Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Listia's Immaturity - Great Deals, Odd Users

I previously posted a very glowing review of Listia and how it was the future and blah blah blah...

Although I still like Listia and it has perks over the 'Bay, it is somewhat lacking in the professionalism found on the 'Bay.

I have posted about ~150 card auctions on Listia from a stock of ~60 cards. Even though the listings clearly stated $1 shipping, I received shipping charges from maybe 25% of the winners.

One responses I received from a non-payers, however, was very memorable:

  • from JD11592: dont have a pay pal keep your crap

Some of the payers have had unique reactions, too:

  • After paying $2 for shipping via PayPal, and confirming via email to me that he received the items, user DrizztBingaman filed a PayPal refund request claiming I had made an unauthorized withdrawal from his account. I emailed PayPal a PDF copy of his email to me stating he had received the cards and PayPal dropped the dispute (the first time I as the buyer have ever won a case with PayPal!)
  • One user asked to mail $1 because they only had $.93 in their PayPal account, which I said was fine. Yesterday I received a large, hand-made bubble mailer that I figured held a bunch of relic cards or something very, very fragile. Inside, taped together with a bunch of packaging tape was $1 in loose change from the buyer. The postage for the package to send me $1? $1.64. How did they pay? PayPal...

Listia makes eBay look like the mature sibling.

I have won a boatload of vintage Topps cards (not disclosing the particular year because the average card has already risen from ~750 credits to ~1500 credits in the past two weeks), but I will post pictures of some other fun stuff soon (maybe, who knows).

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bastardization of the Rookie Card

The rookie card is the hobby's gold standard of ill-conceived investment plans; both the producer and consumer understand the rookie card's intrinsic value and exploit their downstream market.

If we presume that producer's position is to make as much money as possible and the consumer's position is to maximize the value of his purchase, and the rookie card holds the most promise for higher value, then it comes as no surprise that the producer would create as many rookie cards as possible and the consumer would buy as many rookie cards as possible.

Because the cost to produce the rookie card is equal to or minutely lower than any other card, the producer has no reason to not over-saturate the rookie card market.

Likewise, if the producer had the option to produce one rookie card but has two potential rookies that could go on the card, it is logical that they would choose the one rookie that would maximize their profits.

With these thoughts in mind, I present to you a basic analysis of four rookies that debuted in 2011: Eric Hosmer, Brandon Crawford, Jemile Weeks, and Mike Trout.

Hosmer debuted on May 6, 2011. Crawford debuted on May 27, 2011. Weeks debuted on June 7, 2011. Trout debuted on July 8, 2011.

Which player had the most cards debuted in his RC-year? (RC-year is defined as the year a player's rookie card debuted even if different than the player's debut year).

Did you guess Weeks? You should have. Although Weeks debuted a month after Hosmer and a month before Trout, Weeks' Rookie Card wasn't released until 2012, and Topps included his Rookie Card in their Bowman, Series Two, Allen and Ginter, Archives, Chrome, Gypsy Queen, Heritage, and Mini sets, and there were at least 127 different Jemile Weeks baseball cards produced by Topps in 2012 (includes inserts, parallels, etc.).

Trout, who you might have heard about, had 33 cards produced in his RC-year, and was included in only three sets: Bowman, Finest, and Topps Update. I guess Topps thought the market for Weeks rookie cards would be a bit more lucrative than Trout rookie cards.

Hosmer and Crawford debuted exactly three weeks apart, yet Hosmer had 66 different cards in his RC-year while Crawford had only 14, the least of all four players.

So what's the point?

There is no way to predict the demands of the market, but we can predict how rational actors should behave in any given set of circumstances. It is not surprising that the market gets flooded with hot prospect rookies, thus creating a huge imbalance when those prospects bust and under-the-radar players like Trout and Crawford begin to emerge. Imagine if Topps hadn't squeezed every last opportunity of producing Darvish, Harper, and Strasburg rookie cards and those cards were just as scarce as Trout's.

Mickey Mantle's 1952 Topps rookie card is so valuable because of the player and the relative scarcity of the card; there would be hundreds of variations of his rookie card if Mick had debuted in April of 2012, and they would never be worth much more than a few bucks.

Topps has already announced that Manny Machado, who debuted on August 9, 2012, will have his rookie card in Topps 2013 Series One, which means there will be about a bajillion more Machado rookie cards released in 2013, and they will probably be a dime-a-dozen by this time next year. Why didn't they include Machado in 2012 Update? Who knows. Topps found a way to include the players from the Sox-Dodgers trade in 2012 Update even though they didn't play for LA until August 25, 2012.

We are in a new junk wax era, but it's a much more targeted junk, tarnishing only those players as they shine when they shine.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Trade Bait & Hit Locator - Topps Update Break Analysis

My goal in life is to destroy the eBay'ers who hawk 'Hot Packs'. I am not morally opposed to their gig, but I am opposed to how shittily they do their job. If those jabroneys listed specific pack weights, box order, etc.,  in their item description they could have a much stronger product because the optimum market requires perfect information.

From two jumbo boxes I was able to surmise to pretty general findings that probably hold true across most boxes. My self-confidence boosts every time my confidence in Topps diminishes.

Placement of SPs and Hits:
Both SPs, Votto and Robinson Cano, were pulled in the second pack of each box, and the cards were in spots #31 and #32, respectively, in each pack (second pack is the pack on the right on the top layer).

Both All-Star Game Jersey Cards, Chipper Jones and Derek Jeter, were in the seventh pack in each box (seventh pack is fourth pack down on the right).

The manu-relics, the Henderson HOF Plaque and the Mays ROY ring were both in the second layer of the box.

Crappy Card Sequencing:
I pulled the following two sequences four times each during the break:

  • US229
  • US109
  • US297
  • US264

  • US301
  • US168 (Yu Darvish!)
  • US312

Horrid Insertion Rates:
I also pulled 25 Golden Giveaway Code cards from the boxes, even though they were suppose to be only one per pack.

And here's a listing of the other pulls:

Frank Wren (Atlanta Braves GM)
Yoenis Cespedes Golden Debut
Mark Hamburger Golden Debut

Black Bordered:
Randy Choate #15/61
Craig Breslow #59/61

Presidential Predictor:
Barack Obama PPO-25 (Missouri) - FiveThirtyEight gives Obama a 5% chance of winning Missouri.

Gold-Bordered Serial Numbered Mega Insert Set:
Approximately one metric crap-ton, at least I pulled a Jeter

In sum, I was very surprised/disappointed at the consistency of the pulls, specifically location within the box, and the quadruplicate sequencing base card pulls.

That's about it for now. Drop me a note if you want any to trade/buy any of the above, they'll be slapped up on the 'Bay in the next few days.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Trade Bait from 2012 Update Series Break

All hits, inserts, base cards, etc. I pulled are open for trade and/or other considerations. I have received some private messages regarding certain cards, so I figured I would publicize it a bit better.

Email me at to make an offer.

My plan is to facilitate private transactions for a few days, then list on the 'Bay for a couple of weeks, and then to move the remaining inventory to Listia.

I will put up scans over the next few days and will provide an updated listing of available trade bait.

Closing Thoughts - 2012 Topps Update Series Break

Nearly 2am, all the cards have been logged into a massive spreadsheet. Some obvious patterns have emerged regarding collation and placement of key cards....pretty standard.

I was amazed by the disparity between the two boxes. Box #1 had 14 Golden Giveaway code cards, Box #2 had 10. Box #1 had two amazing autos (GM Wren and Cespedes) and Box #2 had one lousy auto (Hamburger). 

The serial-numbered gold cards seemed to be a gigantic filler and could have easily been left out of the set (there is nothing more disheartening than pulling card after card of a 990-card insert set that you will never attempt).

Most of the cards will end up on the 'Bay or on Listia. I will post links once they are live. I'll have more detailed analysis of the break throughout the week. I understand the sample size is nowhere near ideal, but we're not dealing with perfect randomness either, so I think it will work out.

Hit #9 Topps 2012 Update Series Break

Box #2, Pack #7: Derek Jeter All-Star Game Jersey Piece

Hit #8 Topps 2012 Update Series Break

...Mark Hamburger Gold Debut Auto...crap.

Hits #6 and #7 Topps 2012 Update Series Break

Can you tell it's getting late for me and I'm not as enthusiastic about posting?

Hit #6 was the Robinson Cano SP and Hit #7 was a Rickey Henderson HOF Plaque (this came from the pack that weighed more than any other pack).

Monday, October 8, 2012

Hit #5 Topps 2012 Update Series Break






Pinch me. Unreal. This box is like the A's 2012 postseason run...unlikely to be good...doing better...ok, getting a little better...looking like crap again...OHMYGODWHATJUSTHAPPENED.

Box #1, Pack #8, Card #31

Collation Bullshit - Topps Update Series 2012

I'm officially playing the game under protest. Calling shenanigans. There's an infield fly. Et cetera, et cetera.

Cards #1-21 in Pack #3 were in this order:

  • 140
  • 63
  • 113
  • 12
  • 290
  • 114
  • 233
  • 246
  • 76
  • 6
  • 184
  • 112
  • 132
  • 187
  • 195
  • 152
  • 264
  • 297
  • 109
  • 229
  • 208

And Cards #3-22 in Pack #7 were in this order:
  • 140
  • 63
  • 113
  • 63
  • 113
  • 12
  • 290
  • 246
  • 76
  • 6
  • 184
  • 112
  • 132
  • 187
  • 152
  • 264
  • 297
  • 109
  • 229
  • 208
The only difference was card US195 in Pack #3. Exact same order except for one card. I'm a goddamned miracle worker.

Hit #4 Topps 2012 Update Series Break

Chipper Jones All-Star Game Jersey Piece - Not Bad!

Jones has been one of my favorite players for the same reason as everybody else - he's a nice dude and a good ballplayer.

Box #1, Pack #7, Card #31

Hit #3 Topps 2012 Update Series Break

Frank Wren Auto!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Atlanta Braves GM!!!!

Yes, it's a sticker auto and no, I do not like sticker autos. However, I am HUGELY in favor of adding GMs to the series because GMs are underappreciated by the hobby and I would buy an entire set of GM cards if I could afford it.

In Pack #6 of Box #1.

Mid-Box Update - Topps 2012 Update Series - Box #1

I have busted 5 of the 10 packs of my first HTA Jumbo Box of Topps 2012 Update Series...and I have completed 51.5% of a base set:

  • 170 of the 330-card set pulled
  • 198 base cards pulled of the projected 250 cards in the packs
  • 28 duplicate base cards
The un-perfect collation isn't quite as ridiculous as the Topps Chrome box I busted, yet.

Hit #2 Topps 2012 Update Series Break

Willie Mays Commemorative Gold Ring ROY

Box #1, Pack #4 (this was the lighter of the two 'heavy' packs I mentioned earlier - I'm very curious as to the other pack now!).

This card is a freaking monster. It won't even fit into my fattest top loaders. It's heavy enough to be a door stop. Jeebus.

Hit #1 Topps 2012 Update Series Break

Joey Votto SP US255

Pack #2, Card 32 in Pack

2012 Update Series - I Found a Monster!

I found some time to start the bust of my two HTA Jumbo Boxes of Topps 2012 Update Series. And here are some initial metrics:

  • Box #1 weighs 2 lbs. 2.75 oz.
  • Box #2 weighs 2 lbs. 3.25 oz.

All of the packs weighed 3.25 oz., except for one in each box which weighed more than 3.25 oz. Both of those packs were found in the second layer of packs from the top of the box.

I'm assuming the two outlier packs are the manufactured relics because their weights are probably less predictable than a tiny slice of wood or jerey. One of the heavier packs weighed 3.375 oz. (1/8 oz. more than the average pack).

The other pack, which I'm very excited to open (which means I will probably be let down), weighs in at a monstrous 4 oz.! That's nearly 25% more weight than the average pack.

I will be busting the packs and maybe some pictures later tonight, no sooner than 9 PM PST.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

2012 Triple Threads Fluff 'N Stuff

When I saw the American History relic inserts in Topps' 2012 Triple Threads my disdain for Fluff 'N Stuff reared itself and I felt a tremendously ominous post a'brewing at my fingertips.

But then Topps bested me. And pretty much the whole hobby. The fake relics of the non-ballplayers did not count towards the promised hits, so they don't qualify as Fluff 'N Stuff; and they don't even replace an anticipated base card, they're a pure bonus. I guess I should call them Stuff?

Here are pictures of the three insert cards, serial numbered to 5, courtesy of Topps' guerrilla mouthpiece:

You know how frustrating it is when you get all pumped for a fight only to have the person walk away? Yeah. Thanks, Topps.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

False Advertising for 2012 Topps Update?

I bought a few jumbo boxes of 2012 Topps Update and was preparing my pull predictions (more un-perfect collation thoughts coming in a new post), and realized that most major online Topps retailers, including Topps themselves, market the Jumbo box as having "10 packs of 50 cards."

However, when those packs hit the streets they usually include a disclaimer on the front like the one on the Topps 2012 Series 1 Jumbo Pack: "Packs with a relic or cut signature card contain 47, 46, 45, or 44 cards."

Since Topps guarantees that each HTA Jumbo Box will include 1 autograph and 2 relics, aren't they lying when they claim each box will contain 10 packs of 50 cards? (assuming, of course, that similar disclaimers will be printed on the Update Jumbo packs)

The online retailer I purchased my cards from stated in their product description that I would receive 10 packs of 50 cards in each of my HTA Jumbo Boxes - maybe my biggest hit will be as the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit!*

*NOTE: I have no intention of filing a class action lawsuit as I purchased the boxes in good faith that they would not actually contain 10 packs of 50 cards.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Topps Chases A Million More Dollars with a Terrible 2013 Series One Promotion

The unoriginality of Topps' 2013 Series One contest "The Million Dollar Chase" is mind-numbingly absurd.

This ploy reminds me of a similar promotion that made national headlines months ago last week.

Here's a press release from MLB on their near-identical promotion: MLBAM Statement On Beat The Streak® Presented By Scotts

So, as stated by MLB, it seems that in over a decade nobody has been able to put together 57 consecutive fantasy-style hits even when they had every single MLB player available. And Topps wants us to believe that their promotion is different, how?

Topps' promotion is much more restrictive, you can only use players you unlock with code cards, so if you only pull five or six code cards, your likelihood of putting together the streak is pretty slim.

Also, I love how much of a shill Cardboard Connection is for Topps. Here's a PDF of Topps' Million Dollar Chase promotional flyer, and here's Cardboard Connection's article on the promotion; maybe their PR folks work for the same firm?

I doubt the other giveaways being promised by Topps for this Chase will be any more lucrative (or non-virtual) than the bloated Golden Giveaway coin chest.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Problem With Topps 2012 #US29

So Topps' original 2012 Update Series had Brad Lidge as card #US29. Lidge, released by the Nationals in June, has not played ball since his release.

So Topps removed Lidge from '12 Update Series, and they replaced him with...are you ready?

Jonathan Sanchez. Of the San Francisco Giants Kansas City Royals Colorado Rockies (disabled list).

I have a feeling that #US29 will never be worth much more than the cardboard it was printed on, which means I'll probably be the sucker that pulls every parallel and printing plate ever created for the card. The gods laugh at me, constantly.

Here's a listing of the other switches for Topps' 2012 Update Series, format is 'Card Number, Replacement, [Originally Planned]':

  • US29 Jonathan Sanchez [Brad Lidge]
  • US53 Omar Infante [Josh Reddick]
  • US71 Brett Myers [Jon Rauch]
  • US79 Mike Baxter [Brandon Allen]
  • US83 Carlos Lee [Humberto Quintero]
  • US86 Anibal Sanchez [Yonder Alonso]
  • US159 Ben Sheets [Zack Stewart]
  • US165 Jacob Turner [Omar Vizquel]
  • US180 Roy Oswalt [Livan Hernandez]
  • US190 Francisco Cordero [Marlon Byrd]
  • US212 Trevor Bauer [Brett Lawrie]
  • US266 Brandon Lyon [Mike Aviles]
  • US272 Ichiro [Trevor Cahill]
  • US286 J.A. Happ [Nick Punto]
  • US307 Ryan Roberts [Josh Reddick]

I would have rather pulled an Ichiro and a Trevor Cahill than an Ichiro and a Jonathan Sanchez, but I'm betting the licensing costs for Sanchez were a lot less than Cahill...

I'm busting a few jumbo boxes of Update Series this week (or early next) - stay tuned for the analysis.

You Know Your Blog Was Mentioned When...

Your stats look like this:
Many thanks to Greg at Night Owl Cards for the mention, it caused quite a jump in page views today.

Project:Cardboard - 1957 Topps for Charity?

My previous career was as a nonprofit mind tends to drift towards engaging disparate causes to raise funds/awareness for causes...this is an idea I've been chewing on for a few days now, and I would like your feedback.

Basically, the idea is to crowdsource the collecting community to build a set of 1957 Topps Baseball cards and then auction the set, giving all proceeds to a charity collectively chosen by the donors of the cards. Below is a rough prospectus and guidelines for the project.

I would LOVE feedback, and would greatly appreciate if anyone wants to volunteer to help out. Send me an email if you'd like more information:

Project: Cardboard

To engage the hobby in noble crowdsourcing endeavors for the benefit of others.

Connecting the past with tools of today for a better tomorrow.

Project Objective
To (1) assemble an entire set of 1957 Topps baseball cards, all of which are contributed by collectors, then (2) auction the set, and then (3) donate the gross proceeds to a children-focused charity.
Card Process
  1. A collector will send a card to the Project Lead, and the Project Lead will provide an email receipt to the collector when the card is received.
  2. A scan of the front and back of the card will be posted to the Project’s blog, and the Project’s checklist will be updated to show the card has been received.
  3. The card will then be stored in a protective casing, the least of which would be a penny sleeve and top loader, and placed with the rest of the set inside a fireproof, waterproof safe.

 Duplicate Cards
  • If a two or more of the same cards are received, then the card with the best overall quality will be included in the base set and the card with the next best overall quality will be included in the supplementary team set. 
  • Any card that is not of the best or next-best quality will be made available for trade or auction as determined by the Project moderators. 

Non-Set Card Contributions
Collectors are encouraged to contribute cards to the Project that are not from the 1957 Topps baseball set. These cards will be used to facilitate trades to complete the 1957 Topps baseball set or to otherwise offset the Project’s operations.

Auction Process
The start date of the auction will occur no sooner than 30 days after the date of the set’s completion. The 30-day period is to allow enough time to properly document, market, and prepare the set for auction.

Charity Contribution Process
Within 48 hours of the set being completed an email will be sent to all Project contributors with a list of 10 charities who could receive funding from the set’s auction. Within 7 days of the email being sent, each contributor must elect one of the 10 charities to receive the collector’s votes by replying to the original email and indicating their choice of charity. A collector’s votes will be determined as follows:
  • 25 votes – For each professionally-graded 1957 Topps baseball card contributed 
  • 10 votes – For each 1957 Topps baseball card contributed 
  • 2 votes – For each significant non-set card contribution, as determined by the Project’s moderators. 
The final vote tally will be announced within 3 days of the close of voting, and the two charities with the most votes will receive proceeds from the auction, relative to the number of votes received between the two.
·         For example, Charities A and B receive the most votes with Charity A receiving 500 votes and Charity B receiving 300 votes, for a total of 800 votes. Charity A would receive 62.5% of the proceeds (500/800=.625) and Charity B would receive 37.5% of the proceeds (300/800=.375).

Card Quality
The Project’s aim is to build an entire set of 1957 Topps baseball cards regardless of each individual card’s quality; however, we understand that higher quality cards are more coveted, which is why the set will be constantly updated with the highest quality card we receive. Considerations, in the form of extra votes for the charity recipient, are afforded to contributions of professionally-graded 1957 Topps baseball cards.

The purpose of the Project is to contribute to charities, not to facilitate trades. However, we understand that some cards have a high value and may require special considerations. Trades will be considered in the following circumstances:
  • The Project has been active for at least six months. 
  • The proposed contribution is not already included in the set at the time the trade is proposed. 
All trades must be approved by a simple majority vote of the Project’s moderators. Cash or other financial incentives will never be offered for trade.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Listia - A New Bastion for Cardboard?

Listia will soon replace the eBay as the hub of all low-value card transactions because of their abundance of seemingly free auctions. They represent a marketplace that does not demand an egregious barrier to entry to their sellers and allows the buyers to more accurately value low-end goods offered from buyers.

I have picked up numerous autographs, relics, and other hard-to-find cards on the site and have invested no cash in the project (however, my most valuable resource, time, has been taxed).

The secret to my success is to be as active a seller as possible in a category other than cards, preferably one that allows a high credit-to-postage return (hint: don't ship anything). This strategy serves my needs twofold:
  1. There is a constant stream of credits into my account that requires no financial outlay
  2. Allows access to a much larger marketshare of customers than the card collecting community, thus causing the demand for the supply to be much higher.

Because I have no need to rely on any cards I list to bring in considerable amounts of credit, I can afford to auction my cards for low credits (usually between 1-10) and charge for shipping. Charging for shipping greatly lowers the amount of credits you will receive, so it's not a strategy I recommend for most.

I charge $1 shipping to cover PayPal fees ($.33), postage ($.45), envelope, sleeve, toploader ($.07), and leaves a little bit left to cover other miscellaneous costs. The upside to this is that I haven't lost any money, which is hugely important in the hobby.

The same sale on eBay, which you would probably see listed as a single insert card for $0.99 with free shipping, would cost you an extra $.09 in final value fees and you would lose $.01 in revenue, it may seem like not a lot, but that $.10 represents an additional 10% loss!

The site is still developing, and can act very clunky at times, but it is a great place for value trades and finds.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The 1:1,438,162 Pull

My previous post included mention of a surprising set of pulls from a single hobby box of 2012 Topps Chrome: a base, X-Fractor, and Atomic Refractor of card #4, David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox.

I queried to conclude the post, "What are the odds of that?"

Well, the odds of making that set of pulls in one box are 1:1,438,162 boxes, not packs, boxes.

I considered trying to collect a rainbow of these cards (rainbow, for those unitiated in the hobby's parlance, means each color parallel of the card [and is also probably the worst descriptor ever]), but then promptly traded away the base and the Atomic Refractor - the X-Fractor continues to haunt.

Does nobody collect X-Fractors? I can get rid of every other parallel with no problems, but the X-Fractors are an enigma.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Un-Perfect Collation

Many hobbyists will grumble on and on about manufacturer’s poor card collation. ‘Card collation’ refers to the mix of cards in any given pack, box, case, etc. An example of poor card collation would be pulling duplicate cards in the same pack or pulling seven Drew Pomeranz rookie cards and one Yu Darvish rookie cards from the same case of Topps Jumbo.

However, I posit that this incessant critiquing has led to an environment with even worse outcomes for the average sports card collector, and an unprecedented boon for the sports card manufacturer.

I recently busted a hobby box of 2012 Topps Chrome; a standard hobby box of 2012 Topps Chrome has 24 packs of 4 cards (a total of 96 cards). Here are the results of the box (ratio in parentheses):
  • 78 - Base
  • 1 - Die-Cut (1:24)
  • 2 - Rookie Auto (2/hobby box)
  • 8 - Refractor (1:3)
  • 4 - X-Fractor (1:8)
  • 1 - Blue Refractor (1:21)
  • 1 - Gold Refractor (1:50)
  • 1 - Atomic Refractor (1:383)

With the exception of the Gold and Atomic Refractors, I pulled exactly what the stated ratios indicated I would pull. And I pulled no duplicate base cards. And the first and last cards in the packs were always base cards. There were 18 insert cards, and no pack had more than one insert card (so six of the packs had no inserts). And, to be fair, I am very pleased with the pulls.

Some might say, “No duplicate base cards, wow, what great collation!” Or, “Topps finally stopped screwing the collectors!” Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Had those 78 been chosen by perfectly random draw, what is the likelihood that I would have pulled 78 unique cards out of the 220 card base set? (Spoiler alert: it’s a very, very, very, small number).

Let’s do a quick refresh on probability; the product of all of the independent events’ is the cumulative probability of a series of events occurring. This cumulative probability is represented in the formula: y(1)*y(2)*y(3)*y(4)….*y(n), where y(n) is the last probability in the series. For example, the probability of pulling a flush (five cards of the same suit) from a standard deck of 52 playing cards in one five-card hand would be calculated as: (52/52)*(12/51)*(11/50)*(10/49)*(9/48)=.001981, or 0.1981%, or odds of 1:504.85.

If each pack of Topps Chrome had three base cards and one insert card, then the probability of those base cards all being unique would be calculated as: (220/220)*(219/220)*(218/220)=.986. 99% - not bad!

What about that second pack, what are the odds of pulling three more unique base cards? 94.6% - well that’s still pretty good, right?

But what are the odds of pulling two consecutive packs that have no duplicates? Let’s do the math: .946*.986=.933. Dang, those odds are great!

By the time we get to our last pack to find cards 76, 77, and 78, there is only a 28.04% chance that those three cards will all be unique; some would argue that those are pretty good odds. But here’s the kicker, the odds pulling 78 unique cards from a base set of 220 cards is 0.0000166% - or 1:6,038,332

And what if the Gold and Atomic Refractor had not been in the box and I pulled two more base cards, what are the odds that those two would also be unique, along with the other 78? Those odds are 0.0000069%, or 1:14,596,708.

The perceived need for great collation diminishes the likelihood that what we receive is random or ‘special’. My two favorite cards from the box were the Gold and Atomic Refractor because there was no good probable chance I would pull either, let alone both.

But this lack of randomness is great for folks like me. I’m devising an algorithm to predict which exact cards are in a pack based on just the first few cards on the top or bottom of the pack.

The cherry on top of all of this? Although I pulled no duplicate cards, I pulled the same player three times on three different cards: a base card, an X-Fractor, and the Atomic Refractor. What are the odds of that? 

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Cardboard At-Bat – Manny Ramirez ‘shop Job Revealed!

I grew up a fan of the Oakland Athletics. I took BART to many games and one day hope to take my daughter to a game (when the stadium and its immediate environ do not elicit the worst connotations of a concrete jungle.

Thankfully, we live near Sacramento and were ever too happy to hear the Manny Ramirez would be joining the River Cats before he got called up to the A’s.

In the meantime I was busting packs of Topps 2012 Series 2 and stumbled upon the oddity that is Manny Ramirez #393 in Series 2:

The card must have been Photoshopped, right? Topps doesn’t seem nimble enough to have such a great action shot of a player like this from Spring Training. Intrigued, I did some serious sleuthing.

First, the A’s never used grey jerseys in Spring Training (I checked, they only played with green jerseys). Even if they had played with grey jerseys occasionally during Spring Training, Manny only played in one away game, on March 3, and they wore green jerseys.

Second, the colors on the jersey just seem a bit off. I’m pretty sure 99% of the general card collecting community would not notice, but the yellow border seemed too small and the green was just a bit wrong. Take a look at the jerseys in this picture of Josh Donaldson and Cliff Pennington and compare it with the Manny picture:

Nothing about the picture seemed right. I started noticing little things in the background, like maybe a brick façade and the oddly orange hue of the spectators. Brick façade, orange hue…brick façade…orange hue…Oakland…it didn’t make sense. Until I thought about the other side of the Bay…AT&T Park and the SF Giants.

Could it be? Manny played for the Dodgers for a while so he must have played at AT&T wearing an away uniform. But would Topps do something that simple, just swap out the logos on the uniform and change some color schemes. Surely they have their own photographer, so we would never know where the photo came from, right?

It took about two minutes of searching, and I found the source for the Topps 2012 #393 Manny Ramirez (Oakland A’s) -  a picture of Manny Ramirez of the Los Angeles Dodgers taken during a Dodgers vs. Giants game on June 28, 2010, taken by Jed Jacobsohn of Getty Images:

Now I feel like I need to become Manny Ramirez Topps 2012 #393 SuperCollector. I secretly hope that I will  get bipped with these cards forevermore.

For your viewing pleasure, here's a side-by-side of the original and the 'shopped pictures:

Lunacy of the Topps 2012 Golden Giveaway

Was anybody else disconcerted that the odds of finding a “rare” Topps Golden Giveaway coin are 1:6,666? Couldn’t they have rounded that up to 1:6,670? Maybe Topps employees are closet Dodgers fans and they are trying to disparage Willie Mays by associating him with the mark of the beast?

I digress, but let’s proceed. Here are the stated odds for Topps Golden Giveaway winning codes:
  • Golden Moments Cards - 1:15
  • Gold Foil Golden Moments - 1:200
  • 1/1 Golden Moments Card - 1:20,000
  • 1/1 Topps 2012 Series 1 Base Card - 1:6,060
  • 1/1 Topps 2012 Series 2 Base Card - 1:6,060
  • Rare Coin - 1:6,666
The 1/1 Golden Moments Card (which include an actual piece of 14 karat gold!) are 1:20,000; because this is the smallest number of any insert, we will use it as our baseline for the analysis. Assuming perfect distribution, if you were to redeem 20,000 codes you would also receive:
  • 1333 - Golden Moments Cards
  • 100 - Gold Foil Golden Moments Cards
  • 3 - 1/1 Topps 2012 Series 1 Base Cards
  • 3 - 1/1 Topps 2012 Series 2 Base Cards
  • 3 - Rare Coins (rounded to nearest whole number)
Unfortunately, Topps will be charging shipping on all Non-Prize cards (the Golden Moments cards and their gold foil versions) at a rate of $2.92 for the first card $0.53 for all additional cards, so our prize horde from this analysis would costs $761.48 for Topps to ship out…lunacy.

But you say, “Hey, I don’t care, I just want to play the game for some trade bait!” Well, friend, based on the stated odds and the calculations above, for those 20,000 codes entered, one could expect 18,667 digital coins that are equivalent to…um, well, less than a pack of junk wax. Taking that a step further, 18,667/20,000 is also 14/15, which – surprise! – are the same odds of winning a Golden Moments Card (1:15).

Checking out the ‘bay, lots of Golden Giveaway codes are running anywhere from $1-$2 per code. Let’s pull the median, $1.50, and buy 15 codes – a grand sum of $22.50. We get the hits as expected, 14 digital coins and one Golden Moments card. Add that to the Topps shipping of $2.92 and we have just paid $25.42 for that one Golden Moments card.

Now go back to the ‘bay and look at the prices for recently completed listings for these special Golden Moments cards – how many have sold for more than $25.42? Lunacy, it abounds!

It seems there are suckers to be had out there, and why would we let this golden opportunity pass by? Golden Giveaway codes fall at 1:6 for hobby and retail packs, and 1:1 in HTA packs. Remember, the codes are in both Series 1 and 2 and the upcoming Update set. Of the three, right now, Series 1 is the weakest because of poor rookies and its time on the market. Blowout Cards has the lowest prices on Topps 2012 Series 1 hobby packs at the time of this post, and here’s an analysis of cost per code:
  • Hobby Box – $34.95/box (36 packs, 6 codes): $5.83/code
  • HTA Jumbo Box - $67/box (10 packs, 10 codes): $6.70/code
  • Retail Box (dacardwolrd) - $25.95/box (24 packs, 4 codes): $6.49/code
So should we all rush out and buy up the Topps Series 1 Hobby Boxes? If our sole motivation was Golden Giveaway codes then, yes, we should. I don’t recommend it.

Let’s speculate some more – you have $70 to spend and you can drop it on any of the three aforementioned boxes. What would be the best combination for recouping your costs? You could buy two Hobby Boxes for $70 and get a total of 12 codes and two guaranteed hits. Or you could buy one HTA Jumbo Box for $67 and get a total of 10 codes and three guaranteed hits. The tradeoff is very clear: you could choose (a) two extra codes or (b) one more hit and $3.

Because your codes are likely to sell for ~$1.50 on the ‘bay (and then you have your 12% ebay+PayPal fees, plus $.30 PayPal surcharge), you’ll never sell those two extra codes for as much as you would save when buying one HTA Jumbo Box, plus you’ll get an extra hit, to boot!

I have some more thoughts on the Golden Giveaway, such as the oddity that the 2012 Update Series Sell Sheet (.pdf download) includes the following promotion: “ONE-OF-ONE GOLD BASE SET PARALLEL: A parallel of the Topps Baseball Update Series base set with a piece of real gold embedded in the card! ONE OF ONE!” This parallel set is not mentioned on the official rules of the Golden Giveaway website, so I’m sure Topps will tweak the rules of the promotion around the launch. 

Again, lunacy.