Monthly Archives: July 2010

Hobby-minded journalist John Leptich dies at 60

By Mike Sakal

John Leptich, a former contributor of stories for Beckett Media during its early years who was a longtime Chicago and Arizona journalist that covered a story about the great debacle of the 1968 Topps Nolan Ryan Rookie card when an Illinois card shop clerk mistakenly sold it to a 12-year-old boy for $12 instead of $1,200 what it was worth then, has died.

Leptich, 60, of Glendale, Arizona, whose stories in the Chicago Tribune in 1992 also were instrumental in persuading the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., to put Willie Mays’ glove on permanent display that he wore when he made “The Catch” in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series, lost his long and hard-fought battle with bone marrow cancer on July 6 with his family by his side at Banner Thunderbird Hospital in Glendale, Ariz.

Leptich, an avid Chicago Cubs and sports fan with a penchant for pizza and chasing autographs of professional athletes for decades, worked for the East Valley and Scottsdale Tribune in Arizona from 1997 to late 2008, when he joined Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold (formerly Phelps Dodge) in Phoenix as an internal communications specialist.

A native of Chicago who frequented Wrigley Field where he met his wife-to-be in 1975, Leptich had relocated to Arizona in 1995 after working 16 years for the Chicago Tribune as a sports writer and sports copy editor. While there in 1984, he co-authored a book, This Date in St. Louis Cardinals History.

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George Steinbrenner's Signature of Approval

I’ve been blessed with the tremendous opportunity to work on countless cool projects in my more than 11 years with Beckett Media. To this day, though, arguably the most enjoyable was Beckett Elite, a magazine I helped launch from scratch back in 2006.

(Coincidentally, perhaps, Beckett Elite also ranks as one of the shortest-lived titles we’ve ever produced).

But it was a super-premium thrill ride while it lasted, which turned out to be just 10 issues. Beckett Elite was an award-winning critical success that gained acclaim for its rich content, elegant presentation and unmatched coverage of the high-end sports and Americana memorabilia auction industry.

The magazine was recognized in November of 2006 by Min Magazine and Dr. Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni as one of the 15 Hottest Magazine Launches of 2006. In March of 2007 it was recognized again, this time with the inaugural Nichee Award for Best Design at the premiere Niche Magazine Conference.

While those accolades remain tremendous sources of pride around these parts, they pale in comparison to the recognition Beckett Elite received in May of 2006 from someone far more influential, prestigious, awe-inspiring and, well, legendary.

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Florida Marlins OF Mike Stanton is Topps' Fourth Red Hot Rookie

Topps unveiled the fourth of its 2010 Red Hot Rookies on Thursday morning and this one’s Florida Marlins outfielder Mike Stanton.

Stanton is hitting .231with five homers and 20 RBI in 28 games this season.

The Red Hot Rookie redemptions are found one per hobby box of 2010 Topps Series 2 baseball cards. The remainder of the 10-card set will be announced throughout the remainder of the season. Previous RHRs include Tigers outfielder Brennan Boesch (No. 3), Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata (No. 2) and Indians catcher Carlos Santana (No. 1).

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.

And you wonder why players don't like signing: Example No. 3,772,695

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This YouTube video from All-Star FanFest is making the rounds where a pushy adult insults Hall of Famer Gary Carter for not signing a pair of photos for kids. (He was instead signing All-Star FanFest autograph sheets and cards.)

While a player has the right to sign (or not sign) whatever he wants, the spectacle was made and the adult should look like a fool of much larger proportion than what he tried to make out Carter to be.

Obviously “the fans” in the video never saw Carter play — they weren’t old enough to be alive back in 1992, his last season.

The sad thing? The photos were signed for “the fans” after the stunt, anyway.

And $50 says they’re on eBay right now.

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.

If you've got a big head, New Era just might have a surprise for you, too

I sit in a pretty good seat in the ol’ hobby these days, but it’s one that also includes a flame-filled one-liner or two sent my way from time to time.

I’ve been told a few things — and called a few others — on occasion.

And I’ve been told I have a big head.

Don’t I know that.

I know that every time I see the latest cool cap from New Era, the official manufacturer of on-field MLB caps.

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Box Busters: 2009-10 Panini Crown Royale basketball cards

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Join Beckett Media’s Keith Hower and Tracy Hackler as they bust into a pair of 2009-10 Panini Crown Royale basketball cards from Panini America in this latest edition of Box Busters.

What will they find in their boxes of this not-even-out-yet product?

Watch and find out.

Inside Tim Tebow's Helmet: The Anatomy of a Fantasy Football Card

By TRACY HACKLER | EDITORIAL DIRECTOR

I’ve been where few men have been before. I’ve been . . . inside Tim Tebow’s helmet.

He doesn’t know that — yet. But every time I see a preview these days for a new 2010 Tebow Rookie Card, I’m reminded of my moment in the sun — actually, it was in the shade — wearing Tebow’s most regal Riddell crown. I figured now was as good a time as any to come clean.

I’ve always dreamed of appearing on my own football card. The overly self-indulgent tale that follows is likely about as close as I’ll ever get. Besides, how often do you have the opportunity to look at a superstar’s Rookie Card and say, “Hey, I’ve worn that helmet” . . .

Part I: The Helmet
Tebow’s sweat-kissed, sun-soaked Denver Broncos helmet had been perched – silently majestic, metallically shining – on an inconspicuous table for most of the afternoon. It had traveled all the way from the Broncos’ training complex in Colorado to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for a weekend full of football card cameos.

And now, the very helmet atop Tebow’s head for many of his Rookie Card photos on a postcard-perfect, late-May Saturday morning at the 2010 NFL Players Rookie Premiere was just . . . sitting there.

I first noticed it on the red-draped snack table after lunch, just out of bounds at about the 23-yard line. Tebow had spent the first half of the day with Panini America and Upper Deck; his afternoon was reserved for Topps.

Somewhere, one of the most polarizing football players of all time was posing for his football card photographs topless — you know, without his top, his headgear.

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Detroit Tigers OF Brennan Boesch is third Topps Red Hot Rookie

Topps unveiled the third of its 2010 Red Hot Rookies on Wednesday morning and this one’s Detroit Tigers outfielder Brennan Boesch.

Boesch is hitting .342 with 12 homers and 49 RBI in 65 games this season.

The Red Hot Rookie redemptions are found one per hobby box of 2010 Topps Series 2 baseball cards. The remainder of the 10-card set will be announced throughout the remainder of the season. Previous RHRs include Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata (No. 2) and Indians catcher Carlos Santana (No. 1.)

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.

First Look: 2009-10 Panini NBA Season Update

Panini America will recap its first season as the exclusive NBA cardmaker with the early September release of 2009-10 Panini NBA Season Update, a quirky catch-all release sporting a reasonable $2.99 pack price and a typical box break (24 packs) that will produce one autograph, two memorabilia cards and 22 additional insert cards.

See more images after the jump.

The product is bolstered by 111 on-card Kobe Bryant autographs, more than 1,000 additional on-card signatures updating previous 2009-10 releases and special Christmas Cards featuring swatches from jerseys worn on Christmas Day 2009.

Stay tuned to Beckett.com for additional information on this product.

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Chicago Cubs pitcher Andrew Cashner is the seventh Finest Rookie Redemption

Topps revealed its seventh 2010 Finest Rookie Redemption card on Tuesday, and it’s Chicago Cubs pitcher Andrew Cashner — and it’s autographed.

Topps previously announced Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg as No. 6,  Marlins outfielder Mike Stanton as No. 5, and that No. 4 was Reds pitcher Mike Leake. Topps’ other releases for the set include Cubs rookie Starlin Castro for rookie No. 3, while info on rookie No. 2 can be found here and rookie No. 1 can be found here.

Cashner is 0-3 with a2.41 ERA for the Cubs this season. He has 15 strikeouts in 18-plus innings of work.

Through the rest of the season, Topps will announce the remainder of the players in the 10-card set.  Each Finest Master Box includes one Rookie Redemption, which also can be found as Blue Refractors (199 copies) and Gold Refractors (limited to 50).

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.

Obscure LeBron James/Dwyane Wade/Chris Bosh Card Enjoys 500% Increase

Leave it to Miami’s men of the moment – LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh – to transform an utterly forgettable 6-year-old eyesore into the single hottest basketball trading card on the market.

Indeed, while South Florida’s hoops-collecting populace was waiting impatiently for the first cards featuring James, Wade and Bosh together, those with a little more market savvy and a lot more memory began scouring their 2003-04 Topps Rookie Matrix stashes for the one that already existed.

Last week that card was valued at $20. Today it’s valued at $100. And when the new issue of Beckett Basketball hits the market later this month, the convoluted Rookie Card will also be No. 1 on the Hot List, ahead of key Rookie Cards of five-time NBA champion and 2010 Finals MVP Kobe Bryant and 2009-10 Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans.

For those counting at home, that virtually-overnight ascension from $20 to $100 represents a 500 percent increase. Not bad for a set that was an afterthought not long after it was released in April of 2004.

Simply put, the 2003-04 Topps Rookie Matrix product was a conflicted mess whose one redeeming quality – this card – has perhaps forever changed the set’s legacy for the better.

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Strasburg 1/1 Red autograph set to hit auction block with Huggins and Scott

The premiere Stephen Strasburg card from 2010 Bowman — his 1/1 Red autograph — will hit the auction block on Wednesday as part of Huggins and Scott‘s worldwide sports memorabilia catalog auction that runs through July 28.

Also on the block is an uncut sheet of 1954 Topps baseball cards — which includes a Hank Aaron Rookie Card — but the most talked-about card in the Silver Spring, Md.-based company’s auction of more than 800 lots is the Strasburg, which was found by a collector in Florida who initially opted for an eBay auction that ended with plenty of bad bids.

That card will start with an opening bid of $9,000.

Huggins and Scott cited rapid growth in the last year, which has prompted he company to double the frequency of its catalog auctions. It is now offering up to six auctions a year — the next to come in September.

“Our upcoming July auction will produce an industry stir as the company offers unique and rare items such as the Strasburg 1-of-1 and the 1954 Topps uncut sheet,” said the company’s head writer, Kevin Heffner. “But the company has many great items slated for our September sale, with many items to be displayed at The National Sports Collectors Convention in Baltimore this August.”

The Strasburg SuperFractor from 2010 Bowman has been sold twice since it was discovered — on eBay for $16,403 and to Razor Entertainment’s Brian Gray for $21,403.

George Steinbrenner's legacy of winning with New York Yankees is not reflected on baseball cards

George Steinbrenner — one of the most polarizing but successful owners in Major League Baseball history — died at age 80 Tuesday morning.

Steinbrenner bought the New York Yankees in 1973 and amassed seven World Series titles and 11 pennants in his time at the helm. Despite that success and his status as the highest-profile owner in the game, Steinbrenner never appeared on a standard-issue baseball card made by a major manufacturer.

In fact, Steinbrenner appears on just 15 items in the Beckett.com database — the lone highlights being four 1/1 cut autograph cards made by SportKings and Upper Deck in 2008 and 2009.

Three of those cut autographs come in the Yankee Stadium Legacy Moments in Time Dual Cut Signatures set, pairing him with others who are tied to memorable moments in the stadium’s history. The card above features Steinbrenner’s signature along with Nelson Mandela, who made one of his first stops after 27 years in prison at an appearance in the stadium. The other two cuts from the set include Steinbrenner with actor Jason Alexander (an obvious Seinfeld reference) and a card with former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert.

Steinbrenner’s autographed items are already proving to be volatile on the auction block with signed jerseys, baseballs and documents being the priciest items. (Whether those items sell remains to be seen.) While his signature may be plentiful, his status in the game should command some strong prices — so buyers should exercise caution and buy only certified signatures or items from trusted dealers.

Other memorable items — such as his Sports Illustrated cover appearances — should make for of-interest lower-end items for collectors hoping to pick something up.

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.

Bustin' Wax: 1979 O-Pee-Chee baseball cards

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Beckett Baseball‘s Chris Olds opens a 31-year-old pack of 1979 O-Pee-Chee cards — so you don’t have to — in what we hope will be the first in an occasional series of vintage pack breaks called Bustin’ Wax.

What will he find inside? Watch and find out …

While he didn’t admit it in the video, this is the oldest pack that Olds has ever opened. (That’s excusable since he started collecting in 1987, we guess…) His previous-oldest was a pack of 1982 Topps.

We want to know — when did you start collecting and what’s your oldest ripped pack?

Tell us below.

UFC Stars Rampage Jackson, Brock Lesnar Featured in Round 5 Versus Line

Some of the biggest fights in recent UFC history will be commemorated later this year by some of the coolest little collectibles going.

The creative, Canadian power punchers from Round 5, a leading producer of officially licensed mixed martial arts figurines, recently unveiled prototypes of the company’s forthcoming “Versus” two packs capturing scenes from four key UFC matchups.

Former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, currently co-starring in the summer blockbuster “The A-Team,” is showcased twice in the new line – in his title-losing battle against Forrest Griffin at UFC 86 and in his knockout victory over Wanderlei Silva at UFC 92.

Current heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar’s UFC 100 pummeling of Frank Mir and Chuck Liddell’s demolition of Tito Ortiz at UFC 66 also are featured. Each of the new two packs comes with an Octagon segment display stand.

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Preview Gallery: 2009-10 National Treasures Basketball

Panini America‘s first National Treasures basketball set is ready to arrive in just under a month and the high-end product is chock-full of autographs and autographed patch cards.

Treasures will include eight cards in each $400 pack when it arrives on Aug. 4 with each box including six autographs and memorabilia cards along with just one base card numbered to 99.

Get a look at some of what’s in store after the jump.

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What's up for grabs at The National Sports Collectors Convention?

Topps has unveiled its limited edition cards for the National Sports Collectors Convention, which will take place about a month from now in Baltimore, Md.

For the last few years, the longest-running manufacturer of baseball cards — and the lone MLB licensee — did not have a presence at the show, but this year the company will be there.

And, the first portion of that presence is being in the $119 VIP goody bag.

Topps will produce a five -card set for the show in the style of 1960 Topps — two Mickey Mantle cards (only one version per bag), a Nolan Ryan, a Yogi Berra and a Cal Ripken Jr.

While there will undoubtedly be more promotions, wrapper redemptions and other specially made cards for the event, here’s a rundown (and a gallery of images) of the other VIP freebies and other show-exclusive cards after the jump.

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How much of LeBron's polished legacy is now gone?

By CHRIS OLDS | COMMENTARY

We all know how “The Decision” played out on Thursday night from Greenwich, Conn.

But have we really thought about how “The Decision” has played out on our sports cards and memorabilia?

While some (rightfully so) believe it will spark a frenzy of interest in LeBron James‘ future sports cards and memorabilia, I couldn’t help but wonder if the backlash of “The Decision” will counter that.

And it didn’t take long for me to see an example of that Friday morning when I turned on my Twitter account and saw that one of my newspaper Tweeps had passed along a link to today’s cover of The Plain Dealer, the Cleveland newspaper.

There’s no need for the childish burning of jerseys — the damage is already done. Cleveland’s icon is gone — perhaps as is many a fan’s interest in James (and the Cavs) in that area. But the simple pair of headlines — “Gone.” and a smaller, more subtle shot, “7 years, $62 million, no rings.” — makes you wonder if more is, indeed, gone from the aura that was King James.

If he wins with his new crafted “Dream Team,” then the backlash won’t last long — it would probably only linger in The Heartland.

But if he doesn’t? It might not be fixable.

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Panini America Giving Epix Its Own Football Card Set

Mention the word “Epix” to veteran collectors of baseball, football, hockey and racing cards and you’re as likely to get a look of fond remembrance as you are a glare of genuine angst. Indeed, the polarizing insert program boasts a mildly perplexing, multi-statistical, many-hued history with origins dating back to 1997.

What it’s never had is a full-blown brand of its own. Until now.

On Thursday evening, Panini America confirmed that it will launch 2010 Epix Football as a 235-card, heavily paralleled stand-alone product in late September, conceivably as a replacement for Gridiron Gear.

The Epix idea first burst onto the scene during the 1990s insert boom as a Pinnacle Brands‘ brainchild. Collectors across multiple sports quickly became dogged pursuers of the insert, lured by both the flashy, colorful design of the cards themselves as well as the accomplishment-based, player-specific concept of the chase.

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Topps will release Strasburg redemption card at All-Star Fanfest

Do you have all of Stephen Strasburg‘s baseball cards yet?

Topps will have a wrapper redemption program beginning at the All-Star Fanfest on Friday in Anaheim, Calif. — and the star rookie was a last-minute addition to the program’s lineup, according to Jim Tripodi, a Pennsylvania-based dealer.

Topps has not formally announced the card.

Collectors who open three packs of Topps cards at the booth can get the Strasburg as well as cards of Kendry Morales, Hideki Matsui, Torii Hunter, Rod Carew and Nolan Ryan.

There will be just 300 of each card given out during each day of the five-day event.

To download and view a list of the autograph guests for the event, click the link below.

2010_Legends_Appearances

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.

First Look: 2010-11 Certified Hockey

With a long-untapped arsenal of fan-favorite brands to pull from, the subject of what product should lead became a hot-button topic inside Panini America’s walls the second the company announced in late March that it was entering the hockey card business.

Traditional wisdom swayed things early toward the venerable Score brand. Ultimately, though, the power of a positive first impression won out.

“We went into this with our own ideas of what the first launch would be and what brand we wanted to reintroduce to the market first,” says Scott Prusha, Panini America’s Director of Marketing. “But we listened intently to distributors and other key partners within the hobby and the message was clear: ‘Come out with a bang. Come out hitting. Come out really making a bold statement.’

“That’s why we settled on Certified.”

In late September, Panini America makes its long-awaited debut in the NHL trading card market by delivering 2010-11 Certified Hockey, the first Certified brand since 1997-98.

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Preview Gallery: 2010 Topps Sterling

Topps released the following preview images for its forthcoming 2010 Topps Sterling baseball card set.

We’ll have more on the product when it’s available, but until then check out the images after the jump …

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(UPDATED) First Look: 2010-11 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey

Our initial First Look: posting for 2010-11 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey earlier today included retail-only insertion ratios for the product’s popular UD Game Jersey insert cards. In hobby, UD Game Jersey cards will fall two per hobby box. Our apologies for the confusion.
— Tracy Hackler

Beckett Media got an early glimpse this week at 2010-11 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey, the 20th anniversary edition of the company’s history-making base brand that will arrive in November delivering six Young Guns Rookie Cards, six 20th Anniversary base-set variations and two UD Game Jersey cards in every 24-pack box hobby box.

See more images after the jump and stay tuned to Beckett.com for additional details on this product.

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Market Analyst: LeBron James to Miami 'Would Set Off a Frenzy'

Basketball collectors just thought LeBron James was hot before.

According to Beckett NBA Senior Market Analyst Keith Hower, they haven’t seen anything like the scorching he’s about to set off on South Beach if indeed the reportedly Heat-seeking wunderkind with the $12,000 Rookie Card chooses to sign with Miami.

In addition to painfully concluding one of the most overwrought, drama-filled, Twitterific free agent signings in sports history, James’ expected announcement tonight that he’s joining the Heat will also send NBA cardmaker Panini America hustling to produce the first cards of James with his new team.

When those hit the market in a matter of months, Hower insists they’ll be instant must-haves.

“LeBron going to the newly dubbed ‘Heat Superteam’ will help the card values of every player on that team, especially those of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and, of course, James,” Hower says. “The first Heat cards of LeBron will set off a frenzy on the entire team.”

And in the event that James shocks the world tonight live on ESPN and chooses a team other than the Heat . . .

“If LeBron doesn’t go to Miami, the best places for him to end up hobby-wise are New York and Chicago,” Hower says. “Both teams are rich in hoops history and their legacies will feed LeBron’s newfound popularity. Cleveland is not the ideal market for an NBA superstar.”

Breaking News: McDonald’s Canada Parts Ways with Upper Deck, Hockey Promos

By Jon Waldman for Beckett Media

One of the longest-running and most popular food premium card series in hockey card history has come to a close, as McDonald’s and Upper Deck will not be teaming to produce a series for the 2010-11 season.

In an email, Upper Deck’s Chris Carlin attributed the cancellation of the series to cutbacks on McDonald’s side, while remaining hopeful that the partnership would resume in the future.

“I think like most companies they are making cuts to programs in an effort to operate a bit more efficiently,” he said. “We are hopeful it is a program they will bring back again in the future as there seems to be a lot of support for the program.”

Louis Payette, National Media Relations Manager for McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Limited, confirmed that the promotion would not continue this year, with Upper Deck or any other trading card manufacturer.

“Based on its past success which spanned nearly two decades, this was indeed a difficult decision,” he said.

Payette further noted that non-card promotions, such as the mini jersey and mini stick offerings, would also cease while the fast food chain changes its promotional targets.

“At this point in time, premium programs [including non-card memorabilia] are not part of our strategic focus,” he said.

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Upper Deck Releases 2009-10 Ultimate Collection Hockey

This just in from the folks at Upper Deck:

“The 2009-10 NHL season may be over with the Stanley Cup now residing in the Windy City, home of the victorious Blackhawks, but Upper Deck continues to quench the thirst of rabid hockey collectors everywhere with its new trading card releases. And this week, the company releases its much-anticipated 2009-10 Ultimate Collection Hockey product. This sought-after set features the most collectible rookies in the league and guarantees at least one rookie card, one autographed card and one memorabilia card in every pack.

” ‘This is one eye-popping release,’ said Josh Zusman, Upper Deck’s hockey brand manager. ‘We just experienced one of the most-watched NHL playoffs ever with some of the best hockey battles in recent years. This set captures many of the thrills from this season, as well as salutes some of hockey’s all-time greatest players. This is a must-have product for any serious hockey collector.’

“The insert lineup kicks off with rookie memorabilia cards including oversized Ultimate Debut Threads Jerseys, numbered to 200, featuring Tavares, Gustavsson and van Riemsdyk; Ultimate Debut Threads Patches, numbered to 35, showcasing the aforementioned trio along with other up-and-comers like Colin Wilson and Logan Couture; and Autographed Ultimate Rookies cards, numbered to 299, from many of the year’s best freshmen. The search for rookies includes Signed Ultimate Debut Threads Jerseys, numbered to 50, as well as Ultimate Autographed Rookies Patch Variations, numbered to 25.

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New Beckett President Addresses Website Performance Issues, Future Plans

Dear Beckett User,

Please allow me to introduce myself – I am Brian Gulledge, the new President of Beckett Media LLC. I have recently joined the company with a primary focus of correcting, improving and growing our online presence.

Over the last few weeks, several customer emails and phone calls have been forwarded to me regarding our current website and some of the quality issues we experience. Rather than playing the politically correct game to explain what we are doing to improve the situation, or giving the standard “Thank you, we are working on it,” I feel that being frank and upfront with you, the Beckett community, is much more appropriate.

For the most part, the site is poorly architected without the code and technical infrastructure to handle the scale of users that want to access our data. Part of this is a good problem to have, as the data is of great value to collectors, dealers and traders, and more and more customers have joined over the last few months. From the feedback you have given us, our data is top notch and second to none. It is the access to and speed of acquiring that data that accentuates many of the experienced issues. This frustrates all of us.

Not to bore you with too many details, but the current data set is massive (226 million products and billions of lines of content), and with the existing programming architecture and structure, the current website is not something we can easily correct for stability or scale.

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Hey everybody… Tonight is Rojo Johnson Bobblehead Night!

The Round Rock Express can’t get enough of their one-pitch wonder.

Tonight, the first 2,500 fans who enter the gates for the Houston Astros’ Triple-A affiliate’s game against the Memphis Redbirds get a free bobblehead doll of the pitcher who made quite an impact earlier this year, Rojo Johnson.

Also known as Will Ferrell, Johnson also now appears on at least two fully authorized minor league baseball cards and he will have certified autographs coming  later this year for charity.

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.

Strasburg SuperFractor buyer: “Negativity has driven me out”

See two previous interviews with Robert J. Power here (the card’s sale) and here (discussing why he sold).

By Chris Olds | COMMENTARY

Stephen Strasburg probably never intended to be a polarizing figure in sports. By nearly all accounts, he’s a confident, quiet superstar in the making – and the results of his first five big-league games reinforce that.

Although the 21-year-old Washington Nationals pitcher sports just a 2-2 record, he’s got a 2.27 ERA and 48 strikeouts in his first 30 or so innings of work – good for second place in the history books for the start of an MLB career. By all accounts, this is Major League Baseball’s dream story – a highly successful college power pitcher arrives in a big-market baseball town that’s had little success on the field and becomes the talk of a nation; a “national treasure” as Sports Illustrated screamed from its cover.

But among the collecting community, where many have watched thousands of dollars in Strasburg cards sold – and even more money spent on boxes and packs of 2010 Bowman baseball cards — where Strasburg made his big-league cardboard debut — the story of the year resonates quite differently, particularly online.

Strasburg’s cards have generated resentment, hatred and vast conspiracy theories.

As well as harassment.

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EXCLUSIVE: Accountant says harassment, negativity prompted sale of Strasburg SuperFractor

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Robert J. Power discusses his decision to sell the Stephen Strasburg SuperFractor with Beckett Baseball’s Chris Olds Tuesday afternoon in Dallas after he completed the transaction.

See the previous video about the sale by clicking here.

Click here for Chris Olds’ commentary on the Strasburg card.

EXCLUSIVE: Second sale of Strasburg SuperFractor takes twist

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Accountant Robert J. Power’s sale of the Stephen Strasburg SuperFractor took a twist after his $25,000 eBay auction went bad.

His whirlwind month since buying the card for $16,403 led him to Dallas on Tuesday afternoon where he discussed the sale in person with Beckett Baseball’s Chris Olds.

Who purchased the card? Why? Watch the video.

Why did Power choose to sell the card — one that he called a “dream card” less than a month ago?

Click here for Part 2 of our interview.

Click here for Chris Olds’ commentary on the Strasburg card.

A Card Set Fit for The King

Press Pass officials on Tuesday released preliminary information and images on Elvis Milestones, the company’s fifth stand-alone trading card product devoted to the King of Rock and Roll. The product arrives next month delivering one autograph or memorabilia card per box and a unique “history-through-cards” MO that should work well in a medium seemingly tailor-made for such chronological remembrance.

“It’s nearly impossible to capture the life of such an important cultural icon in just one trading card set, but Milestones comes pretty close” says Tom Farrell, Press Pass’ Vice President of Brand Management. “The cards will read like a timeline of Elvis’ life, telling the story of a man who accomplished so much during such a short lifetime.”

In honor of The King’s 75th birthday, the 75-card base set strives to honor 75 of the most significant moments in Elvis’ life while the insert lineup will get fans as close to Elvis as they’ve ever been. The King’s Things memorabilia cards include such Elvis-worn memorabilia as swim trunks, jackets, shorts and pajamas. There’s also a brilliantly-named King Size Swatches parallel limited to just 25.

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Can't-Miss Gems from the 2010 NHL Draft

By Russ Cohen

The NHL Draft delivers a few surprises each year that provide collectors with some terrific new players to collect. Tyler Myers was one such player when he was drafted in 2008.

Although Myers won the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie in 2009-10, there was some question at the beginning of the year whether or not he would even make the Buffalo Sabres’ roster when his junior career ended.

This year’s crop is interesting in its own right, too. It’s widely acknowledged that Edmonton’s Taylor Hall is a virtual lock to play in the NHL immediately, thereby getting a Rookie Card in one of the early releases this season. After Hall, it’s hard to say who can make it . . . but I have a few choices . . .

Erik Gudbranson, Florida Panthers: This defenseman has long arms, huge wrists and an NHL physique already. He’s still growing and right now he’s just shy of 6-4, 200 pounds. He’s a big hitter who skates well and has a shot already clocked in the upper 80-mph neighborhood. Clearly, he has a lot of upside. Collectors will love his style of play.

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Topps Football Sketch Card Contest Winner Announced

Beckett Blog visitor Josh Manning correctly identified three of the six Topps Football Sketch Card artists from the June Beckett.com contest and will win a box of 2010 Topps Football when it comes out next month.

Fourteen other entrants identified two of the six artists correctly. Thanks to everyone who entered. Oh, and we reveal the identity of the first six artists below.

For those who missed out on this contest, you’re still in luck. Stay tuned for the August issue of Beckett Football, on sale next week. We’re running a second contest with the 20 remaining Sketch Card images. Topps gave us two boxes as prizes for that bad boy.

Good luck.

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What does the future hold for the Bryce Harper SuperFractor?

The Stephen Strasburg SuperFractor from 2010 Bowman seems to be getting all of the attention these days — and rightly so when it has generated sales of $16,400 and $25,000 — but there’s one other SuperFractor in the product that could give it a run for its prospecting money.

That’s the Bryce Harper card.

While Strasburg is the talk of the town in Washington, D.C., the 17-year-old Harper is the player who might be doing the same in a year or two.

And his SuperFractor was found by Ernest Clinton, a long-time collector from Hopewell Junction, N.Y.

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