Friday, February 26, 2010

The Top 5 Worst Habits of Mailing Cards

I’ll be discussing some of the ways that I’ve seen cards packaged the wrong way. If you find yourself in one of these categories, never fear, My next scheduled post will include potential ways to ship your cards to ensure their safe arrival every time.

Top 5 Worst Habits of Mailing Cards

1. The “White Envelope” – Even though the government seems like a slow bureaucratic behemoth, the mail  service has adapted to the mechanized world. The post office assumes that all white envelopes: a) contain paper and b) are flexible. This means that they can be passed through machines at high speed via rollers and past computer scanners to “read” addresses and postal codes or sorted by size and shape. While placing a card in a top loader does lend it some strength, against the crushing power of a sorting machine, say hello to unsightly creases and a ruined card. Yes, some cards get through unscathed, but a significant amount end up ruined.

2. The “Creative Toploader” – This goes out mostly to people who have over large cards. You can find top loaders for 5x7 and other strange sized, but they get rather flimsy at that size. Often, most people can't by such materials easily or cheaply. Inevitably, the trader resorts to using an office folder or a plastic film like saran wrap. This isn’t enough . The best solution I ever saw was balsa wood, but a stiff cardboard is usually enough..

3. The “Tape Salesman” – Whoever sends these cards must be putting the tape salesman’s child through college or be the tape company spokesperson. If it takes you more than 10 seconds to tape up your trade cards, you’re used too much tape! Too much tape is an issue for the person who receives the cards as well. They are trying their best not to ruin their cards, but when you have to bring in the kitchen paring knife to slice out your cards, the sweat begins to form and one day a mistake will cost you a beauty. Finally, if you’re packaged your cards in top loaders and a team bag securely enough, no tape is necessary on the inside and only a small piece needs to be used on the outside!

4. The “Illegal Entry” – This is one of those ‘victimless’ crimes where you can negotiate with your trader what’s declared on the customs forms in order to avoid paying taxes. If you knowing enter false information in a customs form you are defrauding the government! This means you can’t put a ‘support the troops’ sticker anywhere on your car.

5. The “Internal Taper” – I have to admit that I’m struggling to find #5, but I finally settled on this one. I find that I'm becoming the victim of this more frequently. People place tape on the inside of their bubble mailers are probably worried about their card falling out of the package for some reason. However, tape can get very sticky during transit and be hard to remove when it finally reaches its destination. At best it stops the card from shaking about. At worst, it makes it a pain for the person receiving the card to take it out of the envelope without damaging it. Just imagine if the card had to be inspected by customs? Do you think that a customs agent will be that gentle in trying to get something out of an envelope?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What Should I Collect?

This question is not the most common question in the hobby, but its certainly popular. If you're new to the hobby or you feel that your collection is stagnating, you often think of starting a new collection. When you think of collections, what immediately pops to mind?
  • Player Collections
  • Set or Subset Collections
  • Team Collections
Of course there aren't really only three types of collections, but these tend to be the most popular. Most player collections are for popular players and multiple people will collect the same player. With only 30 active teams and limited releases, those types of collections don't tend to be as impressive. The real question is how to make your collection unique and memorable. The answer is to find something in the hockey world that you admire and make a collection out of it.

Of all my collections from the common base sets to my vintage RC, I have two pride and joys collections. The first are my Goaltender Goals. This set has a plate (and base card to identify the plate) for every goalie who has been credited with a goal.

I also have a birthday collection. This collection has rookie cards for all the NHL players who share my birthday. Part of the challenge of this set was to find out which players share my birthday. I don't know of any website or book that arranges NHL hockey players by their birthday, so I had to get creative. My solution was to do an advanced google search on The Hockey Database. If your birthday is September 28th, 1983, just do a google search with the following:
"Sep 28" site:
This will search for the phrase "Sep 28" on the database's website. Each link will be to the player's profile page. You can even find which cards these players have had released. Its takes some time to figure out the players, but its worth it. You can modify this search to go for players born in a specific year, the player's hometown. height or weight if you want.

If you want to create a really unique and personal collection, you have to figure out what appeals to you. Here's a whole page of suggestions, the Stanley Cup Record Book and History page. It contains quirks about the cup and list of players who had memorable impacts during the cups illustrious history. Imagine starting a collection of players who have scored the game winning goal in the deciding game of the Stanley Cup Finals. Here's a brief list of collection ideas:

  • Sub-.500 Teams in the Stanley Cup Championship
  • U.S.-Based Teams in the Stanley Cup Championship
  • Stanley Before Calder
  • Back-to-Back Winners (either with same or different teams)
  • Eye in the Sky (Video Review Declared Winners)
  • Penalty Shots in the Stanley Cup Championship (goalie or shooter)
  • Gold Medalist and Stanley Cup Champion
  • Stanley Cup-Winning Goals
I know that its a little early to be thinking about the Stanley Cup, but if you want to get a head start on your collection in time for when the finals roll around, its always best to plan ahead.

Friday, February 12, 2010

2009-10 Upper Deck Series 2

Upper Deck Series 2 is the second release of Upper Deck's flagship product. This set arguably contains the most sought after rookies. While rookies from "The Cup" tend to sell for more, the demand for Series 1 and Series two young guns continues long past the release date by a multitude of collectors.

I really, REALLY wish I had something other than a stock photo to offer. If I want this out by 5 pm though, this will have to do.

Unlike Series 1, Series 2 packs each come with an extra insert card which completes the Victory Update set. Interestingly enough the Victory black parallels are  also highly sought after, as long as the print runs are low. For a relatively cheap set, to have a /5 RC or base card really tends to highlight a player collection. In previous years the most desirable victory black cards have been numbered to /5 or not numbered. Other years has seen print runs calculated to be at least 15, making them much less expensive, and also less desirable.

The problem with calculating Series 1 or Series 2 print runs is the distinct lack of numbered cards. Compounding this issue is the widespread retail boxes, blasters and retails cards. The print runs quoted here are true only for what can be found in the Hobby version of the release. Adding in retail print runs, the total print run for each kind of card should not more than double (hopefully). This years, thanks to a single card, print runs for the Hobby boxes are easily determined.

The one per case "Awesome Acetate" cards means that there are approximately 3,500 hobby cases. Base on number, the following rates for the other hits should be as following:
  •  UD Game Patch are ~1 in every two cases
  • Rookie Materails Patches are ~3 in every 4 cases
  • Fab Four Fabrics are one a case and 75% of cases should have a second
  • High Glossy's /10 are at least one a case (numbers almost suggest close to 2 a case?)
  • Exclusives /100 are 28 a case (1 a box, + every 6th box has an extra one)

We can also calculate the following print runs of the non-numbered cards:
  • Young Guns ~5,000
  • UD Game Jerseys ~800
  • Rookie Materials ~900
  • Signature Sensations ~60
  • Draft Day Gems & Playoff Performers ~ 5,000
  • Rookie Debut & Captain's Calling ~4,600
  • Victory Gold Regular Cards ~850
  • Victory Gold Rookie Cards ~1,050
  • Victory Black Regular Cards ~70
  • Victory Black Rookie Cards ~90
  • The Champions ~1,900
A couple of surprises here. The young guns have print runs as high as the inserts.  The victory black cards have a really high print run compared to previous years' /5 and /10. In general, the print runs for the rookie parallel are higher than the regular cards (see Jerseys vs Rookie materials). Remember, all these numbers are before we consider a single retail box!! Expect the numbers to go way up when taking those into account.
     Hope you enjoyed the read & knowing how unique or not your cards are.


    Monday, February 8, 2010

    2009-10 ITG Heroes and Prospects - Update

    After finding 75 box breaks of ITG Heroes & Prospects, here are the numbers. As always, most of the game used cards and game-used autos can be found here. For everything else:
    • AHL All Stars ~300 of each
    • Calder Cup Winners ~250 of each
    • Class of 2010 ~250 of each
    • Enforcers ~200 of each
    • Memorial Cup Winners ~250 of each
    • Real Heroes ~150 of each
    • Autos ~200 or each auto (not included short prints)
     Since the Real Heroes inserts are a new innovation being tried out by ITG, its not surprising that they have the lowest print runs. The rest of the inserts fall between 200-300 copies of each. Not a bad run for this kind of set. Of course, as the retail version hits the shelves, these print runs would tend to go up.

    Friday, February 5, 2010

    How to Ship on a Budget

    If you're not careful, shipping can take up a large amount of your hockey card budget. In Dec 09, I made 20 trades, and I probably paid at least 30$ for just the postage. If I had bought new bubble mailers and materials for shipping every time, the cost for shipping can rise quickly. There are several things that you can do to save when shipping your cards.

    First, always re-use your bubble mailers. When trading, you get one bubble mailer going out and one coming in. You can re-use that bubble mailer for the next trade. I usually cover the old address with a recycled piece of paper.

    Thin out your packages. As long as your package is thinner than 2 cm (3/4 inch in the US), you can ship using the "oversized envelope" option (large letter in US). Don't let the postal clerk tell you otherwise. If they get huffy, don't confront, just ask for how much postage you need and put it on yourself and mail away.

    Finally, be sure to lighten up your packages. In Canada, there are price hikes at 100g, 200g, 250 g, and 500g. If you are in this hobby for the long term you could save a lot of money by buying digital scale. I bought one for 20$ shipped over 2 years ago and it paid for itself in 4 months.

    Its always a good idea to get become familiar with the postal office's pricing and restrictions. I can't speak much for the US, but in Canada you can ship paper like objects like photos or cards without a declaration form as over-sized letter mail. Don't let the postal clerk tell you otherwise. Just say that the package contains photos or paper products. This is fine for smaller cost items, but be sure to declare more expensive items, or even ship them via a trackable method. You can get a guide from the local post office with a handy table for figuring out the postage you'll owe. I've included a series of tables below from the Canada Post website which has costs for the different weights.

    Here are some handy tips on how to accomplish all of the above:
    • Anything thicker than a 10 ct card box is thicker than 2 cm when placed in a bubble mailer. If its thicker than 2 cm, then you can't mail it as an over sized letter.
    • With adequate protection it IS possible to ship 100 cards in an oversized letter mail. More than that is pushing it.
    • The bubble mailer needs to be only big enough to hold the cards. Cut off excess paper and bubble and tape the side shut if you are near the cutoff. This can save you a couple of grams if you need it.
    • Re-use old bubble mailers. Tape a sheet of used paper to the front.
    • Make smart trades if you need supplies. Run out of game used top loaders? Trade for some game used cards.
    • Run out of team bags? Team bags are fancy speak for "plastic bag + taped shut". Here are some alternatives: Re-used team-bags, the bags that 100 ct penny sleeves come in, the bag that the team bags come in, old pack wrappers (as long as they can fit a top loader in the interior)
    • Sandwich your cards. For 9 cards (or equivalent thickness), here's a cheap way to send securely every time: two decoys, three top loaders, 5 penny sleeves and 1 team bag. Take the three highest value cards put them in penny sleeves and top loaders. In the last two penny sleeves, place three cards in each (be careful when inserting). Sandwhich the cards as follows and place them all in a team bag: Decoy - Top Loader - 3 in sleeve - Top Loader - 3 in sleeve - top loader - decoy. Then tape the team bag securely shut so that none of the cards can move. You just protected the corners of 9 cards. If you use thin, but stong decoys, you can get up to 15 cards this way, but its a push.
    All the best in your hockey trading!

    Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    2009-10 Trilogy

    I'm a bit short on time for this one, so it's going to be a wham-bam-thank-you-blogger post for print runs.

    As usual, we should expect to see 3 RC in every pack for a total of 1,200 cases produced. Starting with that, we can get some approximate print runs:

    • Base ~4,300 of each
    • Classic Confrontations ~85 of each
    • Ice Scripts ~200 of each
    • Young Star Scripts ~200 of each
    • Superstar Scripts ~300 of each
    • Honorary Swatches ~260 of each
    • Line Mates ~450 of each
    • Hat Trick Heroes ~150 of each
    I assumed that if you pulled a gold or platinum parallel, it would NOT replace the non-numbered version of a hit. Without this assumption one, it looked like 1/5 boxes would be shorted a GU card.

    IF your parallel hit replaces a regular GU hit, 1/5 boxes would be short a GU and the print runs would be as follows:

    • Base ~4,300 of each
    • Classic Confrontations ~85 of each
    • Ice Scripts ~200 of each
    • Young Star Scripts ~200 of each
    • Superstar Scripts ~300 of each
    • Honorary Swatches ~200 of each
    • Line Mates ~400 of each
    • Hat Trick Heroes ~80 of each  
    They're both within the right ball park though.

    How can you tell which is right? The easiest way is Hat Trick Heroes. Are Hat Trick Heroes 3-4 a case? Then my guesses are pretty good. Here are some other interesting things to note:

    • The '1-2 Clear Cuts' are a case hit!
    • 3-4 Gold parallels per case (probably one of each Hat Trick Heroes, Honorary Swatches and Line Mates)
    • 6-7 SP rookies per case
    • 4 of 5 cases will have one Platinum parallel case hit
    • 1 of 5 cases will have a SP auto #ed to 10 or less (1-2-3 Clear cut, 1-2-3-4 Clear Cut or the auto'ed versions of the Game used cards #ed to 5)

    Hope that you liked the read! If you have any questions, feel free to to ask.