Giveaway brings back lost art … trading simply


By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor | Commentary

From the Just for Fun file …

Collecting confession time: I’ve been spending way too much time doing something lately that I really haven’t done this heavily — and this haphazardly — since about 1992.

What have I been doing? Trading baseball cards.

But I haven’t been trading the old-fashioned way, either — and I haven’t had to organize or handle a single card. (That’s waaayyy too much work — and waaayyy too time-consuming.) I’ve been trading by parking it at my desk after work and making trade offer after trade offer for cards the old-fashioned way — without worrying about a card’s worth, without worrying about condition, without haggling with a single person, really — on the Topps Diamond Giveaway site.

All it takes there is a code, a pick and click — no post office trips, stamps, envelopes or anything else.

And it’s addicting.

It’s gotten so bad that I’ve contemplated buying bulk lots of unused code cards online just to continue the madness — but it’s pretty clear that some of you out there are bigger fans of the program than I — or I’m just too cheap — as lots are still fetching $2-$4 per code on eBay.

Too rich for me, but I keep on wheeling and dealing, anyway.


Remember this Diamond Giveway mailday from earlier this year? He’s gotten worse, people! [Yes, Olds wrote that…]

Those who are familiar with the format from last season’s Million Card Giveaway know that it’s a site where you enter codes found in packs of Topps baseball cards and receive an old card in return or a new special card. I’ve entered, as you can see up top, 102 codes this year — yeah, that’s a few … most came from retail value packs, which deliver as many as four codes but at least two for $15 along with a bunch of other cards — but I have managed to turn that into nearly 130 trades (some pretty stupid on my part) and 103 cards at present between previously delivered cards and those remaining in my account.

And they’re — save for a few pieces of tradebait — all cards that I would want. Most of the hardened collectors out there wouldn’t say that as, really, we likely have a vintage Topps common if they really wanted it. Last year, I said that, too. I traded very little on the Million Card site — none at all that I recall — instead just requesting the delivery of the handful of good cards I wanted and letting the remaining cards go into the virtual trashcan when “mom” threw them out at the end of the year. (Be warned: She will do it again this year.)

This year is, well, different and it’s really all after seeing the impressive printing job done on the Diamond Die-cuts and the sometimes scary results of the fulfillment-end of the vintage stuff when it comes to condition.  Both things sparked me to try and get what I want out of the program, but the Die-Cuts added a new dimension to the trading for me.  (But, then again, I’m not trading for anything pricey. And condition? Well, I know how that goes … but I am also not expecting BGS 10s on every card, either.)

And, because I have been a bit lucky along the way, I haven’t had to pay a penny to have any of the cards shipped — and I won’t have to when I do my third and final delivery later this year. You see, prize cards such as Black Diamond diecuts, the now-delivering anniversary factory sets and 1/1 diamond-embedded cards qualify the entire delivery request for free shipping.

But all that isn’t the real reason I’m writing this … there have been some rather interesting developments in terms of the “market” on the site and I have used some strategies of my own to focus my trades on specifically what I am looking for. Meanwhile, others’ supplies — and others’ demands — have resulted in done deals that can sometimes seem even less logical than my offers for what I am hoarding, err, collecting, on the site.

What have I been trading for? Cards of former MLB player Steve Swisher (dad of my favorite player, Nick Swisher) who had Topps cards from 1975-83 and Diamond Die-cuts of the current New York Yankees outfielder — that’s it — at least for the intended end-result.

I thought I was being generous when I offered any die-cut I landed for a Swisher die-cut and offered cards from the late-1960s to mid-1970s for Steve Swisher 1975 Rookie Cards. Generally, it has worked. Better cards either sat to be delivered later or as tradebait for bulk deals — a few of which I have negotiated via other diamond code addicts via Twitter.

So far, I have netted one Swisher Black Diamond — I gave up a Ryan Howard Black Diamond straight up (armchair quarterback that one in the comments below!) — and eight regular Diamond. Clearly the Yankees cards are being traded heavily on the site as I get handfuls of offers for the card daily — more offers than my 1/1 diamond card, which is shocking.  For Pops Swish, the current haul is even crazier than that of the YouTube video above from awhile back. Presently, I have 50 copies of his cards in my account — one of each year — and have nabbed 14 Rookie Cards … and counting.

Even then, though, as one collects and trades on the site there are some anomalies that have made landing some cards easier and tougher than others. For example, there are only 12 copies of his 1981 Topps card unlocked. Meanwhile, his 1978 Topps double-print is way more than DP’d on the site as there are 276 copies of it available — the rest of the cards have been unlocked somewhere between 20 and 60 times apiece. So, as a result of this, junkier commons I have unlocked often have become 1978s as there are more people out there perhaps willing to part with a card for something — anything — else. Meanwhile, rarer ones have been tougher to land — the 1981 was a doozie (I “overpaid” giving up a 1972 common) and the 1977, for some reason, was tough, too.

And, remember, these are all commons that I could just go out and buy … but where’s the fun in that? This way, I simply don’t have to.

But enough about my Swish Stash … here are some observations of what I have seen as well as some tips:

Don’t think, just throw (out offers): Logic and relative prices really don’t apply when the “market” is closed like this one is. One fellow Diamond trader turned a meaningless 1979 common — which I sent to him for a 1980 Swisher — into a die-cut a day later. That one stung. Oh, and that offer of a 1980s Red Sox team card for a Cal Ripken die-cut? I’d bet he took it without blinking.

Spirit of ’76: The 1976s might be a year someone is trying to build a set for … all of my offers to trade away these cards have been picked off immediately.

Sweet Sixties? Perhaps it’s a personal bias, but cards from 1969 and earlier just seem to grab more attention — and return better offers.

Team colors: Just like in the real world, some teams are in high demand vs. others. You can turn a few team’s commons into diecuts or simply flip them much more quickly than others — regardless of who’s on them because there IS interest.

Plentiful pennants? The 1974s seem to be more plentiful than other years — at least for me. Also plentiful: 1958s and 1959s. Not plentiful? 1960-1962 — at least for me.

Know what’s available: Be sure to search for some of those memorable but not necessarily valuable cards on the site — there might be more out there than you think. And they might be yours easily. You might treasure, say, a Dwight Gooden RC more than someone else.

Wants and needs: Supply and demand can make things tough. There are a lot of good cards that have been unlocked — and there are a lot of bad cards, too. However, when there are fewer than five copies of some you will have a heck of a time getting one on the site — regardless of whether it’s a Mickey Mantle or a Mickey Tettleton.

No new deal? Post-1992 cards just don’t seem to trade easily, though there are far fewer of some newer cards on the site — particularly newer stuff (think the Nick Swisher years). I did a couple of bulk deals just to get rid of 1990s-2000s cards all in one swoop before I realized the 1978 Swisher anomaly. Kinda wish I could get a do-over on that one — but I’m not sure it’d work.

Diff’rent Strokes: Some want to diversify, some want to consolidate. My oldest unlocked card was a 1954 Ralph Kress — a Cleveland Indians coach. It’s a $15 card in top condition, so as much as I had intended to have it delivered — I’m not flush with 1952-1954 cards — but I was feeling a little frisky and tweeted that somebody should make me a bulk offer. Minutes later, I had a 32-for-1 offer that included seven cards from 1971 or earlier and only six from 1987 or later. That has yielded more than a few cards I’d want to have delivered to me — and it’s a deal that’s still giving back.

Junk for junk? If it’s a trade for a card you could care less about, just take the plunge and take the deal. That’ll help keep the cards moving and maybe you’ll land something you will want for that one. You never know. There are more than likely a lot of dormant accounts with cards you want locked up in them, but making offers is how others might notice the next time they log in to enter a code.

Diary of some of my notable (laughable?) deals …

My first trade: 1957 Topps Dick Gernert (Red Sox) for a Swisher die-cut.

A shocking trade? Francisco Liriano die-cut for Swisher die-cut.

Die-cut mania: Traded a 1969 Jim Bunning for an Andre Ethier die-cut, which became a die-cut of … you know.

Shocking trade II? Kendrys Morales die-cut for Swisher die-cut straight up. (My ankle hurts.)

Meaningless trade: 1990 John Farrell for a 1990 Edwin Nunez (Why? Why not… somebody wanted it.)

When I diversified: The only die-cut I traded away not for another die-cut was a Joakim Soria, which netted me 20 cards — 10 of those from the 1970s alone.

What have you landed on the site? I want to hear about it — leave a comment below.

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


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  1. Jon Chuckery 7 September, 2011 at 18:37

    Disagree with the assessment completely…trading on that site is a total disaster…that is unless you enjoy sifting through 165 trade offers where 164 of them are the single most bogus offers in the history of sports collecting. I’ve gotten the same offer from the same person probably not less than 60 times…How many times do I need to decline the offer of your 87 Yount for my 83 Nolan Ryan card? The 1st 55 times werent enough but maybe offer 313 will finally get it…You want to make it interesting to trade on there?…Allow a feature to send messages to traders or put a block feature to bogus offers…To quote the late, great Susan Powter…”Stop the madness!!”

  2. chrisolds 7 September, 2011 at 18:40

    Larry: This one was all done on my own time … living the dream!

    Jon: Have you MADE any offers?

  3. Shaun 7 September, 2011 at 18:42

    Are you serious!? Trading on the Diamond Giveaway is ridiculous! Everyone nowadays just tries to scam everyone out of their good cards. People send 80s stars and such for vintage stars at a huge discrepancy, hoping that they catch some kid or someone that doesn’t know what they have or in hopes that they mistakingly hit accept. All this to then get your cards that your not sure whether or not they have been mangled, some of the cards they send are beyond poor… They could at least provide cards that are in decent condition. Not one thats moldy, full of holes, been scribbled on, etc and that actually looks like they got it straight from the trash can. It is addicting though, as for some reason I still participate however it gets very annoying. The Million Card Giveaway was a far better experience and the chase for the Stras card was way better then these die-cuts in my opinion.

    With that, best card I have so far would have to be a 2001 Roy Face auto.

  4. chrisolds 7 September, 2011 at 18:45

    I’m serious. I’m also not trading for monetary reasons — I’m either interested in a card or I am not.

    An autograph via the codes is pretty darn good.

    The key on this whole deal is to have fun and let it ride since the codes/cards really didn’t cost me a thing.

    I guess I am not among the majority (so far) in that regard. My bad for not conforming to be among them.

  5. Kevin Porter 7 September, 2011 at 19:02

    Everyone needs to RE-LAX! The site is awesome and such an amazing concept. The Diamond Die Cuts are only available through the site, how cool is that? I’ve been very active on the site, have over 150 completed trades and am slowly trying to complete the Diamond Die Cut set via the site.

    Jon & Shaun – if you don’t like a deal, decline it. It’s really not a difficult concept. They even let you “check all” and “decline”, so you don’t even have to go through and decline them one by one.

    Chris – GREAT article, and my impression is that more people are enjoying the site vs. not enjoying it.

  6. Shaun 7 September, 2011 at 19:15

    Most of us are not trading for monetary reasons either. The majority of offers are just that ridiculous, like why on earth would I do that. lol… You certainly must see them, I’m sure you must get numerous offers on some of your Swisher cards and insta-decline them.

    Traded for that auto btw. Gave up a regular Freddie Freeman die-cut for it when its value was still pretty high. Considering how much the die-cuts values have been falling it seems to have been a pretty good move.

    It certainly has its moments where it can be fun. It does add up though. 102 codes is about $300 if you just got the codes individually off the secondary market. If you got your codes through box breaks of various products that adds up even more and you more than likely ended up with a ton of dupes. A retail box is $19.99 and you get “maybe” 2 codes. If for example, say you got all your codes through retail boxes. You’ve spent over $1000. The promotion is clever, as I could probably have acquired all the cards in my account at a fraction of the cost and in better condition. I imagine you could have done the same. The promotion is fun but could certainly use improvements both from Topps and its participants.

  7. chrisolds 7 September, 2011 at 19:27

    I use the decline offer button often — and I wish there was a no-trade button I could put on certain cards. Doesn’t change a word of what I wrote, though.

  8. Shaun 7 September, 2011 at 19:33

    @ Kevin, it is a nice concept but it does have flaws. I also certainly don’t have an issue with declining peoples silly offers, you must have missed that… The fact that people are trying to scam people and the system allows it is what is bothersome. The fact that they’d rather keep that strategy then say improve they’re offer is what is annoying. Sure a lot of people are enjoying or are trying to enjoy the site, a lot however are also trying to be deceitful. Topps itself is even somewhat deceitful, in regards to the quality of the cards that they send out. You wont have much issue with the die-cut cards as they are new and what not, but lets see your opinion when and if you request a vintage card. The majority of us that think the system is flawed will more than likely just think you are naive…

  9. Randall Roberson 8 September, 2011 at 05:20

    Does topps plan on getting the site back on-line? It has been down for two weeks. I wish I knew about the free shipping with diamond cards and the set. I had all of the diamond cards delivered and there are many ’75 and Indians cards left to ship. Guess I have to scam some kid out of his diamond card for my Pete Vukovich.

  10. Rob 8 September, 2011 at 05:38

    I love the simple design of the site and to be able to trade cards without having to worry about the mighty $ is like re-living my innocent youth days. I have been thinking about gathering more codes to unlock as i’m about 13 away from unlocking the anniversity set. Needless to say, i started out with 32 cards from different years and after a few months and a few trades later, i have 12 cards that i absolutly love. They include a 78-79 Lee Mazzilli, an 83′ mookie wilson, an 85′ rc of John Franco, 75′ Rusty Staub (notice a pattern here?) a 76′ Joe Torre, 74′ Jerry Koosman, and my oldest card is a 1957 Johnny Antonelli from the NY Giants to name a few. Simply put, these are all “commons” for the most part that as chris said can get some a buck or two online..But whats the fun in that?
    I have also traded away a diamond die cut card for a bunch of older common cards pre 75′ in a bulk deal that netted me that 57′. I’m still trying to get some 66′ cards of Ron Swoboda and Tug McGraw but no luck so far!

  11. Randall Roberson 8 September, 2011 at 05:54

    There was a glitch in loading the diamond site. I pressed refresh and the site loaded correctly.

  12. Darin Amundson 8 September, 2011 at 12:59

    I was addicted, and enjoyed it for the most part, I finally had to have all my cards shipped to me so I would stop. The nicer condition cards from the sixties I sent in to my COMC account. I thought the design of the site was very nice. Sure there are more features that would be cool, but maybe next year. My vintage pack was a 1977 Topps pack, I loved opening that. I got a Brooks Robinson in probably BVG 9 shape. I’m still waiting for the diamond anniversary set to arrive, has anyone got theirs yet?

  13. Keith S 9 September, 2011 at 14:59

    Very excited to get a diamond embedded-card! After talking with someone in line at last year’s National, I realized that the older cards being delivered were often in poor shape. So, I just lowered my expectations there. I am currently working on complete off-condition Phillies team sets from 1978 back, and have used both the NCG and DG to obtain many cards in trades that way.

    Out of about 100 trade offers I receive, I’d have to say that 90 of them are way lopsided in the traders favor (why wouldn’t I want that 1987 Sid Bream from my 1953 Phillies player?), about 8-9 are even relatively speaking (year for year or more recent star card for slightly older common), and 1-2 are in my favor quantity-wise or quality/age wise. That ratio hasn’t really changed since trading opened.

    Overall, I like the site and have had fun, but it would be nice to have some more legitimate trade offers to look at!!

  14. Ryan 12 September, 2011 at 11:09

    Chris, I have to agree with you 100%. Within a relatively good degree of statistical certainty, 99.42% of the time I’ve never even HEARD of the player on the card that I get. Of those cards, I have about as much interest as finding out who they were as actually obtaining their card. Unless they’re in a Washington Senator’s or Minnesota Twin’s uniform. Fortunately, one night I went through my collection and just threw out offers from cards I had for Twins cards. And a bunch of them bit, and I have no idea if I got the raw end of the deal or a good deal or if value even came into it.

    I did manage to luckily land an Alexei Rameriez die-cut. Unfortunately I have no interest in Mr. Rameriez’s card or the White Sox, one of the Twins’ arch-nemesis. So, naturally, I wanted to trade it for a Twins die cut. Still no dice on that one. Anyone want an Alexei Rameriez die-cut? Will trade for a Twins die cut!

  15. Jon Chuckery...Atlanta 12 September, 2011 at 11:29

    “Jon: Have you MADE any offers?”

    Yes, quite a few and I have traded on there…Trades like your Carlos Baerga for my Jim Abbott or your die cut for my die cut…not 321 Astros cards of C Cedeno, B Watson, Terry Puhl, D Walling, etc for a 52 Mantle…Without a block feature, 99.93% (& I’m prob being generous) of all offers are ludicrous and greatly devalue the fun of trading that could exist there…

    “Jon & Shaun – if you don’t like a deal, decline it. It’s really not a difficult concept. They even let you “check all” and “decline”, so you don’t even have to go through and decline them one by one.”
    Good job of missing the point…I do & would like to trade but unfortunately you sift thru 155 offers to find 1 of interest…If you think that’s an efficient and enjoyable way of doing things, I’m guessing you work for the Federal govt

  16. chrisolds 12 September, 2011 at 11:46

    Actually, “missed points” pretty much sums up a few of the comments here.

    Ryan, go look at your offers for Alexei … there might be a Twin you want!

  17. John Ward 12 September, 2011 at 16:37

    I have cashed out upwards of 75 cards so far, mid 70s on back to 1958. A majority of the cards have major wrinkles and are not even fit for the bicycle spokes. One of which had writing on it. Yes, numerous blue ink scribble marks on the front of a 1966 Tommy Davis.
    But, I did get one, which I am very pround of, a 1965 Norm Cash. Being a huge Ti-Cat fan, this card makes it all worth while. This card is in, hot off the press condition. Its enroute for a slab.

  18. Marvin 29 September, 2011 at 19:34

    Your first observation titled “Don’t think, just throw (out offers)” was probably me. Before I actually knew that these cards were “real” and not just virtual, I traded my, so far one and only, die-cut card, which happened to be Cal Ripken Jr., away for a bunch of nothing cards. I just figured “wow, this guy really wants this card for his virtual collection” and click BANG, there it went. Its hard for me to trade anything away now.

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