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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Topps acquires digital currency card publisher

By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor

Topps‘ focus on social media platforms, e-commerce and virtual trading cards online took another step on Tuesday as it announced the acquisition of GMG Entertainment, a leading publisher of “digital currency cards.”

“The Topps Company has found an ideal acquisition – GMG is a complementary business to our core and one that pivots us into the high-growth retail and digital convergence arena with partners such as Facebook,” said Topps CEO Ryan O’Hara in a prepared statement. “We are delighted to have Rob Goldberg as part of Topps’ senior management.  He is a pioneer in new technologies for new digital services delivered at retail and follows in the footsteps of 60 years of creating new products for Topps.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed but GMG is part of an expanding market as the market for digital currency, according to Topps, is expected to top $7 billion during this year and double by 2014.

And what does GMG do? It creates digital currency cards sold at retail stores for online game, entertainment and social media sites.

“GMG is excited to join a global and forward-thinking business such as Topps,” said Goldberg, the CEO of GMG. “We are looking forward to joining the Topps family as we look to accelerate and grow the category and amplify both of our core businesses on a worldwide platform.”

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

First look: 2010-11 Elite Black Box basketball cards

By Chris Olds | Beckett Basketball Editor

The Black Box is Back — but this time it’s a brand and it’s in basketball.

Panini America unveiled its newest high-end product line for NBA cards on Monday with 2010-11 Elite Black Box Basketball, a high-end release that’s fast-tracked for an Aug. 31 release.

It will pack three autographed cards, two memorabilia card and two insert cards per box. Each memorabilia or autograph will be limited to 149 or fewer copies, while all inserts will be limited to no more than 99.

“We realize that by naming this product ‘Black Box’ we’re setting collector expectations really high as that name carries the biggest of big-ticket connotations with collectors,” said Panini America NBA Brand Manager David Porter in a prepared statement. “But based on the incredible content that we’ve injected into Black Box, I’m certain this is a product that will not just meet those expectations, but surpass them.”

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Bryce Harper headlines this week’s eTopps MiLB cards

By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor

He may be slumping, but it probably won’t hurt this one.

The first eTopps Minor League card of the most-watched Class AA player on the planet, Washington Nationals prospect Bryce Harper, was launched as an initial public offering today as part of the online portfolio trading card program.

A maximum of 1,499 copies of the 18-year-old Harrisburg Senators outfielder’s card will be made with each costing $8. Those who put in buys for the card will not know how many they received until the cards are allocated at a later date.

Harper is hitting .208 with zero home runs and just two RBI and 11 strikeouts in 16 games since he was promoted to AA.

This week’s other card is of St. Louis Cardinals pitching prospect Shelby Miller. A max of only 749 copies of that card will be made, each costing $3.50 apiece.

For more on the program, visit www.etopps.com.

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

Topps plans collector Q&A at The National

If you’re attending the National Sports Collectors Convention that begins next week in Chicago, then you just might have a chance to meet with the folks from Topps.

The company is planning a  Q&A session with 100 collectors next Thursday beginning at 4 p.m.  Those who want to attend need to stop by the Topps booth and reserve a seat as they will be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis.

The company also will give away prizes during the 90-minute session.

Box Busters: 2011 Press Pass Showcase racing cards

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Join Beckett Media’s Tim Trout and Andrew Tolentino as they rip into a pair of 2011 Press Pass Showcase boxes in this latest episode of Box Busters.

What will they find inside? Watch and find out …

Memory Lane showcases million-dollar Mickey Mantle collection at National Sports Collectors Convention

By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor

A big-time auction house like Memory Lane Inc. may not have something for everyone in its booth at this year’s National Sports Collectors Convention which begins next week in Chicago.

But it will have something everyone should see — and a little something everyone can take home with them.

The Tustin, Calif.-based auction house will have on display the multi-million dollar Mickey Mantle collection of Don Spence, who has amassed all of The Mick’s base cards from 1951 to 1969 in PSA 10 or PSA 9 condition — a stash that carries an estimated value of as much as $3 million. Six of the cards, according to population reports, are the highest-graded specimens in existence.

Collectors who stop by the booth to see the cards can take with them a memento of their visit — a poster that shows the collection.

For more information, visit the links above.

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

Colorado-based dealer raises hobby’s profile through publicity stunt purchase

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By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor

Remember the Balloon Boy? If not, you might have forgotten about the hoax from a couple of years ago like many of us.

But if you live in Colorado where it happened, it might resonate more — and if you’re a Colorado-based sports card dealer like Mike Fruitman it’s resonating quite well as a publicity stunt to get people into his shop and do some good for charity, too.

You see, Fruitman recently bought what’s left of “Flimflam One” at auction — proceeds went to benefit Japan earthquake relief — for $2,502 and has it on display at his Aurora-based shop, Mike’s Stadium Sportscards.

“I thought, let’s have some fun with this,” said the 41-year-old dealer. “So, I bought Flimflam One for our customers to enjoy. Then, we’ll slice into authenticated chunks of collectible Americana to raise money for the Thanksgiving food project. It’s a win-win, no matter what, providing my 3- and 8-year-olds don’t get any clever ideas.”

The balloon was put on display late last week and it will be cut up on Oct. 15 — the second anniversary of its maiden voyage that happened without a passenger.

But, for Fruitman, this publicity stunt wasn’t just about possibly selling some cards in his shop — but rather getting people re-acquainted with the hobby when they come to see the weird relic.

Guess what? It’s worked.

One collector and Twitter follower of mine, Digi Jeff, realized that was his hometown card shop when he heard the news. That’s when he armed himself with a video camera and headed to the shop to see it all for himself and ask Fruitman some questions. See the video above for more … it’s worth a look.

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

COLLECTOR BOX BUSTERS: 2010-11 Panini Gold Standard

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Beckett Basketball Editor Chris Olds stopped by Nick’s Sports Cards in Dallas (for supplies!) and caught one collector ripping 2010-11 Panini Gold Standard.

What will he find inside? Watch and find out …

Ripping Retail Retro Edition: A lesson in collation that only a Houston Astros fan could love

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Join Beckett Baseball Editor Chris Olds as he rips into another box of a once-popular 1990s baseball card set in this episode of Ripping Retail.

What’s the brand? What will he find inside?

Watch and find out … it’s one hot mess.

Weekly Highlights (July 18 – July 22)

(Still) MEGA-HUGE, IMPORTANT thing to know of the week

This week in sports movies

First looks and sneak peeks of the week

This week in lawsuits, new hobby figureheads and more

This week in weird memorabilia

This week in comics and cardboard colliding

  • Upper Deck partners with Marvel to make an Avengers comic book … on trading cards

Box Busters and other videos

Box Busters: 2010-11 Panini Season Update basketball

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Join Beckett Basketball’s Chris Olds and Rob Springs as they rip into a pair of 2010-11 Panini Season Update basketball boxes in this latest episode of Box Busters.

What will they find inside? Watch and find out …

Box Busters: 2010-11 Panini Gold Standard Basketball

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Join Beckett Basketball’s Chris Olds and Rob Springs as they rip into a pair of 2010-11 Panini Gold Standard boxes in this latest episode of Box Busters.

What will they find? Watch and find out …

Coming soon … Moneyball and its memorabilia

By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor | Commentary

The one-sheet for the latest baseball movie on the horizon — Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt — has arrived, and it perhaps carries a non-traditional feel for what should be a less-than traditional sports film.

Based on the 2003 best-selling book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, the film will dramatize the story of Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane and his non-traditional ways of trying to build a competitive team with the small-market, low-budget Athletics fighting the behemoths of Major League Baseball such as the New York Yankees.

“There are rich teams, and there are poor teams. Then there’s 50 feet of crap. And then there’s us.”

Moneyball‘s central theme is that gut feeling, rather than analytical thought, had permeated throughout baseball and its scouting departments — and that because of its immense disadvantage financially, Beane’s team needed to think, build and draft differently to outsmart their competition. That included statistical analysis — sabermetrics — instead of instinct. (See the trailer after the jump.)

The film stars Pitt as Beane, Jonah Hill as Assistant GM Peter Brand (Paul DePodesta, now with the Mets requested his name not be used for the role), Philip Seymour Hoffman as manager Art Howe and Robin Wright as Beane’s ex-wife, Sharon.

With any new release, there will be marketing campaigns, which, in the past, meant materials that ultimately become memorabilia for many popular movies. While most promotion these days is done online or in digital form via press kits on CD — we’ll see what kind of materials arrive in the coming weeks to promote Moneyball before its Sept. 23 release — there’s still one king of the movie memorabilia world … well, at least not including movie-used props.

And that’s the one-sheet.

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First look: 2011 TRISTAR Obak baseball cards

By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor

TRISTAR will have plenty of things in store at this year’s National Sports Collectors Convention just two weeks away in Chicago and one of them is the debut of its latest baseball card set, 2011 Obak, which also is known as “A History of the Game.”

The third edition of the retro-styled set based on early 1900s tobacco cards of the same name will include four autographs — one of those guaranteed to be a cut autograph — in every 24-pack hobby box with two parallels numbered to 25 or fewer copies, one T212 mini parallel, three additional short-prints and one T4 cabinet card.

Among the biggest highlights is a dual-cut autograph pairing Babe Ruth with Charlie Root, the Chicago Cubs pitcher who gave up the called shot in the 1932 World Series. Other cut autographs will include Joe DiMaggio paired with Ken Keltner, Ichiro Suzuki paired with George Sisler, and there will be cuts of Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Hank Greenberg and Lefty Grove. All cuts will be numbered to 75 or fewer copies.

Among some of the signers for the product are Cal Ripken Jr., Mike Trout, Ken Griffey Jr., Whitey Ford, Manny Banuelos and Nolan Ryan.

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Blowout Cards’ parent company sues Upper Deck over distribution policy

By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor

Blowout Cards‘ parent company, Frontline Collectibles Inc., counter-sued Upper Deck in a U.S. District Court on Wednesday, alleging that the Carlsbad, Calif.-based card company’s distribution policies introduced earlier this year are illegal under antitrust laws and have “manipulated the pricing of its products” and “have harmed and continue to harm competition for the sale of hobby sports trading cards.”

Frontline claims that Upper Deck’s limited selection of distributors in the United States and Canada — which does not include it, despite an 18-year history of selling in the industry — is an “unlawful campaign to erect artificial barriers to entry, restrict output and maintain its monopoly power” with a select few licenses (NCAA, MLS) and a roster of exclusive athletes whose autographs can only be found in Upper Deck products such as Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Landon Donovan.

In March, Upper Deck Sports Marketing and Social Media Manager Chris Carlin wrote on UD’s blog about the genesis of its program, saying “this course of action was important in order to strengthen and protect the company’s brands, while also streamlining and better-defining the company’s channels of distribution. UD crafted this program by working in collaboration with our Certified Diamond Dealers (hobby shops), Authorized Distributors and legal team.”

On Thursday, Carlin said Upper Deck declined to comment on the case.

“We cannot comment on any ongoing litigation,” he said, “[nor] can I share information regarding how we select our business partners.”

Frontline, which in its court filing readily admits its business strategy is to sell more volume at a lower profit as “of one of the largest volume and the lowest-cost providers of hobby sports trading cards,” cannot purchase UD products from any other authorized dealers, who aren’t allowed to sell to those who would re-sell the products, as part of its agreement.  Specifically, it contends that “Upper Deck intended to specifically exclude or reduce competition from Frontline because Frontline was engaged in price-cutting to offer the best prices to its customers.”

Specifically, Frontline contends that Upper Deck is in violation of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act and Section 3 of the Clayton Act with its policy.

Previously, Frontline had been a direct buyer of product from Upper Deck since it opened for business, according to the court filing. In an April meeting between Frontline’s Thomas Fish and Upper Deck, Fish was told, according to the filing, that Upper Deck would not recognize its Virginia retail location as a storefront and that enhancements would not help.

Furthermore, Frontline claims that “for pretextural and factually unsupportable reasons” Upper Deck refused to grant it status as an authorized Internet retailer, which has “severely damaged Frontline through lost sales and profits.” Frontline has been an online seller since at least 2004.

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For the New York Yankees fan who has it all …

By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor

If you know a New York Yankees fan who has it all, you might need to see this.

Why? Because it’s just weird — and it’s available from Steiner Sports as part of its Yankee Stadium Artifacts line … and it’s marked down to just $49.99.

What is it?

Read More »

Ripping Retail: 2011 Topps Allen & Ginter baseball

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Join Beckett Baseball’s Chris Olds as he rips into a pair of 2011 Topps Allen & Ginter blaster boxes in this latest episode of Ripping Retail.

What’d he find? Watch and find out …

‘The Avengers: Kree-Skrull War’ set hits stores today

By Andrew Tolentino | BSCM Editor

Riding the wave of recently released (and soon to release) Marvel blockbusters,  Upper Deck is causing a collision between comic books and trading cards.

Another byproduct of Upper Deck’s partnership with Marvel Entertainment, “The Avengers: Kree-Skrull War” set hits hobby stores today. Under normal circumstances, this kind of release could be summed up with a tidy list of per-pack odds and box hits — but this one tells another tale.

In fact, the experimental endeavor spins a whole new Marvel story altogether … card, by card. Departing from hit quantities and checklist finds, the set offers a new experience in comic consumption.

In a phone interview (coming soon, in full) Upper Deck’s Marvel Product Manager Bubby Johanson explained, “We tried to find a way to be innovative and what we wanted to do was try to see if we could merge both the card collector and the comic collector in the same kind of venue.” Thus far, the merger has already made a splash, causing speculation and excitement in the greater superhero hemisphere.

With a classic storyline re-imagined by Marvel writer Sean McKeever, the product is a comic book composed of cards. Much like a traditional comic, the story reads left to right, top to bottom, front to back, page to page. In this case though, each page of  “Sacrifice” — the primary story — consists of nine cards with story components on both sides of the card (90 cards assembled in order for the 20-page adventure).

But wait, there’s more.

Read More »

Topps readies Heritage rookie redemptions for NSCC

By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor

As previously reported, Topps will be giving away five cards as part of a wrapper redemption program during the National Sports Collectors Convention next month in Chicago — and on Wednesday it confirmed who the cards will feature.

The company will release five 1962 Topps-inspired 2011 Heritage cards of notable rookies with each card limited to just 299 copies. (They wouldn’t be tagged as RC’s under traditional hobby guidelines because they are show promos, not part of a standard release.)

To obtain a card, a collector must open five packs of 2011 Topps or Bowman-branded packs at the Topps booth. There’s a limit of one card per day per person.

The rookie rundown:
Aug. 3 — Dustin Ackley, Mariners
Aug. 4 — Dee Gordon, Dodgers
Aug. 5 – Mike Moustakas, Royals
Aug. 6 — Michael Pineda, Mariners
Aug. 7 — Zach Britton, Orioles

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

TRISTAR bringing “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, other TNA stars, to The National

By Chris Olds | Beckett Sports Card Monthly Editor

Woooo!

The Naitchonal, err National, Sports Collectors Convention got a little bit cooler following the announcement that TRISTAR will be bringing “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair to the show next month in Chicago as an autograph guest along with three other stars from TNA Wrestling.

The 16-time world heavyweight champ will be joined by Kurt Angle, a former Olympic gold medalist for the United States-turned pro, former two-time TNA champ Mr. Anderson and former TNA and WWE women’s champion Tara.

Each of them will be appearing for two hours on Aug. 6, with Flair the most-expensive autograph at $49. Angle is $29, while Anderson and Tara are $25. Photo opportunities with each star are the same price — fans will receive a 5×7 photo print within minutes of meeting them.

However if a collector buys a 2011 Signature Impact Championship Package — $99 — they will get a box of the newest TNA trading cards, a bonus NSCC autograph card and one free autograph (on any item) as well as a photo op with each star.

Only 400 of the packages are available. More details can be found by clicking here.

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