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Friday, July 27, 2007

Musings on Allen & Ginter

My friend Josh never got bitten by the card collecting bug, but he has witnessed my insanity and understands. He is as cynical as I am, and is able to appreciate the ridiculousness of the industry. One long-running inside joke between us is goes something like this:
Me: "Baseball cards have gone crazy!"

Josh: (in his best Match Game style response) "How crazy are they?"

Me "Baseball cards are soooo crazy that..."
I would go on to account the latest gimmicky weirdness manufacturers were using to push product out the door. The first such exchange was probably about that wacky upstart Upper Deck charging a whole dollar for a pack of cards, and they didn't even have fancy moving pictures like SportFlics. Much of the things we deemed ridiculous at the time are now industry staples. Insert cards in every pack! They're putting serial numbers on the cards! There are whole sets of autographed cards! They took some dude's jersey, cut it up into little squares and glued the pieces onto cards! They're charging a hundred bucks! For a box? For a Pack!! MADNESS!!!

One thing we always agreed on, was that at some point a company was going to put out an official DNA card. The debate was only in what form the DNA would take. A stray nose hair or toenail clipping seemed too obvious to me. There are probably already jersey swatches with blood, sweat or Lord knows what on them, so a little schmear of some fluid didn't seem innovative enough. I always thought Dr. James Andrews could have made some extra cash selling used elbow tendons for use in cards. You could probably find some Julio Franco or Roger Clemens DNA in a mosquito encased in amber somewhere, it would make for a pretty card at least. My greatest idea was to have redemption card for some useable DNA, available for pickup at your local fertility clinic. What would be a better chase card than the chance to have your own little Bonds or Griffey Jr. running around? The only thing we knew is that the idea of hawking a human being's genetic code to sell baseball cards was so perverse that it really had to happen at some point. This is where 2007 Allen & Ginter comes in.

Topps has had plenty of strangeness in their recent sets. This is not really surprising to anyone who is familiar with their test sets of the 60's and 70's, Topps has done some odd things in an effort to move those cards off the shelves. Just in just the past five years or so, we've seen cards encapsulating little crumbled bits from the Berlin Wall (which invariably migrate out of the window and wedge themselves between the layers inside the card itself), cards with chopped up shreds of clothes worn by Elvis, a cut signature card from Che Guevara, cards with swatches of old Army uniforms from stars of the 50's, cards with coins and subway tokens stuck in them and 90+ year old vintage cards entombed inside little plastic holders the size of standard cards.

Allen & Ginter has had its fair share of gimmicks as well. Mini cards, press plates, Rip cards (not really anything new, but whatever), historical and non baseball subjects, along with the standard fare of parallels, autographs and relics. Even though the 2006 version evaporated off the shelves faster than a bottle of Dasani on Mercury, Topps decided to go all out with their 2007 version and add what we have all been waiting for: a DNA RELIC CARD.

George Washington goes from Father of our Country to the provider of the first deoxyribonucleic acid strand to be whored out on a baseball card. Part of me is disappointed they went with the nose hair, but at least my (lack of) Faith in Humanity is confirmed. I'm interested in how eBay is going to handle the eventual auction of this card considering their long time ban on body parts. This might be a golden opportunity for BidVille. Part of me has to wonder though, if Topps is resourceful enough to procure a 250 year old strand of hair from the most famous American to ever live, how come they are having problems managing to not get gobbled up by Upper Deck? You would think something like this would be enough to assure that 2007 A&G would not go unbought like so many boxes of '91 Donruss Series 1, but no... Topps decided to up the ante with an innovation that is sure to rock the foundations of the entire industry:

Dog Autographs.


Let us say hypothetically that you traveled back in time a decade or so and asked me what sort of innovations the baseball card industry would spawn by the year 2007. If the words "I believe a major card manufacturer will put a card featuring the paw print from the winner of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in their most eagerly anticipated product of the year" had left my lips, I would have immediately blown my head off with a shotgun for fear I had contracted Mad Cow disease from a cheap gas station burrito and it had taken my sanity. I actually want to be there when the first person to plunk down a C-note for a box of A&G pulls Diamond Jim's John Hancock just to note their expression. Of course when I think about it, it can't be any worse than tearing open a Mantle Rip card only to get a Derrek Lee extended mini card I suppose. At least it is technically an autograph card, plus it's also a great excuse to call my buddy Josh and say,

"Baseball cards have gone crazy!"


Joey said...

Great article. By the way I like your writing style.

I would also love to be there when someone pulls a dog autograph. I think that would be hillarious.

Maybe the Washington card will be opened by someone doing a video box break.

Josh said...

It's not just Topp's. My wife and I have actually seen saint cards with relics in them. Yes. you can go to your local purveyor of Catholic bling and get saint cards that contain relics. Just like this. Before we were married. Erin's roommate was given one with a piece of red cloth. We wondered if it was from some saint's bra.