Big Lead Sports Bar

2/12/2008

Is Hillary the Next Billy Ripken?

Unfortunately, the decline of the baseball card hobby has not been a pretty one. Collecting hit its peak in the late '80s/early '90s, when Topps, Donruss, Fleer, and Upper Deck were printing cards as fast as you were buying them. Of course, that would also explain why your factory-sealed set of 1990 Donruss is worth less than a Taco Bell value meal.

But one of the most magical moments in card history came in 1989, when Fleer "erroneously" let a Billy Ripken card slip out with the infamous "F-Face" on the bottom of his bat. To say that this card created hysteria would be a massive understatement. Personally, I recall our local Hills Department stores limiting you to two packs per customer, which consequently resulted in people walking in and out of Hills and spending .98 over and over again.

Eventually, the hysteria died down. Today, the original Ripken card can be had for as little as $2.49 on the eBays. However, there are numerous variations that are still quite difficult to find, as outlined on the awesome Billripken.com website.

The magic that Fleer captured in little wax-covered packets in 1989 might be back again, though, as Upper Deck has produced a Hillary Clinton parody card that has collectors scrambling.

One of the cards, available in packs of 2008 Upper Deck baseball, just sold for a whopping $1,375 on eBay.

And while that's not as much as Bill Simmons' "cursed" Randy Moss jersey ($8,000 at the time of this post), that's a nice little profit for a piece of cardboard.
Upper Deck released an entire series, called "Presidential Predictors", that offer collectors the chance to win prizes like throwing out the first pitch at a MLB game. There's cards of hopefuls and also-rans such as Al Gore, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Barack Obama, John McCain, and Mitt Romney. But there's one glaring omission: Hillary is not posted on the Upper Deck website.

According to the collector that sold this particular card, Upper Deck is claiming that the Clinton card was pulled. If that's the case, then someone didn't do their job. But contrary to what you think, this is not the first time since Ripken that a card was supposed to be pulled, then "a few slipped out". A few examples off the top of my head (I know I'm missing others, feel free to add them in the comments section):

-The 1990 Pro Set Eric Dickerson Pro Bowl card.

Reason pulled: Contractual. Considering that Pro Set made about 10 zillion of these cards, it's fair to assume that a minimum-wager hired to pull these out might miss five or ten...thousand.

Current Value: Anywhere from $1-$25 on eBay. Like any other Pro Set product, virtually worthless.

--2000 Lavar Arrington rookie cards

Reason: Lavar's a Pittsburgh boy, so I should cut him some slack. But when he came into the league in 2000, he was a professional pain in the neck for card companies. The famous Leaper would not give his licensing rights to the manufacturers, so any Arrington cards already produced were either pulled or cut out.

Value: The cutout on the left is available for $31, not bad for a card that is 90% air. The Upper Deck card on the right is listed at $80. There's no truth to the rumor that the value of these cards crashed due to Lavar's appearance as a judge on ESPN's Dream Job.

--2006 Bowman Leon Washington Autograph

--Reason: He's flipping off the camera! Twice! He blamed it on a sign for the east side of Jacksonville.

Topps offered to replace the card to those easily offended.

--Value: I found one for $31 and another for $80.

--2006 Topps Alex Gordon

Reason: Gordon did not qualify per league standards for a trading card; Topps "pulled" it. There are also variations featuring a cutout version and a blank front.

Backstory: Remember those "rack packs" that department stores sold when we were kids? You know, a strip of three packs of cards, where you could see the fronts and the backs? Well, Wal-Mart brought them back, and yes, you could potentially find a Gordon. You can only assume what went on in Wally Worlds across the nation.
Value: The cutout one shown above was for sale for $200. Or you could buy the trifecta from one entrepreneur for $6K.
Don't forget: Famously hoarded by baseball fan/talking head Keith Olbermann, who paid $7,500 for a Beckett graded copy. And yes, he also owns one that's showing through on a rack pack.

--The 2007 Topps Derek Jeter

Reason: According to Topps, these technically weren't pulled, but rather replaced at midseason. The card features GW Bush cheering on Jeter as the Mick watched from the dugout. While the vision of George Bush attending a ballgame is believable, they got greedy by including Mantle.

The company had the opportunity to pull the card but decided to let it go. After all, they learned their lesson from 2006: error cards drive sales.

Value: Here's one for 10 bucks!

--2007 Upper Deck Michael Eisner

--Reason: Upper Deck produced the card as a parody of future Topps owner Michael Eisner. Presumably, Topps was not amused. Upper Deck subsequently issued a recall of the cards.

--Value: You can "buy it now" for $100.

--2007 Upper Deck "Asterisk"

--Reason: A simple card with a hand-drawn asterisk, this was taken as a shot at Barry Bonds and the card company that pays Barry Bonds, Topps. Yeah, I could see that.

Upper Deck later released a statement saying that the cards were not intended for distribution.

--Value: Want to make a statement and own one of these? Be prepared to drop $1,756.25.

So what can we conclude? People love hype. And while it's taken them nearly 20 years, it looks like card companies have finally figured that out. Either that or they've become incredibly sloppy with their proof stage. I'm betting on the former.

4 comments:

Get Fresh Designs said...

Whoa. Hills, I remember Hills. Jamesway anyone?

Sadly the early 90's is when all of my trading cards are from, they're sitting in a shoebox, and I don't believe I have any "good" ones.

Beefy said...

There is also a Jacoby Ellsbury card that "doesn't" exist in 2007 Topps Updates

The Duke from Dukes Court said...

Hills, now that is from back in the day.

Anyone remember Sports Flics Trading Cards? They were by far the coolest thing back in 1989.

I have tons of old baseball, hockey and football cards in boxes at my parents house. I still remember getting my Upper Deck Jagr #1 draft pick card in a trade and thinking it was the best card ever. Times sure have changed...

Michael Beckwith said...

I remember Michael Dean Perry made Topps pull his rookie card once upon a time. Of course, since Topps printed like 1 million of them, it didn't matter when I gobbled up a half dozen.

At least I got a Ripken the year before...I think that's worth about a buck.