Pokemon was conceived in Japan in 1996 and slowly made its way over to the US via the popular handheld GameBoy game. In 1999, Wizards of the Coast picked up the Pokemon license and delivered to us the Pokemon TCG Base Set. I was 9 years old.
I still remember my first pack of pokemon cards. I went to one of my friend's birthday parties and it was customary to give out party favors to all the guests. (I'm really still not sure if this was purely because I lived in what would probably be considered a very well-off town, or if this is how it is everywhere. Either way, I don't get it. You bring presents for the birthday kid. The birthday kid's parents shouldn't be obliged to give out gifts to the guests. Oh well...) Our party favor was a bag of wonderfulness that included a single pack of pokemon cards. Being 9 and 10 year old kids, we were naturally very excited and ripped open our packs probably damaging every single card inside. We all compared pokemon that we got and naturally, the guy that got the biggest, brawniest monster (or a Pikachu...) was deemed the best. Meanwhile, with my first rare, I ended up with...
...a Clefairy Doll. Not too exciting, unless of course you're me, and you were much more interested in the game than collecting big monsters. I got a card that could do nifty, cool, tricksy, and devious things! Naturally, no one else wanted my card, so I didn't get to participate in the bulk of the trading that went on during the party, but I was okay with that.
I ended up collecting and playing Pokemon for probably around 3 more years. The last set I remember having was this one. In fact, I remember owning that Shining Gyarados featured two sets up from that one. Wikipedia says that set was released in May of 2002 which sounds pretty much right on point. I would've been 12, getting into the swing of Middle School where it probably "would not have been cool" to still be into Pokemon. However, independent of the "coolness factor" I still would have gave up collecting and playing Pokemon in favor of another card game I got introduced into at that time called Redemption CCG.
Since then I have played Redemption and Magic the Gathering on and off and I'll probably have some stories involving both those games in later posts, but for now just mentioning this Pokemon story suits my needs.
Today I'm going to go over a trade I recently completed with Nachos Grande, but I want to first touch on why I enjoy trading so much. As an actuarial science major, my thinking is very value based. Everything has worth or value of some type and, as any good economics class should teach you, that worth/value can and will fluctuate based on a variety of factors. These factors are part of what divides the two major schools of economic thought (Austrian vs. Keynesian). The college I went to took the road less traveled and had us study Austrian economics which is taught in far fewer universities across the US than the more modern Keynesian. Feel free to google this stuff if you're an academic nut, but I can tell you that, in a nutshell Austrian economics tends to be hyper conservative while Keynesian leans slightly left but is much more middling (and is probably why it is so much more popular). However, one of the major differences in the two schools of thought is the fact that Austrian economics not only recognizes, but emphasizes an idea usually called the Subjective Theory of Value. Essentially, what this says is that the value of a good is in the eyes of the beholder.
I collect Allen and Ginter minis. I enjoy having pretty much any type of Ginter mini, but I also am attempting to put together a complete set of the base (regular back) mini from every year. I frequent eBay to look for lots of these minis and attempt get them for roughly $0.25 a mini shipped. Now there happens to be quite a few parallel sets out there, one of the most notorious being the A&G Back where there is no difference in the front of the mini but the back has a custom Topps design instead of statistics:
I'm not a huge fan of these particular parallels, so when I see a mixed lot on eBay that contains these or that doesn't necessarily specify if all the minis are regular backed, I simply won't bid as much on them. This completely ignores the fact that these parallels are harder to get than the regular back minis (I would venture to guess that averaged over all the years of Ginter, you're looking at a parallel that is between 2 and 2.5X as rare as the base mini), but even though this is the case, I still put more value on the more common mini! Horrors!
In any case, this happens ALL THE TIME in the wonderful world of cardboard. Topps (or whichever company you might be dealing with) puts arbitrary supply restrictions on certain types of cards. These restrictions absolutely affect the value of a card, but they certainly aren't the only one. For baseball cards specifically, things such as a favorite team/player, a specific picture, a type of relic, a card part of a specific set, a specific card an individual might be missing, a specific number showing up in a serial number, all have effects on how people value individual cards (and these are just the few I could come with in the first 5 seconds of thinking about it!).
In the case of Mr. Chris Reed over at Nachos Grande, three main categories that stick out is his fandom of the Cincinnati Reds, his love of Ginter insert sets, and the fact that he's collecting a complete set of 2010 Allen & Ginter Relics. Our recent trade consisted of me giving Chris about half of his remaining want list for this set of relics, quite a few inserts that I had doubles of including 7 Wonders of the World Cabinet cards, and a handful of (mostly) Reds minis from across the years of Ginter.
In return I received a GAUNTLET of minis. ...and when I say that, I'm not kidding. Chris hooked me up big time. I probably received upwards of 150 minis along with a few base cards I needed to fill out some sets. I got quite a few of those loathsome A&G back parallels, but when you get so many minis in general its not such a big deal (especially when someone takes the time to go through your want list and pick out the specific minis you need).
An unfortunate thing about the trade was that the vast majority of the minis were from my least favorite edition of Ginter (2011). I hated that year so much that I bought a case of the stuff, busted 6 boxes, and then set aside the rest. I still have those 6 unopened boxes up here in my room collecting dust (and hoping that the price might go back up a bit eventually). I still want to collect the mini set though because I'm a completionist, so these minis are just as good as if they were from 2008.
The other unfortunate thing about the trade is that there really wasn't a "fun" or "highlight" card from the trade. It was 100% for set collection on my part and I plan on going through most of my favorite Ginter sets on this blog eventually anyways, so I'm not going to review them now. Instead, I'm going to highlight some bonus cards that Chris included in his trade package for me. I've seen Chris mention these on his blog once or twice while looking through his content preparing for this trade and had never heard of them before that. He graciously included the following in my package!
These are custom minis replicating the 2008 Allen & Ginter design made by Munnatawket Bat Company. At least, that's about as much info as I can glean from the cards themselves. Here's the back of one of the minis:
I've never seen more than a handful of custom cards, but I can honestly say that these seem very well done. The cardboard cardstock that the card is made of is similar to that of a Topps Base Series card or a regular gaming card. This makes it significantly thinner than a regular Ginter mini (probably close to a third of the thickness) which would be my only complaint if I even had one. I guess I simply have to be a bit more careful with these.
They are all numbered (70 is the highest I received, so even if the set is only 70 cards, that would still be quite the achievement) and have the same large M design on the back. I would have to say that my favorite card is easily the Spider-man as I think it to be a unique twist and a fun addition to a set of otherwise baseball players.
I think if I ever felt I put a large enough dent in my Ginter collection aspirations, that I would certainly consider chasing more of these cards and perhaps, eventually the entire set if I continued to like what I saw. I would expect that this kind of design work would require tremendous amounts of time at an individual level and I applaud the person to created these. I suppose I would wonder at what point of sale (perhaps this person doesn't even sell them) the MLB would require a license to print players teams/names on cards like this. Who knows? Don't really care. The cards are cool.
I would say that my trade with Chris was a huge success putting both of us steps closer in our set collections... and that's exactly what trading is for. It makes both parties happy when done right.