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Monthly Archives: January 2010

TNA Wrestling: Ric Flair, A.J. Styles … and a Topps Rip Girl?

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The transformation of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling continues on a weekly basis as the company is under new leadership in Hulk Hogan (Am I writing in kayfabe? I’m not sure.) and there’s been an influx of new talent as the familiar names evolve.

One such evolution (Oh, wait, is that a WWE-exclusive word?) is with long-time TNA main-eventer A.J. Styles, who is now managed by “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair. The 16-time world champ’s flair for being a limousine riding, jet-flying (… long-time fans know the rest) is being applied to Styles — so much so that the TNA champion is nearly emulating Flair in his demeanor — just short of some “wooooos.”

Fans who watched Thursday night’s TNA iMPACT! show were subjected to a promo where Styles was introduced to an array of fine custom-made suits in preparation for a champion’s vacation, and Flair got in a chuckle-worthy “Space Mountain” reference in within miles of the “other” Orlando, Fla., landmark.

And the third wheel in the promo? She’s someone that collectors might recognize — she is one of the Topps Rip Girls, Rachael Tinsley.

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Upper Deck responds to Major League Baseball Properties in letter to distributors

By CHRIS OLDS | Beckett Baseball Editor

While Upper Deck declined to comment to Beckett Media regarding its two recently released baseball card sets that feature MLB players in uniforms displaying MLB logos, the Carlsbad, Calif.-based company sent a letter to its distributors on Friday defending its products after MLB Properties issued a statement Friday morning that said MLBP will “vigorously use all legal means to protect the intellectual property of Major League Baseball and its member Clubs.”

Upper Deck’s letter was in response to a letter sent to distributors by MLB Properties on Friday asking them to not sell the sets that are in question2009 Ultimate Collection and 2009 Signature Stars as well as the forthcoming 2010 Upper Deck set.

“Although MLBP contends in its letter that Upper Deck may not lawfully use images of professional baseball players in uniform, there is absolutely no law to support this position,” said Upper Deck in its letter, which also tells distributors that it has “reached out to MLBP” and offered to meet next week on the subject.

The letter also promises its own legal response: “If we cannot do so, then the issue will be resolved in court.”

More after the jump …

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Saturday is National Hockey Card Day in Canada

Saturday might be normally reserved for “Hockey Night in Canada” but this week Saturday also marks National Hockey Card Day for Canadian fans.

As part of its celebration, Upper Deck is giving away thousands of NHCD card packs free to collectors at Canadian hobby shops and selected retail stores as part of the second-annual celebration of Canada’s unofficial national pastime.

“Hockey is the national sport in Canada so Upper Deck wanted to come up with a way to celebrate that incredible devotion,” said Chris Carlin, Upper Deck’s sports marketing manager. “We started this program last year and it was a huge success with countless hockey fans and trading card collectors visiting hobby shops and retailers across Canada. We expect the same kind of excitement this time around.”

See a video about NHCD along with a checklist and details about how Canadians can get these cards after the jump.

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First look: 2010 Topps Series 2 baseball cards

Topps released the basic set information and preview images for its second series of 2010 Baseball cards on Friday, just days after the arrival of the first series.

Scheduled to arrive on May 24, the second series will include 330 more cards with 20 more photo variation cards — those will be limited to just 3,000 copies per card.

Each 36-pack hobby box will include one autograph or Relic card, while HTA Jumbo boxes will include three.

While the set will largely continue where Series 1 started, there are a few new features, including the Topps 2020 inserts,  Topps Vintage Legends Collection, a 25-card History of the World Series set and Hall of Fame Buybacks (1:4 packs)

Also back will be 10 Red Hot Rookie cards, which have been a staple of the second series for the last few years. They will showcase players who are hot during the season but don’t yet have cards.

What else is new? The second series will include original T206 cards as well as original Topps cards as part of the Million Card Giveaway, which are code cards that can be found six per hobby box and one per jumbo pack. (The codes can only be redeemed for original Topps cards in Series 1.)

See more images after the jump.

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MLB Properties assures legal action in statement on Upper Deck's latest baseball card sets

Major League Baseball Properties issued a statement to Beckett Media on Friday regarding a pair of 2009 baseball card sets from Upper Deck that use MLB logos as part of the cards, despite Topps‘ role as the exclusive licensee of MLB.

“We are surprised and disappointed that Upper Deck, a former partner of ours, would violate our contract by clearly using our intellectual property without our permission,” said the statement issued by Matt Bourne MLB’s Vice President of Business Public Relations.

“We will vigorously use all legal means to protect the intellectual property of Major League Baseball and its member Clubs.”

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Box Busters Preview Gallery: 2009 Topps Platinum Football

If 2009 Topps Platinum truly is the venerable cardmaker’s final football release for a while, it’s nice to know that the granddaddy’s swansong product provides a respectful departure befitting an icon with 55 consecutive years of football trading cards under its belt.

Platinum won’t blow you away with clear-out-the-inventory excess. What it will do, based on the two boxes we opened Thursday, is provide sleek, simple aesthetics, a wealthy share of rookies, still-stunning-after-all-these-years Chrome cards and Refractors and three autographs per box – all for about $5 a pack.

Boasting a relatively simple set makeup, Platinum benefits greatly from some of the most attractive autograph Relic cards the company’s produced all year. In that sense, perhaps Topps officials were saving their best for last.

Be sure to visit Beckett.com on Friday to watch another must-see episode of Box Busters featuring 2009 Topps Platinum. Until then, enjoy this sneak peek . . .

— Tracy Hackler

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First Look: 2010 SA*GE HIT Low Series Football

SA*GE president Tom Geideman on Thursday released to Beckett Media several preliminary images of 2010 SA*GE HIT Low Series Football, the company’s first product of the year that includes crisp photography and an overall design that’s striking in its clean simplicity.

Although product details are slight at the moment, this much is known: The product will release in early March, deliver six autographs per box and will be, according to Geideman, redemption-free.

Stay tuned to Becket.com for additional details on the product. See all of the card images  after the jump.

— Tracy Hackler

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Upper Deck shows its hand for 2010 with two new 2009 baseball card sets

Update: See MLB Properties’ statement by clicking here.

By CHRIS OLDS | Beckett Baseball Editor |  COMMENTARY

There has been plenty of speculation (though some might say it’s obvious) about just what Upper Deck will do with its baseball cards for 2010 as its products will only be licensed by the Major League Baseball Players Association and not also by MLB Properties.

A pair of 2009 sets — Ultimate Collection and Signature Stars – arrived this week with statements on their boxes and the cards themselves that the products are “not authorized by Major League Baseball or its member teams” and with cards that, while they do not use the team logos as part of the cards’ designs, do include team logos on the players’ uniforms in the photographs used on the cards.

The Carlsbad, Calif.-based company had not released any preview images for these two products — nor for any of its four announced 2010 sets — prompting and reinforcing the speculation that it would not be digitally editing out team logos or producing cards without game-action photography.

While it’s unclear whether the photo usage would be completely allowable given Upper Deck’s agreement with the MLBPA, Evan Kaplan, the MLBPA Category Director/Trading Cards and Collectibles did say this on Thursday:

“Upper Deck is a current MLBPA licensee which provides them the right to feature active Major League baseball players on their baseball cards.”

Whether that will be challenged legally by Major League Baseball Properties remains to be seen — one thing that’s been historically a given is that MLB and the MLB Players Association don’t always see eye to eye. One thing is clear, though — that these 2009 cards indicate the direction that Upper Deck will be taking in its 2010 releases. (They’ve been released after its deal with MLB Properties has expired — Topps became the sole MLBP-licensed trading card manufacturer on Jan. 1.)

A message to MLB Properties regarding the cards was returned but MLBP had no comment at this time. Upper Deck officials also declined to comment on the issue.

However, if there is not any “coverage” so to speak with Upper Deck’s deal with the MLBPA then one has to look no further than the Donruss-MLB Properties lawsuit last year, which was settled in a U.S. District Court. MLB sued Donruss alleging that its products were in violation of MLB’s trademark rights as well as the terms of its expired license among other claims.

In a handful of 2008 baseball sets, Donruss  (a former MLB licensee whose deal expired in 2005) digitally obscured some logos on cards, digitally replaced others and did not alter some logos at all on other cards.

According to that complaint, MLBP argued that the cards “depict certain Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball players in their team’s proprietary uniforms. The trademarks featured on the uniforms (as well as the overall trade dress of the uniforms) remain visible and identifiable to consumers, despite Donruss’ calculated attempts on some cards to have such marks modified or partially obscured.”

MLB argued that the Donruss products would cause confusion in the marketplace, and that they were leading consumers to falsely believe that the cards were “associated with, authorized, endorsed or sponsored by” MLB or other corporate entities.

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Topps details stadium seat Relics, offers replacements

This just in from Topps…

Topps has confirmed that the following five memorabilia cards in the recently released 2009 Tribute Baseball include pieces of stadium seat:

Babe Ruth Dual Relic — Bat/Old Yankee Stadium Seat

Babe Ruth Triple Relic — Old Yankee Stadium Seat/Uniform/Old Yankee Stadium Seat

Ty Cobb Dual Relic — Bat/Tiger Stadium Seat

Jackie Robinson Triple Relic — Ebbets Field Seat/Bat/Ebbets Field Seat

Mickey Mantle Triple Relic — Old Yankee Stadium Seat/Uniform/Old Yankee Stadium Seat

Topps will replace any of the above cards with a pack of 2009 Topps Tribute Baseball or comparable product for collectors that are not satisfied with their card(s).

In addition, every card in 2009 Topps Sterling Baseball features game-used bat and game-used uniform except for one subject — Carl Erskine, which features Erskine’s autograph with stadium seat.  Topps will replace this card with a pack of 2009 Topps Sterling Baseball for collectors not satisfied with their card.

Moving forward, to ensure no confusion, stadium seat pieces will not be used as memorabilia pieces unless it’s part of a special stadium seat-specific insert.

Please send all items intended for replacement to the address listed below.  Please allow 2-4 weeks for delivery.

The Topps Company

ATTN: Seat Relic Replacement

401 York Avenue

Duryea, PA 18642

Don't Give Me That Bull . . .

By TRACY HACKLER | BECKETT MEDIA EDITORIAL DIRECTOR

Never in my career did I think I’d have the occasion to write this about a sports card product: I discovered one today that made me wish I still dipped Copenhagen snuff.

That’s a good thing. I really loved Copenhagen snuff.

To be honest, I chuckled Wednesday afternoon when Press PassNick Matijevich presented me with a two-box preview of his company’s newest release. My first reaction? “Don’t give me that bull.” My subsequent reactions? “Give me this bull. And that one over there. And that one, too, the one they call ‘Chicken on a Chain.’ ”

Indeed, by the time our packs had been busted, not only did I want all of the bulls in Press Pass’ new 8 Seconds Professional Bull Riders set, I also wanted all of its bull riders, bullfighters, entertainers, on-card autographs and memorabilia cards.

That’s no bull.

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Box Busters preview gallery: 2010 Topps baseball cards

In advance of our forthcoming Box Busters video, here’s a look at some of what can be found in packs of 2010 Topps Baseball, which arrives in hobby shops today.

See a full set of images — base cards, inserts and more — after the jump.

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Panini Offering $1,500+ Bounty for One Special $20 Card

You can add 44 to the list of the most meaningful serial numbers in the sports card universe.

Panini is offering a substantial reward to the one collector either already holding or pulling the 2009 Limited Pro Bowl Combo Materials card featuring Super Bowl XLIV passers Peyton Manning and Drew Brees and, most importantly, also bearing sequential number 44/100.

The lucky collector holding that card and revealing it to Panini officials prior to the kickoff of Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7 will have the chance to trade that card for an exclusive Manning-Brees card sequentially numbered 1/1 and one box of every 2010 NFL product Panini produces.

Based on the company’s current 2010 production schedule, that prize haul amounts to between 10 and 15 unopened boxes with a combined suggested retail value of more than $1,500. For those wondering, the current Beckett value for the card is $20.

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Update: Upper Deck-Konami case settled before 2nd day of trial

The trial to decide the extent of damages suffered by Konami after Upper Deck produced unauthorized Yu-Gi-Oh! trading cards ended before its second day began in a U.S. District Court on Wednesday in Los Angeles as the companies have reached a settlement in the long-running case.

According to court documents obtained by Beckett Media on Wednesday, Upper Deck and Konami “reached a final, binding settlement” with the terms including that a proposed stipulated permanent injunction be filed by Thursday and a final filing be completed by 4 p.m. Friday. As long as all payments agreed to by Upper Deck are made, then a subsequent court appearance set for July 26 will not be necessary.

“Details are still being worked out [regarding the settlement],” said a spokesperson representing one of the companies late Tuesday evening.

The case was to be heard by U.S. District Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank and was estimated to last a week as Konami sought “hundreds of millions of dollars in damages” after Upper Deck was found to have produced more than 600,000 unauthorized cards.

A message to Konami’s lawyer was returned with an auto-reply on Tuesday stating that he was “in trial without regular access to email.”

On Jan. 10, a judge ruled that Konami “presented evidence to establish every element of liability [for] counterfeit activity and violation of federal unfair competition law, pursuant to the Lanham Act, on the part of the Defendants.”

For more background on the case, click here.

You can download Konami’s original preliminary injunction that details its complaints against Upper Deck by clicking the link below…

renewed-motion-preliminary-injunction-k-UD

Panini releases final Legendary Contenders SP autograph list

Panini America began revealing the list of short-printed autographs from the Legendary Contenders set in 2009 Contenders football during the weekend and completed the list today.

Here it is in its entirety — after the jump.

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Collector Uncovers Rare Adrian Peterson McFarlane Variant

Darin Amundson, an avid Beckett.com visitor and ardent sports collector, recently fumbled across — er, stumbled across — what appears to be a rare McFarlane variant of Minnesota Vikings superstar running back Adrian Peterson.

See it after the jump . . .

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Panini lets hockey fans do some sticking

Hockey fans can now find the latest from Panini – its 2009-10 hockey stickers – from their local hobby shop or from their favorite online retailer. Oh, and you can also find an album and some stickers to get you started — for free — in the newest issue of Beckett Hockey.

Panini’s stickers date back to the 1970s, and the set has had so many stars in it there is a rich legacy of collecting to be found. Now, New York Islanders rookie and Calder Trophy candidate John Tavares is getting his first “rookie” sticker and that’s exactly what it says.

We all know that rookie cards have tremendous value on the secondary market but stickers? I had to investigate that one.

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The Incredibly Ascending Pierre Garcon

Seems Pierre Garcon was catching more than just everything Peyton Manning threw his way in the Colts’ 30-17 victory over the Jets in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game. He was also catching major hobby heat.

In a mostly breathtaking display of pass-catching prowess that at times looked recess easy, the second-year receiver of Haitian descent established an AFC Championship Game record with 11 catches for a career-high 151 yards and the Colts’ second touchdown.

And it’s obvious now that America’s football card collectors were every bit as impressed with Garcon as the Jets’ vaunted secondary was.

Late Sunday night and all day Monday, Garcon’s two autographed Rookie Cards – 2008 Playoff Contenders #216 and 2008 Playoff National Treasures #188 – were selling for as much as 85 percent above their current listed values.

Copies of Garcon’s more plentiful Contenders RCs, currently valued at $60, have been selling briskly in the $100 range. Meanwhile, the scant copies of his National Treasures RC, limited to just 49 copies, have sold for as much as $150 despite a current value of $80.

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Preview Gallery: 2010 Topps National Chicle baseball cards

The 2010 Topps National Chicle baseball card set is still a ways away from its release in April, but we’ve gotten a glimpse at more artwork from the dozen artists who helped produce the set.

Here’s the first of three galleries — one piece per artist. It’s a roster that includes Monty Sheldon, Paul Lempa, Mike Kupka, Dave Hobrecht, Jason Davies, Ken Branch, Brett Farr, Chris Felix, Don Higgins, Chris Henderson, Brian Kong and Jeff Zachowski.

Look for another here soon and a final one in a future issue of Beckett Baseball closer to the set’s arrival.

Until then, check them out…

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A few surprises in store in 2010 Topps baseball

The 2010 Topps Baseball set has leaked onto retail store shelves in the last week or so in some parts of the country in advance of its hobby release date on Wednesday.

And we already know that the set will be full of surprise variation cards much like last year.

But one reader — James Wilson of Deltona, Fla. — got his hands on some Topps early and noted an unusual Francisco Cervelli card — one we’re not yet sure is just mis-numbered or some kind of SP gimmick.

It’s card No. 422 in the set — which technically makes it a Series 2 card. It’s not on the checklists, so we’ll just have to wait and see how many show up on the market.

(Likely reasons it might be a gimmick card? It’s a Yankee, and the pie-to-the-face photo — the pies became a Yankees tradition so to speak last year.)

In fact, it appears that at least two other Yankees have a pie-card variant … so could they all have one? We’ll have to wait and see.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball and Beckett Graded Card Investor. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an e-mail to him at colds@beckett.com.

Conan O'Brien loses to Jay Leno again — this time on cards

With the late-night talk show drama of the last few weeks — a rumble between Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien – to end tonight, I got curious.

Just minutes after the first reports of how O’Brien finished his final episode of The Tonight Show on NBC (by taking the high road in his finale) arrived, and about an hour before airtime, I wondered … do Leno or O’Brien have any trading cards?

One would think with all of the celebrity trading cards produced in the last few years and the decades of non-sports cards out there someone might have touched on some of the most-famous names in TV history, right?

The answer? Not really.

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Box Busters: 2009 Playoff National Treasures

Beckett Football‘s overly giddy duo nervously devours two boxes of the highly anticipated 2009 Playoff National Treasures. Check out the goods — some of which will be up for grabs soon — right now.

This could only happen to the Oakland A's …

Prospectors don’t often have to deal with this one, but it seems like it’s always something if you’re an Oakland A’s fan these days.

Grant Desme, an outfielder in the Athletics organization who hit .288 with 31 home runs and stole 40 bases last season, is retiring at age 24.

Why?

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Will Mark McGwire's return to baseball mean his return to baseball cards?

With Mark McGwire finally deciding to “talk about the past” and returning to Major League Baseball as hitting coach of the St. Louis Cardinals, does that mean that his certified autograph might re-appear in packs of 2010 baseball cards?

Maybe and maybe not.

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Readers Write: What about the unlabeled Topps Relic cards?

Topps detailed the Relics that use stadium seats within days of this publishing. See that story here.

We know that Readers Write is an immensely popular department in Beckett’s magazines, so every once in a while we’ll post letters that are pertinent and relate to issues that being talked about. Here’s one …

The Question …

Long-time reader of Beckett and always enjoy your box breaks.

Question: I may have missed it, but is Beckett going to address the issue where Topps is misleading collectors with the Relic pieces that what I believe most collectors thought were bat pieces that are actually pieces of some seat or bench? I know I purchased a T206  Ty Cobb bat card off eBay that I thought was a bat but yesterday when I spoke to Topps they would not confirm if it was a bat or a seat/bench.

I also purchased several packs of Topps Tribute at Nick’s Sports Cards in the hunt for old players that I collect, hoping to pull one of the Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, or Ty Cobb cards. It now appears that the wood on these cards are not game used bats but again pieces of a seat or bench. I pulled two Duke Snider cards and again I questioned Topps about the piece but the customer service person to whom I spoke did not know if it was a game used bat or a seat. He placed me on hold and checked with his brand manager.   The brand manager would not confirm the wood piece.  Which told me it was not a game-used bat piece.

Several collectors to whom I have spoken all feel that we believe Topps is deceiving the hobby. I would like to know what will be Beckett’s take on this and I would very much appreciate hearing from you. I have been a collector for over 50 years, so I have seen the good and the bad of the hobby but Topps’ action is some of the very worst I have seen.

Thank you and I look forward to your reply.
– Ron Firestone

Get our answer after the jump …

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Colts, Vikings Super Bowl in the Cards

If a highly unscientific, sinfully entertaining football card comparison can serve as a hobby-heavy harbinger, the Indianapolis Colts and Minnesota Vikings are headed for a Super Bowl XLIV showdown.

It’s the game most of America wants to see (Peyton Manning vs. Brett Favre) after Sunday’s conference championship games; and it’s the decided outcome of an off-the-beaten-path, off-the-field projection produced by the heavily queried, incomparably massive Beckett database.

We started by ranking the NFL’s four remaining teams (the Colts and New York Jets in the AFC, the Vikings and New Orleans Saints in the NFC) in five collecting categories: Total number of cards all time, total number of 2009 cards, average Rookie Card value, average autograph card value and average memorabilia card value.

We then awarded points to each team in each category depending on how they fared (four points for first, three for second, two for third and one for fourth), tallied the overall scores for each team and – voila! – had our results . . .

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