...even into packs of baseball cards. A few collectors have found Upper Deck's Sweet Spot baseball contains a card with an asterisk where an autograph ought to be.
Modern sports cards are a different animal. The current buzz is about a baseball card that doesn't even picture a player and was issued after the season had ended. You grab a swatch of cowhide and a magic marker. Draw an asterisk on it. Turn it into a baseball card and suddenly you have a controversial and expensive conversation piece.
Losing it's bid to buy Topps, Upper Deck has chosen to finish the year by having some fun--maybe-- with their New York rival. It turns out the company's 2007 Sweet Spot product contains not only a limited number of Michael "Buysner" parody cards but also an "asterisk" card, distributed in even fewer numbers. While Upper Deck hasn't publicly confirmed anything, it's not a stretch to say the asterisk card is another poke at Topps spokesman Barry Bonds. Only three of the cards are known to have surfaced thus far.
Regular cards with the cowhide insert include a 'sweet spot autograph', the signature selling point for the $100+ tins being sold by hobby shops.
One of the asterisk cards sold Monday night on eBay for $955 after drawing 41 bids. A second card appeared and was quickly snapped up for a Buy it Now price of $1200 on Tuesday.
A third card is being offered in combination with one of the Buysner cards and has a current high bid of $1000.
Upper Deck has not released production figures for the cards, offering only a statement that they were not intended for distribution but Michael Harris of The Baseball Card Company, a Granada Hills, California shop where the first card was pulled told Sports Collectors Daily that the store's distributor actually alerted them to the card's existence while delivering the product.
"All he said was there are a lot less of these than there are of the Buysner card," Harris said.
The collector who bought the first card on eBay didn't want to be identified, but believes it will come to symbolize the 2007 season.
"The Barry Bonds asterisk card is emblematic of the controversy surrounding the home run record and even the sports collectible industry itself," he wrote in an e-mail. "I have been in this hobby for close to two decades and this is by far the most polarizing card ever produced. The auction generated over 6,000 hits on word-of-mouth alone and that was before Upper Deck even confirmed the authenticity of the card to me. Due to it’s sheer rarity and immense controversy, I would not be surprised if this sold at an auction house for at least $5,000.00 or 6,000.00 fairly soon."
Some posters on hobby message boards claim Upper Deck is taking unnecessary cheap shots at its rival and the sports card hobby but the buyer of the first asterisk card is OK with it. "It’s America and they have a right to say or do whatever this want – petty or not."
Last month, Upper Deck products contained four different versions of Alex Rodriguez's 2007 SP Authentic card. The space for the player name contained the phrase "Ex Rod" with variations listing Rodriguez as a member of the Angels, Dodgers, Mets and Red Sox".
As a shop owner who has seen plenty in recent years, Harris isn't surprised at that--or by other oddities like the asterisk and Buysner cards, the 2006 Topps Alex Gordon and 2007 Topps Derek Jeter/George Bush/Mickey Mantle.
"Baseball isn't selling that well so I think they're starting to gimmick it up to create some interest," he said.