Today’s post has been brought to you by the news that Upper Deck and Marvel have teamed up to create relic cards of historic comic books in crappy condition. I don’t collect comics, but I still found the news unsettling — it’s been bad enough that for years now the card companies have been buying up rare, vintage sports memorabilia and chopping them into tiny pieces for use as relic cards to market to sports collectors, but now they’re chopping up old comic books for comic collectors. What’s next, is Upper Deck going to buy a T206 Honus Wagner and chop it into 20 individual squares for use in relic cards in its upcoming SP Legendary Cuts set?
Admittedly, when the first jersey cards came out 15 years ago, I was excited as everyone else — it was the next cool thing. However, I don’t think any of us foresaw the possibility that the card companies would start looking into the past as the relic card became a staple of the industry. It’s one thing to chop up jerseys, bats, caps and gloves of current players and paste them into baseball cards — those players are active and they can quickly and easily replace their game-used equipment. But doing the same to a bat used by Chuck Klein, or a jersey worn by Richie Ashburn? Well, I can honestly say that it never crossed my mind that the card companies would do such a thing. However, greed knows no bounds, and that’s exactly what the card companies did.
Nowadays, most card collectors have personal little reliquaries that would have made a 14th-century Catholic parish blush. True, our relics come from athletes instead of holy figures, but the end result is the same: you have a shard of something that supposedly once came in contact with or was used by the historical figure in question, but it’s such a tiny piece that without any frame of reference it’s next to impossible to tell what the original item looked like. History is being destroyed so that people can make more money. Personally, I’d rather view a complete Richie Ashburn jersey on display somewhere in Citizen’s Bank Park or the Baseball Hall of Fame rather than own a tiny piece of one thanks to the 2010 Topps Peak Performance Relic Inserts.
This is not to say that I don’t own any relic cards containing shredded vintage memorabilia. I’d like to stick to my moral guns and stay completely away from such items. However, they are still baseball cards, and while it is literally impossible for me to own a copy of every Phillies card ever made, I would like to have as complete as possible a collection of them. So, some of them have crept in. Yes, that includes the aforementioned Ashburn card, as well as the card shown today, the 2007 Topps Triple Threads Relics Combos Autographs #8, featuring Bobby Abreu, Ryan Howard and Mike Schmidt. Yes, by purchasing this card other cards like Ashburn’s, I am part of the problem — I am helping to create demand and feed the destructive beast. Sort of like the memorabilia in those cards, their existence leaves me torn. It’s one of those instances where I wish I wasn’t so obsessive-compulsive about collecting, but then again, collectors by their very nature are obsessive-compulsive.
It would be all too easy to blame Topps, Upper Deck, Donruss/Playoff and the others for the situation, but that’s like a junkie blaming the dealer for his dealing smack. It’s a parasitic, co-dependent situation, and unfortunately I don’t see anyway that the destruction of sports history — or history as a whole, for that matter — so that it can be included on a sports card-sized piece of cardboard will end anytime soon.