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What is Game Used Coming To?

CamaroDMD

Insert Cool Title
When I first started to phase out of the card hobby, GU cards was just starting to appear for the first time. I remember the Collector’s Edge Game Ball cards being very popular and then the ultra-rare first set of UD Game Jersey cards. When I returned to cards a few years back, I was surprised to find that GU was SOOO common.

As I started to look into these cards, it was clear that the number of actual game used jerseys simply didn’t match up to the number of cards being produced. This is when I discovered that many of these cards are “event used” or worse yet, “player worn.” I think that at some point, this gets to a level of ridiculousness. I understand that it’s hard to get the newest rookie GU card on the market first. They have no NFL used jerseys if they haven’t played a game…so jerseys from rookie events are needed. I get that, and I’m OK with that. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best they can do to get the card out early (and probably cheaper too for the manufacture).

Now, back to that “at some point, this gets to a level of ridiculousness” comment I made earlier. I think I found that point for me. I was looking online at cards the other day…not looking to buy, just window shop when I came across this card:


As we all know, Upper Deck lost their NFL licensing a few years back and now are only issuing college related cards. I thought this card was sweet. Dan Marino and Jim Kelly patch card. I also thought how cool it is that they found game used material from an era where college players didn’t have 20 jerseys a season and there were no rookie premiere events. Also, for me there was always something mystical about the college years of NFL legends that I grew up watching as a kid since I had no memory of them being in college. So, I thought this card was really cool. They had a photo of the back of the card online too and I looked at and saw this: “CONGRATULATIONS! You have received a trading card with Dan Marino and Jim Kelly Player Worn football memorabilia. The jerseys were worn by the athletes for Upper Deck. We hope you enjoy this piece of football history, as we continue to keep you as close as you can get! Enjoy your memorabilia card!”

For some reason, this really bothered me. I know when they first started to not use game used material for GU cards they phrased it very subtlety. To me, this is flat out saying…”yeah, some employee tracked down Marino and Kelly and found them in their rocking chairs. They pulled a couple jerseys half way over their heads and we gave them a $10K check for it.” OK, so it's player worn...were used to that. Then, they call it “football history.” It just about made my stomach churn. Personally, I’d rather pull a /50 SP parallel than a piece of junk like this. To me, this is a pack issued fake patch card.

Now, maybe I’m just being dramatic…it’s happened before. But, I thought it would be interesting to dig through my collection and look at a few GU pieces and see exactly what I have and when it was from. I’m kind of curious to see when “GU” started to be not so “GU.”
1996 Collector's Edge Game Ball #G19 Kerry Collins: “Game Ball on the front was used in Arizona vs. Carolina – Nov. 19 1995.” I like this one in that it actually says not only that the ball was game used…but in what game. Definitely true GU.

1996 Upper Deck Game Jerseys #GJ5 Rashaam Salaam: “CONGRATULATIONS! You have the first every ‘Game-Worn Jersey’ card from The Upper Deck Company. On the front of this card is an authentic piece of a game-worn jersey from an official National Football League game. The swatch is from a jersey worn by Rashaan Salaam in 1995…” So, this card not only states that it was an NFL jersey worn by Salaam in a game…but it clearly states it was worn in 1995, his rookie year. Although I don’t have any other cards in this set, others that I have seen aren’t quite as specific. I know the Joe Montana card says the jersey was worn by Montana in the “early 1990s.” Still, these early cards state clearly that the cards are “game-worn” and approximately when. True GU.

1997 Collector's Edge Masters Playoff Game Ball #17 Kerry Collins-Troy Aikman: The front of the card says “Authentic NFL Playoff Game Ball.” The back of the card gives a brief summary of the 1996 Divisional Playoff game between Carolina and Dallas but makes no mention of the ball on the front. Although the card strongly hints at the ball being from this specific playoff game…it never explicitly states that it is from this or any other game, or that it is even actually game used. I know a Super Bowl Game Ball version of this set exists, I do not own one. My research has shown that they say “Authentic Super Bowl XXXI Game Ball” on the front of the card, but nowhere does it specifically say that it is a Super Bowl XXXI Game used ball. Now, this is super early in GU, perhaps they just weren’t that specific back then…or perhaps this is the first example of card makers being a little subtle about where the true history of the item.

2002 Press Pass JE Game Used Jersey Names #JP-JH Joey Harrington /25: “You are now the proud owner of a Press Pass Certified Authentic GAME-USED JERSEY CARD. This piece of jersey was worn by Joey Harrington during his collegiate career.” The card clearly says the jersey was worn by Harrington during his collegiate career. It also calls the jersey “game-used jersey.” However, it does not explicitly say that the jersey was worn by Harrington in an official NCAA game. It could be a practice jersey or something. You never know.

2006 Bowman Sterling Refractors #JP Julius Peppers /199: “Authentic Player-Worn Pro Bowl Jersey.” Nowhere does it say the jersey was game used, it says “player-worn.” Pretty clear this was not a true GU.

2007 Exquisite Collection #129 Dwayne Jarrett /99: “On the front of this card is a piece of event worn memorabilia worn by Dwayne Jarrett.” Not game used, worn at some non-specific event.
2007 Playoff Prestige Turning Pro #TP-10 Demetrius Williams /250: “The enclosed pieces of jersey were cut from Authentic Jerseys personally worn by Demetrius Williams in an official NFL game and a Collegiate game.” I think that’s pretty solid true GU.

2007 UD Exquisite Collection Patch Spectrum #EP-JM Joe Montana /15: This one makes me think a little. It says “CONGRATULATIONS! You have received a Joe Montana Game-Used Trading Card. On the front of this card is a piece of memorabilia that has been certified to us as having been used in an official NFL game.” On the surface, this one looks legit…but the more I read it the more I wonder. Clearly, it says the piece was used in an official NFL game…but it doesn’t say it was used by Joe Montana in an official NFL game. A little piece of me is wondering if the piece was game used by “someone” and then put on this “Joe Montana Game-Used trading card.” Paranoid?...maybe.

2008 Leaf Limited Threads #146 Joe Montana /100: “The enclosed piece of jersey was cut from an authentic jersey personally worn by Joe Montana in an official NFL game.” That one seems pretty rock solid true GU.

2011 Panini Playbook Mammoth Materials Prime #4 Jon Beason /25: “The enclosed game-worn material is guaranteed by Panini America Inc.” The card states it is game worn but does not say if it was worn by Beason. It could have been worn by anyone.

2011 Timeless Treasures Changing Stripes #14 Joe Namath /249: “The enclosed game-worn material is guaranteed by Panini America Inc.” It says that the material is game worn…but by whom? Somehow I doubt Namath actually wore the jerseys on this card…especially the Rams jersey since he only appeared in 4 regular season games for LA. It's also a blue color piece which tells me it's a home jersey. He played in 2 regular season home games and they played a total of 3 home pre-season games (I know he played in 1 for sure as I have a photo). So, this jersey would have had to have come from between 3-5 specific games in 1977. This just seems far fetched to me.

So, I think that was kind of interesting. I think it puts it into perspective a little too. It sort of seems that actual true game used material of the player on the front of the card is less important in the hobby today. I know I buy jersey cards if I really like the card, but in my heart I hold the ones that are truly a game used piece in much higher regard. Yes, I love my Dwayne Jarrett jersey card because it has a sick patch…but it was never used in a game, and that truly limits the coolness factor for me.
 
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Zahadum

Rookie
Interesting post.
I think you hit it on the head about GU now being common compared to years ago. I remember if you were lucky to get one per case. The issue IMO is ultimately the collectors that are basically forcing card companies in inserting more and more into product. The expectation is x amount of autos/GU/RU per box. With this being said it's hard to purchase true GU or RU stuff so the companies have to come up with other options for them to keep competitive and sell product such as flags to pieces of floors to pieces of nets to.... I think most people don't look that deep into the descriptions on the back as all they care about is the player/driver on the card.

Thanks for the post!! I'll have to keep a better eye on just what the specifics of the backs say.
 

Mike

TP9 | VC15
I kind of like the 'relic cards' but I like the signature cards better. It wouldn't surprise me to see the card companies find a way to ruin it though, and the things you point out (game used becomes the player put the jersey on for a second at some office or hotel in exchange for a big check) would certainly qualify for that. I think that as long as there's transparency about what really is a game used card and what isn't, that we should let the market decide which has value and which does not.
 

CamaroDMD

Insert Cool Title
Interesting post.
I think you hit it on the head about GU now being common compared to years ago. I remember if you were lucky to get one per case. The issue IMO is ultimately the collectors that are basically forcing card companies in inserting more and more into product. The expectation is x amount of autos/GU/RU per box. With this being said it's hard to purchase true GU or RU stuff so the companies have to come up with other options for them to keep competitive and sell product such as flags to pieces of floors to pieces of nets to.... I think most people don't look that deep into the descriptions on the back as all they care about is the player/driver on the card.

Thanks for the post!! I'll have to keep a better eye on just what the specifics of the backs say.
I think you are exactly right...this is being driven by the consumer. Collector's now want as many "hits" as possible per box. The card companies must comply with this and the only way to do that economically is to use "player-worn" pieces for much of the GU cards and use sticker autographs. As card companies continue to have a "box hit arms race" which each other...to ensure their product gets the most sales, it will continue.

I also think you are correct that most people don't really look at it. They want the coolest looking card they can get...it doesn't matter if the jersey was never actually used. It's not all about the most colors and the best patch.

I also think some of these cards are written with too much "legal language." I know in the past there have been a couple instances where the company bought a jersey they believed was "game used" and it ended up being fake. So, now they write the authenticity statement on the back in a way that doesn't really say anything. Take this card for example from my collection. If you look at the jersey it is clearly dirty and grass stained. I believe it was actually used (sure this could be fake, but I'll give that the benefit of the doubt). However, the back simply says "the enclosed game-worn material is guaranteed by Panini." It doesn't say anything specific...it doesn't say it was worn in a NFL game or by Jon Beason...just that is was worn in a game. This simply might be an example of them trying to cover their butts.



I kind of like the 'relic cards' but I like the signature cards better. It wouldn't surprise me to see the card companies find a way to ruin it though, and the things you point out (game used becomes the player put the jersey on for a second at some office or hotel in exchange for a big check) would certainly qualify for that. I think that as long as there's transparency about what really is a game used card and what isn't, that we should let the market decide which has value and which does not.
I still like relic cards...I'm just now taking them for what they are. Unless they very specifically say "used by this player in an official NFL/NCAA game" I personally consider them a "replica" jersey. If they say "event used" I'm OK with that...the card can still be cool. I just sometimes feel as though these card companies are somewhat lying to me. Maybe I'm just being dramatic though.

I too prefer autographed cards over relics. I think an auto card (even a sticker auto...which I also dislike) is something the player actually handled. I vastly prefer on-card autos (and I try and seek them out)...but sometimes a sticker is all you can get.

Here is an example from my collection of a great card with an "event-used" patch. I love the jersey piece, I actually bought this card because of it. It looks awesome...but I honestly consider it a replica (at least in my eyes). That said, this card also contains a very nice on-card autograph so it is a nice piece.

 

ranbethscards

NASCAR products are back baby!!!!! oh yeah!
I use to think that Upper Deck putting a "game-used" jersey in every pack was great... until it came time for resale. Book Values average $20.00... resale gets you about $3.00 each.
 

CamaroDMD

Insert Cool Title
I use to think that Upper Deck putting a "game-used" jersey in every pack was great... until it came time for resale. Book Values average $20.00... resale gets you about $3.00 each.
Agreed...they really over-saturated the market. I remember when I was getting out of cards (late 1990s) and they had just started doing the "UD Game Jersey" cards. They were SO rare and valuable. When I returned to the hobby a few years back, I was shocked at how it had changed.
 

Zahadum

Rookie
Same can be said about numbering. Most people think they are done before cards are signed or GU/RU are done but as you know that's not true. Press Pass posted this on their facebook page so hopefully people will stop saying this is the first one signed, etc.

"Also, Donnie Allison and Tony Stewart have returned all of their outstanding cards and they have been sent out for numbering, so they will be redeemed soon."
 

CamaroDMD

Insert Cool Title
Same can be said about numbering. Most people think they are done before cards are signed or GU/RU are done but as you know that's not true. Press Pass posted this on their facebook page so hopefully people will stop saying this is the first one signed, etc.

"Also, Donnie Allison and Tony Stewart have returned all of their outstanding cards and they have been sent out for numbering, so they will be redeemed soon."
It's true. Of course, having that 1/25 is still cool...but it really doesn't mean THAT much. If given the option, I will pick up an example of a card I am looking for with a "better" number but I won't pay a premium for it. For example, I picked up a couple 1993 Pro Line Live Autographed football cards a while back...both common players, but the number was their jersey number (8/1050 and 15/1200 I think). I didn't pay any extra for that, but I was looking for those two cards and I thought the jersey serial was a nice addition.
 

NorthKorea

Rookie
I use to think that Upper Deck putting a "game-used" jersey in every pack was great... until it came time for resale. Book Values average $20.00... resale gets you about $3.00 each.
FWIW, I sold a GU (non-signature) card from 2001 Fleer Platinum for $5000 on eBay, so there is a market for them, if you catch the right buyer on the right day.
 
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