Collector's Corner #2 - the Patch
The thing that irks me the most about the modern hobby is the tendency to create artificial scarcity. Everything now is about finding the short-printed rookie, the limited-edition insert, the card serial-numbered to 25 or, best of all, that elusive 1 of 1. Along the way, the entire value of the base set, which was forever the thing that you collected to get, has vanished. Now, there are a couple of products out there, running hundreds of dollars per pack, that consist of nothing but short-prints. They do away with the base set, since lots of collectors just throw those out, anyway.
While there is still a tendency to short-print all the rookie cards, they're increasingly at the bottom of the totem pole. If the card isn't of one of the top two or three kids in a given year, you can count on all the rest of them finding homes in the dollar bins of local shops.
The trend now is for memorabilia. I was horrified at the thought that one of two Babe Ruth jerseys was going to be cut up and stuffed into a bunch of baseball cards. Hockey is no different. Sweaters, gloves, pads, autographs and other artifacts from the greats and not so greats are all heading into the shredder so that someone can make a premium card out of them.
I'm back and forth as to what I think of these things. By and large, I'm generally appalled by the thought of cutting up, say, Turk Broda's pads. Raycroft? Wouldn't bother me so much - mainly because he's still playing and we're not destroying something that is in limited supply to begin with and will not be created again.
The big deal now is to get a card with a "patch" and an autograph on it. Where it used to be enough to get a swatch of cloth, the whole trick now is to get a card with a piece of the crest. This is called a patch. The logo is best, though shoulder patches qualify as well. Letters off the back of the sweater are a big deal, as well. A nice-looking patch is worth big bucks these days.
Now, I had never owned one of these and wanted to see just what the big deal was. So I kept an eye on eBay and eventually scored one of these:
(that is real, honest-to-goodness Scotch tape on the plastic holder the sender put the card in. I'm not taking it out, for now.)
This is from "The Cup" - pretty much the highest end of the high end products. A Sidney Crosby rookie from The Cup is worth, at last count, a bazillion dollars. Anyone who is anyone collects The Cup, and now I had one. This is a serial-numbered, autographed, limited-edition rookie patch showing part of the "L" from "Leafs" (or "Maple").
I proudly awaited the mail day when my new acquisition would appear.
Then I got it.
I held it in my hand.
And I looked at it.
And I thought, "What a piece of crap."
(Actually, I used a different word as a descriptor, but you get the idea.)
It's a piece of foam core with a signed sticker on it. Hooray. But it's game-used, right? That's pretty cool.
Wait, what's this on the back? This isn't game used - it's from a freaking photo shoot?
Stralman may have worn this at a used car lot, for all I know.
OK, so I'm old school. I'm a set builder and I hate artificial scarcity, but even I get the idea of game-used. This just doesn't cut it for me. If I have a choice between spending 40 bucks on Mr. Stralman above, or the same amount on something like this:
there is no contest. The old card wins. There's something authentic about the older stuff that you just don't get in a foam-core-wrapped non-game-used cloth bit.
But then again, here's a combined Bower/Mahovlich auto card with a hunk of wood from an actual stick on it. Oooooh - maybe I'll bid on that one....