor sold for just under $13,000. His Topps Now autograph then hit $12,500. Clearly, this man is here to save the hobby. That is of course, unless he starts losing and striking out. Then what? In a week, 26 Ohtani cards sold for over $3,000. That is scary.

Now I have a decision to make. Do I jump on the Ohtani bandwagon like everyone else and risk dooming the poor kid’s career? After all, every single prospect I have ever collected has failed in one way or another. I have really bad luck when it comes to collecting ball players which began when I started collecting Jose Canseco in 1990, while the guy was on top of the sports world (and Madonna). Less than three years later, Jose was having balls bounce off his head for home runs and was blowing out his arm pitching ….PITCHING for God sakes! Talk about bad luck.

I guess in private, I already made my decision. I was one of the early bidders on Neshek’s mysteriously-acquired Ohtani Heritage autograph. I knew I’d never fully pull the trigger after around a few hundred dollars but damn it felt good to be in the hunt again. Sooner or later (probably much later), the card and Ohtani’s hype has to die down. If not, he may ultimately become the greatest hobby superstar of all time. For now, since I can’t afford the next Babe Ruth, I will go ahead and start picking up cards of “The Next Mickey Mantle”, Ruben Rivera.

In case you’re wondering how that went, Ruben, age 44, is still playing in a Mexican League today … as in 2018. In fact, he’s become somewhat of a legend down there hitting nearly 300 career home runs while batting over .300 in his lifetime (in Mexico). If that’s not a love for the game, I don’t know what is. He may not have lived up to MLB’s standards and perhaps his sticky fingers ruined his career prospects in the States but in Mexico, this former disgraced star is Mickey, the Babe, and Hank Aaron all rolled into one and there’s no sign that he’s ready to slow down.

Did the Hobby kill “Jobamania”?

I am far from a Yankees fan for obvious reasons. A few of their players make more in one season than my team spends in a decade. Of course, that doesn’t erase the fact that in 2007, the Hobby’s biggest star was a fireballer named Joba Chamberlain.

Now, while his 2007 Bowman Chrome was the “King of the Rookie Hill” sort of speak… there was still a mad rush to produce and over produce Joba Chamberlain certified autographed baseball cards. This left the market with one too many Joba autographs and that’s before you take into account that almost every single product these days has multiple parallels.

For example: 2007 Bowman Chrome

1. Base

2. Refractor

3. Xfractor

4. Blue Refractor

5. Gold Refractor

6. Orange Refractor

7. Red Refractor

8. Superfractor

9-12  – “1 of 1” printing plates

Now if you are a Joba Chamberlain collector that gives you 12 cards to chase and even if you have the deepest pockets in all of New York, odds are you may never complete this set. Now, imagine all the different SP Authentic ‘By The Letter’ autograph variations and so on. It’s a mission impossible for player collectors that just may drive people away or turn them on to older wax.

I am not suggesting that a company produce just one certified autograph of a player per year but it wouldn’t hurt to show a little self-control every once in a while because simply put… not everyone can afford fifty Joba Chamberlain rookie autographs. Can you imagine the secondary market demand if Topps & Upper Deck produced just one Joba certified autograph rookie in their chosen brand? You could have seen prices of those two products stay afloat even months after release.

Today, boxes of ’07 SP Authentic and Bowman Chrome consistently sell for under $50 dollars and second-year autographs have little to no value despite Joba’s immense popularity in the Hobby. Remember the days when superstars only had one or two key rookie cards?

Neither do I…

Card of the Day – ’08 Bowman Chrome

When Charles of Hawk to the Hall walked into his local hobby shop today he didn’t intend on buying any 2008 Bowman Chrome.  Luckily for him, he just could not pass up the $2 dollars a pack price tag and picked up a few packs. Inside, he found five Refractors, an autograph, and a dual autograph, titled ‘Head of the Class’, featuring popular New York Yankees pitchers, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes.

As far as the ‘Head of the Class’, which is one of the better pulls from last year’s Bowman Chrome… it’s not the first time these two hurlers have appeared on a card together. The first time was in 2007 Topps ’52 Rookie Cup Edition but the best-known and most valuable is a 2007 Bowman Sterling dual autograph which sells well despite both players still not having lived up to their potential.

I believe 2009 will be Joba’s year but I am still not sold on Hughes, who is beloved by collectors for joining the Beckett Message Board (and posting) a couple of years ago. Today, collectors still hold their “man crush” despite Phil’s long absence from the forum and even his own WordPress blog.

If these two breakout this year, expect this card to climb to back to “hype” levels again.

“Jobamania” is dead, Lincecum is King

If I told you six months after the release of 2007 Bowman Chrome that Joba Chamberlain’s certified autograph would not be the most desired card in the set you would have probably laughed in my face. You see, back then it was Joba’s World and we just lived in it.

All over the Internet message boards there was talk of Joba’s potential and speculation of how many games he would win. “20”, “25”, and even “30” was thrown out. As crazy as those numbers were, people bought into the hype and spent thousands of dollars on Joba’s Bowman Chrome Autograph.

By season’s end Joba managed to win just four games, suffered an injury, and went from the bullpen to the starting rotation and back again. No one knew what to do with Joba and just last month, the Yankees pitcher was arrested for driving while intoxicated.

Meanwhile, a guy with little hype early on went on to strike out nearly 270 hitters and win 18 games for one of the worst teams in baseball. Throughout the year all of us in the Hobby watched Tim Lincecum’s 2007 Bowman Chrome rookie card overtake the #1 spot from Joba and never look back. Today, these cards are selling like hot cakes despite the lagging economy and low baseball card sales.

This afternoon, Tim Lincecum won the National League Cy Young Award. He’s also a cover boy for MLB 2K9 video game. Not bad for a guy who played second fiddle for so long just one year ago. Now, make sure to check out ‘The Nennth Inning‘ for all things Tim Lincecum baseball cards.

Cardboard Wars – Joba Chamberlain

This has to be the ultimate Cardboard Wars. You have the gimmick of all gimmicks, a “1 of 1” Superfractor made by the “King of Rookie Cards”, Bowman. This seemingly unstoppable card is going up against a 2008 Allen & Ginter autograph. Who will come out on top?

1. 2007 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects

You can never go wrong with a true “1 of 1” Superfractor, especially when the Super is of New York Yankees, soon to be phenom, Joba Chamberlain. Sure, it’s not his most recognized rookie autograph (that would be ’07 Bowman Chrome) and it doesn’t feature an autograph, but c’mon, it’s soooo shiny!

2. Topps Allen & Ginter

Last season I was one of the most disappointed collectors with Allen & Ginter until I opened the lone blaster box of this product in 2008 and found out just why collectors drool over this product every season. Simply put, the base cards, inserts, and “hits” are absolutely beautiful. Just look at how a nice border with a clean design can add so much to your baseball card. This card won’t break your piggy bank but will look perfect in a nice case.

So what’s it gonna be?!?