30 Day Baseball Card Challenge

Monday, December 1, 2014

You Gotta Have Faith

After Panini's recent debacle, I figured I'd voice my thoughts on one of my favorite things to collect: memorabilia cards.

The first time I crossed paths with a card embedded with a piece of a player's uniform was when I pulled this 1996 Press Pass Game-Used Jersey card of Ray Allen:

That year Upper Deck took the hobby by storm and inserted jersey cards in their football and hockey products.  The following year they gave baseball, basketball, and racing card collectors something to chase and included my all-time favorite player:

It took me fifteen years, but I finally added this card to my collection.  And over the years I have spent hundreds of dollars on a variety of memorabilia cards for my PC's.  Some include detailed certificates of authenticity on the backs:

While others have very vague descriptions, which leave collectors wondering what's exactly embedded in their cards:

But since most of us aren't privy to the manufacturing of these cards, it's impossible for us to truly know if the tiny swatches of fabric or pieces of equipment we collect were actually worn or used by athletes in games.  Even on the most descriptive COA's, there's still the possibility that the company is lying.  Which means that collectors are required to take a leap of faith when collecting game-used trading cards.

Up until a few years ago, I was confident that the majority of my memorabilia cards contained actual game-used swatches.  But with age, I've matured and grown wiser.

Now don't get the wrong idea.  I still enjoy pulling a relic card out of a pack.

However... outside of a few exceptions (like here or here), I refuse to spend more than a few dollars for a single memorabilia card.  I have established this rule for myself as a defense mechanism used to battle any future feelings of regret.

It's a shame that a handful of shady people have tarnished something that was once one of the coolest cardboard innovations.  I'm sure memorabilia cards will continue to be collected by many of us.

Unfortunately the doubt that has settled into many collectors' minds will never be erased.

And since I'm not the savior of memorabilia cards, I don't have the solution to this problem.  On the other hand, I have some personal things I'd like to see happen.

Let's call it my Memorabilia Card Christmas Wish List:

1.  I wish that representatives of MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS, UFC, NASCAR, and other sports leagues would step up and actively participate in the production of memorabilia cards, since it puts money into their pockets and helps promote their sport.

2.  I wish each league designated a department dedicated to authenticating game-used memorabilia that would be directly handed to card manufacturers.  In other words the game-used items should go from the athlete to the league representative, then directly to the card manufacturer.  All middle men should be cut out of the loop.

3.  I wish card manufacturers stopped using event-worn memorabilia and only embedded the game-used swatches.  I understand that would probably reduce the number of memorabilia cards in each product, but personally I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.

4.  I wish card manufacturers stated when and where each piece of memorabilia was used and back it up with a detailed certificate of authenticity with a money back guarantee.

But even if all of these wishes came true... the bottom line is this:  Memorabilia cards are like most religions... they require a leap of faith.

What are your thoughts on memorabilia cards?

Happy Monday and sayonara!


  1. That Ray Allen tho...wow.

    But well said in general...I tend to agree and it is why I love my Seneca stuff because at least it admits when it is event worn rather than game worn.

    1. Thanks. When it comes down to it... if you know what you're holding and you're happy with it... that's all a collector can ask. The problem is holding onto the unknown ;-)

  2. I'll never, ever understand why they cut up pieces of history to put them in cards, but that's only for the vintage memorabilia, I suppose. Right now, there are so many of them that they've become irrelevant and are just an excuse to make nice looking cards. I'm not sure it changes much that t's actually been worn. They might as well save a few hundred dollars and just go get a nice official jersey (which some did, of course).

    That's why I'll focus on autographs because at least we're sure that...oh wait..

    1. I remember the drama Donruss caused a decade ago when they decided to buy and cut up the Babe Ruth jersey. I feel the same way when they cut up George Washington autographs for trading cards.

  3. I used to be a pretty big memorabilia card guy, but I got burned out of that pretty quick. (And that was before the whole fake jersey scandal broke.)

    People can collect how they want, but I've found the dime box/discount vintage journey to be MUCH more fun and satisfying.

    1. Yeah... It's actually a blessing that there's such a variety of collector interest. It provides a balance in our hobby and promotes trading. As for dime boxes and discount vintage... I'm definitely in your corner.

  4. Agree. No more of this event worn stuff. I would rather pull game used anyday and I don't mind taking a hit or two per box away to get the real stuff.

  5. Great wish list Fuji, I agree with almost all of your points.

    As for my thoughts on memorabilia cards I consider them to be 100% fake (yeah I'm a half-empty kind of person) but look extremely nice if they get auto'd. Any memorabilia cards I have in my PC are likely there just because I feel obligated to get whatever Topps/Upper Deck/Panini/whoever puts my PC guys' face and name on.

    1. You are not alone Zippy! I wish Topps, Panini, and the other manufactures could see your comment. The fact that you assume it's 100% fake should open up their eyes and inspire them to do something about it.

      Btw... received your package yesterday. I'll be writing up a post today. Thanks!

  6. If the card companies want to issue memorabilia cards like these, then they need to stop with the disclaimers and stop with the event worn memorabilia and start putting in the exact game for which the jersey was worn. Enough game memorabilia is available for sale immediately after games -- and sometimes during games -- such that the card companies and their professional league partners can still make money on these cards.

    The fabric swatches are small enough to get at least 100 cards out of a baseball jersey and another 50 from pants. For bat relics, identify the exact game in which the bat broke (since bats often get used for a long time by a player).

    This will help limit the number of items inserted. Yes, they become more expensive, but I'd rather have fewer memorabilia inserts anyway.

  7. I like memorabilia cards, but I don't chase them much anymore. Mose of my recent additions have come either by trades or adding cards to my eBay order in order to get a nice bulk shipping rate.

    As far as your wish list I think you hit the nail on the head. I think collectors would love the companies going back to using only game used jerseys.

    1. Outside of my player/team collections... I rarely chase them either.

      And after seeing the number of jersey cards in dollar bins increase over the years... I'm starting to think you're right.

  8. They are 'cute'. =P
    I have a couple of 'relic' cards that are peculiar:
    So that's all for me..they are cute.
    We might say that auto cards are better but even the signature we don't know for sure if they are true sigs from the player.

    And what bugs me is that they keep doing relic cards with Babe Ruth material. Do they stolen so many uniforms and bats from that time!?

    1. A. Pre-scratched Sosa Card = Super Rare
      B. Agree 100%... autographs should be scrutinized as well.
      C. Cutting up Babe Ruth jerseys is insane!

  9. Relics are fun, in many cases. They're more affordable than autographs, and for most of my player collections that's certainly enough, though I've occasionally looked for autographs too. But let's face it, I'm not getting an Ichiro signature without laying down serious dough.

    I do have a concern that they're not real, but since I don't drop more than a couple bucks each it doesn't matter as much.

    The added cost is probably what's dissuading the card companies from getting something arranged with the leagues. I'm pretty sure BBM gets their goods directly from the teams here, though. Relics are fairly rare, too.

    Really, I don't chase lots of relics, other than those for my type collections and some of the celebrity items. In the past, I've gone after cards in non-sport movie sets, and I might do that again (I haven't been paying attention to movie/tv show releases lately).

    1. Hopefully the Japanese stay with their current business model and not move towards the way they've done things over here.

  10. If the player wears a pair of pants during one single game in which he sat on the bench eating sunflower seeds and tracking pitches, are those pants "Game Used"? I suspect we know the answer to that.

    Even if you disregard the questions of authenticity, I'm honestly not that interested in relic cards. I might have an initial reaction of "Oh, it's fun to think that J.J. Hardy wore this while turning two", but after that fades I'm left with cards I don't find all that appealing... and the thought that I'd be better off spending my money on something vintage.

    1. Maybe you'd reconsider your stand if Topps started embedding game-used sunflower seeds into their cards with dna and photo evidence printed on the back of the card.

  11. When Game Used Cards first came out, I thought they were the holy grails of all holy grails. I remember just wanting to own one..no matter who the player...I even remember when game used EQUIPMENT cards (like MVP's Game Used Souvenirs sets which had swatches of game used footballs and basketballs) were pricey and there wasn't even a guarantee that specific player touched it! When they become a little more affordable I loved them even more..I mean owning a swatch of a jersey that someone like Shaq, or Emmitt Smith wore? That's beyond awesome..especially of icons like Babe Ruth, Chamberlain, Payton etc. But then..they just got wayyyyy overflooded and they just became another card. Plus for super high premium patches like logomen..it got me to thinking "Why not just buy the whole actual jersey at either the same or close price instead of buying a card with a little logo patch on it?" All those factors combined with the biggest factor of it all...trust..led me out of game used cards and ultimately out of cards period. I'd much rather have my Kevin Durant Meigray Certified to a specific game full game used jersey than some random logoman patch that sells for twice what a full gamer goes. I think it's even harder to trust anything older just because there are so many fakes out there in so many different auction houses. Card Companies aren't authenticators...if they for example buy a 92-93 Patrick Ewing Game Used Jersey from Heritage and Grey Flannel..there's zero guarantee that's it authentic unless it possibly came directly from the player itself. They are taking the word of auction houses on older stuff and there are numerous cases of auction houses being called out for passing authentication on bad stuff. I tried "suspending disbelief" for so long but it's obvious not everything is on the up and up either by shady practices or mistakes. Sorry for long rant Fuj!