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Is it right to cut up historical documents for relic cards?
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Bronze Card Talk Member
Picture of TC00
posted
I was looking at re-sales of single relic cards for history set Pieces of the Past and I saw some were documents used by very early US Presidents.

As a history lover I cringe at the thought of them cutting up pieces of historical documents to create cards that are valued at about $15-20.

How do manufacturers acquire items which are historical but not of major significance to be treated in this way?

I feel if they had bit of early former presidents clothes they'd cut them up if they could.

Do you think the industry should draw a line at what should be eligible use for relic cards?

Or have I missed something in the manufacturing process and it's not as 'damaging' to historical documents or items as I think?

Note: I'm not trashing the above set or their manufacturer. I was originally looking into collecting the set but was having second thoughts. Redirect me if this has been asked before. Thanks.
 
Posts: 937 | Location: UK | Registered: December 21, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Platinum Card Talk Member
Picture of Raven
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Quite a few years ago, back in the dark ages before relic cards became common place, there was a huge controversy over a UD Babe Ruth bat card. One of his old bats was chomped up into slivers really and several hundred or so bat cards were made. Some people thought it was horrible to destroy a Babe Ruth bat. But the truth was, it was a cracked bat that was worth something because he used it, but it was never going to be sold for the money of a mint collectible.

I think a lot of the time you have something similar going on with these historical documents. If they are not in very good condition, if they are not museum quality, they aren't worth that much at auction. Some of the documents may already be partially destroyed, so the signature all by itself may be an improvement.

Also, and I find this interesting, I have become a fan of the show Pawn Stars. You can really learn a lot about the value of various items that people are trying to sell when they call in the experts. Often these items are letters and documents that have been signed by historical figures. Some turn out to be fakes, but the autographs that are real and are on items in great condition are on-average appraised for retail at much less than I personally thought they would be worth.

The pawn shop guys want to pay much less than retail of course. So what I come away with from this is that historical signatures, on documents that do not themselves have any great value or are in poor condition, are not nearly as valuable as I thought they were. Maybe that's the thing with these cuts. By providing some level of authentication and making a limited collectible, the resulting card is worth more than the complete document was to begin with.
 
Posts: 7163 | Location: New York | Registered: November 20, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Picture of Hedgehog Witch
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It all depends on the document. For instance, a letter signed by Winston Churchill relating to a World War 2 incident/event/memory would be worth far more than a letter thanking his milkman for remembering the extra bottle on Saturdays, even if the latter was in much better condition. Smile

As a bit of a historian and genealogist I find these 'cut' signatures from any documents a destruction of history. All letters have a social history at the very least. But money makes the world go round... And these days there's more likely to be someone prepared to pay money for a cut signature card than a letter, which might be yellowed with age, have a chewed up corner. Also, cards are a lot easier to store and care for than documents/letters.
 
Posts: 263 | Location: UK | Registered: March 13, 2013Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Picture of Raven
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And then there is also the authentication of the document and the signature itself, which you must some how provide when trying to sell an historical document.

Many of the documents have no other support than the document itself. Many of the cuts come from nothing but note paper, index cards or those small autograph books people used to carry around. You have to find and pay for a third-party "expert" to declare the signature genuine before someone will buy it for any decent amount.

This is also supposed to be the guarantee provided by the card manufacturer when they produce a cut signature card, that the autograph has been authenticated by their own expert. I confess that my faith in third-party authentication is not all that high, but it is what it is and better than nothing. So that authentication process is also part of the equation when you have a raw, unverified signed item that you are thinking of selling.
 
Posts: 7163 | Location: New York | Registered: November 20, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Picture of Hedgehog Witch
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Absolutely! In antiques it's a case of: provenance, provenance, provenance!!

Of course if it's an item/document that comes from a family/source that is backed up with evidence of proof, that immediately pushes the price up, but you can buy with more confidence.

I wasn't sure how the grading process was viewed on here, but I'm so glad to see that someone else doesn't have complete faith in it. Big Grin To be honest, I hate the grading system. I also don't want any of my cards encased in an ugly sealed plastic lump and that will put me off buying a card if it has been graded.
I know there's sometimes a catch with grading, where the card is graded for condition and the 'in person' autograph isn't graded, but it makes the buyer believe all of it has passed scrutiny.
I think if the grading system was used more in non-sports it would kind of suck the joy out of it. Is it really important to have a 9.6 card more than a 9.4? Roll Eyes Big Grin
 
Posts: 263 | Location: UK | Registered: March 13, 2013Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Bronze Card Talk Member
Picture of TC00
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quote:
Originally posted by Hedgehog Witch:
I think if the grading system was used more in non-sports it would kind of suck the joy out of it.


Yeah I hate the grading system and feel for some dealers it's just a way to push up to a premium price. But thankfully it's more part of the sporting card world than Non-Sport. Rarely, if ever see NS cards graded that way.

But sports card fans usually look for some return or 'hot find' to cash in on. Sometimes I wonder why they produce base sets in sports these days. Maybe that's why there's rumours of Topps splitting up their brands.
 
Posts: 937 | Location: UK | Registered: December 21, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Bronze Card Talk Member
Picture of TC00
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quote:
If they are not in very good condition, if they are not museum quality, they aren't worth that much at auction.


Very good point. I suppose it's better to be used in a set than sit in a museums store room of unwanted ''valuables''.

Never heard the Babe Ruth bat store before that's pretty crazy. I see the argument from both sides. But if there were better condition bats he played with and it was a spare then it's a cool relic for fans to own a piece of.


I've seen the tv show Pawn Stars but I've heard rumours and controversies of it being 'staged' or 'scripted' like most 'reality' TV. The same kind of unverified rumours you hear about Storage Wars and similar shows. What are the odds of great finds in every locker they hit?

As for the authentication of relics or autographs on cards, I guess it's up to the good will of manufacturing gods and their specialists. We can only have faith that what we get is legitimate.
 
Posts: 937 | Location: UK | Registered: December 21, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Platinum Card Talk Member
Picture of Raven
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quote:
Originally posted by Hedgehog Witch:
I know there's sometimes a catch with grading, where the card is graded for condition and the 'in person' autograph isn't graded, but it makes the buyer believe all of it has passed scrutiny.rolleyes: Big Grin


I can't tell you how many times I have seen a slabbed in-person signed card with an autograph that I wouldn't touch. Once it was clearly a stamp, with the face edge outlined, and it was graded and slabbed.

However, to be fair, a lot of it happened years ago and came from one particular grading company that has since gone out of business. I wonder why? Wink Yet those questionable slabbed cards still show up occasionally.

The current 2 or 3 popular grading services are more reliable now and most collectors know that condition grading and autograph certification are two different steps. Only certain graders will accept requests for third-party signature verifications.

I myself would never get a card graded unless it was extremely valuable and I was worried about the integrity of the card. In cases where there are known counterfeits or vintage cards may be prone to repairs, its good to have the assurance from a grader that its genuine and not trimmed or restored in any way. Other than that, I couldn't care less about the number assigned and I would never buy graded cards.
 
Posts: 7163 | Location: New York | Registered: November 20, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Bronze Card Talk Member
Picture of TC00
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Yeah I agree especially as it's basically shut away and you can't 'hold' the card to inspect it close up for true defect or frauds.

Can you explain what 'trimmed or repaired' is or how that would work for restoring a card? Never even heard of being able to 'restore' a card, with cardboard being fragile. Thanks.
 
Posts: 937 | Location: UK | Registered: December 21, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Picture of Raven
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quote:
Originally posted by TC00:
Can you explain what 'trimmed or repaired' is or how that would work for restoring a card? Never even heard of being able to 'restore' a card, with cardboard being fragile. Thanks.


So we're talking mainly about vintage cards when the subject is trimming or repairing or restoring. None of which is ever permissible by the rules of this hobby. Just don't ask me who made the rules. Big Grin There are a number of tricks, depending on the defect.

Trimming is cutting away along the edges of the card, which results in a smaller card than the standard size. An off cut might be trimmed to make it look more centered. Or maybe a side has gone ragged. You can tell a trimmed card by measuring it or comparing it against another card in the set.

Repaired or restored can be one and the same thing. Many older cards with black borders were prone to chipping on the edges. So people used black markers to paint over the white spots. Sometimes staples went thru cards, they would patch up the pinholes with some adhesive. A soft corner might have some glue applied to paste it down. Remember that older cards were not handled like collectibles, as they are today, and they were not made as perfectly as they are today. They came out damaged or got damaged and people tried to fix them in order to appear in better condition.

There is no grading on a trimmed, repaired or restored card. Its permitted with artwork, but not trading cards. It is better to leave the card in the condition its in and sell it with a discount for the damage. If you try to fix it and its discovered, the card is regarded to be without value. If you buy a card that has been trimmed or fixed without knowing it, you have been robbed.

You can remove gum residue from cards without causing a problem, its not improper to do it with a nylon stocking. I have never found a good way to get out the staining from the pack seals though. Of course none of that ever happens with the packaging now.
 
Posts: 7163 | Location: New York | Registered: November 20, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I watch "Pawn Stars" too though not nearly as much as I used to. It's tough to keep a document safe from water and mold, especially in a humid climate, across twenty years much less a century or two. I assume even governments didn't use the level of high-quality paper we have now as well. There are a lot of poor quality documents out there, and as with cards, it can be tough to sell low-end material when high-end is all that's celebrated. The cut signature market may have sparked some interest in otherwise water-damaged or mold-infiltrated papers that have gone unsold for years, passed over by even the most ardent history buffs.

The situation reminds me of a conversation I had with a jewelry dealer who wondered why anyone would collect fossil teeth. He asked me "Don't you want the whole thing?" In other words wouldn't a collector rather have a skeleton? Well, the answer to that is a tooth is a lot cheaper than a skeleton and a lot easier to store. Also, skeletons are a lot rarer so it might be difficult to find one for sale at a price you are willing to pay.

I once found myself wondering how desirable relic cards are to most collectors since the specimen attached to the card is often a rather nondescript piece of wood, fabric or maybe even plastic. It might be a shred of Mr. Spock's uniform from one of the Star Trek movies but it looks like it could have come from a Halloween costume or a holiday tablecloth. But again, it's the same thing: there are collectors out there who are happy with just a piece of something that came from our cultural, historic, or prehistoric past.



quote:
Originally posted by Raven:
Quite a few years ago, back in the dark ages before relic cards became common place, there was a huge controversy over a UD Babe Ruth bat card. One of his old bats was chomped up into slivers really and several hundred or so bat cards were made. Some people thought it was horrible to destroy a Babe Ruth bat. But the truth was, it was a cracked bat that was worth something because he used it, but it was never going to be sold for the money of a mint collectible.

I think a lot of the time you have something similar going on with these historical documents. If they are not in very good condition, if they are not museum quality, they aren't worth that much at auction. Some of the documents may already be partially destroyed, so the signature all by itself may be an improvement.

Also, and I find this interesting, I have become a fan of the show Pawn Stars. You can really learn a lot about the value of various items that people are trying to sell when they call in the experts. Often these items are letters and documents that have been signed by historical figures. Some turn out to be fakes, but the autographs that are real and are on items in great condition are on-average appraised for retail at much less than I personally thought they would be worth.

The pawn shop guys want to pay much less than retail of course. So what I come away with from this is that historical signatures, on documents that do not themselves have any great value or are in poor condition, are not nearly as valuable as I thought they were. Maybe that's the thing with these cuts. By providing some level of authentication and making a limited collectible, the resulting card is worth more than the complete document was to begin with.
 
Posts: 852 | Location: San Jose, CA, USA | Registered: December 23, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post



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With a few exceptions, I'm not a fan of things -- including props/memorabilia/animation cels getting chopped up for trading cards.

Some of the exceptions:

Back up or stunt props/memorabilia

Animation cels where the entire cel is on the card, and nothing is cut off except blank area on the cel.

Signed photos or signed checks.
 
Posts: 4298 | Location: Parts Unknown. | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Platinum Card Talk Member
Picture of Raven
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quote:
Originally posted by catskilleagle:
I once found myself wondering how desirable relic cards are to most collectors since the specimen attached to the card is often a rather nondescript piece of wood, fabric or maybe even plastic. It might be a shred of Mr. Spock's uniform from one of the Star Trek movies but it looks like it could have come from a Halloween costume or a holiday tablecloth. But again, it's the same thing: there are collectors out there who are happy with just a piece of something that came from our cultural, historic, or prehistoric past.
[/QUOTE]

They used to call them costume or material cards, but now everything is being called relic. I don't get that. I think a relic should be a piece of prop, or furniture, or any screen shown item, but not clothing.

Anyway, when the swatch cards were first introduced as a premium hit, they had collectors. But then, like everything else, they became common and overused. There is nothing more non-descript than the one-color black, brown or white swatch. I'm not sure if anybody finds them interesting anymore.

Variants can look good, but only if they are truly different, not just another solid of a different color in the clothes. Patch variants are nice when real patches. Certain material cards can still sell on specific titles, but the majority seem to be going unwanted.
 
Posts: 7163 | Location: New York | Registered: November 20, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Picture of TC00
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quote:
Originally posted by webjon:
With a few exceptions, I'm not a fan of things -- including props/memorabilia/animation cels getting chopped up for trading cards.

Some of the exceptions:

Back up or stunt props/memorabilia

Animation cels where the entire cel is on the card, and nothing is cut off except blank area on the cel.

Signed photos or signed checks.


Yeah I remember when I discovered animation cells and thinking it was 'abhorrent' they cut up the 'original' film.

Then realised (back then) every movie house had its down reel of the film. All its says is it's a real piece of a film reel, not necessarily THE original film reel in the first ever canister produced. Roll Eyes

I have toyed with the ideal of starting a an animation only leg of my collection but I don't find them as 'desirable' as costumes or autographs. For me they're a bit like sketches, nice but I've very take them or leave them.
 
Posts: 937 | Location: UK | Registered: December 21, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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posted Hide Post
quote:
Originally posted by TC00:
quote:
Originally posted by webjon:
With a few exceptions, I'm not a fan of things -- including props/memorabilia/animation cels getting chopped up for trading cards.

Some of the exceptions:

Back up or stunt props/memorabilia

Animation cels where the entire cel is on the card, and nothing is cut off except blank area on the cel.

Signed photos or signed checks.


Yeah I remember when I discovered animation cells and thinking it was 'abhorrent' they cut up the 'original' film.

Then realised (back then) every movie house had its down reel of the film. All its says is it's a real piece of a film reel, not necessarily THE original film reel in the first ever canister produced. Roll Eyes

I have toyed with the ideal of starting a an animation only leg of my collection but I don't find them as 'desirable' as costumes or autographs. For me they're a bit like sketches, nice but I've very take them or leave them.


I was referring to actual hand drawn animation cels, like the ones that were chopped up in the recent Ghostbusters set, I think a Star Wars set did them too. . .
 
Posts: 4298 | Location: Parts Unknown. | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by webjon:
I was referring to actual hand drawn animation cels, like the ones that were chopped up in the recent Ghostbusters set, I think a Star Wars set did them too. . .


Yep, SW Masterworks did it recently. I have about 60 of the cards, which brings me full-circle to maybe one of the arguments initially proposed.

With the Masterworks cards, I have personally paid no more than about $15 for each. You can also find the full (8.5x11, I think) cel uncut for about the same price. However, I collect cards, not 8.5x11 sheets. I think the same can be said for a lot of these historical artifacts that are cut up into cards. As a card collector, I would rather have a cut signature from a signed/cancelled personal check than that check itself. Of course, there are tons of people who collect the checks themselves as well. But hey, we all collect different things!
 
Posts: 228 | Location: Mebane, NC | Registered: February 15, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by weasel-king:
quote:
Originally posted by webjon:
I was referring to actual hand drawn animation cels, like the ones that were chopped up in the recent Ghostbusters set, I think a Star Wars set did them too. . .


Yep, SW Masterworks did it recently. I have about 60 of the cards, which brings me full-circle to maybe one of the arguments initially proposed.

With the Masterworks cards, I have personally paid no more than about $15 for each. You can also find the full (8.5x11, I think) cel uncut for about the same price. However, I collect cards, not 8.5x11 sheets. I think the same can be said for a lot of these historical artifacts that are cut up into cards. As a card collector, I would rather have a cut signature from a signed/cancelled personal check than that check itself. Of course, there are tons of people who collect the checks themselves as well. But hey, we all collect different things!


As a card collector I totally understand -- In generally I personally just don't think one collectible should be cut up to make another.

Now -- I don't have an issue with cels like this where the entire hand painted part of the cel is preserved:



Cels with part of the image cut off . . . well that seems wrong to me.:

 
Posts: 4298 | Location: Parts Unknown. | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Bronze Card Talk Member
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It is great when a whole cell is small enough to fit onto a trading card.

And a shame when it doesn't and does seem 'destructive' to cut it down to size.

I think in the even of it been too large perhaps having Redemptio Oversized trading cards could be an option.
 
Posts: 937 | Location: UK | Registered: December 21, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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