Huge price increase for Beckett Online Price Guide subscription

Beckett LogoMy subscription to the Beckett Hockey Online Price Guide (OPG) has grown to become a valuable asset to both my collecting and to my writing. As a guy who blogs about hockey cards, it is great to be able to easily find out how many cards were issued of an obscure hockey player, or what the most valuable cards are in a set, or when a certain player’s rookie card was issued. It is especially helpful when I find some random card and have no idea what it is; I would just go to Beckett’s Online Price Guide, type in the player’s name, the card number, and the OPG would help me figure out what set the card is from.

Yes, the OPG is a great tool for collectors, but Beckett increased the yearly subscription rate from $54 to $81 and that pisses me off. Mind you, this is the yearly subscription rate for just their Hockey OPG, and not the price for “Total Access.”

That’s 50% price increase for what is basically a product that costs Beckett zero in printing and postage because it is a website and not a magazine.Yes, websites cost money to create and maintain–but jacking up the price 50% is some shit that we expect the oil companies to pull.

Or drug dealers. I remember when Beckett started “pushing” the OPG on us pretty hard a few years ago, trying to sell us a virtual price guide subscription while practically killing off their own printed magazine business.

Back then, the OPG was slow and unreliable. The site would be down for hours or even days sometimes. Often it was actually faster to look up card prices in the annual Beckett Hockey Price Guide book than search a computerized database. Go figure.

Like many other OPG subscribers, I was annoyed that I paid for something that didn’t work very well most of the time. I was going to bail out after subscribing to the OPG for a year, but Beckett Media auto-renewed my subscription (which is their default action for the Online Price Guide subscriptions), and would not allow me to cancel for a refund.

Beckett then had the OPG redesigned, but that made things worse, and not better like you would expect when a company redesigns a website. One thing the OPG did back then was use Flash to display checklists or search results–perhaps so you could not copy and paste text from the site.

This also meant that you could not right-click and open a link in a new tab/window. That is a functionality that most website visitors use regularly. It sucked to have to always view the site in the same tab, clicking on a link, determining it wasn’t the set you were looking for, clicking the back button, watching the “Loading” message for 20 seconds while your search results reappeared, then clicking on another link, rinse, repeat.

Subscribers continued to complain that the OPG was slow and hard to use. Beckett redesigned their website a second time–including the OPG–and finally got things right. For the past year or so, the Online Price Guide has been fast, reliable and intuitive to use. Qualities that paying customers would expect. Oh, and it supports multiple tabs and is easy to cut-and-paste from (so as to add to my want list).

It had its ups and downs, but I grew to love the Online Price Guide. Now that love costs me $27 more per year.

QUESTION: Do you use Beckett’s Online Price Guide for any sport? Please post a comment below and let me know your thoughts.

Also, contest coming on Saturday (if I can get it together in time…)

Top 10 cards from 2011-12 Upper Deck Series 1

Upper Deck Hockey cards have been something special since 1990. Every year, the best hockey card photographs tend to end up on Upper Deck Series 1 and Series 2.

Even a run-of-the-mill photo on an Upper Deck Series 1 or 2 card would usually be the best card on another set like Victory, Donruss or Score.

So, I decided to pick the Top 10 photos from 2011-12 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey, based on the following criteria:

  • Base cards only – no short prints or inserts
  • Being an action photo wasn’t good enough – this had to be a cut above
  • I tried to go for a variety – not just goal scoring or just body checks
  • Finally, nothing too gimmicky that you would normally find on a Pinnacle card

With so many great photos, it was hard to boil it down to the best of the best of the best. But I still did. For your enjoyment, here’s the Top 10: Continue reading “Top 10 cards from 2011-12 Upper Deck Series 1”

Poll Results: Winnipeg Jets

A few weeks back, I discussed the seemingly unlimited amount of hockey fans who are rejoicing in Winnipeg’s re-entry into the NHL.

I also posted a poll, asking “Are you excited about the Winnipeg Jets return to the NHL?” Here are the answers (as illustrated above):

76% -Yes
9% – No
15% – I could care less

So it seems that 3 out of 4 respondents were excited about the Jets making a comeback. The other two groups – who are not excited or could care less – account for 24% total. These numbers are based on 46 poll responses. I did not vote in this poll.

Question: Do you collect graded cards?

Some guy with no wife or girlfriend spent $94,000 on this card.

Graded cards are the pissing match of collecting.

Think about it. Suppose I have a Wayne Gretzky rookie card–not graded like the one above, which sold for $94,000 earlier this month–but a nice, ungraded one. Or maybe I pulled it from a pack 30 years ago and kept it safely tucked away.

Then you get a Gretzky rookie.  Continue reading “Question: Do you collect graded cards?”

Why I love hockey and hate movie sequels

Thursday, I watched the movie Tron Legacy. Never mind that there were 13 perfectly good hockey games on Center Ice last night–I really wanted to see the new Tron flick, and finally had the chance to do so. I loved the original Tron from 1982, and could not wait to see what an updated take on this film would be like.

Well, I hated it.

I probably have not hated a sequel this much since Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice. Continue reading “Why I love hockey and hate movie sequels”

RC, or Not RC…? That is the Question

Do you consider stickers “Rookie Cards?” 

Sure, stickers lack the rigidity of their cardboard cousins, though some stickers have stiff backings.

Maybe they are not “cards” per say, but why don’t stickers carry the coveted RC designation?

Both stickers and cards are printed on paper. Stickers usually don’t have stats, but many old hockey cards didn’t have stats either.

In order to be considered a “rookie card” by Beckett’s standards, a card has to adhere to the following 3 guidelines. Continue reading “RC, or Not RC…? That is the Question”

How Many Licks Does It Take?

Remember that old commercial where the boy asks Mr. Owl “how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?”

Well, getting my new issue of Beckett Hockey Magazine, I wondered how many minutes it would take me to read this magazine.

In the past, I’ve complained that Beckett is 80% price guide, 8% advertisements and only 12% content that you actually read–and yet I subscribed to it because I got it for $3 an issue.

Is it worth it? I guess that depends on how long it entertains me.

Thus, I decided to time myself reading the new issue of Beckett Hockey. I read all the articles and even the advertisements–those are of interest to hockey card collectors. And though I flipped through the price guide, I didn’t read that part page-by-page–that’s pretty unrealistic, as no one would read the price guide page-by-page, line-by line like they would a book or mag.

So, how long does it take to get to the end of a Beckett Hockey Magazine?

For me, 22 minutes, 34 seconds…and 57 one-hundredths of a second (if you want to get all “Olympic Time Trials” about it). I made sure not to just skim the pages, but actually read them.

I guess 22-plus minutes isn’t a bad read. However, it was the content itself that was lacking:

  • The lead-off article “Behind the Scenes at the NHL Rookie Showcase” was a lot of boring photos of the players just standing around, off ice. The photos were also small and dark, as if taken with a camera phone. Actual action shots would be, you know, more interesting.
  • “10 Reasons  to Collect P.K. Subban” was stretching things a bit. Is the fact that a promo card featuring Subban sold for $25 a “reason” to collect his cards?
  • Short articles about the upcoming Score and ITG Ultimate Memorabilia cards, and the already-out WHA Hall of Fame set. Although many bloggers, including myself, have already talked about these sets, you can’t fault a print publicaton for being slow when compared to the internet.
  • “Readers Write” is usually an interesting part of the mag, because it answers hockey card-related questions. This time, only one question…plus a reader telling us what he got in a break of 2009-10 SP Game Used, and how much he sold each card for. Yawn.
  • And there are other short articles, like “Super Collector”–where a guy talks about his Anze Kopitar collection–and the “Top 20 Hot Singles.” A few other “blurbs” here and there.

Twenty-two minutes well spent? I’m not so sure. I wish there was just more interesting stuff to read besides box breakdowns, previews of products we already know about and being told why I should collect a player that everyone is going to collect. Talk about a set from 30 years ago, or some obscure small release we might have missed from 2000. Anything is better than “What We Got in a Box of Premier.”

The Beckett / Craig Ferguson Conspiracy

I must be a sucker. Yesterday, a telemarketer from Beckett Publications, named “Sid“–but probably really named Samir–called me and asked if I wanted to renew my subscription to Beckett Hockey Magazine. And I said “yes.”

Now, I was about to tell Sid (Samir) that I do not wish to subscribe to Beckett Hockey, because the magazine is really just inflated card values and regurgitated press releases from Upper Deck.

But the problem was, I kept thinking of Sid, the cursing rabbit puppet from “The Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” Ferguson voices the foul-mouthed, Scottish-accented puppet.

With my defenses down, Sid (Samir) dropped the bomb on me: TWO years of Beckett Hockey for $36. That’s $3 per issue, plus I would get two free card gradings.

Hmmmm….maybe $3 an issue isn’t too much to satisfy my morbid curiosity. So, I caved in and bought a two-year subscription. Perhaps if enough of us buy in, Beckett will print thoughtful articles again instead of the usual “They Say / We Say” nonsense.

Now, most normal people don’t think of a cursing rabbit puppet from late night television when they hear the name “Sid”. But most normal people don’t blog about trading cards based on the 5th most popular sport in the U.S., either.

But here’s where things got freaky. While doing a Google Image Search to find a few pictures of Sid the Rabbit, I came across a video of an interview with Craig Ferguson, regarding his voice acting work in the film How to Train Your Dragon.

Sure, nothing weird there–until I clicked play to watch the video and an ad for Beckett appeared!

Beckett has found a way to use my enjoyment of Craig Ferguson’s comedy against me. Am I crazy, or is this the beginning of a conspiracy theory?

In other news not related to Beckett, Craig Ferguson or conspiracy theories…you might want to check out this contest over on Fuji’s blog.

LeBron in Miami = Good for Chicago Hockey

Lebron James likes to talk about himselfLebron James signing with the Miami Heat is the best thing that could have happened for hockey in Chicago.Actually, it doesn’t really matter where James ended up–so long as it was not with the Chicago Bulls.

Think about it. Right now the Chicago Blackhawks are the “Number Two” team in Chicago, right after the Bears. Football is so popular in Chicago, that only a dynastic performance by another Sports team would unseat them–like the Chicago Bulls did in the 1990s when they won 6 NBA titles (And yes, “Sports” is a proper noun in Chicago.)

If the biggest free agent in NBA history signed with the Bulls, it would elevate their status to at least that of the Blackhawks. And if Lebron led the Bulls to one or more NBA titles, then they could easily unseat the Bears as the team in Chicago.

Besides, a raving egotist like LeBron would only draw attention to himself–and thus to the Bulls–and away from the Blackhawks and hockey.

The ‘Hawks earned all the attention they are getting in Chicago right now. They won the Stanley Cup. They have a marketable group of young players signed for a long time. And they have legions of new fans.

LeBron James being on the Chicago Bulls would have negated those factors.

In order for hockey to succeed in the Windy City, the Blackhawks have to be great, and all the other sports teams here need to be bad. That is the harsh reality of Chicago Sports. Hockey will continue to grow in Chicago, but only if the Blackhawks remain competitive and the other Sports don’t provide any big distractions.