Tuesday, March 17, 2015

My thoughts on saving our hobby

        As I write this the Sports card collecting “Industry Summit” is taking place in Las Vegas. This usually sparks the annual conversation among hobbyists regarding the State of the hobby, which is usually a list of the same old grievances. “No More Redemptions!”, “No More Exclusives”, “No More Inserts”,” No More Base Cards” and of course “No More Redemptions!!” All of these gripes lead to the same conclusion:  The hobby is in a downward spiral.

So recently a Sports editor at Topps and someone I consider a hobby friend Tweeted the following question:

Every day I think about how I can make this hobby better. What do you think would make it improve?

I haven’t stopped thinking about this question since she asked.

If you’re curious what others immediately responded to her, see my list above. I did not respond that day. This is my response.

First, let me make it clear that I, like others don’t like to see how they make the sausage. In other words, I know a LOT of work goes on behind the scenes at card companies but as a customer all I care about is the end product that ends up in packs. Therefore, I feel that I have no right to complain about the legalities that it takes to make magic happen. I’m also a reasonable person, and I know that me asking Topps to eliminate all redemptions is not going to eliminate all redemptions. So what can be done to make a difference? To me this is simple.

As of today, March 2015 Technology is king. I feel the industry is not utilizing Social Media to its fullest potential. It is disheartening when a Company like Topps creates a twitter account to personally deal with “support” issues and the account has not responded to any of its customers since September of 2011. That is not a typo. When that account was running I asked it about a particular redemption. The account responded “The athlete hasn’t signed for us yet, we’re sorry about the inconvenience.” What a long way that went with me. That simple response that took someone all of 5 seconds to complete and it accomplished the following:
     1)      I did not have to call Topps and remain on hold for what feels like an eternity just so have someone give me that same answer.
         2)      Writing me back directly made me feel like an important customer
         3)      I was satisfied and realized the issue was out of Topps hands, but they were on top of it 

When calls/Tweets/ Emails go unanswered by Topps, I blame Topps. When I’m on hold waiting for a Topps rep, I blame Topps.  This animosity then spills over on to Social Media and I end up trashing Topps out of frustration. Who the hell do I think I am?
Topps uses its main twitter feed to show off upcoming products, checklists and even fulfilled redemption's but there is no consistency. It should Tweet every checklist, and all redemption's fulfilled. I can only assumed that Athletes have signed contracts with Card companies wherein they are paid to sign cards, so not signing is a breach of contract. I say put these athletes on blast…  ”Hey Joe Smith, I’m sorry you've been waiting so long for your redemption, (insert lazy athlete here) hasn't signed yet”. Now who am I mad at? It’s not the card company.

I personally handle the Social Media and marketing for the company I work for. Even an amateur media expert will tell you the benefits of keeping an active Facebook page, Twitter feed and Instagram account (As well as a myriad of others). These card companies can post content on their site and filter followers back to their site via Social Media. For example, when Topps wants to post images of let’s say 2015 Tribute, the can simply tweet a link to photos on their website. I as an interested consumer will gladly follow the link back to their site. Oh and look at that, on the bottom of the page below the Tribute pics are those wall hangings they’re trying to sell. Maybe I’ll grab one for the man cave. But this is not how it works, instead Topps will post some Tribute pics on Twitter, one of them shows a Willie Mays auto. Instead of being excited about the product, I find myself angry that my Willie Mays redemption from 2013 hasn’t come in yet. In a better world an issue like this is addressed by Topps right out of the gate. “Hey guys, Check out this sweet Tribute auto from the Say Hey kid! By the way, if you’re still waiting on his 2013 Triple threads auto it should be going out soon.” Oh the agony a tweet like this would save.  

On a final note, it seems that card companies need to gain their customers trust back. In 2012 Topps put out a Baseball Draft picks and Prospects product. The sell sheet for this product as well as numerous social media accounts boasted that one of the high points of the product was full item redemption's. The “Case hits” would yield a Game used cap, pants glove, jersey, or something else “Game Used” to its finder. I was a lucky finder who pulled one of these “Full Item” redemption's and I was jacked up when I got it. After 2 years of waiting for my surprise item, it finally showed up. It was not a Jersey, or a glove or cleats, nor was it game used in fact my item didn't even belong to a player. My redemption fulfillment was 3”x 3” piece of navy blue cloth with an interlocking NY on it and no explanation. After spending a good hour researching it turns out I got the magnet that was atop the draft board during the minor league draft?!?!? I was furious. First off, I could have sold the redemption back when I pulled it for almost $800. This was when Yasiel Puig was blowing up and people were overpaying at the thought of getting something game used from him, and why wouldn't they think that? Topps told us what we could expect from this redemption. I’m a collector, through and through. So I kept it and hoped I’d end up with a great item for my collection. Instead I got a magnet, that isn't really a magnet. So I called Topps to complain and this was the response I got: “It is Topps stance that this is the item we’re giving out in lieu of this redemption, we feel the redemption has been satisfied and no exchanges will be made”. Just writing about it now is getting my blood boiling all over again.

My point is, just be honest with me. Had I had known from the beginning that I was going to get a draft flag; maybe I would have been happy about it. In my opinion I was lied to. Why would I give my business to a company I can’t trust? I by no means mean to be slamming only Topps in this post, but they’re the company I grew up with, they’re the company I spend money with and well, they’re the company that has screwed me over like this on more than just the occasion I just spoke of. This gives the appearance that they will lie to get you to buy a product and not care about you after they do. This seems to be a trend with Topps. They’re very good at creating and hyping promotions and then letting them fall by the wayside (Ginter code anyone? Five Star Club?). Just follow through with your promises.

So to finish this up, I’ll go back to the original question. How can this hobby improve? Card Co.’s can be more present, and give their customers the personal experience they’re pining for. Continue to build up and promote your product, but see these promotions through to the end. And finally, don’t lie to us….Nobody likes a liar.

Maybe this wont "save" the hobby, but it's a necessary start to gain your customers trust back.


Nick Loiacono

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My own personal Yogi-ism

So here's a quick story about the 2 times I met the amazing Yogi Berra.

Back in 2009 I went up to Cooperstown so see Rickey Henderson get inducted into the Hall. The Moment I stepped on Main street I was in Baseball Heaven and literally the first thing I saw was a small tent set up for signings and photos. The tent housed Mr. Berra, Goose Gossage and Harmon Killebrew. 

After waking up from fainting I made my way over to Mr. Berra who was kind enough to take the greatest photo of all time (Sorry National Geographic)

OK, So fast forward 2 years to October 2011 (The timeline is important) I find out Yogi's going to be at the Steiner store at the local mall here on LI signing. I decide to go back to get the above pic signed. 

Here's what transpired when I met Mr. Berra the second time:

Me: Hello Mr. Berra I was hoping you can sign this photo of us
YB: Sure, This was taken in Cooperstown right?
Me: Yes sir, I came up for induction weekend
YB:  Yeah I remember, it was 2 years ago
Me: Wow, yeah....How did you know that?
YB: Because I didn't go last year!

That's right folks.....I got my own personal Yogi-ism. I will remember both of our meetings for the rest of my life!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Baseball Card Bully

I grew up on Long Island in the 80's. On summer days around 9am, every kid in the neighborhood would congregate on my street, in front of my house to play baseball. We did this EVERY SINGLE DAY. It was our own version of street ball. We'd cut the top off a Wiffle ball bat, load the barrel with wet newspaper to give it weight and then tape it up, usually with some kind of colored electrical tape. We'd self-hit a tennis ball, and run the bases. Curbs were foul poles. We'd yell out "CAR" quickly followed by "Game on" ala Garth in 'Wayne's World'.  Sliding meant road rash. Game's over when the first guys mom called him for dinner. It was the most fun, innocent time of my life.

On rainy days when we couldn't play, a select few would get together to trade cards. We'd go around the room for hours looking at each others collection, putting together trade bundles and then usually having it all fall apart at the last minute. So everyone went home with the same cards they came with. We called it "Trading Table". I don't think it was for any particular reason, we just thought it sounded cool. It was during one of these Trading tables that I had a memorable trade scenario play out that's worthy of mentioning here.

This particular rainy day found us all at my house going through stacks of cardboard when a random neighborhood kid, who we were not friends with came to my door. He said he'd heard we were trading and was interested in sitting in. We didn't really know him, we just knew we didn't like him. He also had a rep of being a bit if a bully, so we let him, basically because no one would tell him no. For the sake of this story I won't tell you his name. Let's just call him Shmohn Shmandaro. After sorting through some stuff Shmohn spotted something in my pile and his eyes lit up. He said, "Dude, do you know what you have here? That's Reggie Jackson's autograph. He was referring to a card I pulled earlier in the week, it was one of those 1990 Upper Deck inserts. It was obviously one of the facsimile auto's. This one:

Well, the bully wanted it. I even told him it wasn't the real one, but he wouldn't listen and insisted we trade for it. So here's my pickle, dude offers me a semi-beat up 1980 Rickey Henderson Rookie card. This at the time was my holy grail, condition didn't matter. So I traded him for it. Pretty good right?

Wrong, The next day Shmohn and his dad come knocking at my door saying he wants his sons Rickey Rookie back since I traded him a bogus Reggie auto. I shakily told the dad that his dumb-dumb kid full on knew it was a fake and yet he still wanted it. Long story short, I gave the cry-baby and his daddy back his Rickey.

Fast forward to last week. I picked up a box of 1990 UD High #'s for $17. It was an awesome break and totally covered my need for nostalgia. I even got a Re-tweet from Upper Deck about it! The best part? I pulled 5 more of that exact Reggie:

I Really wanted to go find Shmohn Shmandaro and throw them like Chinese stars at his fat head (Which is bald by the way). But screw it, I'll just keep them. I'll put them in a display case....Right next to my 1980 Rickey Henderson PSA 9 Rookie Card. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Warning: A Lot of cows were harmed for this post.

Ok I decided on a new PC item last night and I could use your help. Prior to this Blog I had a Tumblr, and my very 1st post was about my all time fave card: Read the post and see the old blog HERE
Anyway, I found my original Mickey last night and decided to do a BIG GLOVE PC. I want any and all card depicting players goofing-off with over-sized baseball mits. 

Here's what I've found so far:

Who Knew? Mickey Hatcher rocked the big glove twice on cardboard! 

A-Gone and Juan Guzman also packed some large leather, but you'd have to Flip JG's 94' UD card over to find it!

Puig put on the oversized for an SP in 2013 Topps Flagship:

Ok, So here's where i need you help. I got my hands on all 5 of these through Ebay, COMC, and Some I had. I even found this awesome photo that I'm going to put on cardboard through the RookiesApp.

I just can't seem to track down this one!

So if anybody can help me with this one, or more importantly if you could pass along any info on others I don't know about, I'd truly appreciate it. 

Thanks in advance!

Monday, May 5, 2014

This is why we trade

I've been fortunate enough to meet some amazing collectors via Twitter and this Blog. I'm a big fan of trading cards, I"ll trade with anyone anywhere. This recent transaction with Twitter friend Kevin (Aka @porterman20) was exactly what trading cards should be about. Kev is a Red Sox guy, so it's a perfect fit for us, I send him some Sox he sends me some Yanks. We've done this a few times over the years. This last package I got from him was awesome! 

It's an awesome mix of Hits, Base, Slabbed and Vintage. Everything this Yanks collector could ask for. Now, admittedly I don't mess around much with grading, and what I do mess with is normally through PSA.  I may have had a change of opinion though after getting this sick Munson SP, it looks great in it's BGS home. And what bout that Yogi? That card is everything I love about collecting. I love the mini, the frame, his face and that old cloth.

Kevin, I can't thank you enough! I look forward to us continuing to build each others collection for years to come. 

For the rest of you, This is how I trade: If you collect a certain team I'll send you hits, inserts, base, and anything else you may or may not be looking for, I just ask for a comparable package in return. Shoot me a message if interested. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

I've been meaning to post about what I'm currently PC'ing, So here she goes. 

I'm always looking for anything and everything of the following:
Mariano Rivera
Rickey Henderson (Especially PSA 9's)
Thurman Munson

I also like any Yankees game used, specifically old stuff. 
Secondarily, I look for Mark Teixeira stuff, and Melky Cabrera low numbered stuff.
Lastly, I'm slowly working on the Parks and Recreation master set. 

Having said all this, I have to say I've been off of my game lately. With a young kid at home, 2 jobs, Mortgage and weddings, I can't spend on cards like I used to. 

As many of you know, I'm a bit of a box buster but even that has taken a back seat lately. So how do I feed my habit with no money and no time? SINGLES!

I've been just grabbing up random weird stuff that I can afford, here's some examples (I apologize for the shit photos I took @5am this morning):

This one is a card I've been looking for for a while. It's out there but a bit overpriced in my opinion. Thanks to  on twitter for moving it at a reasonable price. I'm still looking for the "Enter Sandman" and "Game Over" versions if anyone has them.

This card is bad ass! I'm not much of a Cut auto guy, but this is an embedded check piece of Bobby Thompson. I love the design and it's a perfect random PC pick up.

The Photo sucks on this one, but I love this card. Got it cheap too. It's a huge Reggie head and massive navy swatch. Only thing missing is the interlocking NY.

I was lucky enough to get a TTM from Mr. Offerman a few months back, he even described it "Get a job". I love Ron Swanson so much that I felt I needed the certified auto. Here it is, in all of its pompadoured glory.

Finally, I grabbed my first "Clear" or "Acetate card". This is from this years Leaf Trinity. It just seemed like a card I need to own. It's completely transparent. I would have taken almost anyone, but the Judge came at a good price and seemed like a no-brainer.  Check the thickness of this mother!

Thanks for looking at what I collect. I'm always willing to trade if you'd like to get something going.  Now get off the computer and send me some shit!