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Hobby Q&A: The latest Allen & Ginter codebreaker, Nick Jacoby

This year’s edition of Allen & Ginter is trickling into the marketplace in advance of its Wednesday release and 28-year-old Nick Jacoby is already at work examining the nuances of every card he can find, trying to discover the next big thing on cardboard.

And it’s got nothing to do with Stephen Strasburg.

He’s looking for clues on this year’s Ginter Code as he seeks to become the first repeat champion in the deciphering competition. Last year, he found the hidden messages on Ginter’s cards in less than a week after the popular baseball card set’s release and, as a result, appears on card No. 165 in this year’s set.

Beckett Baseball‘s Chris Olds caught up with him for this Q&A …

Q: Tell us a little bit about you. Where you are from, who you collect, etc.?
A: I’m from Louisville, Ky.  I mostly collect vintage Topps sets as I’m trying to complete all the base sets from 1960 to 1990.  Other than that, I’m a huge Reds fan and collect a lot of Barry Larkin.

Q: What’s your background in puzzles/code-breaking? Is it something you have always done?
A: I don’t have any background in puzzles or code-breaking. I just like a good challenge, and I’m a smart guy. So when I heard about the code I figured I had as good a chance as anyone.

Q: How long did it take you to unravel the code? What were your strategies for trying to figure it all out?
A: The code was cracked just a few days after I got my hands on my first boxes. I didn’t have any strategy going into it, but I was looking online for other collectors who were trying to crack the code as well.  That’s when I was able to get in touch with Mike Gellner, who was also wanting to crack the code.  We both figured two heads are always better than one!

Q: We noticed on your card that you had help … how did you decide who was going to be on the card?
A: I was the person who submitted the correct and final answer to Topps and that is how Topps determined the winner.  We tried to get Mike on the card as well but there just wasn’t enough room.

Q: According to the back of your card, his son’s name is Jacoby … there has to be a story there. (Any Brook Jacoby fans?)
A: No story there, other than it is crazily ironic. By the way, I’m definitely a Brook Jacoby fan as he is the hitting coach for my first place Cincinnati Reds!

Q: Was it that difficult of a code?
A: The code was extremely difficult and Topps didn’t expect anyone to crack it for a few months. I submitted the final answer within the first week the product was released.  There is a solution site out there that we put together that walks through all the steps.

Q: When did you submit your information to Topps – and how long did you wait until you heard back that you were first?
A: [Last year's] product was released Wednesday, July 8, and my email to Topps with the final answer was sent on Monday, July 13. I didn’t hear back from them until the 17th that I was the first and only person to submit the answer, and that was only in a short email.  I didn’t hear another word from them after that until this past January.

Q: How’s it feel to appear on a card that will be found in packs?
A: Having my own card in the set is amazing … I believe there are 12 different versions of my card and I’m going to work hard to track down each of them. Who wants a card of me anyway?

Q: What was your prize from Topps this year besides being on a card? Any plans for those cards?
A: The other prize from Topps was a complete set of all the framed autographs from the 2009 set in a special 1/1 codebreaker set. Mike and I split the cards based on a draft format, and I may end up using some of them as tradebait to track down my cards.

Q: Are you eligible for this year’s contest as far as you know? Are you going to see if you can figure it out again?
A: I asked the Topps brand manager if I am eligible this year and he said yes, so I’m definitely going to go for it again.  As a matter of fact, I already have some good leads!

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an e-mail to him at colds@beckett.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

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