Author Archive | Michael Roche

What do last year’s stars mean to this year’s collectors?

The 2013 NFL season is not only going to be a make or break season for many players, it is destined to have a large impact in the collecting world as well.

Last season may well have been the year of the rookie. Players like Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Doug Martin and Andrew Luck highlighted an unprecedented rookie crop. These players showed off their flashy styles and put up big numbers against strong opponents. Football collectors everywhere responded in turn by putting up big numbers of their own. Collectors threw down big money for these new breakout stars. Regular refractors of Griffin and Luck can fetch as much as thirty dollars with their autographs going for a few hundred. It would appear that a new era had dawned in the NFL and fans and collectors were excited to go along for the ride.

However, that was last year. Now everyone is anxious to see if the previous season was the real deal for the now sophomore stars. The expectations weigh heaviest on Robert Griffin III, who is coming off surgery for a torn ACL. It seemed like Washington acquired all the right pieces for their young quarterback to thrive this season but he has struggled in the first two weeks. Griffin's draft day counterpart, Andrew Luck, does not have as much pressure this year, playing for what many consider to be  second-rate Colts team. Still, while Luck may not be expected to win, collectors still are hoping for impressive numbers to justify their rookie card purchases.

So now players like Luck, Griffin, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick are entering the 2013 season with large amounts invested in their cardboard likenesses. If last year was the year of the rookie, will this be the year of the sophomore slump? Anyone who has bet on these promising stars is certainly hoping not.


May Product Releases

With the second month of baseball season underway, the NBA and NHL playoffs beginning to heat up and the NFL just wrapping up the draft, May could possibly be one of the more overlooked sports months.  While sports fans all over are strapping down while the action is heating up, card companies are keeping up with the increased activities this coming month as well. Fifteen new products are scheduled to hit the streets in the next four weeks, including some unusual and interesting stuff thanks to Topps Chipz and a Leon Sandcastle rookie card in Score Football.



2013 Bowman Baseball—May 8th

2013 Topps Museum Collection—May 15thmwilliams

2013 Topps MLB Chipz—May 29th

2013 Topps Archives—May 29th

2013 Panini USA Baseball—May 29th


With the return of baseball in 2013, fans all over the country can’t wait to witness the sophomore campaigns of one of the most exciting rookie classes in recent memory.  Also breaking out after successful debuts last year are Topps products Archives Baseball and Museum Collection.  One of the more successful high-end products last year, Museum Collection once again returns with a heavy list of autograph signers and game used cards, while Archives Baseball, a mid-range product, brings back its familiar retro feel of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s.  Bowman Baseball and Panini USA Baseball are being released to eagerly awaiting fan bases too, giving collectors a glimpse of a new rookie and prospect class in addition to their favorite players in a new light. Finally, MLB Chipz is one of the most unique products of the year.  Instead of using the traditional format for cards, players will be featured on, essentially, poker chips.  It will be interesting to see how this product is received but it would definitely be a conversation starter on poker night.



2012-13 Leaf Best of Basketball—May 10th

2012-13 Panini Past and Present Basketball—May 3rdCROWN_ROYALE_Pg1

2012-13 Panini Brilliance Basketball—May 13th

2012-13 Panini Momentum Basketball—May 15th

2012-13 Panini Elite Series Basketball—May 29th


As the NBA playoffs roll into the second round, only the strongest teams remain.  In similar fashion Panini and Leaf are rolling out some big products this month as well.  Leaf Best of Basketball is first to hit shelves on May 10th, a high-end buyback product featuring the some of the most popular basketball cards ever produced professionally slabbed or graded alongside an original autograph card.  Some of the signers include Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson and Jerry Sloan. The remainder of May belongs to Panini, set to release Past and Present, Brilliance and Momentum in rapid succession and Elite Series at the end of the month.  Elite Series and Momentum are both high-end products featuring a promising list of autograph signers and game-used cards.  Panini is really looking to make a splash with the debut of Brilliance though, a mid-range product with something for everyone from set collectors to autograph chasers. With such strong lineups, the following weeks look to be exciting one for basketball collectors



2013 Leaf Legends of the Gridiron Football—May 10th

2013 Topps Archives Football—May 15th

2013 Press Pass Showcase Football—May 22nd

2013 Panini Score Football—May 13th


Having been freshly rejuvenated midway through the off season by the draft, football junkies now have something to hold them over until opening kickoff a few months away.  A wide range of football products hit the streets this month, from the high-end, hit based Press Pass Showcase, which is including autographs and game used cards from stars such as Robert Griffen III and Andrew Luck, to the low-end, set focused Score Football, celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary this year.  In between those two fall Topps Archives Football, making its debut, and Leaf Legends of the Gridiron.  Topps Archives Football is modeled after last year’s popular Archives Baseball set.  The retro style product features fan favorite autographs, not necessarily stars, and lots of old school inserts.  Leaf Legends of the Gridiron in the meantime, is made up of cut autos from some of the biggest names ever to be associated with the game.  Production is limited to ninety-nine cases at twelve boxes per case though, so once this product is gone, it’s gone.



2012-13 In the Game Ultimate Memorabilia 12th Edition hockey—May 3rd


Hockey lovers won’t have to be distracted by busting wax during the Stanley Cup playoffs in the coming weeks.  In the Game Ultimate Memorabilia is the sole hockey product breaking out in May.  Ultimate Memorabilia is a high-end, hit based product where each pack includes one auto, one game used and one base card, guaranteeing ten hits per box. Redwings fans have something else to be excited about, as every case contains a Steve Yzerman Anthology hot pack. While hockey products may be scarce this time of the year, Ultimate Memorabilia will be sure to be a nice companion set while enjoying the playoffs.


The Three Most Iconic Baseball Cards

In the collecting world, there exist some cards that transcend their physical manifestation.  While by eyesight they may appear to be cardboard photographs of athletes, in reality they represent much more.  Three baseball cards in particular have achieved this iconic status over the course of history: T206 Honus Wagner, 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle and 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Junior.  Each one of these cards has a unique history that has made them the three most recognizable cards not only within hobby circles but to non-collectors as well.  Whether the impact of any one of these cards on the hobby is positive or negative is debatable.  However, for better or for worse, this trio of cards represents all baseball cards to the outside world, therefore making them the three most iconic cards in the hobby.

The T206 Honus Wagner is without a doubt the most recognizable baseball card in the world.  It is perhaps the only single card that receives significant news coverage whenever it is sold, even being featured as the subject of a recent ESPN 30-for-30 short film.  Whether it was because Wagner did not want to promote tobacco usage to children or because he was wanted to be paid for having his image used, the card was scarce when it was first printed one hundred years ago and is downright rare today.  It is one specific Wagner in particular that captures public intrigue though.  First discovered by memorabilia dealer Bill Mastro, the card has been sold several times, and was even once famously owned by Wayne Gretzky. No one who has ever owned the card has lost money on it and it was last sold for $2.8 million in 2007.  Although Mastro recently Honus Wagner (1)admitted to altering the card, the current owner, Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick, still believes the card will retain its value.  That remains to be seen.  If it does, it will only add to the general public intrigue of the most valuable baseball card in the world.

Although not it is not as well noted outside the hobby, the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card has a history just as storied as the T206 Honus Wagner.  In 1952 Topps released their first annual card set.  This 407 card set was released in two series and featured a slew of future Hall of Famers , including Willie Mays, Yogi Berra, Duke Snider and many others.  However, the most prominent card of the set was #311, the young and promising  Mickey Mantle.  The second series, containing cards 311-407, was released late in the season and was a slow seller. In response, Topps dumped cases of the product into the ocean after several years of sitting in storage.  The Mick's card was among those lost to Poseidon. Following a legendary career, Mantle's first Topps card has become one of the most sought after in the hobby, fetching thousands of dollars even in poor condition.  The perfect conditions came about to make the '52 Mantle one of the most important cards in the hobby: a Yankee great, an early career card and the scarcity of the set. This card represents the emergence of modern baseball cards.  Without a doubt, it would certainly be the center piece of anyone's collection.

While the 1989 Upper Deck does not hold the value of a '52 Mantle or T206 Wagner, it is important to the hobby none-the-less.  In the '80s and '90s baseball card collecting was beginning to move away from kids looking for their favorite player and towards people trying to make a profit. With so many people looking to make a healthy return on investment, the rookie star Ken Griffey Junior seemed to be a sure bet. Griffey's first card was the number one on the checklist of Upper Deck's maiden set.  During his rookie year Junior rocketed to stardom and initially his rookie card prices mirrored his meteoric rise.  This time period has come to known as the age of over production though and the supply of the Griffey's rookie card was simply too high to retain real value.  While the card does not sell for near what it was in the early '90s, it continues to hold a special place in collectors' hearts.  Griffey will almost certainly be inducted into the Hall of Fame and was a perpetual fan favorite throughout his career.  Griffey's rookie card came about during a time when the card industry was changing and still experiencing some growing pains; in almost any other decade, Griffey's rookie card would be a high dollar card.  Still, the 1989 Upper Deck #1 introduced many non-collectors to baseball cards and  today it remains perhaps one of the most recognizable cards outside the hobby.

The T206 Honus Wagner, 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle and 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Junior have proven to be the three most iconic cards within the baseball card collecting hobby.  The history and story behind each card separates each card from any other card out there. While other cards may also have special histories, these three cards stand out as representatives of a certain era and aspect of card collecting. As testaments to their respective eras, these three cards have become the most iconic baseball cards in the hobby.  Will a fourth one ever be added to the list? It is impossible to say for sure but it would appear that due to the scale of production, the attributes of cards and the general knowledge of collectors today regarding storage techniques the answer would be no.  The general negligence of both collectors and card companies in years past is what led to the scarcity of Wagner and Mantle while Griffey failed to hold value because of over production and card owners being very careful with it.  The card with the greatest potential right now would possibly be the 2012 Topps Archives #241 Byrce Harper rookie card.  Obviously this depends on Harper's career arch, but this card is considered Harper's first true rookie card and was super short printed by Topps in a rush effort to include him in the set.  As of now, it has all the makings of an iconic card: a (potential) superstar, a true rookie card and the general scarcity of the card. Only time will tell if any other cards will ever achieve iconic status but no matter what happens to modern cards in the future, it will change the status of the three original iconic baseball cards.

Article by Michael Roche


Top Five Baseball Teams for a Group Break

Congratulations, you’ve decided to join a group break.  Because your wife somehow got ahold of your last credit card statement and despite that Bryce Harper being numbered “want of one,” the kids are sick of eating ramen noodles.  But that’s okay, because you were somehow able to scrounge up enough money for one spot in a group break.  Now the only question is, what team do you pick in order to get the most bang for your buck?  Obviously you can pick your home town team, but what if your favorite team is the Astros? (Sorry Astros fans, but you know it’s true) Well lucky for you, I’ve gone ahead and put together this list of the best options available when picking teams for a group break.  The results are based on recent eBay sales as well as checklists from recent hot products.


#5) Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles have proven to be a hot commodity lately, thanks in large part to young rookie prospects.  This past week a Manny Machado/Dylan Bundy Heritage Gold refractor sold for just over $600.  The O’s were also lucky enough to sign this Cal Ripken Jr. kid a few years ago and he’s really beginning to pay off for them now and his autos are going strong.  Although Baltimore may not be as prominent on set checklists as other teams on the list, the combination of young prospects and legendary fan favorites have made a worthy investment.

#4) New York Yankees

Despite signing Rip van Winkle to a five year, two hundred million dollar contract this past offseason, Yank cards are still selling strong and featured heavily in many set checklists.  There are 58 different Yankees’ gehrigcards featured in the 2013 Topps Tribute set, which includes 30 different relic/patch cards.  Leading the Evil Empire in card sales is Derek Jeter, as some of his recent Tribute patches have been sold within the $200-300 range.  They’ve been going strong for the last twenty years and there’s still no reason to ignore them now.  Well, besides that it’s the Yankees, but you get my point.

#3) Los Angeles Angels

With so many ball players seemingly taking their talents to Los Angeles lately, the Angels are coming through strong in recent card sales.  However, it’s a combination of the team’s home grown talent and free agent acquisitions that put the Angels on the list.  Yes, I’m talking about Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.  Trout’s and Pujols’ short printed refractors and relics have seen return on investment. The team is fairly decently spread across sets but has a good presence in Topps Gypsy Queen, which features eleven different Angels’ autograph cards.  It will be interesting to see how Angels’ cards fare with the slow start to the season this year

#2) San Francisco Giants

By combining two of the last three World Series titles and some of the most storied players to ever play the game, the Giants have refused to card collectors forget about this franchise.  Hits for the Giants have been spread more evenly across several sets than any other team on the list.  Despite what they’ve accomplished in recent years, today’s players continued to be overshadowed by past Giants, notably Willie Mays whose Topps Heritage real one autograph special edition has recently topped the $600 mark.

#1) Washington Nationals

C’mon, what did you expect?  Of course the Nats are the hottest team to pick right now.  Bryce Harper continues to lead the way in terms of volume for Nationals cards but currently it’s not just his autos and patches that are hot.  While Tribute autos and parallels will surely go big money as they come out, The Washington Senators variation cards featured in this year’s Topps Heritage set are proving to be quite popular as well.  Harper’s Senator’s error variation has been sold for around $600-$700 and Ryan Zimmerman’s Senators Variation have even gone for upwards of $500.  Not bad, considering the Nationals and Senators were never even the same team.

Article by Michael Roche