My Soapbox


Have you ever cried for joy after a sack? Have you ever stood in line for countless hours in a cold November rain for better seats to a game for which you’ve already had a ticket for months? Have you ever woken up at 4:00am on a Saturday to stand in a parking lot all day? Has a photo of golden elms ever reminded you of your first love? Have you ever gotten chills after seeing cardboard numbers that total more than 9 million? Have you ever studied in a library named after a man who technically had nothing to do with academics? Have you ever walked past a statue of that same man on a cold Tuesday morning in March and smiled? Have you ever taken a picture of a small tan Rancher because it felt like Mecca? Have you ever stood frozen in place while looking up at a majestic bell tower on a crisp winter afternoon? Have you ever had the urge to scream two simple words and expect a response from 20,000 others? Have you ever taken a longer detour than necessary to catch a glimpse of a feline statue because you couldn’t imagine not doing so? Have you ever finally replaced an old faded ball cap with the exact same ball cap because you can’t bring yourself to change it? Have you ever sung “May no act of ours bring shame” and truly meant it? Have you ever walked across the stage in BJC and cried for joy because you accomplished what others told you was impossible and at the same time cried for sorrow because the best chapter of your life was closing? Have you ever considered an otherwise complete stranger to be your friend because of a paw print bumper sticker? Have you ever had trouble opening a letter because you knew its contents would grant you access to everything you had worked for? Have you ever attended a class at what has repeatedly been named the greatest University in multiple facets? Have you ever stood in line for hours for a plain vanilla ice cream cone? Have you ever gone through your t-shirt drawer and realized 75+% were accumulated in a four-year span? Have you ever spent your entire life trying to make something of yourself because nothing was handed to you free and then had people you’ve never met try to tarnish one of your greatest achievements? Have you ever stood for everything you thought was right and had the carpet blindly pulled out from under you?

If you can’t answer a vast majority of these questions in the affirmative, you are NOT Penn State.

If you can’t answer a vast majority of these questions in the affirmative, what right do you have to attack MY alma mater? What right do you have to disgrace an entire community for the acts of a few? What right do you have to throw one of the greatest institutions in the world under the bus and piss on its greatest benefactor? What right do you have to verbally stone a man you’ve never met; a man who’s dedicated his life for what he believed was right; a man with more moral conviction than you could ever possibly imagine?

If you can’t answer a vast majority of these questions in the affirmative, save your opinion articles for when someone actually asks for them. Save your words for a topic on which you actually have enough knowledge to intelligently comment.

If you can’t answer a vast majority of these questions in the affirmative, then this is not for you:

We Are…


Pryor to be Paid for Autos


Topps has sent out the following bulletin:

Topps announces that Ohio State star and recent Oakland Raiders signee Terrelle Pryor has signed a deal to ink his signature on the company’s trading cards.

Pryor will appear as an autograph subject in Topps products starting with 2011 Bowman Sterling Football.

Didn’t I hear something about Mr. Pryor getting paid for his autographs before…?

Heisman Highlight: John Cappelletti


Heisman Highlight

Name: John Cappelletti
Position: Running Back
College: Penn State Nittany Lions
Class: Senior
Winning Year: 1973 – 39th Award
Official Heisman Profile: Click Here

Interesting Notes: Cappelletti had the second and third best rushing years in Penn State history in 1972 and 1973, after spending the 1971 season at defensive back…ran for a total of 2,639 yards and 29 touchdowns, averaging 120 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry…was named to nearly every All-American team in 1973 and had more than twice as many points in the Heisman race as second place finisher John Hicks of Ohio State…delivered what is still considered by many to be the most moving acceptance speech of all time, honoring his younger brother Joey who was suffering from leukemia…was a first-round draft choice for the Rams, but was never really able to get his professional career rolling…is currently partner in a Biotech and Pharmaceuticals components producer and lives in California with his family…remains the only Heisman winner from Penn State, an institution with a long standing tradition of excellent linebackers and running backs…won the only Heisman trophy I’ve ever seen in person.

1977 Topps #108

Featured Card: 1977 Topps #108. Despite being a Heisman Trophy winner and first-round draft choice, John Cappelletti was not included in a major football card set until after he was promoted to the starting running back position during the 1976 season. His overall forgetful NFL career has obviously affected his value in collectors’ eyes. There are only a few copies of Cappelletti’s rookie card listed on eBay and one can by yours for just a couple of dollars shipped. Even an autographed version goes for about $10. Interestingly enough, the most valuable Cappelletti rookies appear to be from the 1977 Topps Mexican set, most likely due to its more scarce status.

NOTE: You can find all of my Heisman Highlight Features by clicking the post banner above.

Product Review: 2010 Score


One of the longest tenured brands in football, Score is back once again for the 2010 season. Despite several ownership changes (Pinnacle Brands, Score, Donruss/Playoff, Panini), one aspect of Score’s offerings has remained constant: it’s cheap. If there is any one set that will help get kids interested in collecting cards again, it’s got to be Score on the football front. I know when I was a kid I wanted quantity for my dollar and quantity is what you get with Score.

2010 Score box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 36 7-card packs for a total of 252 cards. I purchased this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $27 (I once again added some supplies to get free shipping), which translates into a $0.11/card ratio, and that’s rounding up. Like I said above, this is the ultimate cheapo set. It’s also a set collectors set with a 400-card base set and no guaranteed hits driving the prices up. There are certainly no secrets with this product, as has been the case for 20+ years.

2010 Score pack
1 RC and 1 Glossy Parallel in each of these

The Breakdown:
Base Cards
   Veterans (#1-300): 152 (50.7% with 0 duplicates)
   Rookies (#301-400): 36 (36.0% with 0 duplicates)
   Overall: 188 (47.0%)
   Glossy: 36
   Scorecard (#/499): 2 base
   Gold Zone (#/299): 2 base, 1 NFL Players
   Signatures: 1
   Hot Rookies: 7
   Franchise: 5
   All-Pro: 6
   NFL Players: 4

2010 Score2010 Score
Click images for full-sized scans

NOTE: Please keep in mind throughout this review that this is a very low-end set and I am going to review it as such. If you only collect super high end products, you’re never going to buy this product anyway, so don’t piss and moan if you think my opinions listed hereafter are soft or too forgiving. Get over it. You’ll sleep much better tonight if you do.

1st Down, Design: Honestly, it’s not terrible. To start, I like that Panini went with the team color scheme for the card fronts. I’m not necessarily a fan of the kindergarten art table design elements, with the paint splatters, water drops, and random burlap shreds, but it actually sorta works. Panini is staying true to the feel of Score through the years as this has always been a mediocre product with slightly behind the times designs. There is a certain charm in that. I like that the card back ties to the card front very strongly and although I’d prefer to see a headshot, I can pass on it if the only option was a further cropped copy of the front image. The only thing that really makes me cock my head in confusion is why the player position is so much larger than the player name. With some of the color schemes (like the Posluszny above), it sticks out even more. I realize some players have really long names and there is a desire to have all of the cards be uniform, but this probably could have been done a little better. One thing I really like is that now that mini camps are underway, there are very few rookies who are not in their new pro uniforms, which beats out earlier products that had airbrushed college unis and combine jerseys. Overall, for a super low-end set, it works. Kids might even like it. If you are an OCD adult who cannot stand clutter, looking at a binder full of this set might be overwhelming though. My biggest gripe? It looks almost idenitcal to last year’s set, including the inserts.

2nd Down, Inserts: To start, I will offer my quick insight into the various parallel sets included with Score: drop them. There are 6 parallel sets (Glossy, Scorecard, Gold Zone, Red Zone, End Zone, and Artist’s Proof) and none of them are worthwhile. The Glossy set is hardly distinguishable from the base set and the others simply have a stamp in the upper left corner of the card front and a serial number stamp on the back. What’s the point, really? Score has had the Scorecard parallel for years, so I get the desire to keep that one. But seriously, lose the rest next year, Panini. The insert sets overall weren’t bad. The Franchise and All-Pro sets feel very similar, although it’s kinda cool seeing a mini set with almost all Pro Bowl jerseys. The Red Hot Rookies set doesn’t do anything for me. Just give me another base RC instead. Some people may hate the NFL Players inserts because they are a little tacky, but I actually like them. It really reminds me of something Collector’s Choice would have made in the late 90s, and I know for a fact I would have loved these cards when I was first collecting as a wee lad. I really like that inserts do not weight the box down and although most people will only buy products with guaranteed hits, I enjoy that there were only a few autograph inserts to avoid pushing the price up. Cheap and simple. There’s a theme here if you haven’t noticed.

3rd Down, Collation: This was very good. Out of 252 cards, I did not pull a single duplicate, which is great. The collation of individual packs was very predictable: 4 base cards, 1 insert (or 5th base card), 1 base RC, 1 glossy parallel. It was in that exact order every time. Although I guess that just goes to show there was a method to ensuring the 1 RC and 1 Glossy parallel per pack promise. And actually, I appreciated that because like I said above, the Glossy parallels were VERY difficult to distinguish from the base cards. Once I had my entire stack, I went through and removed every seventh card to pull out the glossies. But really, for the quantity of cards included, this was very good collation.

4th Down, Overall Value: The old adage that “you get what you pay for” is definitely true in the case of 2010 Score. These cards, including the highly touted rookies, just aren’t going to pull a lot of interest on the secondary market. It is the nature of the beast. But on the flip side, you also aren’t paying very much with a $0.11 per card average. If you are a set collector, you could probably complete the 400-card set with just 3 hobby boxes and still pay less than you would for one box of most other products. If you are on a really tight budget or have some kids in your family, this is a great entry-level product to pick up. Hell, you could even kick it old school and put some of these in the spokes of your bike and not feel like you just wasted $50. So in summary, if you look at a raw dollar value, this is one of the worst products of the year; however, if you look at a value to price ratio, it is right up there with any other product on the calendar.

RED ZONE RESULTS: Four consecutive rushing plays netting 6 yards, resulting in a TURNOVER ON DOWNS 2010 Score decided to play it very conservative this year. The design was nearly identical to last year, the price point is very low, and the inserts and parallels were very predictable. Much like a smash mouth run-first football team, this product is probably more suitable for the 70s. But with conservative offenses usually comes stingy defenses (I love Big Ten football), so turning the ball over so deep in the opponent’s territory sets up a very good safety situation. In a colossial conservative battle, those two points could be huge (I was at the 2004 Penn State/Iowa game in which Penn State lost 6-4…2 field goals for Iowa, 2 safties for Penn State…and Penn State had a third safety called back on a phantom “forward progress” ruling).

NEXT UP (tentatively): 2010 Panini Classics

Blog Bat Around: $50,000 Shopping Spree


Being somewhat of a blogging newcomer (First and Goal’s first “birthday” is still over a month away), this is my first Blog Bat Around. The topic for discussion? What would I do if I were given $50,000 and 15 minutes on eBay? First, I would like to say that I am actually a pretty sensible guy. Given $50,000 in real life, I would most likely max out the Roth IRA contributions for my wife and I, get some home improvement projects rolling, and put the rest towards the mortgage. Obviously there are three glaring problems with this plan: 1) that would take more than 15 minutes to orchestrate, 2) I can’t really do any of this on eBay, and 3) no one is actually giving me $50,000. Second, given that I am a budget collector and an accountant, there is no way I could blow $50,000 in a 15-minute span on eBay. Not going to happen. I am far too anal about looking for the lowest prices (even if it’s free money, I’d still want to get the most possible for my hard(ly)-earned dollars) and most of what I collect is dirt cheap to begin with. So I am throwing out that portion of the question. I’m going to answer this question instead: What would you do if you were given $50,000 in eBay gift certificates, had an entire day off work, and had to spend the money on sports collectibles?

I like that question a lot better. It gives me time to do some homework. But not too much homework. And since no one has offered to pony up that $50,000 yet, here are my quick thoughts as to what I would buy:

1) 1950 Topps Felt Backs Joe Paterno
As a football collector and a Penn State alumnus, this would be the ultimate card for my collection. Even given JoePa’s incredible success and longevity, he still has only been featured on a small handfull of cards, including this gem of a rookie card. What some people may not know is that Joe was actually 64 years old when this card was printed. Estimated cost: $2,500

1950 Topps Felt Backs Joe Paterno

2) Emmitt Smith autographed jersey
Supposedly no player collection is complete without an autographed jersey. Given my normal shrewdiness, it is very highly doubtful I will ever splurge to get one of these. But, given fantasy money to blow, I would be more than happy to in this case. Estimated cost: $500.

Emmitt Smith autographed jersey

3) Pittsburgh Pirates Grab Bag
Next up would be a quick solution to my sudden urge to put together a collection of every Topps base card featuring a Pittsburgh Pirate. Because I doubt there are very many auctions or BIN listings for 1987 Topps cards, this would probably take the form of me buying a ton of lots and hoping for the best. Obviously I would go for anything that resembles a team set for a particular year, and then try to fill in the cracks with singles. The biggest problem with this idea is that I have a feeling a fair amount of money would be wasted on shipping charges. The one perk is that what I predict to be the most expensive card in that category, Roberto Clemente’s rookie, would easily be within my reach. Estimated cost (at least what I’d be willing to spend on random Topps Pirates): $3,500.

1955 Topps Roberto Clemente

4) Random Emmitt Smith additions
As I said, I am a budget collector AND I am trying to focus my collection. So rather than go blow a bunch of money on iconic cards or very overpriced cardboard of young players who haven’t proven anything yet, I would just bolster my Emmitt collection. This is a big reason I vote for the “all day off work” revision to the Blog Bat Around. I would love to stroll around eBay and add whatever Emmitt cards I come across that I do not already own. One of the general targets would be autographs and/or jersey cards as I have very few of those in my collection currently. I would especially be interested in stuff from the high-end sets I wouldn’t otherwise purchase, like Exquisite, UD Black, etc. But to stay true to my roots, there is no reason to expect I would walk away from this fantasy without tons of shiny 90s inserts and any base card I do not already have. BTW, I’m putting out a bounty for the 1999 Donruss Elite Primary Colors Red. I have yet to see one of these listed for sale anywhere. It would look really nice beside my Yellow and Blue ones. Probable limit: $8,500

5) Card Shop inventory
For those of you who have read my blog for a little while, it is no secret that it is a dream of mine to own my own card shop. With the estimated remaining $35,000 of eBay goodness, I would try to buy a ton of boxes and cases of unopened product (and maybe give in and buy a bunch of over priced cards of young players who haven’t proven anything yet or even some iconic football cards). Without having to pump in $35,000 of my own capital (which would NEVER happen at this point in life), I wouldn’t be obsessed with profit margin to start off with. I could start selling the inventory to get cash, which would in turn be used to buy more inventory. Right now may not be the best time to jump into the market, but even if the entire $35,000 was gone in two years, at least I could say I gave my dream a chance at reality AND I wouldn’t be out $35,000 of my own money. That sounds like a win/win situation to me.

So maybe my $50,000 shopping spree wouldn’t be as fun or frantic as some others’ and maybe I am aiming far too low, but if all I walked away with were the things listed above, I would be a VERY happy collector.

Now, who wants to make this plan a reality…?

Product Review: 2010 SAGE Hit High Series


The second product on the 2010 Football Release Calendar has a certain déjà vu quality to it. That is probably because it is simply the second half of the SAGE Hit set, the first half of which was released less than a month ago. While trying to maintain that this is a separate product review, the following content is going to seem eerily similar.

2010 SAGE Hit High Series box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 27 5-card packs for a total of 135 cards (15 less than Low Series). I purchased this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $93.95 shipped, which translates into a $0.70/card ratio. This, again, is a bit higher than I would prefer for a college-themed set, especially since they are all undrafted rookies at this point, but I am also a “budget” collector. The box promises (on average) 9 autograph cards per box (3 more than Low Series) and at least 1 insert card per pack.

2010 SAGE Hit High Series Pack
1 insert in each of these bad boys

The Breakdown:
Base Cards (#51-100): 108 – 100%
   1x: 12
   2x: 23
   3x: 10
   4x: 5
Parallels: 8 (5 Silver; 3 Gold)
Inserts: 10 (6 Prospectus; 2 The Write Stuff; 2 Make Ready #/50)
Autographs: 9 (3 Base; 3 Silver; 3 Gold #/250)

2010 SAGE Hit High Series2010 SAGE Hit High Series
Click images for full-sized scans

1st Down, Design: As the second part of a single set, these base cards were identical to the Low Series base cards. Clean, crisp, simple, all in a good way. Not much more to add this time around. The In Training subset was a tad weak in my opinion (while The Program subset of Low Series was quite cool). It really felt like rather than filling out a 100 card checklist, they opted to “recycle” some of the athletes and used the stack of bad training photos they bought. Even if they had to fall back on lesser known figures, I would prefer to see 100 different players in the base set than these subset cards.

2nd Down, Inserts: Just like the base set, the inserts were essentially the same between the Low and High Series boxes, just with a slightly different checklist of players. The Prospectus cards still had a nice feel and look to them, The Write Stuff was still a waste, Make Ready still felt forced, and the parallels were still nifty (although I still wonder just what material they used for the “foil”). After seeing all of these in the Low Series, I was a bit uninspired this time around.

3rd Down, Collation: This was the worst part about this box in my opinion. I pulled 4 copies of five cards and 3 copies of ten others…yet there were 12 base cards of which I only pulled one copy. From a personal standpoint, it didn’t help that one of those 12 was the only Nittany Lion to be included in the set. I know these things are difficult to control without making the collation incredibly predictable or expensive (completely automated machines are a complete by-hand packout), but I would like to see a better effort in making sure a collector buying just one box gets an even distribution of the base cards. I did note that the 9 autographs did not come all bunched together as they had in my box of Low Series, so hopefully that was just an exception and not a trend as I feared at the time.

4th Down, Overall Value: In two words (again): not good. SAGE included Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy in the autograph checklist for this series as well (plus the addition of Jimmy Clausen), but quite frankly, a collector is not going to reap huge fiscal rewards from busting this product. Like I said last time, if you really enjoy college themed products, go for it. Unfortunately, most collectors stay away from non-NFL licensed cards and that really hurts the resale value of this set. I will say the autograph content is great in this box. Nine of the 135 cards contain authentic autographs, which is nearly 7% of the box. That is unheard of for lower-end products, which tend to offer sub 1% autograph content.

RED ZONE RESULTS: MISSED FIELD GOAL It’s difficult to give this box a different result than the Low Series box, although emotionally, I was thoroughly less impressed this time around. Generally, I don’t like the split series set concept, but it really doesn’t work when your base set is only 100 cards deep. Topps or Upper Deck may be able to pull it off with checklists that run over 500, but that just isn’t the case here for SAGE. Perhaps they needed some extra time to secure more autograph subjects, but I’d almost rather just have them included in a distinctively separate set. Again, I like the look of the base set and even some of the inserts, and I love that a small company is trying to take a bite out of the football market, but the results are mixed at best. One SAGE product remains on the schedule at this point, SAGE Autographed on 4/25/10. Hopefully the extra month of production time will lead to positive results.

NEXT UP: 2010 Press Pass Football

Product Review: 2010 SAGE Hit Low Series


The 2010 football card year is officially underway. Which is cool, because unlike real calendars, we don’t need no stinkin’ end to the previous year before we start the next (2009 Exquisite isn’t due out until 3/30…not that it will be “stinkin'” by any means). As I bluntly alluded to in an earlier post, the first product of the year, for me, is 2010 SAGE Hit Low Series (sorry, Razor U.S. Army All American Bowl).

2010 SAGE Hit Low Series box
The Box

Hobby boxes come with 30 5-card packs for a total of 150 cards. I purchased this box from Blowout Cards for $104.99 shipped, which translates into a $0.70/card ratio. This is a bit higher than I would prefer for a college-themed set, especially since they are all undrafted rookies at this point. The box promises (on average) 6 autograph cards per box and at least 1 insert card per pack.

2010 SAGE Hit Low Series Pack
1 insert in each of these bad boys

The Breakdown:
Base Cards (#1-50): 120 – 100%
   1x: 14 (all The Program subset cards)
   2x: 13
   3x: 13
   4x: 9
   5x: 1
Parallels: 13 (10 Silver; 3 Gold)
Inserts: 14 (9 Prospectus; 3 The Write Stuff; 2 Make Ready #/50)
Autographs: 6 (1 Base; 4 Silver; 1 Gold #/250)

2010 SAGE Hit Low Series2010 SAGE Hit Low Series
Click images for full-sized scans

1st Down, Design: The base card design is actually pretty nice in my opinion; clean and crisp. The HIT and team logos are well placed and while I’m not usually a fan of sidebar text, it works for this design. I might expect more from a major manufacturer, but for a “micro company”, these are actually quite good. I would like to see more information on the card back though. They also need to work on the cutting process. While scanning, I noticed some of the cards are not the same size while others had issues with right angles on the corners.

2nd Down, Inserts: The parallels are well done, although they look like a base card with silver or gold glitter pressed on top (none of it rubbed off on my fingers thankfully). The Prospectus cards are good — nice design and good tidbits of player info on the back. The Write Stuff, while easily lending itself to an autograph parallel, is a waste. Those cards did nothing for me, especially with the facsimile signature being on the card back. The Make Ready cards were also odd. They look like printing plates, but they are just normal cards that only received 1 of the 4 printing colors. It looks like they were searching for an insert to serial number. The autographs are nice (no redemptions!) although I’d rather see just one autograph set with maybe one variant. There are too many autograph sets to chase. I am undecided if hand numbering the gold parallels (rather than using a serial number stamp) is good or bad, especially from a fake-scare position.

3rd Down, Collation: Meh. What do you expect when you get 150 cards when the base set is only 50 cards? I do not like getting doubles from the same box, and this box had doubles aplenty. The Program subset was almost another insert as I only pulled one double of the 15 in the set. I would rather see a lower card count (and lower price) for the box to avoid so many doubles. And if duplicates have to exist, shoot to give me 3 of each card instead of 2 of some and 5 of another. Also, a word of warning if you are only buying a few packs: I pulled the 6 autographs from 3 consecutive packs in the middle of the box and again in the final 3 packs. So unless you are the first to pull from a box, you probably shouldn’t plan on pulling an autograph if other pack buyers catch onto that trend.

4th Down, Overall Value: In two words: not good. Sam Bradford autographs are running a little over $60 right now and a few others are pulling $25, but most cards are generating less than $5 on eBay. 25 ct. lots of even the best future rookie base cards are going for around $2.50. With a per-card price of $0.70 (or $17.50 if you look at price per “hit”), you might as well wait. If you really want this set and are not concerned with prospecting, wait until after cards featuring these guys in NFL unis (or at least card logos) are released. These completely college themed cards should plummet after that.

RED ZONE RESULTS: MISSED FIELD GOAL I applaud a young and small company for going out and producing a great looking set with pack-inserted autographs. However, the base checklist is just too small and the inserts almost too numerous to make this product really worthwhile. There are no penalties or turnovers here, but 2010 SAGE Hit Low Series just couldn’t light up the scoreboard for me.

NEXT UP (tentatively): 2010 Press Pass Football