About Me

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Beckett through the years

I got my first Beckett in 1985. It was one of those huge books. Still have it. Then it was Baseball Card Magazine, my first issue had Dwight Gooden on it, he looked stoned out of his mind, still have that too, along with many others.

Beckett, love them or hate them, is a huge part of our hobby. I haven't bought a Beckett in over a decade. My dad bought me a couple 7 or so years ago because he knew that I like(d) the players that were on the front. He gave them to me a couple years after them came out and I never consulted them for "pricing" information. When I was a kid, I lived and died by Beckett. I would ride my bike up to the card shop when it was due out and would leave sorely disappointed if it was a day late. Then Beckett started coming out earlier and earlier. The July Beckett came out June 17th, then the August one came out the 16th and the September issue came out August 15th and so on and so forth.

High book was for my cards. Low book was for everyone else’s, when I would buy. Trading was all about high book all around unless there was some trend I had noticed over the past few months. The low and high were too far apart, the price hadn't moved in 3 months, scarcity, etc. I read the articles and if I recall there was some douchy kid named Tommy Wheatley that would "write" a kids’ corner article. I hated that kid. No one and I mean no one "flipped" cards, the contest not buy and sell for profit. Nobody had more than 1 or 2 McGwires. In fact I was the only person that I knew that had one. I had two because I had gotten one out of a pack and had bought a hand collated set by mail in 85. This little jerk had tons of them. I suggest the following reading: Hmm maybe he isn't such a jerk? Actually it seems he might be a pretty cool guy.

I never sent in a hot/not list, nor did I send in my thoughts on pricing. They had this sheet that you could fill out with your pricing information and send it in, yeah what a waste. Reader's write was ok, and every once in a while there was a good article or two. The front and back pictures were good and the inside cover had a sketch or drawing of a player. Those were sweet. I think I have every beckett I ever bought. Only one or two are in bad condition because I lent it to my friend.

At that time, every card it seemed had a price. Whether it was .15 or .35 or 2.00. You had to be at .50 to get into my plastic sheets. It wasn't uncommon for a set to be awash in up and down arrows. Some kid named Brock wrote in and asked Beckett to not put down arrows next to Topps cards because his dad worked their and he either had or would lose his job. Beckett wrote back that they don't control the prices, they just report the market. At that time, that was somewhat or honestly mostly true. That came to an end, in my opinion around 92. The sheer number of card shows that went on, most I went to some I had tables at, began to turn the tide. A Leaf Gold Rookies Ryan Klesko, or as some kid at the show said "Ryan Kaleesko", was on the $1 table, the card booked for way more than that $8. I think I have a complete set of those by the way. That damn gold foil chips off though, none of the ones I got out of packs had that, but ones I found in trade or at shows did. Maybe the first real chase card? Then you had those 92 Diamond Kings, man those ARE nice. Hard as hell to get too.

Anyway, it became clear to me that book value was slowly losing its grip, my first recollection of wondering is when 90 leaf exploded a while after it came out and prices at shows reflected this. The question is, which came first real value and beckett reflected this or beckett value and the market reflected this? Guide or the price, Price or the guide? I think Beckett was about $5 an issue at that point. Get a lot of packs for that at the time. Then it because foil stamped, holographic, UV coated madness.

I stopped buying Beckett around this time, gas and insurance took its toll. Washing dishes wasn't exactly making me rich plus I wanted a stereo and some subwoofers for my car. I also wanted to restore it, which I did, still have it low these 16 years later. Cards slowly got phased out too. Sets were multiplying like rabbits. Finest, base, stadium club series 1, 2, and 3, Upper deck, collector's choice, score, pinnacle, certified, fleer, ultra (Paid $40 for a box of 91 ultra in 91, got a full set out of a box), Donruss, Leaf and it went down hill from there.

Before getting hooked on comics, I would come home for Christmas break and visit the shop of a younger guy that I used to buy from. A box or two of 96 Topps, $35 or so a box, yech! Mantle inserts galore.

Then the internet got started, ebay came around. I was buying comic books at the time, on of my college girlfriends got me started on it. No she is not some nerdy fat girl either, no pimples, no glasses, ah yes, I remember it well. Sometimes I hate remembering everything, this is not one of those times. I had noticed while going to the comic/card store in college that packs were getting ridiculous. Pacific, Pinnacle running at $7.00 a pack or more. I just shook my head and looked for the latest Image releases.

After graduating I discovered Ebay and bought everything in sight, comics that is. I kept an eye on cards and bought a box or two of Topps for $20-$27, bought some singles here and there, but I still liked comics. I noticed these graded comics on thought that was a great idea. You see, I had been hammered on condition for years by dealers selling their Exmt stuff for nrmt prices and then trying to convince me that my nrmt- card was Vg+ or Exmt-. Didn't see graded cards then, but knew it was coming.

Then, it came time to go to law school, I had sat on my ass for 3 years. Listed my comics on ebay, got $5,000 for one lot and $600 for the other. Long about 2002-03, I noticed cheap old boxes on ebay. Stuff I couldn't afford or bring myself to buy. Remember it wasn't uncommon for current junk wax to go for $40+ to $90+ at the time. 1992 Topps Football High Number for $5-7 a box. I bought a ton of cheap wax because I couldn't afford any new stuff. Still no Beckett’s at this point. I bought a Tuff Stuff just to get an idea of what was going on in the hobby 4 sports; no racing doesn't count, all in one place.

I had noticed that Beckett had gotten into the grading business, I still like the idea. I went by a card shop and noticed that Beckett cost an arm and a leg. In addition like tuff stuff, I realized that the prices I was seeing as being Beckett value was nothing close to what the prices on Ebay, though I still hadn't bought a Beckett. You see I did know that a lot of rookies were 1:4 packs or worse and it was expensive to get them, so I started searching ebay for them and noticed people referring to "bv" so I would bid a dollar on a $20 card, he price was somewhat consistent with the Tuff Stuff that I had, and I was winning. I also started bidding on PSA cards like Sandberg rookies, Gwynn, Boggs, and others and was winning them for little of nothing. In addition, cards like Ricky and Cal were going for little to nothing as well. So now, just like many others, if the shop wants $50 for a card which I assume to be BV then I, if I want it, bid $5-10. The success rate on older cards is alarming if BV is truly correct.

So where does that leave us? Book Value is a sham; it is no longer a guide to anything. If you want a card, look at the last 30 days of completed auctions and base your purchase decision on that. You will often find there is a tenuous relationship at best. The question is: Where do Tuff Stuff and Beckett come up with these values? Do they look to at the prices on the cards in dealer’s shops that, if the cards have anything to do with collecting it is that they collect dust, just sit there and the too high price is why they are in the case?

Grading: Beckett offers a grading service. As I said I like grading. I have a few Beckett graded cards in my collection, no I didn't pay more than what raw cards go for. However, some have called Beckett's motives, integrity, and business model into question because of the following: Beckett the company that grades and prices cards, sells cards both raw and graded. That is a substantial conflict of interest. I would be interested to hear Beckett's defense of this. Please don't comment that I am out of touch or whatever. I would like an explanation of how this is not a conflict. I have no problem with Beckett selling printing plates of their magazines.

The next question is, are those cards listed at "book value" if they are not, why not? If they are, why don't they sell, they are worth what your guide says, no?

Advertising: I am not too worried about Topps, Donruss and whoever advertising in their magazine and website. Yes they get money from the companies that they report on, but there are so many products by these companies that calling one crap Sterling and one or two awesome Chrome and Finest, probably wouldn't cause Topps to pull their ads. Additionally, each company is bound to put out some good products and bad so it doesn't take shenanigans to call this game. Although as far as I am concerned Donruss has two products: Baseball and Football, they just put each product in a bunch of different packs and call them different things. I still like the cards however.

Box Breaks: Their box breaks are stupid and shenanigans were/are afoot. There videos have all the realism of an infomercial. Beckett acts like they are surprised the box showed up and then feign surprise at the massive hits. They got called out on it and put up the Dick Cheney Defense. For those of you catching up, the Dick Cheney defense is to not discuss the merits of the case, but levy personal attacks on your critics. Although it is a tough call which one I loathe most, Beckett Box breaks or the Douchemaster and the rip girls. Girls are smokin hot and seem nice but they are forced into terrible dialogue. Remember the Treasury Rip where the one girl said that every rookie was a sure ROY? I fully understand that my video break(s) sucked and thought better of it. That’s why I post the pics of the cards instead. I have worked out the video break kinks and have thought about doing them again.

Reference: The one thing I think Beckett should be applauded for, and for me trumps most of the other stuff because I see them for what they are, is there value to me as a reference guide even though I don't use you. You too tuff stuff, but Beckett does a better job. I like the listing of all the inserts in your price guide. I want to know how many are in the set, production numbers, variations, etc. I want to know about upcoming products and how much they cost and what they look like and your thoughts on them as long as they are honest and not pandering. I like articles and things as well. You provide message boards, its not your fault they are filled with bo-tards and insecure collectors that need reassurance that their card is really worth $20 or $500 or whatever, and that they got a steal on ebay, or their fucking Mojo. Nobody gives a damn and least of all the collector shouldn't care.

I post my box breaks so people know what to expect. I can afford to do this and it matters not whether I get a massive hit or not. I was psyched about my Fisk auto; although its a sticker, yuck, because I like Fisk and 20 years ago thought there was no way to get one of these. I don't care if its "worth" $5 or $100. White Sox Cards shared in my joy because he is a fan too. I didn't need anyone to congratulate me on that card, its not like I did anything special, but I appreciated his comment because he appreciates the card and so do I. He didn't say, hey, that's a $50 card, sweet. According to beckett that might be a $50 card, yeah right, but according to Beckett those Josh Willingham Jersey and autos are sweet pulls because they are jersey cards and auto and are worth something because Beckett says so. If Mario pulls a Willingham, good for him because he likes the Marlins. Thus, I would be excited for him if he gets one. Contrast that with, any of Beckett's readers that could care less, much like me, about Willingham but need the affirmation so they don't feel ripped off. They then convince themselves that they got a great deal or that they got their money’s worth on the box because of some inflated "value". The Beckett reader then puts this card on ebay and finds that it is a $3 card, if that, and is upset.

I just want people to know what they can expect, nothing more nothing less. That was my intent of doing those case breaks. Realizing I needed to cut my losses, I didn't go ahead with the sale because the time and money investment of listing, selling, and mailing just wasn't worth it. I posted about that so people would know what to expect if they were thinking the same thing, just like the Pack Searching article. I think those posts had value to a reader. Those posts were not puff pieces trying to prop up the hobby by getting fools to hand over their money based on false assertions, misleading information, or false expectations.

Anyway, that is my history with, and those are my thoughts on, Beckett. I'm not trying to bash them, that's just how I see them. If you choose to pay $4.50 per sport to look at their price guide, that's your choice, just as if you decide to pay $10? for the magazine and get all the other info. The problem is Beckett, we want to know your motives, we don't want to question your integrity, but you make it really hard not to. We see the comments you leave on blogs. We can access reports of who reads, what they visit, and what comments they leave.

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