Wednesday, July 30, 2008
This is the 11th 2001 card to be autographed, the 5th 2001 baseball etopps card and the first 2001 baseball card since November of last year when Jimmy Rollins card was offered. It's good to see a player like Berkman being offered right now when he still has appeal for the season he has been having.
Lance signs the card nicely, adding his jersey number. And at $49.99 a pop for a quantity of 50, it's no wonder 2 are offered per account. Compared to what his autograph fetches on ebay, you're still not going to see $50 for a autograph volume of 25 or even 15.
To expect this to re-sell at a higher value than $50 runs the risk of asking yourself, "what was I thinking." It's almost as bad as the unlimited print run of Ian Kennedy earlier this IPO season.
I strongly recommend saving your money to purchase the newest Allen and Ginter set to be IPO'd on Monday.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Friday, July 25, 2008
As of today, July 25 the following are stats covering the last 7 days on ebay for etopps in-hands:
Quantity of etopps in-hands listings: 224
Average starting price: $2.57
Average final price: $22.16
Highest Single Card Sale: 2001 Albert Pujols, $73.95
Highest Mult-Card Sale: Lot of 12 Peyton Manning cards: $50
Highest Graded Sale: 2001 Albert Pujols BGS 9.5: $126
Highest Non-Graded Autograph Sale: 1967 Nolan Ryan CTNW: $150
Highest Graded Autograph Sale: 2002 Tom Brady, BGS 8.5/Auto 10: $128.72
Other best sellers:
* 1957 Mickey Mantle reprint
* Torrie Wilson auto
* Roberto Clemente
* 1968 Mickey Mantle reprint
In-hand listing (not including graded or autographed) that received most bids that sold well: 2001 Albert Pujols, 21 bids.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
My favorite baseball player growing up was Rod Carew. I collected his baseball card from each year he played, spanning from 1969 to 1982 excluding his rookie and his 1972 cards because I couldn't afford them. It was a thrill to watch him during an all-star game when he led off the game with a triple. I didn't care if my sister would say he looked like his mom.
I got back into baseball cards with etopps in 2002. But I didn't have anyone in mind to collect. Being a Mets fan, I hadn't found a player I could call my favorite. Piazza was from the Dodgers and Olerud from the Blue Jays. Everyone I liked had been traded from another team.
Enter Jose Reyes. He was hyped as a five-tool player out of the Mets farm system and was named MVP of the 2002 Futures all-star game. I wanted to start collecting with his rookie card so I ended up overpaying on ebay for his Bowman Chrome refractor rookie card (BGS 9.5) by more than $100, enough to be reported in the following month's Beckett price guide for the sale.
I've noticed that when I "invest" in a player's memorabilia or pay enough for a player's autograph or rookie card, I become an instant fan of the player: the better he does, the better my investment.
I'm writing all of this because you will have a much better start at investing in something related to Reyes with this autograph offering. To me, it's a steal at $40 and I thank etopps for offering it. If I am lucky to get it before it sells out, getting it in the mail will be like getting a package for Christmas.
So you can tell I'm biased.
But you may be too because of his recent mishaps: throwing his glove, failing to put his foot on second base during the Phillies six-run ninth inning, getting picked off at second base a few times, doing all of his high-five shenanigans with other Mets players, not playing like he's serious, swinging at too many break-ball pitches, the list goes on and on.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: if you don't want to buy his autographed cards tomorrow because of this, go right ahead. I hope you don't so I can get both cards.
But consider this:
He became the second player in MLB history to have 50 triples and 250 stolen bases before his 25th birthday. The first player was Ty Cobb.
This season, Reyes became the only player in MLB history to have 30 stolen bases, 20 doubles, 10 triples and 10 home runs before the all-star break.
He will likely reach 1,000 hits by his 26th birthday next year (June 11th) which is not bad considering some players are in their first year of the big leagues at this age.
You're unlikely to lose money if you decide to sell either autograph on ebay, especially the 2006 card due to its fractional print run compared to the 2003 card offering.
If you really want an investment on Reyes, go after his signature that includes his middle name Bernabe.
Monday, July 21, 2008
This is a transcription of a telephone interview that occurred earlier today.
EIHM:How is the state of etopps right now?
MS: I think it's in a good place. The card quality is great. The games have better value. Membership is growing. Our challenges are to get better, have better customer service, manage print runs and continue to improve the core. Our product has demand on the secondary market. The endgame is to make sure the platform is sustainable, not just to make money.
EIMH: What needs improvement besides improving the core?
MS: Increasing the membership. At first I wasn't confident new members would stay. Thanks to a better product and the newer sets such as Allen & Ginter and the Mickey Mantle collection, we've brought in newer collectors.
EIMH: Will there be more advertising for etopps to get new members?
MS: Yes, now that I'm confident that new members will stay with etopps, it seems worth the investment.
EIMH: I like how McFarlane covers a lot of different genres. Have you considered expanding etopps to cover movies such as Star Wars for example?
MS: I would only do it if it complemented etopps.
EIMH: How has Michael Eisner influenced etopps?
MS: He hasn't directly but he has a lot of ideas and considers etopps an amazing platform.
Incidentally, last week Topps hired a new Chief Digital Officer who came from NBA.com which has the reputation of being one of the best sports website.
EIMH: Are we done for now with baseball autographs with Jose Reyes?
MS: No. In fact, we are getting the second batch of 2008 baseball in-hands soon and when they become available we will be going after players to sign these cards, getting all of the good rookies.
EIMH: Will these be offered soon?
MS: I'm not sure. By the time we got last year's rookies signed, we were already in the football season and it doesn't make sense to offer baseball autographs during football. But if we can get any of these rookies to sign before football, we will try to offer them.
When it comes to those who get shut-out from autographs, we can either raise the price, offer more quantity or don't do any at all. But I think people like the autograph program and we'd rather have as many players as possible with a maximum quantity of 100. Obviously, I would rather see shut-outs than lost revenue and it's hard to predict what will sell out. It probably was a mistake to allow up to 3 Prince Fielder autographs per account rather than 1.
EIMH: Would you consider raising print runs on base cards considering the response you have received from those who complain about getting shut-out?
MS: We are always evaluating and adjusting print-run and price. I think right now the platform is in a good place. We'd rather have shut-outs vs. flood the market. It's not the worst thing in the world and it helps the secondary market.
Look at it this way, the ones who complained about the unlimited quantity print run [Ian Kennedy] also complained about getting shut-out.
EIMH: What are the challenges etopps faces besides improving its core and better customer service?
MS: Plenty of things: getting players, getting cards printed that are of high quality, getting images available at IPO--not once did we offer a card this baseball season that had the words "image coming soon" rather than the player's picture. We're continuing each week to stop multi-port owners so everyone gets a shot at IPOs.
EIHM: Is there anything new that will be announced at the econ next month?
MS: Yes, there will be an announcement about a new secondary market partnership to buy, sell and trade etopps cards that I think people are going to like.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Quantity of etopps in-hands listings: 177
Average starting price: $4.31
Average final price: $11.65
Highest Single Card Sale: 1952 Mickey Mantle Reprint: $114.50
Highest Mult-Card Sale: (2) 2007 Joba Chamberlain: $50.09
Highest Graded Sale: 2001 Albert Pujols BGS 9.5: $102.50
Highest Non-Graded Autograph Sale: 2007 David Wright /99: $150
Highest Graded Autograph Sale: None
Other best sellers:
* 1953 Mickey Mantle reprint
* 2007 Joba Chamberlain
* 1959 Mickey Mantle reprint
* 2007 Adrian Peterson
In-hand listing (not including graded or autographed) that received most bids that sold well: 2007 Adrian Peterson, 10 bids.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
No upgrade fees, buy-it-now fees or additional picture fees.
On the same site, what if you could list your in-hands under an etopps categories like Event or Allen & Ginter?
Enter the WantItGotItExchange or Wigix.com
There are a lot of different ways to be involved on the site. It takes a web 2.0 approach to its members.
Two months ago, I applied to become what Wigix calls a "category expert" for etopps in-hand cards. After some back and forth by email, I finally got the approval yesterday.
To make myself as transparent as possible with this site, the banner in the top right corner and the word Wigix in the secondary market links or linked to my account for referrals. I'm sure either I will get either some kind of wigix "points" or pennies for this.
The so-called "perks" of being a CE is (1) any etopps in-hand listing will need my approval and (2) I will receive a whopping 1% revenue from the final sale of all etopps in-hand listings.
Needless to say, I won't be quitting my day job over this 1%. But more importantly, I will have a say about whether or not an in-hand listing that has the words "1 of 1" or "1/1" in the title or some other "fuzzy math" fraction in it will appear.
As a "CE," I can create subcategories (or "taxonomy") for etopps in-hands to make finding the cards to list and (and to buy) easier. Right now, Wigix has added etopps only under baseball cards. I am in the process of getting Wigix to provide etopps categories under other sports card categories. Right now they are still "under construction" for the basketball, hockey and NASCAR categories.
I submitted a bunch of baseball subcategories under etopps for approval so, for example, if you wanted to list a 2005 Yankees team card, you would go here:
all categories>sports memorabilia, cards and fan shop>baseball>etopps>2005>Teams
I have also included Allen and Ginter under etopps so there can be subcategories for Presidents, Presidential Candidates, Milestones and Moments (and later on, Yankee Stadium).
I've even added categories for NSCC - hotboxes and promo.
I will provide updates for subcategories and when etopps will be added to football and other sports card categories.
Here's an excerpt from the page that breaks down the transaction fees:
Want It Got It Exchange
Buy and sell with Confidence again
Wigix is the new way to buy and sell online. It's a socially-driven marketplace, where you can communicate with like-minded collectors and traders. Get a live pricing history for each item and negotiate prices intelligently. Social communication encourages informed buying.
Stop buying in a Web 1.0 world, and start buying with the strength of your friends and fellow owners!
Make money without having to sell a thing
Our catalog is constantly updated by members like you! If you add or perfect item descriptions in our catalog, you earn a piece of its revenue.
Keep Fees at Bay
Stop guessing your fees. Wigix doesn't aim to gouge its members.
For items sold between $25 and $100, we ask for a buck and a half from both the seller and the buyer.
We ask for an additional 2% of the portion above $100 from the seller if the price goes over $100.
If the price goes over $1000, we ask for an additional 1% of that portion.
For items below $25, we charge nothing!
Stop letting other marketplaces chip away at your profits with multiple fees. Wigix asks for no listing fees, and has no hidden fees.
Monday, July 14, 2008
After a certain point, the trainee would try to work with customers on their own. While I would keep a grin on my face as I shadowed the volunteer, occasionally I would cringe inside knowing all too well what's it like to do this for the first time and seeing how nervous the volunteer would be with customers.
If you're not used to working with the public, it can be nerve-wracking. It's not supposed to be easy. If it is to you, consider yourself lucky. Give yourself time and be patient with yourself.
When selling in-hands or doing anything with the public, it helps if you can find (and press) your "on" button or be wearing your game face. The challenge is to find this within you when you're in a situation you may not be comfortable in.
Those new volunteers at the National would show signs of relief with their own selling by their third customer and seem more confident by the fifth customers.
If you're doing this for the first time and you're as nervous with your first customer as your tenth, don't continue. This may not be your thing to do, after all. If there are others around you who are selling etopps cards (like at the National), I would recommend asking them to critique what you're doing.
Thanks if you voted in the autograph polls.
Each poll had landslide results:
Best Autograph Offering: Tim Lincecum
Biggest Surprise: Allen & Ginter Prince Fielder
Worst Autograph Offering: Fred Lewis
Finally, Topps is promoting their online platform to kids as "Topps Town."
I noticed at the All-Star Game Fanfest, the Topps booth was called Topps Town.
I wonder if Michael Eisner had something to do with this.
Here is info about the site from the "about Topps Town" link.
ToppsTown™ is a virtual sports-themed world where children can play games, collect and trade virtual Topps cards.
How does it work?
ToppsTown™ is a world fueled by players entering codes, receiving virtual cards, trading and playing games. No material cards or money are used in ToppsTown™. Players create an Avatar and are assigned their own Clubhouse. Players acquire codes, either through new packs of Topps trading cards, or through promotional avenues such as advertisements, sporting events or food packaging materials. They then enter the codes on the ToppsTown™ website, where they receive a set amount of virtual cards. These cards will be used to trade, collect and play games.
Trading Cards – Players can trade any card they like. They can offer up cards for trade, or request players they'd like. It's up to the individual trader to accept or deny trades. No money or material goods are involved.
Collecting Cards – Trading cards are collected and stored online in a virtual Binder. They can be viewed at any time, front or back. They will be saved in the Binder until the next card season of the particular sport starts.
Playing Games – In several games you can select a particular player to help you. For example, when playing Extreme Batting Practice, picking a player with a better bat control will increase your chances of scoring more points.
ToppsPoints – Are used to purchase additional items for Avatars and participants' Clubhouses.
Who is ToppsTown™ for?
ToppsTown™ is designed for all ages 6-up.
ToppsTown™ was created to gets kids more involved in the safe and fun world of trading cards. Over the years, collecting and trading cards has diminished. We're hoping that our new generation of "cyberkids" can carry on the tradition, whether online or with actual cards.
Is it safe?
Yes. Names are all made up. There is no direct contact between players. Trading is a yes-or-no proposition.
Does it cost anything to join ToppsTown™?
ToppsTown™ is free to play, although collecting more codes through the purchase of actual cards will enable players to collect and trade more virtual cards.
Friday, July 11, 2008
As of today, July 11 the following are stats covering the last 7 days on ebay for etopps in-hands:
Quantity of etopps in-hands listings: 386
Average starting price: $2.65
Average final price: $7.83
Highest Single Card Sale: 2001 Alex Rodriguez, $28.50
Highest Mult-Card Sale: Albert Pujols lot of 8 (2001-2007): $100
Highest Graded Sale: 2007 Daisuke Matsuzaka, BGS 9.5, $27.98
Highest Non-Graded Autograph Sale: 2003 Tom Brady, $200.01
Highest Graded Autograph Sale: None
Other best sellers:
- CTNW 1994 Alex Rodriguez
- CTNW 1983 Don Mattingly
- 2003 LeBron James
- 1958 Mickey Mantle Reprint
In-hand listing (not including graded or autographed) that received most bids that sold well: 2007 Sidney Rice, 9 bids.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
With the absence of an autograph offering this week, it's easy to discern that there will not be any more until football or just before football IPOs begin.
If this is the case, it's tempting to look back on these baseball autograph offerings:
Which was the best one offered?
Which was the biggest surprise?
Which was the worst offering?
Cast your vote for each poll. They will close one minute after midnight this Sunday, EST.
Monday, July 7, 2008
From your end of the table, the only thing you can do is wait for them to come to you. How they present themselves will determine the approach you will take in making a sale and being able to shift gears quickly will be indispensable in closing some sales.
The following is a list of various types of customers you may encounter. While you may get other types of customers, these are the ones I have encountered and learned how to handle.
This is the type of customer you will see the most at the National. They are sports card collectors who may or may not have heard of etopps. They are willing to listen and will give eye contact when you're talking to them. They are experienced at card shows and are the least overwhelmed by all that's around them including your table. They have a sense of humor, like to chat sports and have little or no problem moving on from your table if they don't find what you have interesting. Most likely they will not return back to your table after looking at what you have for sale the first time they take a look. Most likely they will be with a friend, girlfriend or family member and will be wearing something that gives away what player/team/sport they like or collect.
Selling Approach - This type of customer is great to work with. You may or may not have to explain the whole nine yards about what etopps is about but if you do, they will be all ears. This is the type of customer who will ask the most questions as you explain about etopps and is most likely to "get it" when it comes to how etopps works and will be willing to give you their email address so you can let them know which shows you will be doing in the future. Also, this is the type of customer who may tinker with the etopps website to check out the message board.
Some of our best customers were those who had online accounts but never got any of their cards delivered. Some will acknowledge immediately that they have active accounts while others will tell you they had an account but lost interest years ago. Some will test you on what you know about etopps. Listen to all of their stories. To get them interested, tell them about the fantasy games, the autographs, econ, Allen & Ginter, etc.
Selling Approach - This one may be the easiest to sell because you don't have to give your sales pitch. They may offer to help you sell your cards if they have the time. We met a few etoppers this way who are active on the etopps message board.
Some may have been burned and validate them for what had happened. Let them know etopps is under new management (past two years) if they dropped out before 2006.
2) Autograph Hound
This is the type of customer that you can assess by their appearance. Usually they are carrying something with them to be autographed: baseball bat, jersey, large flat, sports ball, etc. along with a digital camera. They are putting their money into buying the autograph they want and have already plunked down cash in advance, sometimes hundreds of dollars. They usually head straight to the autograph area and head right out after they get whatever they wanted signed or will browse the tables, looking at everything. When they're doing this, they're usually killing time until the autograph signer shows up.
Selling Approach - This is a tough sell because they're into autographs. Don't expect much from them. You have a slim chance if you are selling autographed cards and have one they intersted in. They may serve a temporary purpose of having a body in front of your table to attract other customers. To kill time, they will even hear your pitch about what is etopps.
Though if you have other people at the table who want to buy, politely tell this customer you will answer any of their questions after you have completed the sales that are about to take place.
If you don't have anyone at the table, they are good for honing your sales pitch and will be good to attract others simply by standing at your table: you ask them what they're getting signed by whom and you give them the etopps pitch in return.
This type of customer may or may not have a Beckett price guide in hand. Whether they do or not, the question they always ask is, "How much does this book?" But can you blame them? They don't want to get ripped off and need something to use as a reference, assuming that if they don't they will get swindled.
Since cards go for no more than half the price of what Beckett lists for its value, there may be no stopping these challenger customers from holding onto what they believe to be the Bible of sports card pricing.
I would politely explain that some but not all etopps cards are listed in the bigger Beckett price guide (such as the 2001 cards) and emphasize how scarce these cards are as in-hands compared to online circulation. You probably will not get a sale but at least you will establish credibility, especially if you are in earshot of a potential customer at your table.
4) Parent and Child
If there is a customer type among these that you will love, it will be the Parent-Child combo. My favorite scene is the boy or girl pulling his or her parent's arm in the direction of your table. You're almost guaranteed a sale in this situation.
A lot of times a parent gives their child whether it's a boy or girl a budget in what they can spend, usually 10 to 20 dollars.
We sold at the Football Spectacular in NJ for a few years. On the first day of each three day show we did, admission was free rather than the $10 door charge. On that free day, we saw a lot more kids than the other days. Not by coincidence, we sold the most to this type of customer.
Selling Approach - Go gentle and be kid friendly. Feed off their enthusiasm. They don't want to hear about print runs or the online platform. They like the card they're pointing at and want it right now.
In front of the kids' parents you want to make a good impression because the parent may buy from you too for the spouse in case the spouse is a collector as well. For example, if the cost of the card is $12 and they give you a twenty dollar bill, help the child figure out how much money they get in return.
You never know if a kid (or teenager) is with their parents when they're at a certain age walking around the card show. It's tempting to believe they have no money and are just looking.
Many times I took the approach that they're a potential customer and had success whether with their parents or by themselves. Put yourself into their shoes: they could be future etopps buyers and it doesn't hurt to sell up what etopps is all about. The only thing holding them back from joining etopps is having a credit card and if these are teenagers, they are just a few years away.
If a younger kid is checking out your cards, grab one from your discount bin and put it in their hands and say, "this is for you." Watching their heads explode when you say this will be priceless.
You may have encountered this type of customer: men with fingernails that could use a trimming, slight odor, clothes that look like they were plucked from the Salvation Army, teeth that could use some dental work. Put these observations together and you have a browser who probably isn't going to buy anything.
Less is more with this type of customer. Be polite and consider this person another body at your table because the worst thing at a show is to have no one at your table.
If you sense their presence is more of a hindrance that an asset to others browsing, politely and discreetly ask them if they want to buy a card. If they do not commit (which is likely), ask them what they are looking for and suggest they can find what they're looking for at another table (as long as you're specific about which one).
I sold an etopps card to a customer at the National the last time it was in Chicago. The etopps card was a football playoff card and the customer told me he was at that game. It was a cool story and I enjoyed listening to him.
It's fun to hear stories and talk up sports with customers. But it's another thing when a customer doesn't know when it's time to stop talking. They may or may not wait for their listener's cues that they should stop. At one show, we had an older gentleman at our table who told a great story about photographing football players of the New York Giants. It was cool to hear the first two stories but by the fifth story he told, we had had enough.
There is no sale with this customer. Similar to the Disheveled customer, you need to set limits because this type of customer doesn't know how. They may start talking to other customers who will find this uncomfortable after a few minutes.
It's a good idea to nip this in the bud as soon as you can. Re-focus this customer, asking them politely if they'd like to buy a card and if they decline, suggest they find what they're looking for at another table. Again, if they're the only one at the table, determine whether their presence is a hindrance or not.
8) The Haggler
You'll encounter this customer a few times at a show, wanting to cut a deal with you, wanting to test how low you will go for a sale.
When we had this type of customer we took a few approaches. We would tell them that the more they buy the more we'll go down in price.
We would also encourage them to return on the last day (if it was a multi-day show) or the end of the day (if it was only a day-long show) and we would consider making deals.
We would never negotiate to the point in which we regretted selling a card at the price a customer was asking.
As stated before, these are some of the customer types we've encountered. Sometimes you will get a combination of these in one customer: disheveled-haggler, autograph hound-talker, baseline-challenger.
By experiencing many different types of customers, you will learn to work with them more confidently and as stated in the last post, you can get indispensible experience at the upcoming National in Chicago by volunteering at the etopps booth.
Friday, July 4, 2008
As of today, July 4 the following are stats covering the last 7 days on ebay for etopps in-hands:
Quantity of etopps in-hands listings: 226
Average starting price: $4.70
Average final price: $21.68
Highest Single Card Sale: 2001 Albert Pujols, $55.77
Highest Mult-Card Sale: Mickey Mantle Set, $306
Highest Graded Sale: 2001 Albert Pujols, BGS 9, $99
Highest Non-Graded Autograph Sale: 2007 Joba Chamberlain, $187.50
Highest Graded Autograph Sale: None
Other best sellers:
- 2007 Joba Chamberlain
- 2008 Allen & Ginter Superbowl Champions, Joe Montana
- 2008 Allen & Ginter Superbowl Champions, Joe Namath
- 1967 CTNW Nolan Ryan
In-hand listing (not including graded or autographed) that received most bids that sold well: Mickey Mantle Set, 23 bids.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
With Cameron there is no doubt, you don't have an etopps auto yet. But if you are looking for investments in Cameron Maybin rookie autographs there are plenty to be had, in the mainstream, for lower prices and most have been graded. When Maybin was drafted #10 overall in 2005 collectors were ready. As soon as the presses started they got their Cameron Maybin Autographed rookie cards slabbed and graded and then sat waiting to make a mint as as this talented center fielder caught fire. Only, the fire was put out with more than a few whiffs and with a disappointing batting average Cameron fell not only out of the majors but didn't even stop at Triple A. In fact, although his average has risen and anyone sitting on a stack of Cameron Maybin rookies will point out his average right now is really good - maybe even better than David Wright's. The only difference is Cameron is swinging for the fences in Carolina (that is AA Carolina). This follows his 2007 stint in the majors where he hit .143.
But this is the world of autographs and cardboard so what's the verdict there? Still the same. There are 999 etopps of Maybin in his rookie year. There are ten people looking to sell 1 or more Maybins on Card Target and one lone offer to buy. There are 5 more for sale on Ebay and the really telling tale is although this goes on sale tomorrow, you can buy this card for less than you could a couple of weeks ago. Generally, once the auto is announced and until the actual offering the price goes up as people buy for the autograph. Since this one is actually down it appears that the only reason this AA Minors all star was trading at $14 was because some folks hoped to sell what they had when the autograph was announced. Well it is announced and Maybin may-of-been a good idea last year but I'm not paying for a former first rounder who three years later sits in Double A. Feel free to prove me wrong on this one, I liked the David Wright, just thought there were other options, this one though is not for me. BSTEE