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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The value of the relic, set builders, and the rarity of the scrub

This post was inspired by a twitter post:

Project1962: I wish @toppscards would show us the cost breakdown of a set and ask us if we thought it was worth including some of the "hits" or not.

Project1962 gritz76
If pulling Ronny Paulino type autos and relics ups the price per pack significantly, I could do without them!

@Project1962 @toppscards I agree with you but people want their hit count at all cost and then complain about junk autos/relics.

Project1962 gritz76
@iamjoecollector But do you think if people knew they were paying a higher price because of the junk hits, they would still want them?

Bear with me on this one. Ok, this post is going to look at things from two perspectives: Present and Future. Not sure how I am going to get there but I will.

First, I don't care what anyone says, there are too many products out there right now. I'm not going to list them off but good grief. It's not as bad as it was three years ago, but it's close.

Why does too many products matter? It matters because it leads to collector fatigue. Collectors like to collect. They want to complete whatever collecting goals they have. When that becomes overwhelming or impossible because of the amount there is to collect, they become discouraged and sometimes give up. I have been suffering from this for a while. Let me ask you this, how much junk wax do we have from the last 10 years? In my opinion, lots, not in price mind you, but in quality. I look at some fo those products and have no inclination to bust it. It is, in essence, valueless too me. The reasons for that are varied and I may cover that in a future post.

Now we are to a point where a product comes out and 3-6 weeks later the masses are done with the product. Remember Heritage?

The other issue we have is that sets are imposssible to collect. I am thousands and thousands of dollars into my masterpieces quest and am still no where close to being done. I'm peddling as fast as I can, but alas no luck. Many of the cards I am looking for are commons, while some are clearly not. Two people are currently holding some Ripkens hostage from me. I'm like really? I am way away from freak out mode on 2007. What do I mean by that? I mean I am not close to paying any price for a card. Maybe except for my 08 greens /75.

Let's delve into this a bit more. In 2008 Masterpieces there are 120 cards in the set. The brown set is /100 and fall at 5 per hobby case. Thus, 24 cases to complete a set if you didn't pull one double. This is absolutely insane. The /75 are 3 per case so 40 cases to complete a set. This makes no sense from a collector's perspective.

Now that I have geeked out about Masterpieces, let me put this into ginter terms. The black mini set. There are 50 sp's and my understanding is that they fall 2 per case, yup 25 cases for a set. The base minis aren't much better. You get about 8 per box these days with all of the inserts and such. Do the math 350/8 = 44 boxes to make a set if you pull no doubles. That is ridiculous. The reason I used these examples is because I know the odds and rates and junk.

So at this point we have too many products and impossible to complete sets. So where does this leave us. That puts us at a sea of uncollectible products that few people give a rats ass about. People just tend to chase whatever they chase with no rhyme or reason.

Now the second part of the question. Isn't the fact that no one cared about cards, comics, etc the reason why the vintage stuff is worth a lot? To a certain degree yes. Lest we not forget that dealers were in business in the 50's and 60's. These guys were selling thousands and thousands of sets so the cards from those years really aren't that rare. Check ebay, as I always say. I think the reason why vintage is worth a lot is because each card is the only game in town. The 68 Topps Ryan is still and will always be the 68 Topps Ryan.

The same goes for set collecting. If you want the 1972 Topps set, the only set going, you have to collect the high numbers as well. Commons cost an arm and a leg and can be a little tough to find but not to tough. I won't talk about the explosion of production numbers in the late 70's and 80's that leads to depressed card prices.

So what's my point? My point is that things become collectible by age and nature, but with all the current crap out there prices will be depressed for a while. You can't bust a box and expect you will get 50% of your money out of it. That is a problem. Combine that with the new product every week and more an more products become dollar store generic in the eyes of collectors. Any Panini Epix set collectors out there?

Now, what happens when you have stand out products like Heritage and Ginter? Can they survive and thrive in light of my ramblings above? Maybe. Currently I am able to buy lots of ginter minis for .20-.30 each and as low as .10 each. It's certainly not easy to build a set at 1 per pack. See above. The problem is that demand is diluted because collectors constantly chase the latest and greatest. You simply don't have the time it takes to actually collect a set.

Consider 2006 and 2007 Ginter. Minis run .40 each sometimes more or less depending on the day. I just picked up a lot of 125 07's for $26 shipped....yeah. Now you know why I have balked at some of your offers to sell. Anyway, boxes run $100-$150 a box (no sales lately) or $4-$6 a pack...the base have no value and the relics and autos are hit and mostly miss. If you happen to pull a rip card you might be in business. Anyway, even ginter seems to be lost in the wash.

Now on to Heritage and my shot at answering the above question. Would deleting scrub autos and relics cut the price of the boxes. Heritage costs a fortune when it is released, $60-$80, a box. The hit ratio is often 1 relic per box and maybe an auto sprinkled throughout. The price of the box seems unaffected. Basically demand sets the price, same with ginter.

Now with base topps, the affect is greater. An auto per box...That has to be a $10 cost, at least in the box at wholesale. Demand will always be there for base to a degree and personally, I don't think the guaranteed auto helps anything regarding sales in base. In other products it does....Panini for sure, but Topps sells on its own merits. If that makes any sense. My own view is that Heritage and Ginter could cut their hit rate down to 25-50% and still sell. Volume could be increased because sales would increase because price could be decreased $10 a box at retail.

The other issue is that each pack should have 3 minis in it. 1 base, 1 insert and 1 either base/black/ag back with blacks falling 1 in 5 and Ag 2 in 5 and base 2 in 5. Or each pack has 2 minis with 1 base and either 1 insert/base/black or ginter back. Goodwin in 2009 had 2 minis in some packs.

If you have followed me this far, follow me a bit farther. Whereas when I am building a /100 masterpieces set I know that Eric Chavez is just as hard to find as Griffey. In fact sometimes moreso because people don't bother to list the commons. When building a relic or auto set the theory could be the same, but the problem is that there are eleventy billion scrubs to 1 star. Plus the scrubs don't have player collectors chasing them as often. See my point?

The scrub autos are overproduced junk. Contrast with what Upper Deck does with SPA football rookie autos or Panini with contenders rookie ticket autos in some cases. Some of the scrubs are /50 or /99 or less so people pay more for them. Thus long term the overproduced scrub autos are not going to reach any type of value even to set collectors. Much like 82 fleer, but the John Littlefield Rev Neg is still a somewhat valuable cards. So from a long term perspective, cutting relic and auto hit rates would help long term value. Billy Ripken White out anyone? Until then we are stuck with worthless overproduced relics and autos. You know that Tim Tebow Topps/panini auto you have? It was one of 20,000 made across product lines last year.


ShaneK said...

I think I bid on that auction of 125 minis.

Anonymous said...

Your post has made me give serious consideration to my own collection. Specifically, how I have amassed a bunch of base cards for sets/players that I never intended to chase. I need to come up with specific goals/wants and stick within that category. Impulse purchases be damned.