Hello fellow card maniacs,
It’s time for the second annual Mikey Awards. This is easily my most favorite piece to share each year and yes, I do put more than 20 minutes into this article. I still write it after midnight just like my other reports just to make it as cool and culturally relevant as possible.Since I’m writing this on Christmas morning, I hope that you were all bad enough this year to have had fun, but good enough for Santa to have visited your nearest card shop (hopefully you have one) to make sure that you got what you wanted for the holidays. So, as you enjoy the last of your fruitcake, eggnog and beef jerky, I offer you the best and worst of 2014 from the card world. At least what I think was the best and the worst.
Also at the end of the year, I usually offer some of the most “interesting” phone calls and requests at the shop. This year, I will be sharing one email correspondence. Well more like 50 or so correspondences between me and one particular collector.
Before then, the Mikey for the best in store experience goes to the gentleman who stopped in two days before Christmas with his grandson to do some shopping. They found an A J Green jersey on the wall that I had priced for $50. The grandfather told his grandson to watch as he negotiated a better price. He took out two bills from his numerous bills in his pocket and held up what he thought was 2 $20 bills. He told me that was all he had for the jersey and told me that if I wanted to make a sale, that was all they were going to pay. One slight hiccup as I pointed out that he was holding a $20 and a $50.
No, I’m not the owner of Arnold’s Dungeon from the Simpsons since I didn’t take the $70 for the jersey. Fortunately business was good this year and I need to sleep at night, knowing that I don’t take advantage of people. I did a better job keeping a straight face than my other collectors in the store and sure gramps got his jersey for $40. I got the story which is more valuable than the ten spot any day.
ROY – 2014 Panini Prizm Soccer – In spite of Panini inventing a new word (there is no word Prizm, but Prism IS a word) I am actually choosing to give the 2014 ROY award to a soccer product. No, I’m not taking in exaggerated amounts of Colorado’s newest legal substance; I’m actually giving this award to a FIFA product. Of course it is the “world’s sport” and that was proven with my store moving well over 100 boxes of a release without a guarantee of 4 autographs, 3 autographs, 2 autographs or even a single signed card. Rumor has it that inked cards appeared 1:2 boxes, but that didn’t stop my store from hitting the century mark in box sales and we even put a number of boxes under Christmas trees in spite of the last World Cup game being played July 13 of this year.
The base autographed card of Cristiano Ronaldo has a Beckett price of $1,500.00. That means you can either snag just one of them OR autographed cards of Emmitt Smith, Brett Favre, John Elway, Joe Montana, Johnny Manziel, Jerry Rice, Andrew Luck and a few others.
Butt Fumble Of The Year – I just came across this card the other day. It is a 2014 Topps UFC Knockouts autographed relic card of Ronda Rousey with an interesting, Billy Ripkenesque feature. While she is clearly someone who I would like to keep happy, I can only guess that she would like to spend some quality time with whomever came up with this Triple Threads inspired phrase. Let’s face it, the chosen caption can be seen by individuals such as myself who never grew up to read a bit differently than intended. Side bet, after she was done with them, their arms might not exactly be in perfect working order.
The Gone But Never To Be Forgotten Award – Sadly, industry pioneer Sy Berger passed away December 14. I never had the pleasure of meeting Sy and now wish that I had been able to have. I have been lucky enough to have owned my store for just over 22 years and I essentially owe my livelihood that I love to his efforts. Widely appreciated for being the co-designer of the immortal 1952 Topps MLB set, everyone who is in this industry owed him a beer, a high-five and a sincere amount of appreciation.
It’s safe to say that nobody else can claim that they were involved with kicking millions of dollars’ worth of 1952 Topps cards into the Atlantic Ocean. I mean this guy destroyed more quality cards than Katrina and helped ensure that the 1952 set would always be the stuff of legend.
After his passing, I spoke to Big League Cards store owner near Orlando and Topps consultant Alan Narz. He shared the story of asking Sy what he thought of jersey cards. Sy asked Alan if they helped sell boxes. When told that they did, Sy replied, “then I like them.” Game over. Drop the microphone.
Out Of Nowhere Product Of The Year Award AKA The Kansas City Royals Award – 2014 Topps Opening Day MLB – Yeah, go ahead and pick up your collective jaws from the floor but this release is nearly double direct cost at wholesale and virtually impossible to find out there. Sure, you would have needed to have bought 50,000 boxes directly to have made a million dollars.
There is a Mike Trout autograph possible, but the other signatures consist of guys like Glen Perkins, Junior Lake, Todd Frazier, Will Myers, Andrew Lambo and other players you would have to read Baseball Americana to recognize. I have to tell you, it is a pleasure to own a card store and be able to wax poetic about a release that does not have to rely upon 4 autographs or relics, something signed by Michael Jordan or cost over $100 and still hits the collector’s happy place.
The What Do You Mean That Baseball Isn’t a December Sport Award – For some reason (I’m guessing that it has something to do with no current year MLB release coming out after the first of the new year) Topps through planning and product delays decided that it was a good idea to release: 2014 Topps Dynasty, 2014 Topps High Tek, 2014 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects Regular, Jumbo and Super Jumbo, 2014 Topps Five Star, 2014 Bowman Mini Chrome and 2014 Bowman Sterling all within the month of December.
Clearly during the month of December, collectors are focused on the happenings of the boys of summer.
Oh wait, no they aren’t. They are really focused on all things football, but shops had to contend with twice as many MLB offerings as they enjoyed during any month of the season. Topps has already suggested that next year their plan is to only have 3 MLB offerings after the end of the season. I sincerely hope that their plans for 2015 result in fewer post season releases and that many more hit right before or after the 162 game season. I also hope that the lifting of the Cuban embargo means that we will see many more players from this island that influence interest like they have the last few years.
Promotion Of The Year – Panini Black Friday/Panini Father’s Day – Unless someone steps up their game big time, I might have to retire this award. As a card shop, anytime a manufacturer designs a promotion where we can distribute free packs to our collectors, I get more excited than Marshawn Lynch when the Skittles delivery truck makes a stop. There is nothing else that ever makes me open my store up at midnight or unlock the doors on Thanksgiving night.
This year my store brought in over 1,800 Black Friday packs and since doing so, our Panini sales have been nothing short of astonishing. Regardless of their MLB offerings not having pro uniforms, 13/14 NBA products not having a name rookie and Johnny Manziel being known more for his Snickers commercial than his play, my store sold countless boxes starting the day before Thanksgiving through the entire holiday season. Sure Panini gets bagged on by some shops for making us restock boxes we already purchased, but the smart stores have figured out how to deal with this and if nothing else, it gives the shops that love to complain something to chew on for a while.
The Worst Comeback Of The Year Award AKA The Caddyshack 2 Award – When I first heard that 2014 Topps Stadium Club MLB was coming back, I’ll have to admit that I allowed myself to get my hopes up. For some reason, my product “Spider Sense” was kicking and I fortunately only ordered one case. From looks alone, this should have been a hit. Stadium Club was the first premium set and when it came around in 1991, jaws dropped, wallets opened and the first-year release of 1991 Ultra MLB slinked away in despair.
Sadly when Stadium Club baseball returned this year for the first time since 2008 it sounded stellar. I mean how could a product with a dual autographed card of Mike Trout and Ken Griffey Jr not crush? Even dual signed cards of Koufax/Kershaw, Reggie/Rickey, Randy/Greg, Jorge/Mariano and others could not keep this release from dropping ~50% wholesale. As an aside, at this price, I think it’s an incredible buy and while I’m not closing down the Fruitman IRA to buy the remaining print run, we’re making a point of stocking a few boxes all the time in part for those who share the same great memories I did from 23 years ago.
MVP – Most Valuable Product 13/14 Upper Deck The Cup – I can’t remember too many releases that had more anticipation before it’s release than 13/14 The Cup. I stopped short of selling my children to get enough of this product for all of my collectors that wanted a go at the highest-end NHL release of the year. Granted my shop is located in Colorado and we happen to have had #1 pick Nathan MacKinnon on our roster, but the coupling of a strong double year rookie class and the strongest product of the season made for a must shred case in spite of a near $500 per box prices. Currently Nathan’s base rookie card /99 is pricing on Beckett at a healthy $3,500.00 in spite of Nate The Great hopefully getting out of his sophomore slump.
At last count, my shop has been able to move nearly 50 boxes and while there are a great many other products that we sold more boxes of, 13/14 The Cup wins this year’s MVP award.
The What Should Have Been Award AKA The Brien Taylor Award (Part I) – The 14/15 NBA rookie crop – Even before the NBA draft happened earlier this year, shops were giving thought to buying bigger yachts and collectors were giving thought to busting case after case of 14/15 NBA releases. We should have known opening night when Julius Randle didn’t make it through his first game that it was as potentially over hyped as the 2006 NFL draft. I have spent more time on the court doing security for the Denver Nuggets than 3rd pick Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker got the dreaded three-letter diagnosis just before the holidays. There are still some other stars to follow from this year, but it looks like I might have to reset my hopes for a dingy or used canoe.
CARD…OF…THE YEAR – Last year I got nailed for not choosing the 18x autographed cards of Michael Jordan and other NBA superstars from Upper Deck. I instead went with the Jack Miller card that Upper Deck made to celebrate the incredible strength of Jack as he battled brain tumors while being made part of the Colorado State University football team.
This year, I figured to go a bit more traditional as I award the Card of the Year to the 2014 Bowman Chrome Superfractor 1/1 Jose Abreu. Plain and simple, there was not a single player who did more for baseball products this season and he was a massive reason why so many early season MLB releases did so well this year. The hype over this card helped my store move countless boxes of 2014 Bowman MLB and his performance on the field helped carry most products fly off the shelves of card shops everywhere.
This gem happens to currently be available on eBay and for those of you with an extra $14,999 lying around, feel free to step up and hit the BIN.
So there you have it. The annual Mikey awards have been delivered. Was I right? Was I wrong? Was I funny? Only you can answer those questions. Please feel free to share this piece with your friends since my editor would love to see that happen and yeah, every once in a while I get a kick out of knowing how many clicks my pieces generated. You can reach me via the email address directly below the story.
Lastly, I would hope this was a special collecting year for you and that 2015 will be even better. May all your packs be deflector free, may that pack searcher at Target lose all feeling in their fingers and may that fifth round pick you never heard of be a Pro-Bowl QB in no time.
Mike Fruitman owns Mike’s Stadium Sportscards in Aurora, CO where they’ve got a brand spanking new look to their website. Normally, his column focuses on what products are selling best in hobby shops. See his eBay listings here. Enjoy new arrivals and big hits from Mike’s on Twitter. Mike’s is always looking for more friends on Facebook and you can email him at [email protected]