Friday, September 14, 2012

Faith, trust and scraps of cloth

Some people don't believe in God. An omniscient, all-powerful entity that sees all, knows all and loves all is beyond their abilities of comprehension.

I'm not one of those people. I'm not going to go into the reasons why or have a debate. This is not a theological blog. But I will give you the one-word reason for why I do believe.


Nothing different than the next believer.

Faith, or "trust," runs the world in many ways. It runs churches, hospitals and schools. It's the undercurrent in business, government and functioning society. It creates good neighbors, marriages, parents and children.

We owe a lot of what's good in the world to faith, the belief in the good of your fellow man, and the belief in the good of a divine god. Because, let's face it, if there were no believers -- no one who believed in the good of God and no one who believed in the good of their fellow man, anarchy would be everyone's No. 1 problem.

Belief is very important to me. It's not just about religion. It's about a lot of things. Believing your kid will return the car home at midnight because he said he would. Believing that when you send in four proofs of purchase that you're going to get that Mickey Mouse wristwatch. Believing that when the traffic light is red, every single person is going to stop.

Believing that the jersey relic embedded between two pieces of cardboard came from an actual jersey worn by the person pictured on the card.

Ah, you were wondering when it was going to get around to cards, right?

Everyone has probably read about the relic-card scandal in which a memorabilia dealer plead guilty to selling hundreds of game-used jerseys that ended up in the hands of Panini, Topps and Upper Deck. This was the result of a five-year federal investigation, and other dealers have been indicted and plead guilty. Now that the news is out, everyone is wondering if their relic cards are real. The "trust" element is gone. And when you don't have "trust," you don't have "faith," and when you don't have "faith," you can kiss your allegiance -- or, in this case, your customer-base goodbye. I would be very surprised if large numbers of collectors continue to get excited about pulling jersey relic cards.

I know I'm not excited anymore. A relic card is almost useless to me now. If you read about me reacting with excitement over a relic card or purchasing one in the future, I assure you it's either a knee-jerk reaction to the old days and I'm just in the habit of getting excited, or I've made some sort of exception for reasons that make sense to my future self.

I don't understand it when people say, "I always knew they were fake." I mean, I've joked about the validity of relic cards over the years, but there was always some part of me that trusted, that had faith, that they were real. Otherwise, why in the hell would I pay a premium price for them?

Really, counterfeiters are the worst.

PED users are the worst. Cheaters are the worst. Abusers of power are the worst.

They prey on faith and trust, turn it against us and make us cynical about every little thing because "I'm not going to be the fool," and because "you can't hurt me." And now that's one more thing, or person, in life we can't enjoy because we can't trust it/him/her anymore.

I'm now one of those people. I'm not going to be the fool.

This is very unusual for me because I'm usually the one remaining loyal while institutions lose face, while critics mock Major League Baseball. I'm always willing to give someone or something another chance.

But not this time.

Tonight, I bought a blaster of Allen & Ginter. Out of the last pack I pulled a relic card of David DeJesus. A lovely swatch of powder blue. (I won't even get into the fact that DeJesus hasn't been a Royal since 2010).

I immediately thought about the jersey scandal but became distracted by a ding in the bottom middle of the card. It's difficult to see on the scan, but it's there. The ding is on the bottom edge of the card, starting under the second "O" in Brooklyn and extending to the "E" in New York.

You can see it more clearly on the Jackie Joyner-Kersee relic I pulled earlier in the year.

That's right. Two jersey cards out of two different blasters with dings in the exact same spot. I also pulled a third A&G relic with the same ding. And there are other bloggers and collectors who have experienced the same thing.

This is really irksome as a collector -- not because I expect my cards to be the epitome of perfection -- but because it demonstrates a shocking lack of concern for the customer. Here is a card that Topps has set up to be something "special" to the collector, and it can't even make sure the manufacturing process is efficient enough that every "special" card makes it to the collector in respectable shape. (This may be an opportunity to bust the mini card out of its frame, as I've seen others do).

So if Topps can't even get that right, how can it possibly assure us that the produced jersey swatches in our cards -- something that's apparently more complex -- are the real thing? It hasn't been proven that what this dealer confessed is 100 percent true, but I've seen enough smoke.

And I've seen Topps break the bond of trust in enough other areas.

No longer am I going to just "shut up and enjoy the card." I can't suspend disbelief anymore or make excuses.

So, while people argue about how we can fix the relic card market and how this could pave the way for better, more trustworthy relic cards, it just doesn't matter to me anymore.

Others can oooooh and aaahhhh over Triple Threads and all the crazy "cards" that Topps was showing on Twitter all day today. I'll just stick with my common variety, non-relic cards from now on, thank you.

Some of you can expect to see some relic cards that I own in your trade packages (unless you now think the way I do). I'll be paring down the collection, only keeping ones with special meaning to me. I might try to sell some others.

It's over.

I'm done with relic cards.

Card companies, you blew it.

I can't trust you anymore.

(God only knows what this means for my autograph collection).


  1. This is why I'm glad I PC a guy who hasn't had any jersey cards since 2003. Oh how I long for the transparency of old school Donruss and Leaf where they were super specific on the back of the card. Those were the days.

  2. I haven't been recently active on my HoF relic cards. This will make it shrivel up and die, I think.

  3. This is a major reason as to why I practically left this hobby behind. Sure, I've been distracted by other things too but the lack of faith in Topps and their jersey cards is a huge factor. In fact, I sold off a bunch of my HoF relics recently due to this. How could I be assured that this Babe Ruth bat card actually has a piece of his bat in it? I can't and thats the problem. They use dirty lawyer wording on their cards, just enough to cover their asses so they can't be sued for defrauding customers. Sure there is a bat piece in the card but all it says is "Game used memorabilia", ambiguous to say the least.

    Who's to say they don't stick a David DeJesus bat in there and call it a day? It's still game used memorabilia, right? They never specified that it had been in fact, used by Babe Ruth so they're covered.

    I fell into the GU trap pretty hard with Triple Threads last year and I've pretty much regretted it since (and so has my credit card). Topps made me lose my faith in the integrity of their products by these business practices and their shoddy quality control. It's too bad too because collecting was pretty enjoyable but I lost my interest thanks to Topps.

  4. In the past few years I've become more and more skeptical of the issue, but down inside, I had faith. I figured I was just being a worrywart.

    These days, I figure 20 to 40% of relic cards are suspect... but that doesn't bug me too much, because I still think they look cool.

    Knowledge of these fake jerseys being sold to card companies, along with their vague COA's have damaged values to the point where there's probably no turning back.

    But what percentage of collectors are expecting to make a profit off of their cardboard anyways? I know I'm not... which is why if the card looks cool and I can get it at an affordable price, I'm all over it.

  5. I am going to treat this as an adult father while talking about the easter bunny to my kids. My son (who is autistic) LOVES relic cards. I will not put $100s in a relic, but I will spend a $1 or $2 on a relic of a common player to make him happy. I am not trying to sell my cards, so I don't care about the values (though it is cool to have cards that are worth a lot) I too have lost faith, I know there isn't an easter bunny (or 100% real relics) but I'm going to play along. If I find there is real easter bunny hiding eggs, and if I find out Upper Deck truly has 100% real used relics and can prove it, then I will have faith again.

  6. I've never been a huge fan of relic cards to begin with mostly because of the having to cut up a perfectly good uniform, bat, glove whatever just so that about 1,000 collectors can get on tiny 1 inch piece of scrap material that may or may not have been used by the player pictured (let alone what team the thing came from)