22 October 2014

What eBay Hath Wrought 121: Pitching Face in HD - 2014 Stadium Club Gio Gonzalez Members Only

I was hanging around the Blowout card forums looking at box and case break results and I found a thread containing discussion about the new iteration of Stadium Club. There were forum users there using the pack odds for numbered inserts to determine how many copies of the unnumbered inserts were packed out.

The consensus was that for the Members Only parallel, which is inserted at about 1 per case, there are probably only around 8 copies of each card. I find that a little bit fascinating for some reason, so I set out to see if I could acquire a few of them on the cheap. The little foil stamp is unobtrusive and these are the kind of thing that could easily slip through the nets of some eBay shoppers. Some of the more popular players' cards are priced with Buy It Now or bidding wars that are worthy of the low print run. But others that end at odd times or are not well-described can fall through the cracks. This Gio Gonzalez card was one of them. I got it for just a couple of dollars, and although it is not serially-numbered, it is a very rare card. It also features a big dose of pitching face, the unfortunate side effect of throwing a ball really hard.

The back of the card has something that may be even worse than pitching face, as Gio looks like he is bound and determined to love somebody, a process that may be less romantic than it sounds. Maybe you could just say he looks focused or serious, but I think there is more to it than that. The numbers in the stat line don't quite match the numbers in the blurb, but the blurb-writer is only counting his full seasons from 2010 to 2013, not the 30 games he appeared in during 2008 and 2009. In 2014 he would post an ERA of 3.57, although his FIP would actually drop to 3.02 and his WHIP would drop as well, suggesting that his pitching actually improved from 2013 to 2014 but the supporting cast had trouble fielding the balls that were hit into play.

I am not too worried about the resale value on these Members Only cards that I've been picking up cheap, but in chasing Hakeem Olajuwon basketball cards from the 90's I am finding that the box or case hits from that era are pulling huge money on eBay because you just can't find them. The player collectors with money in their pockets are looking for cards that may not be serially-numbered but had low print runs, and they are willing to part with big dollars to fill those holes in their collections. Between low print runs and the attrition of time, you may only get one or two shots at a card before it's gone for good, locked up in some other person's collection.

I sometimes feel a little bad when a card falls to me for much less than I think it should, but I guess that's part of buying and selling on the open market. Most of the good deals I get are on things that aren't described well or that end during odd hours, like in the middle of the night or in the early morning. When selling cards I end my auctions at certain times and format the pictures and descriptions to match the research I've done on auction optimization. It usually works out pretty well for me, as long as I don't have to struggle with a non-paying bidder or something. In spite of getting hosed a bit on the price of this card, the seller included a couple of extras for padding. I was pretty happy to see that one of them is a player collection hit, with Jamie Moyer making an appearance in a Bowman card I didn't have yet.

For completeness I scanned the backs of the throw-ins, even though I don't have much to say about them. It's an interesting format for the stat blocks, although I think it takes a little too much concentration to try to read them. The word seems to be getting out about the Members Only cards, so my little run of cheap cards will soon be at an end. It was a lot of fun while it lasted, though.


  1. pitcher face. I'll have to remember that one. I like it!

    1. I can't take credit for the phrase, but I like to call attention to it when it appears on cards.